Heading Further Afield

I was able to fly last Monday in the morning and Friday both before and after work. Over the weekend I flew Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I went back up to Hearne in the morning to practice takeoffs and landings and then in the afternoon I flew to Madisonville. A distance of 23 nautical miles. I practiced takeoffs and landings on the narrow 50 foot wide runway and then headed back to Coulter.

AC_20130428_enroute_01On Sunday morning I slept in as there was fog forecast for much of the area. When I looked out shortly after sunrise I saw blue sky and realized that the forecast was wrong and headed for the airport. I was in the air by about 8:30 and here you can see the view as I headed for an uncharted private airstrip just east of Normangee. I know the owner and have permission to land there. This will be my first landing on grass. A much easier surface to land an airplane of this sort on. Providing the surface is in good shape

AC_20130428_Scots_airfiled_01This is a view of Scot’s airstrip from pattern altitude of 1000 feet agl. Although there was not enough moisture in the air for the predicted fog there was a scattered layer of clouds at about 700 feet and you can see them here. The runway runs parallel to the long white gravel driveway and just below it in this picture.  Final approach is over the pond on the far right and Scot’s hangar and house are at the other end.

AC_20130428_onthegrass_02The view on final was beautiful. The sun was still low and some mist was rising off the pond into the sunlight that was coming through the trees. I wish I could have taken a picture but I had to fly the plane. After landing I took these pictures  of N90HS sitting on the grass strip in the morning sun. She looks like she belongs there.








AC_20130428_tracks_in_the_grassWhile walking around to take pictures I looked back down the runway and saw the tracks I made in the dew. The first part of the runway, just past the pond, is uphill and then the portion shown here is slightly downhill. The top of the hill is by the orange windsock that can be seen behind the fence. I taxied back to the top of the hill and took off and went around a few more times. On the last one I saw that Scot had come out to watch so I shutdown the engine after landing so we could visit. He commented on how fast my airplane gets off the ground and how well she climbs. I hear that a lot. Scot invited me to a fly in fish fry in few weeks that will be held here at his ranch. I took off and flew back to Coulter and my plane was back in its hanger by 10:00

After lunch I headed up to another grass strip. This one is also private but it is charted so all I had to do was touch it on my gps screen and then select “Fly Direct to Here” from the menu. The distance is 45 nautical miles. Close to the 50 mile limit I am restricted to during my 40 hour test period. I know the owner and have permission to land there. He has built a fly in campground among the pine trees. He calls it “Critter’s Lodge”. The annual fly-in is in two weeks and I plan to have my first taste of fly in camping at the event.

As I flew over the runway I saw a large mower sitting right in middle. So I set up to land but made a low approach over the runway. I was hoping they would see me an move the mower so I could come back around and land. On the next approach the mower was sill there and no one was in sight so I applied power and climbed out and headed off to Hilltop Lakes.


Hilltop Lakes is a rural community that has a paved runway connected to grass taxiways that run behind the homesites. So, you have street in front of your house and a grass taxiway behind your house. This is  view looking down one of those taxiways. The paved ramp is in front of a homeowners hangar and there are several other hangars down the length of the taxiway. At the very end, over the left wing is the runway which runs perpendicular to the taxiways. It’s a nice development with several lakes, a large pool, campground and a 18 hole golf course. I know several of the residents and was able to show off my new plane.

I then headed back to Coulter and put her away for the day. I took off some inspection plates just to see how everything is holding up and made an adjustment to the trim system. I don’t have enough nose up trim for approach speed but more nose down trim than I’ll ever need so I made a small change and I’ll test it on my next flight. Total time to date, 16.5 hours.

New Heights

AC_20130421_grnd_ref_01Yesterday I got in over two hours of flying and really started to learn the nuances of the aircraft. Lots of takeoffs and landings. Some at CFD and some at Hearne. Then I flew to an area where I teach my students to perform “ground reference” maneuvers. I took this picture  while flying some rectangular patterns at 800 feet above the ground. There are some farm roads in this area that not only form a nice rectangle but that also have fields all around them that would make landing safe and easy if the engine were to quit. This is important because from 800 feet I’m not going to be able to glide vary far at all. Also it is an “other than congested area” so it is legal to fly as low as 500 feet above the ground. Usually I demonstrate this maneuver for a student and then I just watch and critique but today I got to do all the flying and it was a blast.

AC_20130421_above_clouds_01After that I found a nice big hole in the clouds and decided to take her up through it. She climbs really well and is very maneuverable and it was not problem circling up through the opening. Here is a picture of the hole I climbed through. This was taken at about 7,500 feet msl or about 7,000 feet above the ground. It did not take long at all to climb up to that altitude, maybe about five or six minutes. To date, this is the highest I have flown her.


This was taken while I was climbing through 4,200 feet. I’m not proud of my lack of co-ordiantion seen in this picture but I’ll blame it on trying to use a camera while flying. I’m climbing at over 1,000 feet per minute at 75 mph. Best rate of climb is at about 65 mph so she can climb better than this. I have seen 1,600 feet per minute while climbing through 1,000 feet on  more than one occasion, The entire instrument panel was designed and constructed by me. All I got with the kit was a sheet of aluminum with the right angle bend at the very bottom.

I finished up by spiraling back down through an opening in the clouds and returned to CFD after the longest flight to date of almost two and a half hours. Again, no issues.

$100 Hamburger

What’s a $100.00 hamburger?  I’ll get to that later.

My first flight was on Monday the 15th and then we had a few days of bad weather. On Friday morning the winds were calm and the sky clear so I got to the airport before sunrise to see if I could add to my forty minutes of flying time in N90HS. I was in luck and took her up for her second test flight. No ground crew this time and no parachute but I did stay over the airport. The flight was pretty similar to the first one except longer and I used higher power settings for “cruise”. I also experimented with slow flight with 11 degrees of flaps. I can set the flaps at any setting between 0 and 22 degrees but only have 0, 11 and 22 degrees marked near the lever. There are large pitch changes when flaps are extended or retracted. Nose down for extension and back up for retraction. I was ready for this from my training in the Super Sport back in January. She flew great so I brought her back in, landed, taxied to the hangar and took all of the cowlings off again. Just over an hour for this flight and no problems.

That evening the winds were light so I went flying again for about an hour. Climbed up over the airport and experimented with full flaps (22 degrees). With almost 6 hours on the engine (3 taxiing and almost three in flight) I had few concerns with it so I decided to do some “pattern work”. Take offs and landings in the traffic pattern around the airport. I need to learn how to fly this airplane and one takeoff and one landing per flight was not giving me much practice. The reason for not doing this until the engine had more time is that there is a vulnerable point after takeoff where I would not be able to land on the runway ahead of me but my altitude would not be high enough to have many options for landing. There are some fields around the airport and I scoped them all out before the first test flight but they are not optimal. I have no doubt that I would be OK but I really don’t want to bend my new airplane. The pattern work went well and the sun was setting so back to the hangar she went after filling up the fuel tanks. I had burned off 14 gallons during my taxi testing and first three test flights. Cowlings off, no issues.

On Saturday morning I got out early and flew for about an hour. Just pattern work. Trying to teach myself how to fly this airplane with some finesse. I’m not there yet but I’m working at it. Then it was time for some real flying.

Around noon I departed CFD for my first trip to another airport. Two friends, Margaret and Jerry, flew in their Classic IV’s. So the three of us flew to Brenham Texas for lunch. There is a very popular restaurant at the airport in Brehnam that has delicious hamburgers. Pilots refer to this sort of cuisine as the “$100 Hamburger”. Which is probably a little on the low side if you were to amortize the annual cost of aircraft ownership over a few dozen hamburgers.  But, it is a general aviation tradition that I have been looking forward to participating in and now, just one week after my inspection, I am doing just that.

AC_20130420_11R_ramp_01Brenham is a VERY popular destination on nice weekends. There was a lot of traffic around that airport but everyone expects this and is very diligent about broadcasting their position on the radio and working to make things run smoothly and safely. There is no control tower so it is up to the pilots to look after each other. Every so often there is a bad apple or two that don’t want to play by the rules. I had to fly the pattern twice due to a Cirrus pilot who decided to ignore the traffic pattern and fly a five mile final approach. On departure the same plane decided to do an intersection take off as I was rolling onto the end of the runway for departure. Seems that pilots with fast airplanes feel they have the right to make their own rules to avoid the need to “waste” any of their precious time. The rest of us just have to keep an eye out for them. So, here I am parked back in a corner on the ramp as it was the only space available. The wait for lunch was 45 minutes but there were plenty of nice airplanes to check out.


You can see here that the ramp is so full that Jerry parked in the grass. Yes, his airplane looks a lot like mine. Above his wing, you can see the back of Margaret’s airplane. They both arrived shortly before me. Way in the back by the hangar you can see my airplane. You may have noticed that both Jerry’s and Margaret’s airplanes have slightly longer wings than mine. I built my airplane with removable wing sections so I can fly it with either long or short wings. So far I have only flown with the short wings. With the shorter wings the “wing loading” is higher and closer to aircraft I have more experience in so I decided to fly it this way first. I’ll try out the long wings when I am more comfortable with her.


This is Jerry with his pride and joy. He built it himself in his garage and has been flying it for over a year now. His 40 hour test period was flown off a long time ago so he can go pretty much anywhere and he seems to be talking about flying to the EAA Airventure air show in Oshkosh WI this summer. I am planning on being there. I have never been and always told myself that I would attend when I could fly an airplane I built to the show. Hopefully this will be the year. The return to CFD was uneventful and my fifth and sixth test flights were complete and my appetite was sated. Not a bad day.

I Want to Fly Again!

My analysis of the weather on Monday was correct. It has been lousy since shortly after I made my first flight. I looked back at the hourly reports and there was a three hour window on Monday evening when the winds died down before the low clouds rolled in. By an hour after sunset the ceilings were low and by morning the winds had picked up. I am so glad that I got that short flight in. There were so many details that could only be evaluated by actually taking to the air and now that I have done it I feel very relieved and I’m still smiling. No joke!

I went back out on Tuesday evening to take a close look at everything and there were no issues. A few items needed tweaking but that was it. I put her all back together and cleaned her all up so she’ll be ready to fly again. Then for the first time in six weeks, yesterday evening, I did not go to the airport. I actually went home after work and relaxed. For the past six weeks my life daily routine was; wake up, go to work, go to the airport, go home, go to sleep. Repeat. On the weekends I spent 8-10 hours at the airport each day. But, it was all worth it. The weather is looking really good for the weekend I am looking forward to lots of flying.

I had a chance to look at a video of my take off on Monday. It was a crazy few seconds and my instincts served me well but I was not sure exactly how the the takeoff  progressed. From the video I can see what happened very clearly. When I applied full power I held the stick back for about two or three seconds, that I remember. Then I raised the tail by moving the stick forward and in the tailwheel airplanes I am used to flying I can then accelerate in a level attitude for a few seconds before pulling the stick back at bit to raise the nose at which point the airplane becomes airborne. But, it seems that as soon as I raised the tail on Monday my airplane had the speed and attitude needed to become airborne and it happened very quickly . Much more quickly than I have ever experienced and before I had completely lowered the nose. An instant later I saw the ground dropping away, glanced at the airspeed indicator, and lowered the nose a bit. Our airspeed was  50 mph and I wanted to climb at 65. We were climbing at 1400 feet per minute! I also overcorrected a little bit in roll just after takeoff but got he hang of it pretty quickly. Shortly after we were stabilized and climbing at 65 mph it finally struck me that I was now FLYING the airplane that I spent over 15 years building. I’ll never forget that moment.

KF_training_01mFlying N90HS on her first flight was a very important to me. To prepare myself for that flight I had obtained several hours of flight training. I received 4.3 hours of instruction in the Kitfox Light Sport airplane pictured here. This is the model that is available currently either in kit form or ready to fly. It is a little larger and quite a bit heavier than my plane. It is not that the plane is all that much heavier but I was flying it with an instructor instead of solo. I have also been flying a 1946 Aeronca Champ. Again, with two on board and with a less powerful engine than my plane has. I have flown a friend’s Kitfox Model 4 but that was also with two on board. I was flying my airplane without the wing extensions. In this configuration my flaperons are full span and the roll response is quicker than my friends Model 4 or the Kitfox Light Sport. So the combination of lighter weight and increased roll response resulted in an airplane somewhat different from anything I had flown before. I am a part time flight instructor so I have become used to the unexpected and as I mentioned before, my instincts served me well and the flight was a success.

First Flight!

When I checked the weather this morning I was pretty sure that I would not be flying until the weekend. Gusty winds all day and then bad weather moving in ahead of a cold front. Then about 4:00 I noticed that the winds were starting to decrease. Just a little at first. They were supposed to weaken after dark but it looked like it might be happening sooner. I left work at 4:45 and headed to the airport. Still the winds were too gusty. Jerry, another Classic IV builder and owner was out at the airport and he also thought it was looking promising. I decided to start the process.

AC_20130415_onthegrass_01A thorough preflight and inspection followed by the taxi drill that I have gone through about a half a dozen times now. Everything done as if I am going to fly except I taxi down the runway instead of taking off. After I got back to the ramp I decided to park on the grass and take some pictures while I waited.  I called Stephen and he was on his way out.


AC_20130415_onthegrass_02Stephen and Dave have spent the past month helping me finish up N90HS and prepping me for my first flight. They have given me training in three of their aircraft. One of which, a 1946 Aeronca Champ, is somewhat similar to my airplane. My friend Luz and her daughter, Isabela, had stopped by just to see the airplane and decided to stay and see what transpired. We also had Miles and Robert in attendance. Miles took the great photograph of me coming in for landing. Luz used my camera to take the other photographs I have posted here.

AC_20130415_first_flight_pre_briefStephen arrived and agreed that conditions were good. He said, “It doesn’t get any better than this”. The wind was now 11 knots right down the runway. He grabbed a parachute for me to wear and here you can see him giving me some final words of advice. Then there was nothing left to do but climb in, fire up the engine and get this done.



I taxied out just like before except this time it was for real. Did it feel any different? Yeah, the parachute made the seat much more comfortable. I went through my checklists, made a radio call, taxied onto the runway and lined up on the centerline. Noted the time, took one last look at the wind sock,  and advanced the throttle. We were off, after a few seconds I raised the tail and she climbed like a rocket ship. Well, it seemed like that to me as I’m used  to instructing in 30 year old Cessna 152’s that are about 600 pounds heavier with similar horsepower. I was 1000 feet off the ground before I knew it. What an experience. I climbed to 4000 feet above the ground and stayed over the airport while I kept a very close eye on everything. I reduced the throttle to 5000 RPM and trimmed for level flight. I then just took my hand off the stick and my feet off the pedals and she just flew straight and level all by herself. Stephen was wrong, It does not get any better than THIS. I then reduced power and slowed down to 50 MPH to see how she handled. I made some clearing turns and then reduced the power to idle and slowed to the first sign of an impending stall and then recovered with power and pitch. I repeated this a few times so I could get used to how she will handle in the landing flare.

AC_20130415_first_flight_landingI then reduced power and glided down to enter the downwind leg for landing. I brought her in about midway down the runway and made a fairly descent first landing. The airplane can be used again so based on that often quoted criteria it  likely qualified as an “excellent” landing.  I did pull back too hard on the throttle after touch down and the engine quit just as I rolled to a stop. On the radio I heard a joke from the ground crew about having just the right amount of fuel. I actually had full fuel tanks. Total flight time was just over 1/2 hour.

AC_20130415_first_flight_taxi_in_01I taxied in and stopped in front of my hangar. Everything went well. There was  a lot of noise in the audio system that did not show up at the lower power settings I had used for taxi and I’ll have to sort that out. All of the engine gauges stayed right where I wanted them and the airplane was rock solid. I could not believe that a few minutes before  I was looking out the window and seeing the sun starting to set and the ground far below.

AC_20130415_first_flight_over_01 For so long the only thing I saw when sitting in my airplane was the inside of my garage. It seemed almost surreal but it wasn’t. We put N90HS back into the hangar and removed all of the cowlings. Everything looked great. Tomorrow after work I’ll go over everything very closely to make sure there are no issues. Then, when the weather cooperates it will be time to fly her again and I can’t wait.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped with this project over the years!

Inspection Day

Yesterday I spent about an hour taking the airplane apart. The inspector wanted the airplane to be in a condition to fly and then for me to remove all cowlings, inspection plates, seats and pretty much anything removable.

AC_20130413_readyforinsp_01I went back out this morning and by the time I was done, N90HS looked like this. By having everything off the inspector was able to really look things over and determine whether the aircraft is airworthy. Actually, in the case of experimental aircraft they are never really considered airworthy by the FAA. Instead, they are considered in a condition for safe operation.  A subtle difference but since my airplane does not have a type certificate that has been determined airworthy it will never be considered as such. Like I care, I just want to go flying!

AC_20130413_readyforinsp_02This is the collection of cowlings and covers that were removed from the airplane. Along with the seats and the cargo pod. Several other items are in the back of the hangar. When this is over it will take a few hours to put them all back on and make N90HS airworthy again. Well, actually not airworthy but in a condition for safe operation!

All went well and I was complimented on my attention to detail and I received my “Special Airworthiness Certificate”. I had a lot of help and encouragement over the past month while my airplane was at the airport. I want to thank Stephen, Dave, Margaret, Robert, Jerry and Tim. In the months leading up to moving N90HS to the airport there were a lot of jobs that required help and some additional friends came to my garage to help with these jobs. I want to thank Marc, Robert, Kimberly, Doug, Estevao and Rusty. I am sorry if I have forgotten anyone. On the final page of my builder’s log is the number 1977. That is the number of hours I logged building her. That does not count the time I spent thinking about how I was going to solve some problem or the time worked by those who helped me. But it’s done!

So, have I flown her yet? Well, not yet. I did not leave the airport until 6:30 this evening and I have not gotten everything put back together yet. I was tired, the winds were a little gusty and I figured I can fly another day. Maybe tomorrow!


It’s all Over Except For the Paperwork

At least that is what I am hoping. I have my inspection scheduled for Saturday. If all goes well I will have my airworthiness certificate and operating limitations when it is complete.

AC_20130410_paperworkI have gone through all of the paperwork and organized it. I have the original instruction manual, a binder with instructions for all of the the stuff that was not part of the kit, a builders log, a photo album and a file box full of receipts, manuals, and forms. Some of this is to establish that the airplane was indeed amateur  built and not professionally built and also that I built it.

The rules that I am certifying my aircraft under allow a person to build an airplane for their own recreation and education and they have to complete at least 51% of the work. So the kit cannot be too complete. You can get all of the free help you want but if you pay someone to work on it there can be issues regarding whether the 51% rule was violated. Under the amateur built rules I will also be able to get a “repairman certificate” that will allow me to do the annual inspections on my aircraft. That will hopefully make aircraft ownership a lot cheaper as I won’t have to hire a certified mechanic for the inspections.

Tonight I plan to move all of this paperwork out to the hangar and get everything cleaned up out there for Saturday.  Then I will remove all cowlings, inspections panels, and the seats so when the inspector arrives he can get right to work. I hear it takes about 4 hours.

It’s Done!

So, the construction blog is gone and now it is time to start flying. On Saturday I was able to fire up the engine and taxi N90HS to the gas pumps for the first time. Also, for the first time, I saw how much a “fill up” will cost!


When I taxied up to the pumps the header tank was full (about a gallon) and each wing tank only had unusable fuel. When we weighed the aircraft we had only unusable fuel in all three tanks and I had added enough to fill the header tank after the weight and balance check. So, the “fill up” was just what I expected, just over 25 gallons of fuel. Although I used a short step ladder to fuel the airplane I also tried fueling while standing on the tire. Not as easy as the ladder, but quite doable and perhaps necessary in the future. There were no leaks while fueling and the next day there were no puddles on the floor of the hangar.
AC_20130406_at_pumps_02 After filling the tanks I spent some time taxiing. Both to see how she handled and also to warm everything up and break everything in. See if anything leaks or breaks lose. I also want to get used to the view over the cowling before my first flight. The winds were 18 mph with gusts to 25. I was reluctant to taxi for the first time in this kind of wind but as one of my friends and mentors at the airport said, “You’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later”. So, sooner it was. I went through everything just like I plan to on my first flight except I taxied down the runway instead of taking off. Everything worked perfectly except the brakes would not hold the plane for run up. I fixed that on Sunday by “breaking in” the brakes.

AC_20130406_at_pumps_01I had waited to taxi until everything was done and the airplane was ready to fly because the rule for this type of airplane (able to become airborne at low speeds and having a high power loading) is that you don’t put it into motion under its own power unless you are prepared to fly it. Well, even though I was strapped in tight and had plenty of fuel, I did not become airborne. The smile lasted for hours.