Monday, January 16, 2012

Mile High

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This morning, I'd had no hope for flying today.  I called the airport weather line, and it reported that the wind was gusting to 26mph.  In a crosswind, making takeoffs and landings insanely impossible.

Come along with me, I have a story to tell.

I had wanted to fly this plane today:

Yellow Ultralight Aircraft from Belite

So, I went about my work in the shop, and felt badly that I couldn't fly due to the crosswinds.

Afternoon crept around, and another phone call to Jabara weather showed a much more favorable wind:  crosswinds had reduced to 15mph.  Improvement, for sure, but still well above my limit of 7mph crosswind.

Another hour later, and the winds were down to to 8mph.  With the ability of our huge grass runway to angle into the wind, either on takeoff or landing, I was now safe to fly.


The gas tank was not full, but I didn't care.  I wasn't planning to fly for more than a few minutes.  I wanted to check out some engine mounts that I'd been experimenting with -- which type would produce the smoothest engine, in conjunction with the new, amazing propeller we'd been trying out?

Last week, I'd tried the new propeller/engine combination for the first time.  On another aircraft, it had produced some fairly eye opening takeoff and climb performance, as documented in this video:  (Click on the picture, and go for a ride!)

Belite Ultralight Aircraft takeoff video
(Click on the CAPTION, and the video will load and play....)

Today, I was trying the same propeller/engine combination on the yellow aircraft, along with some slightly different engine mounts.


I'm off the ground easily and quickly, and the altimeter has passed 3000 feet in the climb.   (Ground level is 1400, so I'm plus +1600 over the ground...)  I'm kind of amazed that I'm not cold.  I have just my winter leather coat on, a hat, and some good gloves.  Normally, for winter flying, I wear coveralls.  But not today.


And now the altimeter has reached 4000 feet above sea level.  The views are beginning to be a bit surreal:  Jabara airport is now a long ways below me to the west; I can see Hawker Beech field to the south, and Benton (Stearman Airport) is just 4 miles to the west.


Still climbing; the altimeter passes through 5000 feet.  I no longer am doing anything other than having a good time.  For some reason, the idea of climbing is just a lot of fun.


The views are very, very good.  I am able to take off my gloves, and retrieve my phone from my pocket, and take some pictures:

Hawker Beech field to the south (left of center in this photo)

Jabara airport to my right

Looking towards the southeast

I keep considering the feel of the engine.  It sounds strong.  I make a note of the squawks to be corrected before customer delivery of the airplane, later this week:

  a)  the control stick is a little right of center in straight flight -- adjust rod end bearing setting to fix
  b)  (maddening)  the EGT/CHT is inop -- must fix!!!
  c)  midrange roughness in engine -- adjust belt tension to ensure no slippage and adjust carburetor mixture
  d)  the floorboard is made from beautiful stained wood (hey, we've always done it that way) but I've decided to change this airplane (and all future airplanes) to aluminum, for safety sake.  The muffler is below the engine and ahead of the floorboard, so putting in a floorboard firewall seems like a good safety idea.  We have some 2024 clad aluminum for this application.
  e)  the brake cable on the left side is skewed.  It needs fixing.
  f)  the radio still does not have the antenna installed, and needs to be tested thereafter.

I think I'm forgetting one squawk, but I wrote them all down and gave them to Gene after the flight.  


While the ground winds were 6 knots when I took off, I can tell that the winds aloft at my altitude are very fierce, yet very smooth.  I am pointed into the wind, yet I am hovering in place over my home field.  My ground speed slows to literally 10 knots.  (With a slight bit of work, I could have moved backwards.)  (And this is really no big deal.  I've done this kind of thing before in other aircraft.  I remember hovering over a wheat field many years ago, in a Cessna Cardinal.)


The altimeter has reached 5,200 feet ASL.  Just about one mile above sea level.  While I'm nowhere near the maximum ceiling of the aircraft, I'm running out of time, gasoline, and warmth.

I've been higher in a Belite before, but this flight was a little better documented.

Do you remember my old blog post,  What Altitude Did James Reach...?  I certainly flew higher that day.

Panel of Belite Ultralight Airplane at 5200 ASL!

Time to go down.

One more picture of me ---

James in Belite Ultralight Aircraft, really really high off the ground...
Really time to go down.

I push the nose over, and the airspeed indicator shows 70 mph.  (Redline is 80mph.)  I put in a couple of notches of flaps, and it helps reduce the fairly significant elevator forces, as the plane does not want to go down.  Of course, I work in some power reductions.


And I land.  Back on the ground.  Gene comments on how I'd been a hovering spec in the sky.


I've been recording the flight on GPS Essentials, on my DroidX phone:

The proof is in the flight profile.  Climb to 5200 feet; ground speeds below 10mph (and nearly 100mph); turning into the wind and with the wind.  Climbing at a steady rate of about 180fpm. 

(looks like someone made a move in Words with Friends)


Thanks for sharing this flight with me.

James Wiebe, @jamespwiebe on twitter, please follow me
James is the EAA 2011 August Raspet recipient