Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thanks, Cessna engineers!

So the other evening, I went out to check on my plane and maybe take it up for a short hop. I noticed that the tires seemed to be a bit low on air. Fortunately, our nice FBO sent a guy out with an air tank so that I--not he--could inflate the tires to the proper 30psi +/- a pound (rears, 31, front 29).

Not a problem, I thought...until I got down next to the wheels and realized that the valve stems were behind and covered by those nifty aerodynamic wheel pants--the ones that allegedly give me an extra 3 knots or so of airspeed.
And those wonderful wheel pants come down far enough to completely cover the wheel rim, blocking sight of and access to the tire valve stems. And they don't just come off, either, in case you were thinking that.
So I had fun, lying down on the asphalt in 90 degree temperatures, trying to get the air bottle connector onto the tire over and over again. At first, all I could manage to do (besides cursing the wheel pants and whoever put them on the plane) was let most of the rest of the air OUT of the tires. But after about twenty minutes of screwing around--and two refills of the air bottle--I finally got the tires back up to pressure again.

Now the front wheel fairing actually has a slight notch in it that lines up with the valve and makes it much easier to get at. Why the rears do not have this is beyond me, but the next time I get out there with my dremel tool, you can bet your ass that they will!

This little adventure really made me appreciate how hassle-free it used to be to fly the rental planes. And when I mentioned this to the FBO guy, he replied: "And that's why our rental planes don't have those fairings on the wheels."

@#$%*& at whoever designed those wheel pants. Seriously.

But I finally did get aloft for a bit.

Flying up the Shenandoah River, here's West Virginia's famous "Bridge to Nowhere", centerpiece of a Robert Byrd program to turn little Route 9 across the state's two easternmost counties into a 4-lane highway.
Of course when it hits Virginia, it reverts back to a two-lane, as that state has made it clear that the extra volume isn't needed and they won't expand their part of the road no matter how many lanes West Virginia puts on their side of it.
But hey--it's just tax money, right?
Then it's on up the river, passing a quarry where I plan to do some diving once the water warms up a bit more.
And yes, those are caverns on the far side there. Come on, Aaron...get down here and let's see where those go!

And speaking of caverns and quarries, here's nearby Bakerton quarry. It has some major caverns that go down several hundred feet.

But it's now all closed to diving since one guy accidentally killed himself there way back in 1994. Of course in my mind, "closed to diving" just means "have to sneak in at night", right, Aaron? Note the little people on rafts in the mouth of one of the tunnels.
Then it was back to the airport to put the plane away, as I was hungry, and a Thai place that I like was calling.

I still love my plane. Even with those @#$%*& wheel pants.


  1. Are pants optional for the pilot?

  2. You got cooler pictures while flying your airplane than I did while riding my motorcycle. I badly need some photography lessons.

  3. I am ignorant of Cessna's, but couldn't you have just rolled the aircraft forward a little to expose the valve stems? Or are they always inside the fairings no matter what position the wheel is in?

    Maybe you could drill a small hole big enough to stick the air hose through, and get a rubber plug to put in it to maintain your aerodynamics?

  4. @ Scott: There is no time when the stem is not covered by the fairing. Rolling it to one position makes it easier to get at (difficult as opposed to impossible) but there's no simple way of doing it.

    @ Six: There's no talent involved. Just point the camera out the window and hit the "fire" button over and over like a monkey on crack, then go through and sort out the few decent ones from the trash. After that: Picaso photo editor.

  5. Ha! Dremel. I concur. I agree with the photo technique as well.

  6. Great pictures. I was working on my sport pilot certification, with my Dad. Until my Dad couldn't fly any longer. Wish I had the $$$$ to finish up. Or start over. Plus, I had to give up diving, several years ago. Have a real hard time equalizing the pressure in my ears. Sucks when you have to give up on some things that you really enjoy.

  7. LOL, ah yes... it's the "little" things... Nice pics though!!!

  8. You lucky bum!

    I would love to fly. My grandfather in WW2 ran a oil pipe company (it's still in existence) and he would fly his airplane to various oil fields to get the correct orders for pipes needed for drilling and shipping oil.

    Of course that was a top priority and thus he had his own private airplane in the middle of a war to tool around!

    Sadly in 1944 he took off and, at least they say, he hit an 'air pocket' right off the runway and augured in.

    I suspect he stalled by maybe pulling up to soon. Anyway adventure has always been in my blood (hence three motorcycles, PADI dive master, parachuted, martial arts, combat shooting, etc....)

    But I'd really love to fly... like a bat out of hades!

    Have fun in the air, it really does feel like you are free.

  9. Those quarries look like the setting for the segment called "The Raft" from the Stephen King movie Creepshow 2. That's the one where 4 kids are on a raft in a quarry pond, 2 are killed by a monster resembling an oil slick, which excites the two survivors so much that they decide to have sex on the raft...

    Well, it's a Stephen King movie, what did you expect?

  10. @ drjim: Yep. That's a 172.

  11. @ Bob: I do recall that movie. The creature gets them all, even the guy who makes it to the beach. Hee.

  12. Well, its not just a 172. It it your 172. Now I need to find the picture of the last time I was in one.....

  13. Nice! And yes, we do need to explore some of those quarries in the near future.

  14. Cool!
    I used to be 1/3 owner of a 1974 A150L Aerobat.
    Fun little airplane.

  15. On the bright side, you weren't trying to access the rear powerplant on a Skymaster...

  16. Those wheelpants give you even more speed than I'll ever get - but they'll also fill up with mud, slush, snow, and fresh-mowed grass a lot faster than you'll think.

    Having met one gent who decided to leave his on, and discovered slush in the wheelpants turns back to ice at altitude, I might respectfully suggest you pop 'em off for the winter.

    Looks like a great time scouting dive locations - though you've got me confused. How do you get quarries with caverns? I've never seen one that wasn't pretty straight walls all the way down.

    Closed to diving means "Hide your stuff well, or have a buddy covering for you up on a raft", doesn't it?

  17. @ Wing: The wheel pants picking up slush shouldn't be much of an issue here as we don't get much snow, but I'll keep that in mind should we get some or if I decide to fly north this winter. Thanks.

    As to the caverns in the quarries, they're man-made tunnels. The ones in Bakerton go down 900 feet and were large enough for big trucks.