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Once again, the Experimental Aircraft Association in July pulled off another great AirVenture fly-in at its home in Oshkosh, Wis. This years event had a little of everything, including torrential rain the Friday evening before Mondays opening day, nighttime air shows and lots of airplanes of every shape, size and purpose. Perhaps because the pre-show rain knocked everyone off-kilter-followed by mid-week heat-the overall event seemed to need more cowbell, but it definitely was worthwhile checking out all the new stuff and checking in with long-time friends.

IFR Route Changes

Sitting around and talking with pilot friends, you hear nonstop talk about aircraft and equipment. Eventually, someone always brings up ATC in conversation. Pilots argue among themselves more intensely than Socrates debating Plato. One question that new and even veteran pilots bring up is why, when they file an IFR flight plan, that their clearance is usually never as filed but includes a route change of some sort.

Catching Up

By the time you read this, Ill be getting my Debonair out of its annual inspection. Its been a lengthy one, in part because of some items I had deferred from previous inspections and in part because the airplane was new to the shop doing the work. Basically, I decided it was time to catch up on a few wear-and-tear items that pop up with any kind of machine, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to a personal airplane.

Behind The Curve

The only time Ive performed what I consider to have been a for-real high-altitude takeoff, it went fine. I was at Albuquerque, N.M.s Double Eagle II airport, elevation some 5800 feet. It wasnt the middle of summer, but it was a warm, sunny fall afternoon. I dont recall which runway I used, but it offered more than enough length for my Debonair, which carried only me, some gear and full fuel. As Id been trained, I leaned the engine before the takeoff and let the airplane fly itself off the runway. I handled it gently until gaining enough airspeed to establish a proper climb and I had some altitude.

Flying On The Ground

Your primary training probably included a diagram explaining where the elevator and aileron controls should be positioned based on where the wind is coming from while taxiing. When we have such wind conditions-and even when we dont, if we want to be honest- we can and should use the ailerons to help control the airplane on the ground. Alas, we dont always have that diagram available, and its easy to forget whether the upwind wings aileron should be down or up. (Hint: It depends.) Lets try to come up with a one-size-fits-all understanding of when and how to use ailerons on the ground.

Dark Acceleration

I like to fly at night. The air generally is smoother, theres less traffic, the ATC frequencies are not as busy and ground illumination, the moon and the stars can compete in one of the best light shows youll ever see. Of course, humans were never meant to fly in the first place, and we often have difficulty actually seeing things at night. So we need to be mindful of night flyings risks and adopt procedures or limitations mitigating them.

NTSB Reports

Radar data depicted the airplane flying northerly until about 1138, when it initiated a right turn to the south at about 400 feet msl. Witnesses then saw the airplane turn right to a westerly or northwesterly direction over land while radar depicted the airplane descending to about 200 feet msl. The airplane banked sharply left, and one witness observed the banner twist and separate. The airplane then banked to the right and impacted a 19-story condominium near its top floor. The airplane fell to the second floor deck and came to rest on its left side. Witnesses described the engine sound as either sputtering, operating normally or being at a low throttle setting.

Flying Your Propeller

Remember that propeller blades are airfoils moving in a plane different from and usually perpendicular to the direction of flight. As an airfoil, the amount of lift the blade creates when moving through the air depends on its angle of attack, and its angle of attack-plus drag-can depend on a variety of factors, including the airplanes pitch attitude. Remember, too, that the outer portions of long prop blades move faster-they cover greater distance in the same amount of time-than shorter ones.

Air Filters

Receiving inspection of new air filters (p/n P107336) revealed three out of four had a defective sealing surface, causing the sealing/mating surface to crack and crumble. This defective sealing surface could potentially enter the engine. The defective filters sealing surface has a light-gray color while the replacement filters we received, inspected and found to be in serviceable condition had a dark gray, almost black sealing surface. Suspect that the defective filters had improper material on the sealing surface or were improperly cured.

Three IFR Curveballs

Flying IFR can get deceptively routine. Most of the time, it means taking off, climbing, cruising, descending, and an approach and landing-all along well-defined routes and usually in VMC. The majority of IFR pilots tend to fly the same routes and procedures again and again, to the point they might memorize communications frequencies and even approach minimums. Its possible to be extremely proficient at the type of flying you usually do while letting other skills atrophy.

Local Phenomena

Checking the weather for a short afternoon flight showed visibility of more than 10 sm and clear skies locally, with a barely moving front off to the west. The forecast showed nothing unusual, although clouds and limited visibility were expected to arrive with nightfall several hours after my anticipated landing time. The temperature/dew point spread was narrow, but around the Great Lakes, we often had high humidity content at lower altitudes as moisture blew in off the water. Seeing ground-level dewpoints only a few degrees away from temperatures wasnt concerning. Overall, the weather looked great for a local sightseeing flight in the late afternoon.

Nationwide Roaming

Pilots fly for a variety of reasons. If youre like me, transportation is the main reason to own an airplane. Flying a single-engine general aviation airplane can be an effective way to travel for business and personal reasons, especially in this era of degrading, inflexible and unpredictable airline service. However, to safely use small aircraft for this purpose and manage the risks, you need to expand the scope of your typical planning efforts and be ready to change schedules and even cancel some portions of a trip. This is especially true if, like me, your travel requirements include the entire United States.