Coping: With “Sky Friday”

A buddy of mine from the local ham radio club sent in a fine picture of events over in the Longview, Texas area where the Great Texas Balloon Race is being held.  (Hat tip to en B for the marvelous pic!)

Balloons have always held a certain fascination for me.  Can’t say whether it was because of Jules Verne’s fanciful “Around the World in 80-days” or something else.

The first time I saw a large number of balloons was in Anchorage, Alaska, years ago. And a lady-friend from the distant past had always been intrigued with the annual event for balloons up in the Albuquerque, NM area.

Today, there will be an emphasis on special shape balloons.  If you drive around Longview starting around 7 AM you should be able to see some real dandies.  A sampling of where to go, and what to see, is on the Great Texas Balloon Race website.

So are the official standings.

We’d like to extend our congratulations to Joe Heartsill who racked up 1,000 points in the Wednesday flight for a perfect execution of a balloon  maneuver called the  “Hesitation Waltz R15.3.”

Hmmm.  What is a hesitation waltz, you’re wondering?

Authoritatively, the UltraMagic Balloons page explains it this way:

Competitors attempt to drop a marker close to one of several set goals. The result is the distance from the mark to the nearest target, if displayed, or goal. Smallest result is best.

Who knew?

In terms of airmanship, Hare and Hounds is likely the best for close-range piloting. But there are lots of other skills, too.  Including – if Hollywood imagery is right – the fine art of drinking champagne and watching the world pass by.  I’m sure the FAA has a regulation to ruin that, though.

But regardless, the winds today will be 8-12 MPH from the west/southwest.  But the event continues through Sunday and according to the event website, here’s what’s on tap for tomorrow:

You can go read up on the Sunday schedule over here.

If you get serious about balloon “racing” there’s no end of debate on the ‘net about whether it is really a “race” or whether the word “competition” is more correct.  Race implies to a lot of people acting in a manic way – as fast as possible – and competition is more measured.

I have to admit balloon racers is not well-represented in my circle of friends.  Jet jockeys who amp-out at Mach numbers greater than 1?  Plenty of those.

Perhaps it from too many hours in the left seat flying an airplane.  But the terms “relaxing” and “aviation” don’t belong in even the same book.  One exception being our long-time reader who expertly pilots a motor glider in places like Tibet.  combining the best of soaring and airmanship.  But, such individuals are few and far between.

It’s worth a trip to Longview this weekend for the snaps and to surf the vibe.  And that gets me to…

Hunt for the Missing 100 RPM

Before lunch of the Anderson County, Texas media moguls today, the day’s festivities start off meeting Jeremy the Mechanic (have aircraft tools, will travel) down at the hangar where our old Beechcrate needs an oil change.

I noticed on the trip that the static run-up RPM was not what it should be.  This has been a pox upon Ure’s life for a year and a half now. 

I’ve looked (and replaced) all the usual suspects:  Could it just be the tach is off?  Replaced it, no change.  Carb issue?  Replaced and no change.  Induction system?  Pressure tested and no change.  Timing?  Plugs:  Replace it all…no change.

On the Seattle trip I did notice one oddity (testing for such things):  When I ran  the carb heat full on for about 5-minutes at wide open throttle (WOT) the engine seemed to find it’s missing 100 rpm.  Thing ran like a top and that leads me to suspect a leaky or maladjusted air box.

Aircraft engines have an air preheat system to deal with the possibility of carburetor icing at partial throttle settings when moisture in the air can condense around the venturi in the carb.

A sheet metal housing runs air past a hot exhaust pipe and can dump hot air into the carb as needed to melt any accumulated ice.  The downside is that hot air lowers performance and that, in turn, is why there’s a knob on a cable at the pilot position to turn it off when not needed.

So this morning’s we will pull the scat tube from the ram air off the air cleaner (yes, it is clean and has been replaced) and see if the symptoms change.

If so, it will mean an air box rebuild (not a huge expense).

If that doesn’t fix it, a new muffler is suspect because the exhaust gas temps (EGTs) have been running hot.

100 RPM doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it can be the difference between flying along at 120 miles an hour or 125, or between 127 and 133, depending on altitude.

Most people don’t how dependable light aircraft really are.  The FAA has a fine system of engineering and maintenance for type certified aircraft which is much tougher than experimental or home built.

Think about how dependable your car would be if it had two independently fired spark plugs for each cylinder.  Or, had to have a compression test every year.  Or, if the oil filter was torn apart at every oil change looking for indications of premature wear?  Or, if after 90,00 miles, the perfectly good (and still running like a top) engine was taken out and rebuilt to factory specifications?  I mean new pistons, cylinders and camshaft.  New oil pump…all that stuff.

Fortunately, there is no magic when it comes to engines, although to hear people talk, you’d think there is.

The reality is they are all going to operate the same given equal tolerances and the same ignition timing, fuel flow, and all the rest of it.  The super tuners of the rice burners (i.e. Asian car racers) even refer to things like Density Altitude data to set engines up for ideal performance.

Like radios, and televisions – there is no “magic” in the world of engines, either.

I recently spent $32 to replace a piece of aluminum tubing from one valve rocker cover back down to the engine because we discovered exactly one drop of oil.

Being a fantastic about maintenance –and n ever accepting second best – is the only way to live, and that goes for power tools, appliances, and just about anything else you want to name.

Eventually, I’ll run down the missing 100 RPM and I’ll have one of those “D’oh!” moments for noting seeing the clues earlier.

The good news is this is where “experience” comes from. 

I define experience as “having made all possible mistakes in this area and solved them previously.”

I’m constantly astonished as how experienced I’ve become.  Until, that is, I count up all the mistakes I’ve made over the past 66.4 years. 

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

The Friday Pep Talk

This being Friday, I’ve decided to do more than remind you that most people have two full days ahead to put wealth into their personal accounts, without the inefficiency of working for someone else, paying taxes on it, supporting all the overhead of your life, and so on.

Instead, go work out your brain for 10 minutes:  Here is one of the finest short courses ever on how to recognize opportunity.  Delivered by the master of motivation himself, Earl Nightingale:

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve trained in sales and management over the years who just couldn’t seem to grasp that “Acres of Diamonds” story. Those that did blossomed and those that didn’t?  Well, let’s just say they never figured out how to captain their own ship through life.  They turned into the people we call losers.

That’s what weekends are for.  Have enough successful ones and you’ll turn into a winner.  Remember, winning is something you do in Life, not 9-5.

See you back here Monday…

Write when you break-even,


9 thoughts on “Coping: With “Sky Friday””

  1. I thought I was working out my brain, by reading your website and doing the crossword puzzle daily. Lol

  2. You do not have to major your engine at 2000 hours as long as it is not being used for Commercial operations.. The key is the compression checks. if they remain in spec the engine in ok to operate My Cherokee has a O360 lyc which last time went to 2600 hours before major was pulled on it ( which is very expensive ) How do you like those $22 spark plugs?.

  3. i think if i had a plane i would customize it with a geo metro 3 cyl xfi ignition and computer , they get close 60 mpg and near 70 with a little head work and the engine is probably one of the few i would trust along side the flat head 4 cyl rambler engine ,but i would trust this holographic cellular medical human body recontruction MED BED—the future —- 9 MINUTES IN —-

  4. I have a convoluted coincidence for you because I clicked on the Ultra Magic link you sent (emphasis on magic). Last year at this time, my cousin was hoping to sell at auction an Illuminati ring with an owl insignia, owned by Gordon Bennett, who was a millionaire newspaperman and also the Commodore of the NY Yacht Club (NYC & Newport, RI). I spent time in Newport trying to establish provenance of the ring and found a portrait of Bennett wearing the ring. I was describing my trip to Newport the next day to some friends who were relaxing in my pool and a large owl appeared in an adjacent oak tree in broad daylight. Every bird in the area chirped and screeched to make us aware of its presence. Owls are symbols of magic, explaining why it was on Bennett’s ring. The same friend was in my pool yesterday and we mentioned both the owl and the ring. Today, your column took me to a site that mentioned a Gordon Bennett memorial award in ballooning. What are the chances??

  5. George the Earl Nightengale video was just awesome. I actually used many of the 12 points when I flew jet fighters. Hence the becoming “Top Gun” in several squadrons. Listening to the video I realize why you are so good at what you do.
    Red Dog

  6. I never had a carb. ice up on me during my flying days, but I did have an icing problem one winter when I lived up in the northern part of the state. It took about 2 minutes, and 3/4 of mile for it to sink into my tiny brain, as to what was happening. I only had to stop one more time and let the engine heat melt the ice in the carb. I still think Toyota should have put carb,heaters on those trucks in those days. -:)

  7. No excuse for shortcuts in maintenance. I track “nuisance” alarms as part of my monthly metrics. This just isn’t done in the industry. Quite a few years ago the monitoring team missed an intrusion attributing it to a said “nuisance” alarm. Heads were set to roll until I showed charts I had been tracking. Aint happened since and if it does heads will most certainly roll.

    Over these same years these nuisance alarms will manifest themselves in places where no one or anything is and would repeat themselves into the sometimes thousands then just stop. Just this week I am trying to clear my desk for vacation and this one metric is just driving me crazy, yes short trip. After getting a report of a device in the vicinity of these nuisance alarms acting up I went to check and indeed finally saw it in action. A couple hours later after tracing the individual panels I started to suspect bad network cables or comm issues. Something in the back of my head said check the power supply voltages. Guess what, Good power going in but was losing 3-4 volts going out to the devices. WTF? Standing there looking at the panel enclosure tracing wires in my head then it hit me. I looked at a power relay that interupts power to the devices in a fire alarm. It looked a little odd so I pulled if off it’s base and guess what, overheating damage to it and the socket. Worked for a few minutes then shut down over and over again.

    A call to the vendor telling them to get out here and trace every one of these down and have it done by the time I get back. A quick check of the specs as I was leaving the office and low and behold the relay was way underrated for the load. Second call telling them this and expected that repaired also.

    Hopefully this will be off my plate when I get back. Been on there for nearly 15 years.

    Maintenance pays and if everybody else ignores something be the one who doesn’t.

  8. Thanks for mentioning Jules Verne. Brought me back a bunch of years ago to a time in my young life when “magical thinking” was something to be aspired to. Rather, than a condition to be treated by a psychiatrist.

    God willing, I will never give in to the status quo. Long live Verne! I refuse to deny that all things are indeed possible.

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