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Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2020 6:13 pm
by Spark6
I went for a cruise/fuel run the other day, and ended up getting back to the barn just a little before sunset. Boy is it a photogenic design!

Re: N325TM

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 8:34 am
by Richard Roller
A good time of the year to enjoy nature. Nice looking a/c!

Re: N325TM

Posted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 12:46 pm
by Pat Weeden
Nice! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Re: N325TM

Posted: Mon Sep 20, 2021 10:57 am
by Spark6
Life being what it is, after several happy years in western PA, my wife and I decided it was time to move closer to family and friends, as well as my job, and head back to New England. So this summer we packed up and moved to southern New Hampshire. After loading the Uhaul and accompanying car trailer with our things, the only outstanding item was the Pietenpol, which had to be left behind in its hangar until arrangements could be made for it to come out to NH. In the midst of moving prep, I managed to complete the conditional inspection with the help of a friendly local mechanic, and so with some guilt on my part, the plane sat through July and August, waiting for me to have time and a weather window to fly it east to it's new home at Parlin Field, in Newport, NH.

Finally, at the end of the first week of September, both the weather gods and the work schedulers appeared to line their calendars up, and with my father impressed into service as ground crew, we cannon-balled through the night to get out to the plane. The weather picture looked solid, with a large high pressure system dominating the region, with mostly clear skies and light winds out of the west in the forecast. Naturally, packing up tools and cleaning up the hangar took longer than planned, so it wasn't until nearly 10:45am that I taxied to the end of the runway at Bandel Airport and pushed up the throttle for departure.

The planned route would cover about 500nm over three days of flying. With 12 gallons total on board, and some of that unusable, I figure that I have 9 gal to play with to plan my legs, and with a conservative-but-reliable fuel burn of 4.5gph, a 90 minute leg length would leave room for a touch of VFR slop above and beyond legal reserves. (After my time flying in the Alaskan bush, I have a thing about having extra gas on top of my extra gas.) The goal was to reach KHZL by the end of Day 1, get to KSNC (with fuel stops planned, but not shown on this screenshot at KMPO and possibly KOXC) at the end of Day 2, where I'd be able to spend the night with family, and then enjoy a leisurely flight up the Connecticut River valley, stopping in Turner's Falls (0B5) for fuel before arriving at Parlin in time to drive my father back home and have a day to recuperate before reporting to work for another shift.
22D-2B3 Routing.jpg
After lifting off from 22D with about 10 gal aboard, (no fuel on the field at 22D) the first leg up to Jimmy Stewart Memorial, in Indiana Township, went beautifully, and clocked in just a touch over 1 hour. The weather was as forecast, and I was able to loaf along making about 73kts of groundspeed while getting reacquainted with the airplane after having been separated for several months. Prior to departure, I'd added a Ram mount under the instrument panel for my iPhone, which kept it safe and beautifully out of the glare, and had also mounted a Stratus 3 just behind the throttle quadrant. Both systems worked a treat, and the Stratus paid for itself in the first 10 minutes of flight when it picked up a medevac helicopter on an intersecting path that my visual scan had missed. We passed each other without incident, and I continued north and east, picking my way around Pittsburgh airspace and on up to KIDI. Windblown and ready for a leg-stretch I made a fairly decent landing on brand-new tires (I replaced them at the conditional, anticipating landing on a lot of pavement on the journey east) on the big asphalt runway, and taxied over to the FBO, where I shut down to chat with the pilots of a Rockwell Commander before scooting inside to pay the rent on the morning's coffee. When I came back outside, the airport manager, who was on his day off, had driven up to the airport after hearing me pass over his house. Hooray for straight pipes on the A65! Folks always comment that the plane sounds a lot bigger and meaner than it is as it goes overhead. :D While visiting with the fine staff at KIDI, my proposed next stop at University Park Airport (KUNV), in State College, PA, came up. "Why don't you just go to Bellefonte instead?" I was asked. "They have fuel, and there's no heavy traffic." While the thought had occurred to me, Bellefonte lies within the KUNV Class D airspace, so the airspace entry requirements are the same, and at a previous job I'd done a lot of jet flying in and out of KUNV, so the whimsy of re-visiting the airport in my Pietenpol was appealing... And besides, "heavy iron don't scare me!" Even so, I filed the suggestion away before taking on a full load of fuel and folding myself back into the Piet to continue the trip.

Departure from KIDI was straightforward, and the Pietenpol and I loped along eastward, making fairly good time. With the tailwind, I saw about 70kts average groundspeed, with a heady foray up as high as 82kts! Although not the highest terrain I would encounter along the planned route, the elevation increases gradually but significantly towards the middle of the state, and State College lies in a valley between two long, steep ridge lines. This had been on my mind long before the flight, and terrain avoidance was the single biggest route determinate as I planned how to get the Pietenpol to its new home. Based on that, my route followed the north side of the ridge line, nearly past KUNV, to the narrowest point of the ridge, where I could cross it quickly, and hopefully be free of any rotor or turbulence that might develop along it. By the time I was approaching my crossing point, I'd slowly climbed to 3200', and was able to see down into the valley on the other side. My handheld radio has about 20 miles of range, and with KUNV in sight, I keyed up to let the tower know that I was coming and wished to enter their airspace. Their reply came back clearly, but my transmission must have been weak, as the controller asked me to call again when I'd gotten a bit closer. With Class D entry requirements satisfied, I headed for the ridge crossing.

There are actually two ridge lines north of State College, the larger one is further north, and was of the greatest concern to me. I needn't have been - we slid across uneventfully, and drew ever-nearer to KUNV, where my father would be waiting on the ground, hopefully with a sandwich. As I approached the second (lower) ridge, however, the air grew choppy, at times requiring a full-scale control deflection to roll the wings back level. It was challenging flying, and came on quite suddenly. We were in the valley between the two ridges - a place that I had been concerned might hold rough air. Nearing 6 or so miles from the field, I keyed the mic to contact the tower, but halfway through my transmission, heard a series of loud beeps, and then my voice through the intercom cut out. Distracted by the turbulent air, I didn't initially connect the dots of what had just happened, and keyed up again to repeat myself. Nothing, and no reply. Still focused on the task of flying, I dug down in the cockpit, and pulled the radio up into my line of sight - the screen was blank. The batteries had quit. Aviate-Navigate-Communicate: It's a mantra that, as pilots, we have all had beaten into our minds (and as CFIs, attempted to beat into the minds of our students!). The unstable air was subsiding as I approached the rising terrain of the second ridge and I had my destination in sight. Time to communicate. Hoping there was enough latent charge left in the batteries to get me to UNV, I pressed the power button on the radio, and was rewarded by the chirp of it turning on, followed by the voice of the tower controller telling me that I was in sight, but that they couldn't hear my transmissions. As I keyed the mic to reply, the radio powered down again. I was carrying spare batteries aboard, but they were safely tucked in my backpack, inaccessible in the front cockpit. Time for one more try at the radio before trying to remember my light gun signals... The radio powered up again, and without waiting to let it drain, I made the call. "State College, Experimental 325TM. I'm having radio problems. Cancel landing request, I will proceed to Bellefonte to land." The folks at KUNV are very understanding, and very professional, and immediately replied in the affirmative, directing me to switch to advisory, and to contact them by radio to let them know I'd landed safely, while also alerting me to a Citabria what was heading to Bellefonte from the south for landing practice. Thankfully, ForeFlight made it an easy thing to get a heading and radio frequency for Bellefonte (N96), and the radio remained powered, as I flew up the north side of the second ridge, and made a steep, but uneventful crossing into an expedited right base-to-final, landing at N96 just as the Citabria entered the left downwind. Knowing my radio was unlikely up to the task of reaching the UNV controller from the ground, I asked the Citabria pilot to relay my "down and safe" message to the tower, and cleared the runway to send a text to my ground crew to alert him to the change of destination. All-in-all, my KIDI-N96 leg took 54min of air time to cover 60.6nm.
N325TM at Bellefonte.JPG
After an hour or so on the ground at Bellefonte, a fresh load of fuel and new batteries, and a lovely chat with the airport manager, it was time to depart if we were to make Hazleton by the end of the day. N96 is a charming little airfield, that has been owned and managed by the same lady and her late husband for the last 35 years. If you're ever in the area, stop by - it's well worth the visit, and the fuel is quite reasonable. The runway is in good shape, and the Piet and I trundled our way skyward. There's video of our departure, but I'm not sure that it will post to this forum. Bummer!

Given the earlier radio troubles, I fully expected a bit of annoyance from the UNV tower when I keyed up the mic to let them know I was departing N96, and requesting clearance through their airspace. But instead they cheerily wished me a good journey and cleared me eastbound. I thanked them for their professionalism and their help, and away we went.

The leg from N96 to KHZL was the longest of the day, and by far the most challenging. The VFR sectional chart topography and maximum elevation figures had lead me to conclude that much of the leg would be over lower terrain, but in reality, the direct route I had planned would take me over steep ridges with rugged and unfriendly valleys between, each one plagued with the same challenging turbulence I'd encountered going into State College. The breeze was freshening as well, and swinging around to be more from the south than the west, reducing my ground speed by a disheartening margin. Shortly after clearing UNV airspace and re-assessing the conditions, I elected to change my route and follow I-80, which mostly kept me clear of the highest ridge lines, and provided the security of a place to land, should the motor quit. The route change added distance, however, and with the wind shift to boot, it took 90 minutes to fly the 84 miles. I spent most of that time watching the unfriendly terrain below, occasionally wrestling with the controls as we encountered pockets of orographic lifting and turbulence, and evaluating the tone of the motor, listening for hiccups. There were none, but I spent much of the flight at high power settings trying to climb up out of valleys after being pushed down into them by downdrafts. All of which is to say, I wasn't getting to enjoy the scenery very much! Finally, though, I broke out into the Shenandoah River valley and was able to throttle back, sit up, and marvel at the patchwork of life passing below me and the gorgeous little airplane that was carrying me over it. As the sun sank behind me, the instrument panel glowed warmly, and I could smell the dairy farms and corn fields as I flew over them. It was as tranquil a moment as any I have experienced in aviation, and I was reminded of the opening passage of "Night Flight," as Fabien wings his way into Buenos Aires with the mail, looking down upon the evening routines of the villages he passes overhead.

The time for whimsy passed though, as we approached Hazleton. The field was reporting winds from the south at 4knts, mildly favoring runway 10. After a long day of flying, a straight-in approach felt like a gift, and I throttled back to descend. On short final, however, it became abundantly clear that the reported winds were not the actual conditions, and I felt myself transported back to the Bush as I touched down hot and fast with a nippy tailwind. The Piet squirmed down the runway, making repeated attempts to dart off into the grass and kept me busy on the rudders as we slowed and made the taxiway turn-off. As I shut down on the apron, I was definitely feeling the drain of the day, and very grateful to clamber out of the plane to stretch. I understand more than ever those of you who install the "flop" in the wing! As I chatted with some of the local pilots, they revealed that the field anemometer is actually located downhill from the airport, and almost always indicates a light southerly breeze, regardless of what the actual conditions on the field are.

I had called ahead to KHZL before leaving Bellefonte, in hopes of securing a hangar for the night, but the airport didn't have any available, and the weather forecast was good, so instead I dragged 5TM over to a ramp tie down, and we cut up a tarp to protect the cockpits from the overnight dew. The results won't win any beauty contests at Brodhead, but got the job done at the end of a long day!
N325TM at Hazleton.JPG
The plan for the night was to find a hotel and some dinner, log a good night's sleep, and be ready for an early start to day 2. Post-flight inspection revealed no issues or damage to the aircraft, and I was looking forward to getting the Poconos behind me early in the day, clearing the Del Water Gap, and then being over fairly low terrain for the rest of the trip to the coast. Over hamburgers that evening, however, I checked the weather forecast and received an unpleasant surprise. A significant low pressure system had, over the course of the day, formed over the Great Lakes, and had drummed up a large area of convective activity over Lake Erie. Based on how quickly it was moving, eastern PA would be experiencing heavy rain by midday of what I'd planned as day 2, with the outflow of the storms nipping at my heels. There was still a chance that with an early enough start, we could out-run the weather, and make KSNC before it caught up, but based on my experience with the terrain and associated turbulence, I was concerned about the conditions crossing the Poconos. As night settled, there was really to do but wait for the next weather update, and try to get some sleep.

By 2AM, the forecast had deteriorated still further. TAFs across the entire region were calling for 30-40knts of windshear at 2000', and the ceilings in western PA were dropping fast. Once the storms hit, it would be 48 hours or more until they were expected to dissipate or move out to sea, and that would put me at the bitter end of my off-shift. To make matters worse, the plane was parked outside and so far as I knew, there still wasn't a hangar available. I had low confidence that 5TM would fare well on a tie down through the forecast torrential downpour and high winds. Early on, we made the decision that flying out was not an option. Given the windshear, which was by 6am, being actively reported at Wilkes-Barre airport, only 25 miles north, I was not comfortable subjecting myself or the airplane to the developing conditions, especially while crossing the highest terrain we would have faced to date. A Google search revealed that there was a 26' Penske truck available for rental nearby, though, and so the plan became to pull the wings off the plane and load it into the truck. We had the contents of my old hangar in the back of the car, and there was a Lowes nearby, so I felt that we had the resources to get the job done, but wasn't very happy about it. It seemed very unlikely that we would successfully dismantle the plane and then get it up into the box truck without doing some sort of damage, to say nothing of the toll that a 9 hour drive in the back of a truck might take on it. Before taking drastic action, however, we decided to go back up to the airport and see if there wasn't some corner of a hangar that we might be able to beg our way into. In fact, there was. An early morning transient jet departure had freed up a corner of a hangar, and the Pietenpol fit snugly in the corner leaving ample room to spare for other transients to fit in. The folks at KHZL went above and beyond to ensure that the plane was safe, and as I type this, N325TM sits safe (and intact!) waiting for the weather and scheduling window to reopen, so that we can resume our journey.

As my father and I drove back east, leaving the weather behind and finding ourselves under the stunning blue skies I'd flown through the day before, it was tempting to second-guess the decision to halt the trip. Maybe I could have scooted out of Hazleton, found a low pass through which to traverse the Poconos, and successfully stayed ahead of the weather for another day. I could have then been a full day, and several hundred miles closer to home! But it is always easy to doubt your conservative choices when you're safe on the ground, and far worse to find that by pushing hard, you've placed yourself in a compromised or dangerous position. The adage, "Always use your wisdom and risk management to avoid having to exercise your airmanship," applies here. On several occasions on this journey, I found myself having to recalibrate my risk calculations. I am fortunate to fly a very capable aircraft for a living, supported by a massive group of dedicated and talented people who's job it is to support each and every flight. The reality of flying a 1929-designed airplane is about as far separated from my work experience as it is possible to be! Conditions and concerns that would scarcely register as annoyance in the jet can become more than grave when transferred to a Pietenpol. Those of us who love these wonderful aircraft are wise to remember the limitations we accept when we fly them. And yet, as I reflect back on this particular experience, I find, even in the short time it's been, the lousy hours of getting bounced around by turbulence, or fighting with the failing radio batteries, or the tired and stiff muscles, are rapidly fading away. What remains is the multi-sensory experience of floating over the Shenandoah, panel aglow with the late afternoon sun, evening thermals lifting to my cockpit the smell of cows and harvested fields, and the warm, steady thrum of the engine.

Until next time.

Re: N325TM

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2021 3:09 pm
by Spark6
Long, detailed story short, 5TM and I arrived at our new home airport safely, and only three months later than planned! Great flight up the CT River over lovely autumn colors, and arrived at the new hangar just before the skies opened with rain. Mission accomplished!
New Hangar 2.jpg
INew Hangar.jpg