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Captain YS's Flight Log Book

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B-29 FiFi

I've been interested in flying a formation and an aerobatic.  If an aerobatic flight is not possible, I want to learn to fly a formation.  If I am able to fly a formation with a historic airplane, that would be awesome.

A Cessna 172 cannot only fly a limited aerobatic maneuvers like steep turns and stalls, and I am not allowed to fly a formation by the rental agreement unfortunately.

But, I am at least allowed to fly in the same traffic pattern with a historic airplane.  I don't even need a permission to do so.

The only remaining flyable B-29 bomber "FiFi" was visiting Allegheny County airport this weekend.  (The second one "Doc" is almost restored to the flyable condition.)  I visited the airport yesterday, and the person at the counter told FiFi was going to give a ride at 9AM.  I was scheduled to fly the next day in the morning from Beaver County airport.  If I join the traffic pattern of Allegheny County at the right time, I should be able to fly the same traffic pattern with FiFi.

Those who bought a ride was supposed to come at 9am.  They must receive a briefing before taking off.  A B-29 takes aweful long time for pre-flight and before-takeoff checklist.  Probably, it actually would take off at 10am.  Then, it should return to the airport around 10:30.  A Cessna 172 takes about 10 minutes on the ground and 20 minutes from Beaver to Allegheny.  If I take off at 10am, I should join the pattern at Allegheny County about 10:30am.

So, I took off 10am.  I requested a flight following from Pittsburgh approach, but they looked to be very busy.  The ATC replied "Stand By" and never called back.  I flew on my own.

I contacted Allegheny Tower about 10 miles north.  The tower told me to fly right-base runway 28.  Then I saw a silhouette of a massive airplane flying over Allegheny County airport.  No mistake, that was a B-29 "FiFi"!  At first, I was supposed to do a touch & go before FiFi, but maybe I slowed down too early.  The tower told me to join and extend downwind to let FiFi land befor me.

"Number two, follow B-29 on left base."

I replied to the tower.  Yes, I was flying the same traffic pattern with the B-29.

If I kept 110kt a bit longer, I could do touch & go before FiFi, and could be able to take a photo of FiFi just before landing, but all I could take was FiFi taxing back.  It was such a priviledge to be a pilot to see the historic B-29 bomber from the same traffic pattern that it was just flying.

You can find the 2016 tour schedule of B-24 and B-29 in the following URL.

CAF AirPower History Tour

Actually I had one more mission on this flight, which is to take a picture of Pittsburgh from 3,000ft above Forbes avenue+Murray avenue intersection.  From that point, I can capture Carnegie Mellon university campus, University of Pittsburgh, and downtown in one line.  I think that is one of the best view of Pittsburgh.  But, the condition was too hazy to capture a good picture.  I'll try again.


Repairing a Tripod Screw Hole with a 3D Printer

Nikon Coolpix P50 was a miracle camera (as I said in the last post.)  Can record 640x480 30fps movie for one hour continuously.  Once I press the shutter button, I don't have to touch it again for an hour and two minutes.  No distortion and spaghetti propeller due to the rolling-shutter effect.  Can run on two AA batteries, therefore I can still use it.  Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries are bad batteries.  I am not saying the technology is bad.  But because every digital camera manufacturers are selling proprietary batteries and there is no standard.  What's even worse is they change the battery every time they sell a new model.  The new batteries are not backward compatible.  Older models dies when the battery comes to its life, even if the camera body is still perfectly functioning.  Lithium-Ion batteries are used as a tool for disabling older models and are massivly turning healthy cameras into industrial waste.  Shame on those selfish engineers who are making proprietary lithium-ion batteries!  In fact, once my friend visited Pittsburgh, but her digital-camera battery was already dead, and she could not use her camera here.  She was not using her camera for a while and did not notice the battery was in such a bad shape until too late.  We see digital cameras are not selling in these days.  One reason is of course everyone uses a smart phone to take pictures.  There are many reasons.  I think proprietary battery is one of the reasons why people don't buy a dedicated digital camera.

By the way, I wondered if the digital camera from a different maker that was sold at the same time as P50 can also take 640x480 30fps video for an hour or so.  I acquired a Canon PowerShot A570 IS and tested.  Turned out the compression rate of A570 is not as high as P50, and it hits 4GB file-size limit after 36 minutes.  I need to go down to 15fps if I want to take an hour video continuously.  So, I suppose P50 is a better camera in terms of long-duration video recording.

I saw a demo video of the newest Go Pro video in Walmart a few days ago.  It was saying something like it reduced the distorsion from the rolling-shutter effect by increasing the scanning speed.  Looks like it really did.  I didn't see too many pictures with bank rotation though.  I doubt if it is fast enough to eliminate the spaghetti propeller.  If the general distorsion is reduced, they may not care about the propeller any more.  I think I stick with P50 for a while.

So, I have a backup of backup P50, and have been using it with care.  However, the tripod-screw hole of the one that I was using for recording the instrument panel was worn loose.  I was expecting it to wear since it was made of plastic.  I thought about several ways to repair.  Using epoxy material may not tolerate repeated screwing in and out.  Inserting a heli-coil is only good for metal frame.  The plastic base of P50 may not be able to hold a heli-coil.  Super-gluing a plate with a screw hole will hide some screws and eliminating a possibility of repair (or using it as repair parts for another P50) in the future.

My solution is to make an external cover for the camera, and make a hexagonal hole, where I can insert a 1/4 20 nut.  The problem is how to make such a cover.  It was a very good application of a 3D printer.  I could make a geometric model using Polygon Crest.

I could use a laser-range scannera in the university lab, but this time, I didn't bother I used a ruler to measure dimensions.  The first version was this.

I thought I made about 0.5mm gap between the top-surface of the camera and the case.  However, it was rather about 1mm short.  I had to insert a plastic plate between the upper- and lower-parts.  But the horizontal dimension was very accurate.  Also the material feeled like harder than I was expecting.

So, I made an improved version.  I removed some materials to make it lighter.  Also I made two hexagonal holes.  This time, the material I used for the first version was not available, and I had to use a different material.  I made it 1mm taller this time.  So, it was supposed to fit the camera almost exactly.  However, this one was 1mm taller.  I had roughly 1mm gap above the camera body.  Maybe it is due to the difference of the material.  I suppose the 3D printer is not precise in the height direction (perpendicular to the printing layers).  I inserted sticky rubber pads inside the cover, and then it fit perfectly to the camera.

I think I can make a tripod-screw hole anywhere.  Maybe if I make version 3, I will add a side screw hole, too.  Actually, I should be able to mount almost anything on a tripod with this method.

I don't know if someone has a same worn screw-hole problem with a Coolpix P50.  But, if you do, you can try printing it.

[STL File]



Backup of Backup of Coolpix P50

Nikon Coolpix P50 was a miracle compact digital camera.  It was sold in 2007.  So, it is already 9 years old.  But, I conclude that this is the only one camera that can be used for taking forward-looking video from the cockpit of a single-engine airplane.

I always capture videos with forward-looking and instrument-looking camras when I fly an airplane.  I can review the flight after coming back home.  I took half-day off today, and went flying.  In the last landing, the airplane didn't want to touch the ground longer than usual and I ended up using longer runway to stop.  My instrument-looking camera tells if my airspeed control was bad or it was due to the wind.  Looks like it was wind.  I was keeping 65kt on final, which is exactly the airspeed I am supposed to keep.

I have been using two Nikon Coolpix P50s for long time for forward-looking and instrument-looking videos.  I was using Pentax Optio S55 and taking 320x240 resolution video, but later I switched to Coolpix P50 and now I take 640x480-resolution video.  But, nothing lasts forever.  I wondered what camera should replace my P50 in case it is damaged, when I came to know an unbelievable stupid rule that is making all compact digital camera disqualify for my purpose.

Can you believe that virtually all digital camera models released after late 2007 have limiting the duration of video recording to 30 minutes?  The reason is real stupid.  EU defined that a device that can capture longer than 30 minutes video as a video recorder, and applies ridiculously high tax.  Digital-camera manufacturers countered this rule by limiting the maximum duration of video recording to 29 minutes.  I wish whoever made this rule burnt in the hell.  Coolpix P50 had been made available just before EU made the stupid rule.  Therefore, it doesn't have the video-duration limit.

Also, less and less compact digital cameras are powered by AA batteries.  For some reason, camera manufacturers sell a new type of battery whenever they sell a new model.  The new battery is not compatible with the older models.  A battery doesn't last long.  In a few years, the battery capacity decreases to the point that the camera is practically useless.  Even before the battery dies, how many chargers do I have to carry for a trip?  Coolpix P50 runs on two AA batteries.  That's why I still am able to use it.  Actually, it can capture more than 2-hour video with a pair of fully-charged Eneloops.

If I replace my Coolpix P50 with one of the current models, I will have to push the shutter button every 30 minutes.  Maybe I can live with pressing a shutter button once an hour.  But, ideally I want start recording before take off, and don't want to touch until I land.  Re-pressing the shutter button every 30 minutes is unacceptable.

If I want to record long video, the only choice looks to be an action camera like Go Pro.  If I use such an action camera in a shaking airplane, the image will be substantially distorted.  Also the propeller will be stretched and split like spaghuetti.  It is due to the rolling-shutter method that all of action cameras are using.  There is no real solution to this problem until those action cameras change to the global-shutter method.  A weak solution to this problem is to add a filter in front of the lens to reduce the shutter speed so that propeller becomes invisible.  But, reducing shutter speed should theoretically distorts the image more.  No solution at this time.  I suppose those who are making Go Pro doesn't care about the picture quality.  4K resolution means nothing if the image is substantially distorted and the propeller appears like spaghuetti.  (It is similar to the sensor-dust problem lf digital SLRs.  Camera manufacturers didn't even admit it was a problem for long time.)  What they should do is not to increase the resolution, but to use global shutter

Short-final at Greenville (4G1)  No image distorsion, and the propeller appears in one piece.

After considering those points, I came to the conclusion that Coolpix P50 is the only one camera that can capture decent video from the cockpit.  Actually, I chose this camera just because it was not too pricy and could take AA batteries.  I bought the first Coolpix P50 at B&H Photo Video store in New York just by occasion.  I was lucky to pick exactly the right camera for cockpit video.

I should have purchased one more back up of Coolpix P50.  Right now, I have one for forward-looking video, and the second one for instrument-looking video.  And, if one breaks, I can still take instrument video with my Pentax Optio S55.  But, just in case, it's a good idea to have one backup.

I looked for a used Coolpix P50, but it was difficult to find because the model is so old.  Luckily I found one in Japanese online used-camera shop.  I purchased it and sent to my parents' home.  I'll pick it up when I visit Japan this summer.

If you have one Coolpix P50, take good care of it!  It will serve you well.


Flying over the snowfield

I have recently purchased E-Z Pass.  E-Z Pass is a transponder for automated toll gate of the toll roads.  It is good for many of the north-eastern states.  During the end-of-year party, I was chatting with a friend, and he was talking about how convenient E-Z Pass is.  I said to him that I rarely use a toll road, so there may not be much benefit for me.  As soon as my words left my mouth, I realized that I am using a toll road every time I go to Beaver County airport.  If I use a toll road twice or three times a month, it may be beneficial enough.  So, I purchased an E-Z Pass transponder, and I used it for the first time to go to Beaver County airport last weekend.

I used to drive through downtown, Ft. Pitt tunnel, and by the Pittsburgh International airport to go to Beaver.  It takes about 50 minutes with no traffic.  But, it is almost always slow near the downtown and near Robinson.  There is some construction work all the time.  I was getting sick and tired of that road.

Recently I go to the north via Cranberry and then approach Beaver from the south.  This route is longer.  But, I don't have to go through downtown and the road is rarely crowded.  It takes 50 to 55 minutes to get there.  I used to be wasting 1 to 2 minutes at the toll gate before, but now the stopping time at the gate is zero.  I am hoping E-Z Pass reduces the travelling time by 4%.  (4% is not negligible!)  I wish I could rent an airplane from Allegheny County airport again.  I used to be able to hop on a Cessna 172 just after 20 minutes drive.  It used to be so convenient.

Flying over the snowfield

North eastern U.S. was hit by a historic snow storm over the weekend.  South east of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., were hit hard.  But, here in Pittsburgh was really on the border between heavy snow and clear sky.  The roads around my place were covered by snow and unpassable from Friday night to Saturday morning.  But, it was normal in the afternoon of Saturday.

On Sunday, I took two of my teaching assistants to a sight-seeing flight.  The low cloud didn't clear as early as forecasted so I delayed the take off by an hour.  But, when I arrived at the airport, the sky was clear.  Maybe I didn't have to delay after all.

I took off Beaver county, made two circles over the Carnegie Mellon University, one touch & go at Allegheny County and Washington County each, then flew back to Beaver county.  I thought about flying farther south to see how much snow fell over there.  But, in case I need to make an emergency landing, calling a rescue to a deeply snow-covered place wouldn't be easy.  So, I just stayed close to Pittsburgh.  But, the snow-covered terrain was beautiful nonetheless.

This time I have used a new headset, Telex Stratus 30 headset for the first time.  My wife bought this Active-Noise Cancelling headset for my birthday present.  An ANR headset used to be at the price range of $1,000.  But, the price of some ANR headsets came down to the order of $500.  ANR headsets are more affordable than before.

What's good about this Telex Stratus 30 is it is powered by two AA batterieds.  It can take rechargeable AA batteries as well (the instruction manual confirms it.)  So, I am using the AA batteries that came with the headset now, and I will switch to Eneloop rechargeable batteries after these batteries are depleted.  Eneloop really works as advertised.  Once charged, it retains the charge for long time unlike traditional rechargeable batteries.  I can ust then just like a conventional (non-rechargeable) batteries, and when depleted I can simply re-charge and good to go.

I didn't feel it was quieter with Telex Startus 30.  But, the difference was that the voice was clearer than my previous Lightspeed QFR Solo.  Not just what ATC says, but also my voice feedback was clear.  Actually, when speaking, human depends on the voice feedback.  If you cannot hear your voice, your brain automatically tries to adjust the volume, and you end up speaking louder.  With Telex Stratus 30, because I could hear my voice clearer than before, it was also easier for me to speak over the radio.

Washington County airport Short final Runway 27

I realized that the battery level of my portable GPS, Garmin 96c, was low.  Well, if it runs out of battery, I would have been left with the on-board GPS and Garmin GLO.  Well, if these two go dark, I had a backup Garmin 96c in my flight bag.  After the back-up Garmin 96c, I had FltPlan Go installed on my iPhone.  I am trained to fly by looking at the ground in case of total navigation-equipment failure, but I am very well backed up before reaching that point.  I am considering to get Sporty's SP-400 aviation radio that has VOR receiver.

Since I had a big mess with my medical-certificate renewal.  I now know that how blessed I am to be able to fly.  And, how .precious it is.  I will try to fly more often than past a few years.  I want to fly three times a month, but I could go only twice during January.  I wish the weather to stabilize soon.

[Click here for posts from 2015]

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