Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oshkosk 2012, XMC and IFR

I figured I'd finally get back on the blog wagon and throw up a post for a change, and after a recent return from Air Venture with my partner @chrislabossiere, I figured I'd share with you the excitement I have with a close passion of mine....aviation.

A Ferrari of Four Seaters...
4 months ago, Chris and I finally decided to go 'all in', and purchase our first aircraft. We purchased a Diamond DA40-XLS, two years old (I like to say two years new), with just over 100 total hours on it. This little beauty has Garmin's G1000 glass panel cockpit with all the bells and whistles including TAWS-B terrain avoidance, TAS (traffic avoidance system / radar), live XM weather, Synthetic vision, Jepp charts, Autopilot, WAAS GPS for precision approaches and the list goes on. As a first airplane, we are extremely lucky to have a machine so well appointed with safety and comfort features. This ride is an awesome cross country aircraft for up to four people (realistically, 2 adults, 2 smallish children). Her callsign is G-XMC, and I love her to death.

Today, I just updated my logbook, and as an interesting stat, previous to acquiring XMC, 4 pages of flights spanned over 3 years. Since our purchase of XMC, I've logged over 4 pages of entries in 4 months! Have plane. Will fly. But it's not all owed to just XMC flight time....

IFR - Instrument Rating
IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules. VFR? Visual flight rules. Since I obtained my license many years ago, I have been a pilot that can only fly in fair weather.... in short, I needed visual reference to the ground. After picking up XMC, a fully IFR certified aircraft, I knew the next step for me was in getting an IFR rating. Getting my IFR would give me more options when planning a trip in not-so-great weather conditions, and as well, would just plain make me a better pilot.

Two years ago I took a weekend IFR course, and figured I could pick up the books, get back in the SIM, and get my IFR rating under my belt. What I quickly learned is after two years of not using any of the IFR theory, I pretty much had to start from scratch. I hit the books for 6 weeks solid, self studied, and went and challenged the exam. Happily, I passed, but it was no picnic. In hind sight, I should have just signed up for the course again. But that's too easy, right?

During my night time study efforts, I went hard in the SIM, adding a bunch of hours in my logbook,  and flew XMC and got in as much flight time as I could to fast track my IFR SIM / flight training. As luck would have it, I gathered just enough hours (only 0.1 hrs over my requirements) to take my IFR test flight two days before I'd be leaving for Oshkosh. Took my flight test, passed it, and got my IFR wings. Next up...Oshkosh....

Oshkosh 2012
"The worlds greatest aviation celebration". I've always wanted to go, and by "go", I mean fly into Oshkosh with the 1000's of other pilots that attend. Oshkosh truly is the Disneyland for aviation enthusiasts, especially in the General Aviation space. Now I had the perfect recipe. A great little new cross country airplane, my new IFR rating should I need to use it, and my good friend @chrislabossiere to share the piloting and experience with. Good to go.

Right out of Edmonton city center, on our first leg to Oshkosh, we were delivered overcast conditions, and some good cloud cover. Ceilings were high enough we could skirt below VFR, but heck with a a new IFR rating, why do that? So I punch through the clouds. Fantastic! We find, right away, the value in having XM satellite weather in the cockpit. For weather avoidance, it is an awesome tool to help navigate safely around convective systems. 

Below is our G1000 with NEXRAD weather enabled, note the colorful cloud system to the east of CYXD. Color is BAD in this case. So we fly off rwy 30 off city center, into some overcast, punch through some purple, and decide to exit stage left. From there, we skirt around the convective junk, but above the clouds.  :-)

And when you can get above the weather, it's a great feeling. Above the layers, it's pure beauty, especially knowing that below, it's overcast and depressing. Pictured here is probably around Lacombe....

Oshkosh Arrival
Flying into Air Venture is pure bliss. It's busy. It awesomely organized. It's adventurous. It requires focus. If you are an aviation nut, and are going to Air Venture, you simply have to fly in. After reading through a 30 page NOTAM (basically, and instruction book for pilots on how to enter / exit the airspace), the air traffic controllers (and they fly in the best of the best), walk you into a colored dot on the runway, and land you simultaneously with other aircraft. It's great fun. Below is a video of a left base arrival on runway 36 I flew on our second day at Oshkosh. It was a great experience. (Make sure you pop it open full screen. It's HD baby!)

Oshkosh itself was simply hard to explain. 1000's of aviation enthusiasts camping under their airplanes. fields of warbirds (including probably 20 spitfires). Hangars full of vendors displaying their aviation items, some great aerobatic performers, every aircraft manufacturer you can think of, and on and on. 

Check out some of the awesome airplane goodness in my Oshkosh album....

Was a great show, and flying there and back, along with my business and aviation buddy Chris, as always, was a great adventure. 

These are the times I'll remember for a lifetime.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

110V Anytime, Anywhere

In a continuing effort to make ourselves self sufficient while we go camping, I decided to invest in a professional inverter for our RV a few weeks back. I was looking for something affordable, yet something that I could wire into my RV permanently so that our 110V outlets would be powered whether our site had power or not. As well, with an investment in some good batteries last year, I was ready to invert! Enter stage right, Xantrex Freedom HF inverter.

The Xantrex Freedom HF 1800W will replace your converter in your unit (the device that detects 110V and converts it to 12V to power most everything in your trailer, as well as charge your main batteries). Like your converter, it detects 110V (aka, shore power), and once powered, will charge your batteries at 40Amps, as well as provide pass through power to the 110V panel on the output of the inverter. When 110V isn't present, the inverter kicks in, and powers the 110V panel via your batteries.

The device is relatively compact for what it does (I got the 1800W unit, pictured below). Inputs are 12V pos / neg (battery), 110V in (shore power), and 110V out (inverted devices). The panel / display is also removable so you can mount it where your inverter isn't. Comes with a 20' cord. (see below, I mounted mine near the existing control panel)

I ordered on a couple weeks ago, it came in last week, so I decided to make it a weekend project and install it into my RV this weekend . Took about a full day including numerous trips to the electrical store. I chose to run just run my 110V plugs off the inverter, and not my microwave. Air conditioning definitely will not run off this unit. Need many batteries, and a large inverter to get anywhere with A/C. The inverter needs to be within 5 feet of your battery, so I chose to install it under our bed in the front of the RV, and run 110 back and forth from the inverter to the main power panel. The panel in the picture is a sub panel that is just for the inverters 110V out. Bascially the power receptacles now run through this panel, connected to the inverters output. Confused yet? If you are looking to do this to your RV one day, buy me a coffee, we'll chat. Pretty straightforward once you understand how your R/V's 12V / 110V system works.

Install went great for the most part, and now we'll be able to camp in the most remote spots, complete with phone chargers, computers, TV....wait...that's not camping? For the Rieps, it's all about balance. ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We'll miss you Grandma...

Today my family attends a funeral to mourn the loss of Gladys Rouleau, a wonderful grandma, great grandma, great great grandma, mother, sister and friend of many. Last week, my mom's mother passed away days short of her 94th birthday, in a battle against Alzheimer's. Today is a day of mourning, but at the same time, the suffering is over, and we are thankful for that, as Grandma is in a better place now.

The mother of 7 kids, in everything you'd expect from a picture perfect loving, caring, nurturing grandmother who always put family ahead of herself, it is truly a sad day, as grandma is the last of my grandparents to pass away. So many memories. So many stories of hard times raising the kids, while granddad was out working on the railroad to provide for a large family of hungry mouths. Times that we cannot imagine in today's world. I only wish that I had asked her more about her childhood, and learned more about the good times and the bad times, and her road of life.

As family travels in for the funeral, and come together to share memories and share pictures of a truly wonderful person, I am in awe of how much love everyone had for grandma, and how much she will be missed by so many people. Sometimes you don't realize what you've lost until it's too late...Take time to give someone you care about a hug, and tell them you love them.

Grandma, I'll miss you. We'll all miss you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rogers Rocket Stick - Mobile Highspeed Internet

Rogers just released their new version of USB high speed internet, and have a great promotion going on if you are looking for a good portable internet solution for your notebook.

The Rogers ZTE MF636 USB modem, or "Rocket Stick" is available at Rogers stores and Rogers dealers. The stick is compatible with both PC and Mac, and is pretty simple to install. The stick has a MicroSD slot so you can use it as USB memory, and as well (and very convenient), the PC and Mac drivers exist on the the stick, so there is no need for a CD.

Currently, if you commit for a year, there is no charge for the device. Regular price, device only with no plan, is $199. Data plans seem to have come down in price, although still not where they should be, I think are quite reasonable for the casual 'on the road' user. If you are thinking of using this as a full time connection, forget it. You'll pay through the nose (although, billing is capped at max $100 over your plan, with no discontinuation of service). The FLEX plan they have seems pretty good, and for my use, I think I'll be in the lower to mid range of this plan ($35-$50/mth)...and probably lowest...

Initial testing shows very easy / quick install, on the net within a few minutes. The tech specs tell of up to 7.2 Mbps download, however, after initial usage, I don't ever see that happening. It uses their 3.5G network in major centers, and edge in rural areas. I am getting right around 1 MB on average from my home, and am anxious to try it from a well covered area. Even at 1 Mbps, it's pretty punchy and very usable.

Details here... check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RC Air...A New Level...

Well, I'm on vacation camping, and it's becoming routine that I build an airplane or something. As you know, it's a hobby I enjoy, and I love the satisfaction of putting many hours into an airplane and taking it to flight for the first time.

This summer, I built the Reactor Bi-plane (or Bipe for short), pictured here. It's my first plane that isn't a trainer, isn't a glider, and isn't a foam of some sort. This is the real deal, has scale aerodynamic surfaces, and really is meant to fly like a real plane.

It took me about a week and a half to assemble, and this morning, I took it on it's maiden flight. Out in the Shuswaps here, I found a full size grass airstrip that doesn't see much action from real aircraft, so I chose it to fly my Bipe here. This am, wind socks were telling me about 10-15 knots of wind, which is a little on the heavy side for a first test flight of the Bipe....but what the hell.

This plane flies SO much nicer than all the others I've flown so far (I've got 6 others...most of them still flyable). It's a very striking plane on the ground, and even more so in the air. It's much more stable than my other aircraft, as it's a bit bigger, and with two wings, it floats a lot nicer. Rolls are precise. Loops are accurate, nice and round. Landings are easy as you can bring it in so nice and slow .... lots of lift.

Stay posted. I'm going to get Dianne to try and get some video. Not real easy trying to track this all over the sky...but we'll give it a shot.

I truly enjoy building and flying RC. I keep saying to myself, I enjoy it because I'm fortunate to not have had too many written off aircraft....My goal is to keep it that way.... ;-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Camping?...Not really...Its much more than that...

May long weekend, and we decided this year, we would be one of the die hards and head out early in the year for the first practical camping of the year. Truth of it is, there is nothing 'die hard' about what we do. We purchased an RV last year, and we'd be lying if we said we were really 'camping'. It's RV'ing for us, and we love it.

We headed out to Jasper Thursday afternoon, and got back Monday night, and had just an awesome weekend. As a family, we really have found a passion, and we wish we could do it more often. This year, we have made an oath to use our RV as much as possible.

There are many things that I personally enjoy about hooking up the trailer, and heading out. First, and foremost, we are 'heading out'. That means, escaping the city, work, the computer (I admit, I brought my notebook, with an Aircard, but used it all of 10 minutes), and everything that we do 5 days a week, and spending focused, quality time as a unit. (I love that word. Reminds me of my grandfather who had a motorhome...always called it 'the unit').

Getting out to the mountains (or whereever), provides lots of time to do what you want to do. This weekend, we spent a LOT of time together. Throwing ball with the kids, Mark loves baseball...spent lots of time chucking around a tennis ball. Court loves football. She's getting the hang of it. We took all our mountain bikes, and rode a few trails. Dianne spent some good quality time reading, while I built an airplane, and fixed up my pal Greg's Mini-T monster truck.

We ate. Oh ya, man, we ate like kings. Almost the number 1 reason to go camping. BBQ steaks. Eggs and bacon in the AM. Sandwiches. Beer. Jasper fudge. Coffee and Baileys by the fire. Ice cream. Eat Eat Eat. Drink. Eat. Drink. Drink.

The other thing I really enjoy about RV'ing, is just being out in mountains, and being self sufficient. Having the RV certainly helps, and I love having all the ammenities (Call me spoiled, but I'm far from done 'camping'). The fridge. The running water. The 120 Volt inverter. The bathroom. The BBQ. The cookstove. The Coleman lantern. The furnace at night. The air conditioning during the day (if needed). I'm a bit of a mechanical nut, so I enjoy seeing all this stuff work.

This year, I invested in two GOOD 6V high capacity batteries, wired them in series to power the 12V system in the trailer. These are made by a company called Trojan batteries (T-125+), and have WAY more power than a traditional 12V deep cycle battery (and they weigh a freakin tonne). The batteries I had last year lasted about 2 nights. These babies lasted through the 4 nights we were there, with the furnace on every night (a serious battery sucker), and showed only half run down by the end of the weekend.

All in all, our camping adventures are memorable for all of us, and we intend on creating more memories all summer long. Beats the hell out of work, and helps to provide some balance in our busy work and regular life schedules.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Indoor RC!

Last year, I was re-introduced to the world of Radio Controlled technology by a friend (who is an R/C genious and has been doing this for 30 years). Previously, I played a bit with R/C cars, and quickly found myself lacking the excitement to stay interested. But it's different now. I'm now dabbling with R/C aircraft.

I've always been interested in aviation, so much so that I got my private pilot's license about 6 years ago. Flying real airplanes is a joy that I will always cherish and be thankful that I have the opportunity to do. But it's expensive, time consuming, and doesn't happen as much as I'd like. Radio controlled aircraft is a refreshing substitute.

Last year, I got my first R/C aircraft. It's an EZ Star by Multiplex, and is pretty much a big powered glider. I recommend it for anyone who is looking to get into the hobby. Docile, easy to fly, very flexible, and easy to maintain. But it's meant for park flying. So what happens when winter comes?

Indoor flying. They call the foamies, and tonight, I flew my first foamie in a huge, empty warehouse. It's called a Sobre (pictured), and is made by E-Flite. My R/C genious friend Darin put it together, and it flies solid. (Not that I have much to compare with). It's really amazing to see how far battery, motor and radio technology has come. These indoor planes are powered by tiny, powerful motors, thin, light Li-PO battery packs, and tiny servos and receivers. This Sobre is a full 3D airplane, meaning you can do all the normal aerobatics that the big planes do....I'm happy to just fly it in square circuits and keep it in the air.

....I'm also happy to report, my plane came back in one piece. :-)

I can see where this hobby can get extremely addictive. So many planes to build. So many motors to choose much to learn....