Category Archives: Reviews

GoPro Wing Mount Install Video & Test Flight

Installation of the Flix / Rock Steady GoPro wing mount on our RV-9A. This give us some better footage from outside of the plane in flight and on the ground.

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ROAD TRIP WEEKEND! (Well, SKY TRIP, really)

By Beth Hardy Duff

HUMAN MAILING TUBE.. After having returned from a wonderful trip to Washington, DC on Tuesday, we were chomping at the bit to get in Caddie and go somewhere – ANYWHERE!  Caddie came into existence for a number of reasons, one of which being my (our) dislike of traveling via commercial airlines.  Human Mailing Tube, as it is lovingly referred to by the aviation community, is far from my favorite means of transportation – right on up there with bareback bronco riding – in summer – with hemorrhoids!  Anyhow, I digress, once again, our experience with the commercial airline wasn’t exactly grand, but I can’t really blame them this time (much).  It was weather related – ugly weather.  We had already boarded the plane in DC headed to Atlanta and even pushed back from the gate at which point the captain came on the intercom and stated, “Bad news, folks, we’re going back to the gate.  Atlanta has closed due to bad weather and they are not accepting any incoming flights.  We expect the delay to be about an hour.”  The transmission ended with the abrupt click of his microphone.  Now we know the REAL reason the cockpit crew stays behind locked doors!  He did tell people that they could disembark and go get something to eat, that they had about an hour.  It seemed the minute everyone left that wanted to leave, he then came back on and announced, “Well, it might not be quite an hour, looks like the weather is clearing up and Atlanta will open shortly.”  Thankfully, Paul & I didn’t fall for theget off the plane if you want to trick and stayed put.  Think this was a dirty trick to cure an overbooking problem?  Hmmm…Surely enough, not 35 minutes later, we were cleared to once again leave the gate.  A few calls were made for “missing passengers” for those who had decided to disembark, then we pushed back from the gate.  I can’t imagine who we left and how ticked they were when the passengers (former passengers) returned from standing in a very long line at McDonald’s for a delicious McRib to find their plane had “left home without them”.  Heh heh, it’s funny if it doesn’t happen to you.

LONGING FOR LULU’S… Friday afternoon, Paul began making some calls to see if we could scrounge up some friends to make a “Lulu Run” down to Gulf Shores, AL on Saturday.  This is one of our “most fa-vor-ri-tist things” in the world to do.  Getting a bunch of pilots and (normal people too) together and all flying down to KJKA (Jack Edwards) in Gulf Shores, hopping in their courtesy car (which is always a very nice vehicle) and heading off to Lulu’s for lunch and non-alcoholic beverages – BUUURRPP!!  The weather was going to be beautiful and we were about to DIE to go somewhere!  Call after call came up empty, one of our friends even told us that they had made a Lulu run while we were gone to DC and that they just couldn’t go again right then.  WHAT? I can’t BELIEVE they went without us!  Well, I can, actually.  We’ve been gone a lot lately.  Anyhow, Saturday morning rolled around and we did scrounge up a couple of takers, but by time to depart, we were once again down to 3 of us, Paul, myself, and Mike Dalton.  It would have been fun to fly our own plane, but it just didn’t make sense to take two separate planes when Mike’s Bonanza E-33 could easily carry the 3 of us — in a cushy ride I might add, and our plane could only take the two of us.  So, a deal was struck between Mike and Paul and we headed southeast for Lulu’s in Gulf Shores.  Nice trip down, and in about an hour, we were getting out of Mike’s plane when he recognized the Baron belonging to Bob, a friend of his.  Next thing we knew, Mike was on the phone with his friend, Bob, and we changed our Lulu plans to meet up with Bob and his fiancee at Shipp’s Harbor Grill in Orange Beach.

WHAT A RIDE!… Now KJKA is known to have pretty snazzy courtesy cars as Paul and I had found out in the past when we were handed the keys to a very new, bright and shiny yellow Camaro!  We were expecting something pretty great this time as well, when we were handed the keys to the courtesy vehicle.  Paul and I went to get the car while Mike was finishing up some business inside.  While we were indeed happy to have a courtesy car at our disposal for about an hour, we were a little disappointed that this was not the usual “status quo” courtesy car we had come to expect from Jack Edwards.  Although it was parked right next to a bright, shiny red Corvette, that’s as close as it came to being “snazzy”.   A bright white van decorated with the words, “Shrimp Basket”, “Mikee’s – A Place for Seafood” and “the Steamer” proudly awaited us!  The look on Mike’s face was priceless as he walked out of the FBO and saw us waiting for him in the van.  Immediately, he yanked out his phone & snapped a picture of “Driver Paul” in the Van, while not even trying to conceal his fits of laughter.  Regardless, we found our way to the Harbor Grill and enjoyed a fantastic meal while making new friends to boot on our day trip to the LA Riviera.  Paul and Mike had the grouper sandwich, (I think) and Angel, Bob’s fiancee  convinced me that if I really loved a wedge salad, that this was the best one to be found anywhere in the US.  I have to admit I wholeheartedly agree and that this might also be the LARGEST one also, as I boxed up half of it.  You gotta admit, that was some “well traveled lettuce” that accompanied me on the flight back home that day.

WELL, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?… The next day was Sunday.  Paul and I got up and went to church as usual, got back home and noticed once again, it was a perfect 10 out of 10 day.  “Well, where do we fly today?” was the question.  The real question was, “Why didn’t we start giving this a little more thought earlier in the week?”  We thought and thought, surfed the web, dug through the logbook and did nearly everything we could think of to come up with a good idea on where to go.  Didn’t want to go too far, that just gets into too much expense.  Couldn’t just sit on the ground on a beautiful day like today.  We had already finished painting the deck (that only took 3 weeks) and so, we were due a reward!  We were already hungry so wherever we decided to go, had to have food within reach.  Well, after a great deal of thought, we decided to go back over to Monroe, LA.  We had taken 4AE, our former, shared ownership Cessna 172 there to have the transponder repaired at their radio shop and while there, had eaten at the restaurant inside the airport terminal.  It was good food and decently priced, so we decided we would just do that again.  Deal?  Deal!   Hmmm…note to self, things change, call next time before you go.

MONROE BOUND… So we took off from Raymond in our plane, since it was just the two of us this time and headed on over to Monroe for food, since by this time it was about 1:00pm and we were about ready to eat the seats out of the 9A.  Paul took off and then handed the controls over to me.  He’s been doing this a lot lately and I’ve been loving it!  In fact, so has Paul.  It gives him a chance to look around and enjoy the ride, while still keeping an eye on me and allowing me to have a little fun too.  I’m still not proficient at taking off or landing, but that will come with practice and more practice.  For now, I can definitely get us there  while being pointed in the right direction and staying at the right altitude while following a route and that makes me very happy.

FIVE GUYS… Landing at Monroe, we taxied to our appointed spot and parked.  As we were getting out we were assisted by 5, yep, count em’ 5, linemen – obviously a slow day at the airport and a tad bit of curiosity.  I can truly say we NEVER get tired of questions and compliments on our airplane. “WOW, nice plane, is that a 7A?”  “No, it’s a 9A”  “Cool, did you build it yourself?” Paul’s reply is always, “Yep, WE built it OURSELVES.”  “Cool, how long did it take you?”  Our reply in unison is, “3 years and 3000 hours.”  By that time, it has usually sunk into someone’s head that Paul meant me and not some invisible “man” standing in front of me, that I am the other half of this project.  “Oh, YOU helped him build this plane?”  To which, Paul usually replies, “Yes, she shot all the rivets in it – 18,000 of them.”  Now, to tell you the truth, I have not counted (well recently anyhow) the exact number of rivets in our airplane.  Back when we were building, I could have given you an exact count of how many were in the piece that we worked on that day.  Not that I wanted to count them, but it’s just one of those things.  ANYHOW, after all the oohing and aahing is said and done, Paul asked, “So, the restaurant over at the terminal, is it still open?”  To which, the reply was, “No sir, they aren’t open on Sunday.  In fact, the restaurant you’re talking about is gone.  The lady that owned it, died and it closed and was replaced by a more or less snack shop.”  Paul’s reply was, “Oh….well, do you have a courtesy car?” and Thank Goodness, the reply was , “Yes sir, we sure do.”  This was another nice courtesy car, not a Camaro or Mercedes and certainly not a Jeep Wagoneer with the blown out back window, but a very decent blue Ford Edge SUV.  The deal was, you could take it for two hours (hmm…very VERY nice), but after two hours, its $10 for every 30 minutes over that.  Fair enough, 2 hours is ample time to go somewhere and eat.  We were lucky enough to find one of our favorite restaurants still alive and doing quite well in Monroe and that was Copeland’s.  It was in the Pecanland Mall and virtually no distance from the airport – I think it was 3 miles, but don’t quote me on that one.  Fantastic food once again and great service.  Paul had the Shrimp Ducky and I had the Apple Almond Bleu salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette.  At 510 calories, it’s probably the lowest caloric content of anything on their menu and absolutely divine!

The flight back home was fun as always, Paul let me fly again and we arrived safely back home at KJVW after another fun filled day of experiencing the $100 Hamburger.  Only now the $100 part doesn’t include fuel!  Ah well, that’s why we do make sacrifices to continue with our guilty pleasure of “flying for food”.  You give up here and you give up there and then you get to enjoy for a while.  Not so very different from anything else in life, really, is it?

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Washington DC, not what I thought!

Slow to Post…  Since returning from Oshkosh, things have been a little hectic and not allowed time for much writing.  It has been fun to run into friends and family that have asked what we were going to write about next.  It is cool to know that folks DO read this stuff – THANKS!

Washington DC… Our most recent trip was one for work and unfortunately did not involve our airplane, but was very interesting anyway.  The company I work for, Delta Industries, is active in the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) and I was able to make a national meeting this past week in Washington, DC.  Beth nor I had never been to DC, so we decided to go up a day early and try to see some sites.  Little did we know that one extra day was not going to allow us to see much more of this VERY interesting city.

You Can Feel the History…  Final approach into Reagan National Airport put us right over the Pentagon and my immediate thoughts went to the tragedy of 9/11.  Then, I saw the Arlington National Cemetery just beyond the Pentagon and my thoughts turned to those who have died for my freedom.  At that point, I knew this was going to be a special, thought provoking, trip.  I don’t think there is anywhere else in this country that you can go stand in one place and be surrounded by so much history and walk the paths of some of the most brilliant (and not so) makers of that history.

Need a Plan…  After settling in at our hotel just south of town, I purchased a three day pass for the shuttle to downtown.  Most of my meetings for the first two days were in the afternoon and at night so we could get up early and shuttle in for some sightseeing. This afternoon was open though, so we decided to get to it and head in for as long as we could and at least look around and come up with a plan for the next two mornings.  The shuttle dropped us off north of the Capitol building at Union Station.  We started our walk to the south to see the Capitol and then to the west along the National Mall area.  The first thing we noticed was how spread out this place is!  It is a long way from the Capitol to the White House and there is a lot of stuff to see in between.  We continued our walk to the Washington monument and then north to the White House.  This brought us close to the Old Post Office which was the last place we could catch the shuttle back to the hotel at 8:30pm.  Wow, what a walk!  We did get an idea of where things were and what we wanted to see the next morning.

The Best Stuff is FREE…  Early the next morning we were back on the shuttle, headed into town – first stop – the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  We figured we could cover it in a half day and see something else later that day – WRONG, this place was huge and we ended up spending the entire day there!  Besides being an aviation nut, I have always been a space program nut, it was all here and we could have spent two days going through it in detail.  Most all of the displays were the real thing when possible, not just models or mock-ups.  The highlight of the day was seeing the ORIGINAL Wright Flyer that Orville and Wilbur managed to get in the air over a hundred years ago.   The really great thing about the Smithsonian Museums and the government buildings was that there was no charge for admission.

Ruby Slippers, First Lady Dresses & the Constitution…   The next morning we were back at it again, this time at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  If only we could have learned about history in school by visiting these places (I guess the smart kids did).  Beth wanted to see the Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz along with the dresses worn by the First Ladies collection.  Not the most interesting things to me, BUT, there were tons of cars, electrical motors, steam engines, guns, trains and other cool stuff invented by Americans on display.  I think the highlight of this museum was seeing the original US flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner during the war of 1812. After spending the morning soaking up history at the museum, we walked over to the National Archives building which houses The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights.  I was amazed that you could put your eyes 6 inches away from these historic documents – this was a goose bump moment!  The room was darkly lit to preserve the documents and no cameras were allowed, but this experience will live with us forever.

007 & Spies Like Us…  When we were done at the archives building, we had a few more hours before we had to catch the shuttle so we decided to stay in the area and visit the International Spy Museum.  This museum did charge 20 bucks each to visit, but it was also well worth it.  We only had 2.5 hours to spend and needed 3 times that!  Their massive collection of spy devices, memorabilia and video presentations was impressive and interesting to a kid that grew up during the “cold war era”, and like most museums, you finish the tour at the gift shop.   This was not your average gift shop though, they had all kinds of knock-off spy devices and more T-shirts than Disney World.

Slide Show – Photos were taken with Samsung S3 Phone…

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More Time Here… While, the rest of the trip for me was spent in meetings, Beth was able to take a tour of President Lincoln’s cottage with the ladies one day and then it was time to fly home.  While some BAD weather got in the way of us getting home on time, we did make it home safely and longing to return to DC.  I would love to spend 5 or 6 days just visiting the museums downtown along with the monuments and the Arlington National Cemetery.  Looks like I need to familiarize myself with the Washington area ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and fly Caddie up to Manassas, VA… I guess we’ll have to put that on the list!

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Enterprise Rent-a-Car “We’ll Pick You UP”… just not at an airport!

Another RANT

In the words of Earl Pitts…Ya’ Know what make me sick?” – Getting screwed by a rental car company!  While planning our trip to Oshkosh by way of Rapid City, SD (KRAP), I figured we needed a car for the four days we planned to be in KRAP.  So I called the FBO at KRAP and asked about rental cars.  The response was that we can get you a car from Hertz and have it here when you arrive or you can get one directly from Hertz.  So, I decided to go online with Hertz to see what their rates were and if maybe there was another option.  Sure enough, Hertz had a rate for the FBO delivery… $90 per day plus a multitude of taxes that amounted to a total over $450 for four days!  HOLY KRAP!

BTW… this is the reason we bought our ’97 Grand Marquis to keep in Arkansas.  The FBO at Mountain Home, Arkansas was charging us $65 + per day for an economy class car from Enterprise.  One day when I found a special deal on a car from Enterprise for $29, I asked if they would pick us up at the airport – the response – “Oh no, we can’t do that, the airport is a protected market.” – WTF – “So you’re telling me, if I walk down the road a mile or so to the fire station on the main highway, you’ll pick me up” – “I guess we could”… well that was “too much candy for a nickel” as my dad would say.  SO, we paid $1400 for a car of our own, in pretty good shape, and put it at a different airport (KFLP) that charged $0.80 less per gallon for 100LL.  Now, after 34 nights of use in less than a year, I have saved over $2,200 and the FBO at Mountain Home has gone out of business…

Back to KRAP… So I decided to give Enterprise another try, this time at Rapid City… imagine that, EXACTLY the same price (over $450 for 4 days) as Hertz but they were located at the airline terminal and did not provide service to the FBO.  So, I decided to look at their “in town” price since their slogan on TV is “we’ll pick you up”, WOW, you could get the same crappy economy car 7 miles away for LESS THAN $200 for the same 4 days!  Well, I may be stupid, but I’m still cheap…I rented the $190 car online just to see if they said anything about excluding delivery or pickup at the airport.  Sure enough, I get this quote printed on my receipt…

“THIS LOCATION IS UNABLE TO PROVIDE PICKUP OR RETURN SERVICE TO THE RAPID CITY AIRPORT. IF FLYING INTO THE AIRPORT PLEASE USE OUR BRANCH LOCATED AT 4550 TERMINAL ROAD. ”

What a racket… So much for their popular “pick you up” slogan.  I understand that there may be some additional cost of doing business at the airport, but to be able to charge 141% more for the same car – I gotta call blowing snow here.  So, I guess we will figure out a way to get into town, I’m sure I can get a cab to take me in for 20 bucks or so, which will still keep our rental cost below $250, that $200 saved will buy a lot of Leinenkugel’s when we get to Wisconsin!

FAST FORWARD 24 HOURS…  After stewing over this CRAP @ KRAP, I got to thinking that maybe there was a local alternative to the national rent-a-car companies and the whole airport price fixing thing and after a quick Google search, I found several local companies that WOULD pick you up at the airport.  I ended up calling Black Hills Car Rentals and talked to John, who said he would pick us up at the FBO for no extra charge and the rate was $37.95 / day plus tax!  For a total of $193, we can be picked up at the FBO when we arrive and can leave the car at the FBO when we get ready to depart… now that’s customer service!  So, I quickly cancelled the Enterprise contract and I will post our experience with the local company after we return the car, but I am confident, at this point, it will be a good one.

And as always… You can subscribe to our blog by entering your  e-mail address in the box to the right or “LIKE” our Face book page at https://www.facebook.com/2FlyAmerica and now you can “TRACK US” by clicking on the tab at the top of the page.

Track Our Progress with SPOT…

See Spot Run… or better yet, see Paul & Beth fly!  We have had our Spot Satellite Messenger in the plane since our first flight almost two years ago.  While we rarely use the tracking feature, it is nice to have the peace of mind that we could get a message through to the authorities from a remote location if needed.  This handy little device keeps up with where you are and has the ability to transmit your location automatically for tracking purposes or in the case of an emergency, we can push the red help button and the unit will contact search and rescue, giving them your exact coordinates for a speedy rescue.  Spot’s website boasts almost 2,000 rescues initiated by the device with 314 rescues in 2012 alone.  I hope we don’t need it, but like insurance, it is a good thing to have, especially since our trip will take us over “The Badlands” – not a place I want to spend much time in.

New “TRACK US” Link… If you’ll notice at the top of the page, I have put a “TRACK US” tab.  This will take you directly to our Spot Messenger publicly shared page.  I will “try” to remember to turn the unit on when we take off (yes, it is on the checklist) so that those interested can see where we are and where we have been.  Just a note… if you see it just stop tracking in mid-air, don’t be alarmed, it runs on 3 little AAA lithium batteries that will die without warning and I do have a handful of replacements.  I had hoped to embed the linked page into our site, but apparently WordPress does not allow embedded links due to web security concerns, so for now you will just have to hit the “TRACK US” link and be routed to Spot’s shared site.

The plane is packed… the GPS databases are updated, the oil has been changed and we are ready to go!  Plans now are to leave after work on Thursday, weather permitting and fly to Flippin, AR and stay in the camper Thursday night.  Friday morning, we will head to Rapid City, SD with probably one stop around Grand Island, NE for fuel and a potty break.  After a few days tent camping in the Black Hills near Mt. Rushmore, we will head on over to Oshkosh to enjoy the rest of the week at AIRVENTURE! – can’t wait…

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Mercedes Benz?? Best Airport Crew Car EVER!

Flying for work… One of the perks of my job is having the ability to fly to our distant locations when needed. Flying the RV-9A actually burns less gas than my Dodge and when  I can avoid the cost of an overnight stay its a win-win for me and the company. This was the case earlier this week, when I needed to do some work at our location near Bay St. Louis , MS.  This is nearly a seven hour round trip drive that could be made in Caddie in about 50 minutes, one way, and the Stennis International Airport (KHSA) is just a couple of miles away.  All I needed now was a ride to the plant…

I’ll take the Mercedes… Since renting a car would defeat the justifiable savings of being able to fly, I usually try to get a local employee of ours to pick me up or secure a crew car.  So, I called the local FBO at Stennis (MILLION AIR), and asked if they had a crew car that I could use.  “Yes Sir, we do…” the young lady said, so I gave her my tail number and told her when we would be there.  Upon arrival at Stennis, we taxied to the ramp area, topped off the left tank (all of about 8 gallons)and proceeded inside to pick up the car. After photocopying my license she tossed me the key… well, not exactly a key, but a big plastic thing that had Mercedes written on it.  “It’s the black E350 just out the door” she said … WOW, I’ve had crew cars from a Jeep Cherokee with the rear window taped up to retired police cars to a new bright yellow Camaro (KJKA), but I’ve never been offered a Benz.

NO PReNDLe… OK, “you know you’re a red neck when…” you can’t get the car in gear.  We built our own airplane, wired the all glass – high tech panel and fly it all over the country, but put me in a car without a gear shift and i’m lost.  There was no standard gear shift with the normal PRND12 symbols – aka “PReNDLe”, instead there was a “little shifter like thingy” that you pushed forward to go into reverse and pulled back to go forward (German engineering at its best).  I did finally get the car going in the right direction without taking out the chain-link fence around the airport and the ride to work was great.  This is a very nice car that had a real smooth ride and nice high tech gadgets in the panel.

After a successful trip to our plant, we returned to the FBO and pulled out our snack lunch and enjoyed our meal in front of the big screen TV.  The folks at the FBO were very nice and the fuel prices were reasonable at around $5.70 a gallon.  The airport has a nice big runway for the area we were in in Mississippi.   At 8500 feet long by 150 feet wide, they can handle all sorts of large aircraft.  Being an old “space nut” I may bring us back to visit the Stennis Space Center which is only a few miles down the road and maybe even get another ride in the Benz…

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First Post – Why Wordpress.com

Well, you have to start somewhere… I think i’ll start with WordPress.com.  While researching several ways to host a blog, I came across WordPress.com.  I had heard that WordPress was complicated and required your own server to host – not true!  I had tested services like Squarespace, GoDaddy and 1and1, all of which charge from $8 to $20 a month to build a basic blog site.  With WordPress.com, I built the site in just a couple of hours one night for free!  Now all I have to do is populate it with interesting content.

This is truly an unsolicited endorsement of WordPress.com – I have no affiliation or financial interest in their service.

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