Long Training Weekend - Day 2
My stop in central Florida was necessary to visit a specialty shop to make an adjustment to the wings and controls of the airplane.
Since getting the airplane back from the engine overhaul, I have put quite a few hours on it, and although it flew very well, I had noticed that the left wing would drop a little in flight, requiring me to use extra rudder pressure to correct for it. Although it wasn’t a major issue, it was robbing me of a little top-end airspeed in cruise flight. I had been searching for someone that could help me and was referred to R.J. Dauhn Aircraft.
Route for Day 2: X35 - 5FA1 - Local
Marion County, FL. - Fruitland Park, FL.
Duration: 1.2 hours - 31 miles and local test flights
The day started pretty early, actually early enough that the sun wasn’t even up yet by the time that I had arrived at the airport. I killed a little time back over at the Aviator Paramotor hangar again and was greeted by a warm cup of coffee and the company of Micah and Ariana’s airport puppy, Amelia. This puppy had the most infectious smile and personality. I had to joke with Micah that he should consider himself lucky that I was an honest person and wouldn’t kidnap and take her back home with me. I was tempted, but I’m sure that my two dogs at home wouldn’t have appreciated it.
Seeing the sunrise is always special, but there is something to be said about the sun rising over an airport in Florida. While sipping on my cup of coffee, I had to take pause and just let it all soak in. Views like this are truly inspiring to me. Oh, and the turbine powered Lancair Evolution is the foreground is pretty inspiring too, if you know what I mean. After spending a few minutes reflecting, it was about time to grab my bags and make my way over to the small grass strip, located in Fruitland Park.
All night long, I had been thinking about the problem with my alternator. Was it failing? Maybe it was the voltage regulator? Maybe a cable had vibrated loose from the battery terminal? There are a bunch of things that could be causing the problem, but the real question of the morning was if my battery had enough juice to turn over the engine or not. After a thorough preflight inspection, I climbed into the cockpit, yelled “clear prop” and it started right up, just as she always had. Not only that, but my ammeter was showing a slight charge, just as it should. I taxied out to runway 10, performed my runup and as I was building airspeed and just lifting off of the ground, I could see the paramotor pilots buzzing around on the other side of the airport. If I would have had more time this morning, I would have loved to experienced that. Consider that one more item to add to my bucket list of things to do.
When talking to Brian on the phone in the weeks leading up to this trip, he asked me a few times if I was comfortable landing on grass, since their shop was located in a small fy-in community with a 2000 foot grass strip. Being that I fly in and out of a grass strip at home, I didn’t see any reason to feel uncomfortable. The worst part about grass strips like this one is that they tend to blend in with the landscape and can be very hard to see until you are right on top of them. As I approached the field, I could see a mower on the runway, so I made a low approach in order to “announce’ my intentions to land before circling back around the pattern. After touching down, I taxied over to the hangar where Brian, D.J., and Austin were standing by and ready to get to work on the adjustments. Of course, after landing on freshly cut grass, I couldn’t resist getting a picture of what appeared to be a grass hula skirt under my nosewheel.
R.J. Dauhn came highly recommended to me by a few people that I had been discussing my problem with. After a brief call with R.J. himself, he put me in touch with his manager, Brian Curry. Brian and I spoke on the phone and he went out of his way to do his best to understand the issue that I was having and worked with me to fit me into their schedule. Let me tell you, these guys know what they are doing when it comes to rigging an aircraft.
Immediately after my arrival and shut down, the measurements started. They measured and compared the amount of twist in my wings, the angle of incidence, my flaps, ailerons, elevators, and rudder. After just a few minutes, the guys had the fairings off of my right wing and were making the necessary changes to the eccentric bushing and bolt to bring that wing level with the other. After verifying the measurements again, everything was put back together and it was time for a quick test flight. This was going to need to be done a few times to ensure that the changes made were just right. The one thing that we knew might be a challenge to getting the job done in a single day would be the weather. Florida is known for its pop up thunderstorms, and today would prove to be no different. Beginning mid-afternoon, the clouds started to get thicker, so we tied the plane down and I searched for a hotel to stay for the night. The only thing left to do for the following day would be final test flight, and if all was as good as we expected, I would be out of there by late morning.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention… Brian and Austin took the cowling off of the engine to take a look at my alternator and discovered that one of the posts had come loose, causing a bad connection. Once this was tightened up, the alternator was once again charging as expected! No expensive parts or repairs were necessary. What a relief!
I didn’t get the opportunity to take any pictured of the team working on my plane, so I have included this picture of R.J. fabricating some sheet metal for another aircraft. Much of the tooling and fixtures in their shop were actually designed and fabricated by R.J. himself. In fact, just learning about R.J.’s background was pretty fascinating; he is an ATP rated pilot, a flight instructor, a musician, a motorcyclist, and a writer. The stories that R.J. has are beyond endless, and it was easy to let time get away from me.
What was great to me is that I felt like I was able to quickly establish a rapport with everyone, and after being there for only a short time, I felt like I was among friends. I guess that’s one thing about the aviation community that outsiders just don’t really get. People in aviation seem to really be social and love to hang out, talk, and tell stories. It seems like every new place that I fly to leads to me meeting new and interesting people. These guys were no exception! They were great people and their work is top notch!
I’ll be back in the morning to wrap this up and should be airborne before the weather comes back. Stay tuned…