Starting Home

We got to the airport early enough to start our trip before the sun got too high, and did a final inspection of the plane.  It took a bit longer than planned getting all the extras into the jeep, say our farewells, and preflight the planes, but at last we were fired up and ready to depart Indus.

Gary and I had already worked out a plan (route and frequencies), so we took off with me in the lead and headed for those big rocks to the west.  Gary followed me about a mile in trail in the Tecnam, and we switched over to the air-to-air frequency as we step-climbed under the Calgary TCA heading for the Trans Canada Highway.  The plane handled great, but seemed to be flying about 10kts slower than planned/hoped for.  Poor Gary had to throttle back to keep from overtaking me 🙂

The flight through Banff was great, ceilings and visibility was as expected (we climbed to 8500′ near Canmore.  As we got further into the rockies, clouds started popping up and there were isolated rain showers (fun in an open-cockpit plane).  Holding a prescribed altitude went by the wayside as I was concentrating more on remaining VFR, and avoiding the rocks.  I had to try my first fuel transfer (pumping from the wing tanks to the header tank).  It went fine, I pumped 2-1/2 gallons from each wing to the main tank, leaving the same for a reserve if needed.  I was starting to worry a bit about fuel as we neared Revelstoke, so I elected to land there instead of finishing the leg to Salmon Arm and push the fuel in a plane I’m still unfamiliar with.

Landing in Revelstoke went pretty well, though I still must be fast as I’m continuing to balloon in the flare.  Revelstoke is a great runway, so again, I just got it down, and taxiied to the pumps.  There is a self-serve fueling station there which was nice as there wasn’t anyone around that we could see.

It turns out that landing was a good choice, as after the fueling, I noticed a sizeable oil puddle under my engine 🙁  Out came the leathermans, and the cowling came off.  Oil was everywhere, making it hard to find the actual cause.  We thought we found it (no gasket on the oil filler cap), so we canabalized the CFS in the fuel shed to make one.  Trouble now was that I was about a quart low on oil, so we started poking our heads in hangers to see if there was anyone around.  We found a guy doing some drywall in the main building, he made some calls, and we scored a quart for $5 (I’d have paid anything) from the firecat crew guy that was sleeping in their ready-room.

All buttoned back up, we decided to push on to our destination of Salmon Arm as there were some great guys there with tools, hangers etc to help figure out the oil leak once and for all.  As I was doing my run-up, the left brake wouldn’t hold, and I remembered the seller mentioning something about it being soft when we did the sale.  Gary and I discussed it a bit, and as Salmon Arm has a nice long runway, we decided to head there, and I would not use even a hint of brakes on the roll-out.

After a bit more hunt and peck through the clouds and rain, we got to Salmon Arm.  I was tired, joined the wrong side for the downwind leg, but the landing went ok (still balloning though).

The guys in Salmon Arm were unbelieveable, there was a thunderstorm coming in, but they told us to bring the plane up to the hanger, we got the cowling off, and I got the job of wiping down the firewall and engine.  Having no “smoking gun”, we fired it up and carefully the guys stood behind the spinning prop and watched for the leak.  It took a couple of tries, but we finally found that the return oil hose was the culprit.  After removing it, the guys headed off to town to get it repaired.  Being a new airplane owner, I had visions of empty bank accounts, but they got back with a new hose with the existing ends on it, and I was only out $7 🙂

Yet another engine run to ensure things were working properly, then we focused on the brake lines.  We all agreed that the easiest thing would be to loosen the brake line joint and re-tighten (there was a visible leak at the joint).  After doing that, we bled the brakes, topped up the fluid and it seems to be holding!

Tired and exhausted, we tied the planes down and headed to a hotel for the night.

First Solo

Wow!  I haven’t had a first solo of any kind for a while, and I have to tell you my heartrate did exactly what you’d think it would do.  After buttoning the plane back together, and completing the sale, the seller handed me the keys, and told me to take her up under his supervision for a couple of circuits (he had a handheld on the ground if needed).

I fired it up, taxiied out to the active, and did my run-up.  I gotta tell you lining up on the active had my heart going, but the tailwheel training I had completed a couple of weeks prior came back, and I just did what I had been taught.  Throttle forward, raise the tail, aileron into the wind, rotate and I was off!

There was a bit of a wind blowing, and a few others in the circuit so I was pretty busy flying an unfamiliar plane, at an unfamiliar airport etc.  First circuit I had already planned on a low and over, just getting used to the plane in the circuit (I haven’t done any slow flight or stalls yet).  I was happy with the performance, and it slips great (I stayed away from the low speed end of things, flying more by feel than numbers).  The second time around, I had planned on a touch and go, but I was fast on the approach, so it ballooned in the flare, so around I went.  I have to admit, that I was getting a bit nervous that I’d never get it on the ground, but I set myself out another half mile for this attempt and rode final at the speed I had been told.  It still felt fast, but with a long grass runway ahead of me, I knew that all I needed to do was get the wheels on the ground and I’d be able to stop.  I ballooned in the flare again, but I committed to holding the three-point attitude and applied a bit of power to smooth things out and it settled in (a little harder than I liked).  I just held the stick back, brought the throttle to idle and I rolled to a stop.

I took a bit too long on the backtrack, another plane had to go around, but with shaking hands (and a big grin) I taxiied back to the hanger and shut it down.

First Flights

Catherine and I arrived in Indus last night, and today made our way to the airport to meet with the owner of the plane.  He’s a great guy who has a handful of planes (the other one I’d love is a JURCA P-40 replica).  We went all around the plane discussing things and learning a bit of the history.  We got to meet the local airport gang (great bunch of guys).

After a preflight, I got to go up with the owner for a half-hour flight.  He gave me the controls through about 500′ AGL (we had briefed the flight on the ground prior to firing it up as there isn’t an intercom right now).  My flight was wonderful, the plane handled great.  I ran it through some climbs, descents, gentle and steep turns.  The seller took over and did a nice high-speed flyby over the field before pulling up and joining downwind for landing.  My only issue during the flight was that there was some fuel leaking out of the top of the left tank filler cap.

I got out and Catherine hopped in for basically a repeat flight.  She didn’t fly it as much as I did (but she shot some on-board video).  I had told her all along that we were in this together, so if she didn’t enjoy it, we’d walk away.  The grin on her face when the plane came to a stop told me everything I needed to know 🙂