Sun N Fun

Our first big cross county flight of 2021! We both had time off so we decided to fly to Lakeland Florida for the annual Sun N Fun fly-in. Like many other events of 2020 this was canceled due to COVID. Our trip started on Monday flying from our home airport Poplar Grove IL (C77) to Jasper GA (KJZP). The stop in Jasper got us some cheap fuel and great BBQ at the world famous Bub-Ba-Q.

This is a nice small airport just north of Atlanta with a great staff and a free crew car. The next leg was from Jasper GA to St. Augustine FL (KSGJ) for our overnight. We both had been here before and love the fun vibe this town has. We stayed down on the bay front at the Pirate Haus Inn, a fun little hostel style hotel right in the middle of the restaurant and bar area. We had a great seafood dinner at Harry’s and enjoyed the fun city that night.

The next morning we ate a nice breakfast at the Maple Street Biscuit Co., highly recommend that place. While at breakfast we went over the arrival procedures one more time for the flight into Sun n Fun. This arrival like OshKosh have several ground references you need to be aware of and direction of flight when reaching said points. Air traffic control works from remote stands and visually identifies each airplane. They communicate via radio but you don’t talk back unless requested to do so. We finished up breakfast and bribed one of the guys working table clean up to give us a ride to the airport for $40. What we have found was that rental cars are a rare thing nowadays apparently the companies sold many of the cars during the pandemic and now have a shortage. Uber wasn’t available as the amount of drivers has also shrunk.  After arriving at the airport and fueling up the RV we made a quick departure out of St. Augustine.  The trips south took us west a ways to avoid some restricted airspace then straight south.  We stayed low at 1500′ above the ground all the way down.  As you get closer to the airport the amount of arriving traffic increases a lot.  Tricia and I both had our heads on a swivel looking for conflicts as we approached.  The procedure is to fly to a power plant that is on the northern edge of lake Parker.  From there you will be visually identified by ATC and asked to rock your wings as a confirmation that you are hearing them.  They can either request you fly a circle around the lake in a holding pattern when its really busy or send you on your way to follow the outlined procedure.  We were lucky that it was not that bad when we arrived and they sent us westbound. We got in line behind another aircraft and tucked up behind them at a 1/4 mile behind.   Flying westbound your landmarks are to find I-4 and follow it southwest until you see a water tower that looks like a wedding cake just west of a golf course.  Thats your cue to turn directly south and monitor the tower frequency.  They will now call your turning points as you approach the runway.  Unfortunately we wrote the frequency down wrong and didn’t hear any communications from them.  Tricia scrambled and like a champ found the correct one off the paperwork and we got that plugged in to the radio.  This isn’t that big of a deal as they are used to non radio aircraft flying in and would expect them to follow the procedures.  If I broke that approach off and started flying in a different direction I would probably cause more issues.  As we turned on the final leg they tell you what spot to land on, in our case they said welcome to Sun and Fun land on or after the orange dot.  These dots, green then orange, allow them to break the runway, in our case 9 left which is normally a taxiway, into two runways where they can land several planes at once.

The view of the ocean as we flew south from St. Augustine
Making the westbound turn from lake Parker
Tricia scrambling to find a good frequency

Once on the ground you use signs to let the ground personnel know where you want to go, in our case we were headed to the homebuilt aircraft camping and our sign said HBC to alert them. Tricia had a sign to hold up along the side of the canopy and I had one to put in the windshield.

Once you get to the area they direct you into your spot where you can shutdown and set up camp. Thats when all the pilots start heading over to look over your plane.

We setup camp and secured the RV. Camp consisted of all back packing gear which is compact and lightweight. We had a nice two person tent, two lightweight air mattresses, a sheet to lay on, two thermal down lightweight blankets, two pillows, two chairs, a table and a solar charger to power up all or devices.

So we were packed full and I didn’t bring anything extra like log books, builders log or other things that you might want for a airplane to be judged. For those reasons I wasn’t planning on having it judged here, this was just a fun trip and a way for us to start our flying travels. When we finished setting up camp a bunch of judges stopped by and along with Tricia pressured me into having it judged. I told them about not planning for this and not being prepared but they insisted. So off cam all the covers, and the cowl so that they could poke and pry every inch of the RV. Its a little nerve racking have people look over your work with a looking glass but it was fun talking all about my build. They did this on Tuesday that we arrived and all day on Wednesday.

It never fails whenever the guys see a pretty blonde we get a gold cart ride! If it was just me I would be walking all the way to camper registration to get our arm bands and permit for camping!

So we had a great time walking around, looking at planes and visiting with friends. Our plans were fluid and we knew that we needed to be flexible for weather. The plans needed to be changed a little and adjusted our schedule and planned our departure for Thursday to head Northeast to Savannah Georgia. Thursday morning we got up early to tear down camp and get all packed up before we showered and got ready for the departure. The process was a little easier than arrival and you just get in line and the only restriction was no turns after takeoff before reaching 3 miles away from the airport. The flight up to SAV was pretty uneventful other than it was lower clouds and overcast all the way. We got the plane all tied down and set for the overnight and we headed to the downtown area for a good meal and a bottle of wine. We did get out and explore the city just a little as SAV is a great walking city.

We spent the night and got an early start to the airport after having a nice breakfast at the Funky Brunch cafe.

The flight from Savanah took us through the Asheville area on our way up to Lebanon KY for a fuel stop. Lebanon is the head of the Bourbon trail in Kentucky and they have several tours according to the FBO manager Ryder. This was a great stop and I highly recommend them, super friendly and cheap fuel.

The trip was awesome and we had a great time for our first BIG cross country. We found our setup with gear and luggage to be perfect. It definitely helps to have a great traveling partner who likes to fly! We got home an unpacked everything and laid out all the gear so that we could clean and dry everything from camping.

We got a nice surprise in the mail a few days later too!

Christmas Eve Flight Interrupted

We had plans on flying the RV on its first big cross country to go from home, Poplar Grove Il to Alliance NE to see the grand daughter celebrate Christmas. The plans were delayed due to low ceilings at home with light snow showers. Waiting patiently all day to see some improvement we ended up in the late afternoon to make the call we are good to go. We finished loading up the baggage, already had fuel done and jumped in. We would have to fly low for about 100 miles to avoid the ceilings but was doable staying VFR and in the daylight. So off we went with an uneventful take off except we had a faint smell of burning tire right after that wheels left the ground. Now it was really windy here at home and a significant crosswind so I initially choked it up to me maybe dragging a tire as we lifted off. As we climbed up and leveled off at 1500′ my Dynon system announced “Electrical Current” and drew my eyes to the EMS section of the screen. Alternator AMP’s were at 1.5 and the main battery was draining slowly. OK I thought the alternator went off line due to all the stuff we had on like seat heaters. So I reduced the load and rest the ALT field switch. The AMPO’s went up for a few seconds and then trickled down to the 1.5 AMP area. After doing this a couple of times I decided to return home and do some investigating. We landed and put the RV. back in the hangar. Tricia decided that she would do a Christmas dinner for just us and we would make for Nebraska tomorrow either in the RV or on United. So I ripped into the cowl to se what was up, hoping for an easy fix. After removing the upper and lower cowl I expected to see a broken belt but it was in great shape and no damage. As I squeezed on the belt to see how tight it was I noticed that the alternator actually moved a little. What I found was the pivot bolt that holds the lower part of the alternator on had loosened up about a 1/16″. The tensioning bolt that I tightened and safety wired was still tight and secure. I’m thinking vibration and caused what I thought was a tight connection to loosen enough for the alternator to move and shorten the distance between the two pulls just enough for the belt to start to slip. That was the initial burning tire smell and the cause of the low AMP’s. So I removed the safety wire and tightened the pivot belt so I could adjust the proper tension. Then I torqued both bolts and safety wired the tensioning bolt. I pulled the RV out of the hangar and did an engine run up while loading up the electrical systems to put a good draw on the alternator. Everything worked great and no electrical issues were noted. So I put the cowl back on and secured everything for the night. We got up early Christmas morning and jumped in the RV and made our way to Nebraska. What would normally take 12-13 hours to drive we did in 5.1 hours with a stop in Iowa for gas and a restroom break. The return trip with tailwinds and the same stop for fuel took us 3.6 hours. This thing is a magic carpet allowing you to make great time on trips.

A little Saturday Flying

We needed to deliver a couple vinyls I cut down to our fellow RV-8 pilots in C09 so that was all of an excuse to fly we needed. We joined up with another fellow RV-8 builder, Tom Ellis, and did a couple low passes for the gang.