imageA 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,