Tag Archives: Flight Operations

Garaggio EZ Victory Tour – Phoenix – Denver – St. Paul

Wednesday I finished with work early, so I was able to start Betty’s trek back home to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The high level plan for the trip was to fly to Denver and spend the night with my buddy Lance. Then the next day make it all the way to South St. Paul airport.

Unfortunately, I was on call until 10:00 AM so an early start wasn’t going to happen. That was a pity because in Phoenix it starts to heat up, and in the mountains near Denver, the weather generally deteriorates in the afternoon. None the less, the weather was forecast to be good along my route and at my destination, so I launched. Knowing that weather will change I had many plans of where I could stop if need be.


The route of flight was not going to be direct. There is some very high terrain along that route, airports become few and further between, and worse yet there is no place to make forced landings if you need to. So I planned my route to be from Phoenix to Albuquerque, NM where there is some lower terrain and a couple of mountain passes to fly though. Then from there to Las Vegas, NM and finally up the front range past Colorado Springs and into Denver Front Range Airport (KFTG).

Not far outside Phoenix is the Mogollon Rim and just past that near St. Johns there was a fire burning at the base of a mountain. No one had called it in yet, and the airplane just ahead of me along this route called it in to air traffic patrol so they could let the authorities know.


The flight was pretty nice up to this point but then it got a bit bumpy between here and Albuquerque. About 70 or so miles before ABQ, there was some interesting sights on the ground. A bunch of circular depressions in the ground that looked like they could be meteorite impact areas. They were pretty small, but cool to see from the air.


Flying through the mountain pass just south of ABQ proved uneventful. But gave me a view of the weather ahead. Of course, I do have onboard ADSB weather and had known that there was something brewing on the weather radar, but seeing it in person really lets you know what is going on. Sometimes the green returns on the ADSB are very high clouds that contain moisture that can be easily flown under. In my case, it was obvious this wasn’t the case and that there were localized areas of showers. However the gaps were wide enough to fly through safely, and I could see to the horizon through the gaps.


Unfortunately I got to a place where the gaps in the rain was closing and I could no longer see to the horizon in the distance. I was still VFR and the area behind me was clear so I could have done a 180 turn and gone back the way I came, so I started looking for a place to land to let the rain pass. Since airports are a bit sparse in this area too, I picked the very next one I came upon. Weather can change quickly, especially in this area, and I didn’t want to be in the position of passing up a good diversion airport and then not being able to get to the next airport. So I landed at Spanish Peaks, Colorado. It proved a nice little country airport, much like the place that I learned to fly. Though Spanish Peaks has fewer cracks in the runway than where I got my private pilots license.

It was a good thing I landed because as I was parking it started to rain a bit and visibility decreased, though still VFR. In my haste to get the airplane flying, I haven’t installed any weather/gap seals on any of the hatches or the canopy. I carry a roll of masking tape with me, and it proved useful to tape of the gaps to prevent the rain from getting on any of the electronics.


There was NOBODY at the airport. But I did find that they leave the building open during the days for transient pilots, their fridge was stocked with soda and water, and they had snacks for purchase. After a while the airport manager, Gary, stopped in to check on the airport. He was a welcome sight, and we got to talking. Turns out he is retired from Air Wisconsin Airlines, and we had plenty to chat about as the light rain came down. He gave me some local knowledge on the routing from there up to Denver and told some stories about flying in the area. He was one of those neat guys you get to meet when your plans don’t go, well according to plan, and you get the pleasure of diverting to somewhere you would otherwise have no earthly reason to visit.

Somewhere amidst his stories it cleared up and it looked like I had a weather window up to Denver. To be a good guest, I did buy a little bit of fuel. These small airports generally need the business, and their prices on fuel are usually lower than bigger cities.


After takeoff, I set off towards Colorado Springs. As I was nearing, there was a strong storm building just east of the Springs. It treated me to the first of many rainbows for the flight.


But to the west, it was pretty nice.


Colorado Springs Approach alerted me that many airplanes were diverting from Denver to other places, and asked my intentions. I commented that the weather changed quickly from what I saw on the radar 15 minutes ago before takeoff. Approach called up to Denver for me, and ATC said that they thought I would be able to make it in to Front Range Airport. So I pressed on. The storms were widely scattered and there was always an out, even if I didn’t end up at my intended destination.

It turned out that there was a small but intense cell of a storm in between me and Front Range. But the airport was still in the clear, just windy. So I deviated east around the storm and came into the airport from the north east. Initially they were using 26, but the winds were 190 at 12 gusting to 20. I gave it a try, knowing that unless I arrived at a lull in the wind the crosswind would exceed what I could handle with the airplane. It turned out that 26 wouldn’t work. I went around and asked for 17, and had an uneventful landing. I did get treated to a nice double rainbow from the offending storm just south, and now south east of the airport. By the time I could take a photo it was a single rainbow, but pretty none the less.


Made it to Denver after a little under 4 hours of total flying time. My buddy Lance was there to meet me. It was time for a nice time in Denver catching up with Lance and getting some food and local brews.


Lance and I had a very nice time. I would have liked to stay longer and hang out, or see some of my other Denver friends, but other obligations dictated that I had to head for home the next day, Thursday. But not without getting Lance a ride in Betty first. It was his first ride in an experimental.


I think he liked it. He flies the Boeing 737 for work, and made the comment, “See, even Boeing pilots can fly a side stick!”


Then it was time to head off for home. I had done some flight planning the night before and decided to take the scenic route. I have always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore, but never have. My flight planning told me that it would only add 30 minutes and about 90 miles to my flight home, so I decided to go check it out. Until next time, Denver.


So out of Denver, it was basically straight north to just south west of Rapid City, SD. As you go up that way, you head over some plains areas and eventually it gets hillier and you arrive at the Black Hills. This is some of the interesting terrain as you get closer to Rapid City.


Nearing Mt. Rushmore, Ellsworth Approach advised me that the airspace limitations on “the Monument” was a minimum altitude of 7,700 feet and 1/2 mile from the monument. Between those limitations and the gusty winds and turbulence, I didn’t get really good photos of Mt. Rushmore. However, it was really cool to see in person. The photos don’t do it justice. If you are flying anywhere near here, it is certainly worth doing the tour. In this photo, you can just barely make out the monument, just above the visitors center and parking lot.


Here it is zoomed in. Sorry for the quality. iPhone photo from a distance.


From there it was nearly straight east to home. I got some pretty good tailwinds along the way. I was able to make it without stopping. 4:20 minutes of flight time, and Betty is home. Thanks for another fantastic, safe adventure Betty. Kevin and Greg were there to greet us. Kevin even got a video of my approach.

Betty safe and sound back in the hangar.


Victory Tour Summary to Date
|  3,283 Nautical Miles  |

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Flying with Jon

Jon and I don’t get a lot the same days off, but on the 3rd the weather was nice and we were both off. So we went flying. This was his second ride. He hasn’t flown small airplanes for like 8 years so we spent some time doing some slow flight and demonstrated the canard stall to him. If we can put some days off together we will get him more canard experience, and get him used to how it flies from the back seat first.


Carpe Diem

Today was such a beautiful day here. One of those days you just have to take advantage of. Plus, May 2nd is a day I am reminded not to take my time for granted. So how better to ‘carpe diem’ than going for an airplane ride. My buddy Dru picked me up in his beautifully restored Cessna 170, fresh from the paint shop. He even had about 1/2 the airplane re-skinned. We flew down to Owatonna, MN where there is a Cabella’s about a mile from the airport. They have a shuttle that will provide transportation to GA pilots.

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When I got back, it was time to out to the Garaggio. I started by making up some more hoses. I won’t belabor the details of hose construction because I have already done that. But I got a good chunk of the fuel supply system plumbed. This included from the fuselage line to the mechanical fuel pump and then from there to the fuel injection servo. These have firesleeve in place on them, but I still need to clamp and seal the ends. There is more crossing of hoses than I would like, but that is just aesthetics and would require MAJOR rework to allow the lines not to cross each other. I will live with it. The hoses need stand-offs yet, but that will come in time.

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While I was working on these lines, Eric came over to spend some time in the Garaggio wiring. Most of his time was spent uncomfortably positioned in the rear cockpit. Eric is a tall guy and I am sure it was not fun working in such a confined space. I hope his knees and back aren’t regretting it too much tomorrow.


Like normal for Garaggio projects, he had a somewhat frustrating day. While he was working on the wiring, he had to do some rework due to a few failed crimps on connector pins. For added measure to prevent this from happening again, Eric both crimped and soldiered a few of the connectors for added strength and reliability. He also got the joy of assembling, then having to disassemble and then reassemble a connector. In the end,  Eric did make some forward progress in addition to making the wiring more robust. He got the fuel quantity sending units and the fuel sight gage LED lighting wired up. We even got some satisfaction out of lighting up the LED by running the positive wire to the battery temporarily. Additionally, he spent some time cleaning up the wiring bundles in the back seat. They will look nice secured to the sidewalls.


My last task for the day was spent on the throttle and mixture cable/oil cooler/fuel injection mount. The “oil cooler frame” which is the mount for the cables needed to be de-burred and cleaned up. Then I drilled for and squeezed rivets into the two pieces that make up the frame. The second piece is just a small spacer plate that takes up some space between the bottom flange of the oil cooler and the frame. I decided to rivet them together to simplify installation and removal so you don’t have to align 3 pieces.


Then it was basically a re-assembly job putting all the final hardware in. The assembly can be put together on the bench, including the fuel injection distribution block. While it was on the bench, I added thread sealant and torqued the plugs for the unused ports on the distribution block. I also took this opportunity to put in steel fittings in the oil cooler instead of aluminum. This was suggested by the cooler manufacturer to prevent the aluminum fitting from galling the threads on the cooler.


I have it mostly installed on the engine now. I just need to finish attaching the oil cooler exit duct. Then we can get back to plumbing for the return line from the cooler and fuel injectors.

About this time, the day turned into one of those “15 perfect flying evenings” we have in MN, that Kevin decided he wanted to go for an airplane ride. Of course, I obliged happily. We were enjoying ourselves so much on the flight that we didn’t get any photos until we put the airplane away. Thanks Bob for the use of your beautiful bird! Carpe Diem!


Flying and Installation

This morning Greg and I were going to go flying to maintain his instrument currency. Unfortunately, his Tiger had an inoperative right brake, so instead we took his Long EZ out for a while. That was fun. Incidentally, he keeps both of his airplanes in a standard T-Hangar. Kinda cool that you can squeeze two airplanes into a place meant for one.


When I got back to the Garaggio, I decided to work on some engine accessory installation. It was appealing to work doing installation instead of doing fabrication. There is something nice about putting things together and not having to build every piece. First on the list was determining the routing for oil cooler lines. Once I determined the routing, I got out the Aircraft Spruce catalog and re-read about the process to make up Aeroquip hoses.


You start by putting the anodized socket in a vice and screwing the hose into the socket. It is reverse thread. IMG_3015

Then you put the installation mandrel into the fittings and tighten.


Then using a ton of muscle, you screw the fitting into the hose and socket. It takes a lot of pressure and a lot of rounds turning the mandrel. A bit of light oil or lubricant helps. Notice that there is a piece of tape on the hose just downstream of the socket. This is an indicator to tell if the hose pushes out of the socket during the assembly process.


You are done when there is no more than 1/16 of an inch between the b-nut and the socket.


Then I took and installed the one end on the oil cooler. and routed the hose, marked it to length. I used a cut off wheel in a die grinder to cut the hose, ensuring it was a square cut. The process is then repeated. And the hose installed.


Then I installed the cylinder head temperature probes. They are lubricated with anti-seaze and installed into each cylinder.IMG_3023


Next was spark plugs. I am using P-Mags for ignition and using automotive spark plugs. My thinking is that 1) they are recommended by the P-Mag folks, 2) they are 1/4 the cost of aircraft spark plugs, so you can afford to replace them every year instead of cleaning and gaping old plugs. To install, put anti seize on the spark plug and install it into the adaptor. Put anti seize on the adaptor and put it into the cylinder. Then torque the both in place to 18 in-lbs. Of course, refer to the manual to be sure you are doing it correctly.




I also installed and safety wired the oil temperature probe. It took me 2 times to get the safety wire right, but another installation done.


Lastly, I took and installed the final hardware on the electrical components on the firewall.


It was quite enjoyable getting to do installation work. It seems like this kind of stuff goes much more smoothly than fabrication. Someone already engineered it, and most of these things are well documented, tested, and best practices established. Hopefully we get more things installed tomorrow, though I will be back to some fabrication as well.

The trio is rolling

Had both Greg and Jon in the workshop today, and we had a great day. We were able to get a few things done. First off, yesterday, I was playing hooky form the Garaggio.  It was a recharging kind of day. Brewing beer in the morning and going for an airplane ride in the afternoon. I am lucky enough to have a friend that lets me take his RV-7A out from time to time. So I did.

IMG_2861In the evening I did get the required hour in the workshop. I am happy to report that serial number 5 of the aileron trim mounting bracket turned out well. The redesign made the part simpler to make with the tools I have available. The original design would have worked well if I had access to a finger brake, but this one works too.


Then today Jon started by working on a shelf to mount the GPS antenna. We are mounting them, all 3 of them, on the inside top of the fuselage just forward of the canard and aft of the nose access hatch. The flanges on this shelf will be bonded to the “ceiling” in that position. Then the antennas will be mounted in place and the coax wires routed appropriately. The mould is a simple cardboard box that Jon cut the side off and jigged the top flanges into place. He then put a layer of tape on it to create a mold release.

IMG_2868While he was working on that, Greg and I were working on the cooling air inlet ducts. They have been reshaped to provide for attached flow and expand the air by two times before it is dumped into the cowl for cooling the engine. We had to add a bit more pour foam and then finalize the shape. After that Jon and I did a simple two ply layup. I say simple, but working in those small areas required some patience as well as pre-wetting out the cloth on plastic at the workbench. After that it was pretty easy to stick it into position.



Somewhere along the way, the three of us each worked on a mount for the electrical relays. We were able to get a bracket made to fit in the little space left on the avionics shelf. It is a simple piece of sheet metal that we secure all four relays to, and then use 2 click bond studs to secure the mount to the shelf. The click bond studs are curing now. Having these mounted will allow us to route their respective wires to clean up the wire bundles in that area. If you look really close, you can see where it mounts amongst the mess of wires.



Lastly, somewhere in there, Jon located the proper place for the aileron trim mounting bracket on the back of the main spar. Then prepped the area and some click bond studs. The click bond studs are bonded in place with flox and a layer of BID will be put on top of that.


It was a very productive day. Unfortunately, I have to go back to work tomorrow. Next time around, hopefully we get all the things done that we need to do in order to put the firewall on permanently. Once that is done, we can get the engine on and start working on hooking engine systems up to the airframe as well as wiring engine components.

Playing hooky

I took a field trip to the upholstery shop to see Sean and his progress today. It is looking fantastic. He even had me bring the seats home and check fit again in the airplane. I’m not going to share the photos until it’s completely done, but you will love it.

Today was a beautiful day here, especially for November in Minnesota. After my field trip my buddy Sam called and asked if I wanted to go flying in the Cub. Who am I to say anything but yes. In fact I got Bob’s RV7A out and flew to Airlake to go fly the cub. Even gave Sam a ride in the RV after our cub flight. It was his first flight in an RV. Oh and after returning to KSGS, I gave Kevin an airplane ride. Four flights today, how lucky am I?!?

Note to self. Fly small airplanes more often. It is pure simple fun. Plus, I’m tailwheel current again, and suddenly all is right with the world!

These shenanigans and malarkey took most of the day, but that’s ok. The joy of flying fun days, after all, is the reason I’m building. Even so I did get an hour in the Garaggio and started on making cardboard templates for the aft baffle on the engine. Not much to report on that. Look at a bunch of people’s photos of their baffles and start copying.

Hope to get more done tomorrow… Or maybe go flying. Who knows. It’s all fun.

Remembering why I build

I get the privilege of flying an RV-7A from time to time for a friend of mine. He lost his medical and is working on getting it back. For now he needs a safety pilot to fly with him. But with schedule conflicts that doesn’t happen as often as he would like the airplane to be flown. So I get the terrible job of going out and circulating the oil now and again.

For the last 8 or so weeks the airplane has been at the paint shop getting it’s new wardrobe. Bob was going for a retro Cessna 195 esque look, polished aluminum with color accent strips. Let me tell you, unlike the Cleveland Indians (Bob is a big Indians fan), Bob hit it out of the park! It looks fantastic.

Bob has been trying to get the airplane back home for the last 3 weeks. It’s a bit of an exercise in coordination as he needs to get a ferry plane and pilot, one of the pilots on his insurance, and the weather to cooperate. He had been successful with 2 of the 3 the last 3 weeks, but today all the stars aligned.

I got a ride up to Hibbing in Darryl Zook’s RV-8. It is a very nice airplane and we went up to 8,500 feet to get above a scattered cloud deck where it was nice cool and smooth. While we were cruising along looking out over the Minnesota Iron Range, which recently lost its snow cover, I was reminded how cool it is we can build our own flying machines in this country.

When we got to Hibbing Bob’s airplane wasn’t tied down outside where we were expecting it to be. Instead, the mechanic decided that someone who has a fresh paint job should be kept in a hangar and took it upon himself to make it so. How is that for small town customer service!

Anyways, we preflighted and took off. I am skipping a few details here, but lets just say to do an extra cautious preflight when you leave the paint shop. Be sure that they didn’t, for example, paint over the static ports. That could add to the experience of the day.

On the way back, I flew #2 position on Darryls wing all the way to South St. Paul. It was a lot of fun to be able to practice my formation skills, position holding, crossing under, rejoins, etc. We did an overhead approach and split up, Darryl did a low approach and headed home, and I landed. It was a nice day for flying. Here is a nice video of it.

With all of this excitement and opportunity to go out and make airplane noises, I don’t feel too guilty to report that I was only able to spend an hour in the workshop today. Between flying, mowing, and volunteer activities time just ran out.

You guessed it though, I sanded out primer. I only got to the bottom of the left wing. Good news is, 90% of the surface area is good to go. I will have to do some spot filling and spot priming but we are very close. 🙂 In the photos you can see the low spot evidenced by the texture.