Tag Archives: Garaggio Ez Victory Tour

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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But to the west, it was pretty nice.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Victory Tour Summary to Date
|  KSGS KOSH KSGS KSLN 0TX1 KCNM KDVT 57AZ KDVT
KIWA KDVT KCNO KMHV KDVT 4V1 KFTG KSGS |
|  3,283 Nautical Miles  |

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2016 Victory Tour – Mojave Experimental Fly In – Sunday

Sunday was go home day. We woke up, checked out of the hotel and had one last meal at the Voyager Cafe. Then we launched as a two ship back to Phoenix. Again the flight was very enjoyable. Abeam Deer Valley, Ben and I split off from each other and he continued home to Falcon Field, and Craig and I landed at Deer Valley.

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Betty got us back to Deer Valley from Mojave in a little over two hours. Craig and I tucked her into the hangar and thanked her for another safe and enjoyable trip. Its amazing what adventure this airplane has already provided me. So many awesome places we’ve already visited, so much awesome scenery we’ve seen, and so many awesome people we have gotten to spend time with and meet.  For those of you still building, keep going, its totally worth it.

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Oh and to add an extra serving of icing on the cake. We got to add to our aviation filled weekend with rides in the Swift, Courtesy of Hayden Newhouse.

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Plus Betty and I got to take Mark Foster for his first canard ride.

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But that’s not all. Mark took me for a ride in his newly acquired Eclipse. Neat little airplane, can’t wait to fly it.

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2016 Victory Tour – Mojave Experimental Fly In -Saturday

Saturday was the main event for the MEFI. There must have been around 100 airplanes there and 1,000 people. There were all kinds of cool things there. Most of them rare. Elliot Seguin’s twin engine jet powered Quickie, the ARES, White Knight II, an airplane called the Shirocko, and tons of other stuff.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of time to go and peruse. I was standing by Betty most of the time answering questions about the mods on the airplane and the winglets. I met some very interesting people, and it was so humbling and flattering to have so many people interested in the airplane.

I was asked by Justin and Elliot to have the airplane judged. I wasn’t planning on it. In my eyes, Betty isn’t nearly done yet. I hadn’t even cleaned her since flying all the way from Phoenix. But I agreed to have her judged.

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The judges were very impressive in their backgrounds. All of them were homebuilders, or engineers, or very experienced with experimental airplanes. I spent probably 45 minutes to an hour talking with them about Betty. We discussed all of the modifications I made, why I made them, the engineering behind them, and how they were carried out. None of the judges were concerned with why the interior wasn’t painted, or the fact that i didn’t have a $30K paint job on the outside. They were interested in the experimental part of the homebuilt airplane.

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The judges kept notes and scores on three areas that follow the Scaled Composites methodology for projects: design, build, test. So as I was giving them the discussion on the airplane, I was sure to discuss things in those terms. There were five awards up for grabs. They were, Best Build, Best Test, Best Design, Experimenter of the Year, and Best Attempt. You can read more about those here. http://www.mojaveflyin.com/p/awards-description.html

While I was talking about my airplane with other folks, Dick Rutan pulled in and parked right next to Betty. Its not every day that your airplane gets to graze with Dick’s airplane. For those of you who don’t know, Dick is a very famous and accomplished pilot, most well know for flying the Voyager around the world un-refueld, non-stop over the course of 9 days.

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After I got done chatting with people, I did get a bit of time to look around. As the fly-in was drawing to a close and most people were heading out, Ben and I each offered two of the Van’s Aircraft employees EZ rides. Neither had ever been in a canard airplane. I kept teasing Rian Johnson that he was defecting to the enemy, and so I had to get a photo of him with his Van’s staff shirt in the airplane.

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And of course, he has to sign the guest book.

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The evenings schedule was a banquet and then the awards ceremony. The speaker at the banquet was James Brown, the world’s highest time F-117 Stealth Fighter pilot. He was a test pilot for Lockheed on both the 117 and the F22. It was a very interesting talk. One of the most interesting pieces of information he told us was that the F117 was so unstable that if the flight control computers “went stupid,” in his terms, the time to double amplitude divergent oscillation was .2 seconds. Completely unflyable without computers.

He also talked about the patent for the F117 and how it was originally filed as “the vehicle.” The reason for the facetted shape of the airplane was that they had a computer program that could predict the radar signature of the airplane. But due to limited computing power back in the day it was designed, they had to bound the computer simulations to smaller shapes. Hence the small facets that the computers could reasonably handle. Cool Stuff.

Here I am holding a piece of a F117 that was scrapped. Jim had time in the airplane this came from.

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Then it was time for the main event. The awards ceremony. I am honored and humbled to say that Betty and I won an award. The award we won was for Best Build. The description for this award from the MEFI website is as follows: “Best Build: This award is for the best craftsmanship mod of the year, corresponding to the build quality (aesthetics, schedule, build difficulty) of the mod.”

Not only does the caliber of the judges but also the quality of folks that won the other awards makes it even more humbling for me. I was rubbing elbows on the awards stage with Kevin Eldridge. He won best design for the Lancair Evolution with the Lycoming IE2 installation. Kevin is an accomplished Reno racer and has been involved in many aviation business pursuits including the Nemisis NXT, Superior Engines, and ACE-Performance engines.

Then there was Andrew Findlay. He races the Stihl sponsored Lancair Legacy at Reno. He has done some amazing aerodynamic, turbocharging, and cooling projects on his airplane. He won Experimenter of the Year.

Rian Johnson won Best Test on behalf of Vans Aircraft for the RV14 test program. Rian and his team at Vans tested and developed the RV14 which is now available as a kit. If you get a chance, YouTube the RV14 and you can see some of the testing they put the airplane through including the drop tests to FAR part 23 standards for landing gear design.

An additional award this year, Best Attempt, was won by Tom Siegler for the project he is still working on but has not yet gotten flying. The award description says “for a achievement or project development that has not yet reached their goal, but is noteworthy nonetheless. He is restoring a very historic racer, the Cosmic Wind. He trucked the project to the MEFI so it could be on display in progress. That in and of itself is pretty awesome.

Taking the time to introduce you to the caliber and scope of the 2016 MEFI award winners makes me question my belonging on that stage. But I can certainly tell you one thing, I have a renewed energy to prove and/or earn that belonging.

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Left to Right, Elliot Seguin, Dick Rutan, Kevin Eldridge, Andrew Findlay, Rian Johnson, Tom Siegler, Joe Coraggio, James Brown, and Justin Gillen.

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Some good coverage of the awards can be found on Kitplanes.

After the awards were handed out, we got the opportunity to chat with both James Brown and Dick Rutan. James talked about the F117 and F22 with us and Dick talked about my airplane and had questions for me. Then we got to talk about the Voyager flight. While I was talking with Dick, I found out that he took a photo of my winglets and texted them to Burt. How cool is that!

Victory Tour, Legs 5 and 6

Now that our work and visit at Pecan Plantation is drawing to a close, it is time for the next phase of the Garaggio Ez Victory Tour. Traveling around the country in a light airplane requires me to be very flexible with my plans, especially with the winter/early spring weather. Times, dates, and locations are all subject to change. The plan after Pecan was to make it to Phoenix. This time the weather was perfect along the way.

There are two major goals for Betty going to Phoenix. The first and most important is to give some special rides. The second is to be pre-positioned ahead of time for the trip to Elliott Seguin’s Mojave Experimental Fly-in. It will be much easier to be able to make the trip from Phoenix (Approximately 300 miles) with my work schedule and weather than it would be to make the trip all in one shot from Minneapolis (Approximately 1300 miles).

Tuesday morning Dick and I installed Betty’s roll over structure and got everything back together. By about 11 Betty and I were ready to re-fuel and launch for the day’s trip to Phoenix. Unfortunately, and not for lack of trying, I was unable to find someone to ride along in the back seat. I am always looking for a back seater, as these experiences and sights are way more fun that way and should be shared with others. But with the flexible and often changing schedule that can be difficult.

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We were ready to launch before noon, and as is usual practice, I circled around and “waived” goodbye to Dick, Howard, Doug, and the rest of the Pecan gang. Then climbed out and headed for Carlsbad, NM. The flight was very enjoyable, and the ceiling and visibility were unrestricted except for a short 20 mile stretch just west of Dyes Air Force Base. There was some smog or smoke around there that reduced visibility. The most interesting things to see on this leg was the B1 bombers on the ramp at Dyes, and all of the wind turbine power generators in west Texas. There must have been thousands of them. The leg was 2.6 hours from start up to shutdown. Carlsbad (KCNM) was chosen for its inexpensive fuel. It was a pretty nice airport with friendly people.

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From Carlsbad my routing was first direct to El Paso to avoid the White Sands Missile Range restricted airspace. From El Paso, I headed west direct to Tuscon, AZ. I could have gone direct to Phoenix, but the terrain along this route was lower, and it provided for a more scenic routing. From Tuscon it was up the valley and around the east side of the Phoenix Class B airspace. Since I was going this way, I orbited Grammy and Grandpa’s house. I could see Grammy on the patio and rocked my wings to say hello. Then I headed west to Deer Valley Airport, where the airplane is going to be based for the next few weeks. Including the extra distance for the routing and sight seeing, the leg took me 3.3 hours. That made a total of 5.9 hours from Ft. Worth to Phoenix. I can highly recommend the routing, it was a very scenic flight and I never got bored of the view.

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If you look under the canard tip above, that is the aircraft bone yard at Davis Mothan Air Force Base.

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Betty tucked in with her new hangar mate for the next few weeks.

I do have some go pro video of these legs of the victory tour. I still have to edit it, so I will get that onto the blog next.

Victory Tour Summary to Date
|  KSGS KOSH KSGS KSLN 0TX1 KCNM KDVT  |  1,995 Nautical Miles  |

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Victory Tour

I have been dreaming for quite some time of trips I have wanted to take in the Garaggio Ez,  in fact it started even before we bought the project. On the days in the shop that were frustrating, I would think of cool places I was going to see. All the while I was hoping the experience would make the pain of whatever particular issue I was solving worth it. When I fly over cool places in the jets I fly for work, I often think to myself it would be fun to be able to fly lower and see the landscape more closely.  Maybe fly up that valley over there and see where it leads.

Since the Garaggio Ez is now a flying airplane, I have taken those thoughts and tuned them into a loosely defined plan. A ton of places are on the list of potential destinations, and I have a few goals to accomplish along the way. I am calling it my Victory Tour.

Our trip to Hops and Props in Oshkosh this past weekend were the first two legs of the tour. I am now on vacation and the next planned leg was from St. Paul to Granbury, TX via Branson, MO. Granbury, TX is where Pecan Plantation is, a residential fly in community where my long time aviation mentor, Dick Keyt, lives. He is one of the people that got me started in aviation and certainly in building airplanes. It is going to be a working visit as we have a plan to do some work on Betty while I am at Pecan.

IMG_0081.JPGDick and I immediately following the airworthiness inspection for the airplane in October 2015.

The original plan was to break up the 5 hour flight into two shorter flights to make it more fun. Branson is 100ish miles out of the way, but only about an extra 30 minutes of travel time. I planned this stop so I could have lunch with my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Dave. But, as I am sure will happen many more times on the Victory Tour, the weather dictated other plans. Kathy and Dave, I promise you are still in mind and I hope the weather lets me stop in sometime on my way through.

I mentioned an instrumentation failure in the previous blog post. Yesterday, was supposed to be the day that I departed for Texas. Actually, I did depart intending to fly to Texas. The plan was to fly above a thin broken layer of clouds to Butler, MO get gas and continue to Pecan Plantation. Well, wouldn’t you know it that the first cross country I plan on using the IFR capability of the avionics, they fail. I had an attitude and heading failure of my Garmin G3X. Luckily it was right after takeoff and I was VMC and still close to home.

I did not get any failure messages about it and the only reason I could tell It failed was it showed a descending turn when I was level. To the software’s credit, it did realize something was amiss after 30-45 seconds and did a soft realignment of the AHRS. The EFIS was showing accurate attitude and heading by the time I was in the pattern to land back home. I am still waiting to hear back from Garmin on what the issue is.

In talking about the failure I have learned something that disturbs me. The Garmin G3X requires GPS to give accurate attitude. The AHRS cross checks itself to detect precession using the GPS. So if you get a degraded GPS signal the attitude will fail. That is a serious disadvantage of the Garmin G3X system. I now consider my airplane limited to VMC only until I get a permanent standby instrument installed. The stand by instrument will be of a different manufacturer, different software, different database, and not GPS dependent. It will be a completely independent standby.

As luck would have it, today gave me an opportunity to fly the entire trip VFR. It required me to deviate west from a straight line, but the mission was do-able while remaining clear of clouds. As a back up in case the attitude on the EFIS failed again, I borrowed Greg’s Dynon D1. If you haven’t seen the D1 or D2, go check it out on the website. It is a completely self contained portable standby instrument. It shows attitude, turn coordinator, ground speed, and GPS altitude.  They are both GPS dependent. But since I am limiting myself to VFR this is more of a convenience to have as a back up.

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The planned routing was Flemming (KSGS) Great Bend (KGBD) Pecan Plantation (0TX1) with a fuel (and potty) stop at KGBD. The headwinds were hellacious and got worse as you got higher. Lucky for me (YAY) the low altitudes were bumpy. I stuck it out down low for the first 90 miles, and then got sick of the crummy ride. I then climbed for smooth air and was greeted with 50 knot head winds. I was down to 130 KTS. I compromised in between with a somewhat bumpy somewhat smooth ride, and 140 KT ground speed.

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About the time I was 125 miles from the destination the yellow light came on (I had to pee). Doing the math, I was up to 170 KTS ground speed at this point, it was something like 45-ish minutes to landing. Ok, I can do that. About a minute later I started looking to my left and wondering if I could make it on a straight line from my location to Pecan Plantation, or if I needed to go further west to stay VFR. ADSB to the rescue. I have onboard weather and could find out. Not quite. I still needed to go further west.

About 95 miles from KGBD I really had to go. So I started looking at the weather to the left again and you know it looked decent actually. Salina, KS (KSLN) was directly off my left 45 miles away, about 10 minutes. Salina is a much bigger airport than KGBD and I started thinking that fuel was probably more expensive since I chose KGBD specifically for cheap fuel prices. At the end of the day it didn’t matter how much the fuel there was, I had to pee, and KSLN was 10 minutes closer than KGBD. I would have paid $10 per gallon.

IMG_4754.JPGAnyone who has worked the line at an FBO knows ‘the look’ when a pilot dismounts, cant put 2 words together, and is looking around for the nearest building that has any chance of a bathroom.

It was a quick gas and go at KSLN as I was racing daylight, I don’t have landing lights yet. The second leg, direct 0TX1 went well and at ground speeds up to 182 KTS in level flight.  I did one minor weather deviation about 10 miles west of course.

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Upon arrival, I followed standard operating procedure for the airport here and did the overhead approach to check for deer. There was an audience and it figures that I did a crappy landing for all 10 or 15 of the neighbors that were watching.

The best part is taxiing up to the hangar home of one of your mentors in aviation, shutting down, and being handed a cold beer by a pretty young gal even before you can unstrap.

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Victory Tour Summary to Date
|  KSGS KOSH KSGS KSLN 0TX1  |  1,200 Nautical Miles  |

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