Weather: Scattered clouds, 80-90 degrees, wind variable at 5 knots
Unable to attend for the past two years, I marked MERFI 2012 on my calendar many months ago. Somehow time has flown by and it was already three years ago that I last landed in Urbana during the regional EAA fly-in. Gina made the trip with me this year. We took off from Stewart around 9:30 in the morning and were in the pattern at Grimes Field just over 30 minutes later. The place was hopping, the pattern full, and the CTAF clogged, but we sequenced in nicely and I made a safe landing.
2012 or 1942? Just your average summer morning in Waynesville...
First on the agenda was breakfast. It's not a proper fly-in without pancakes and sausage, now is it? Both of us scarfed down everything on our plates and then wandered around for a while.
The entrance, a nice homage to the infamous Brown Arch
Quite the tasty spread, especially for five bucks!
I went to an FAA Safety Team seminar at 11:00 about runway incursions that counted towards my WINGS credit. Gina wasn't very interested in the merits of proper phraseology on our taxiways so she continued to roam around the airport. After the seminar, which was pretty good, I had the chance to meet up with Samuel. He's another pilot who flies at Stewart who I'd only spoken with electronically up to this point. It's always enjoyable to meet folks who fly there and read the blog!
Gina wandered back over and I said goodbye to Samuel. My bride and I then headed over to the Champaign Aviation Museum for a few minutes to escape the heat and look at their B-25 and B-17. Eventually it was time to head home so we walked back over to the 150 around 1:00.
Here's where the day got interesting...
We took off and I noticed a weird sound shortly after leaving the ground, but beyond the point when I would have landed back on the runway. It quickly became an extremely loud banging noise. At first, I thought it might be an engine problem but all the gauges were in the green and I didn't see anything odd outside. Then I figured it was probably something hanging out the door, but we both checked our seatbelts and headsets and it felt like everything was inside the airplane.
Still, something wasn't right and the noise was really loud. I immediately decided it was best to sort this out on the ground and made a quick lap around the pattern, returning to land on Runway 20. In the end, it was my seatbelt; the very end of it, only an inch or so, had gotten stuck in the door when I pulled it closed. It was so small that I couldn't tell it was caught when I tugged on the belt to check it. But it was certainly big enough to make a heck of a racket banging against the airplane in the wind.
Unedited (other than some added commentary) video of the takeoff and precautionary landing
Problem solved, I started the airplane back up and we again taxied down to the end of the runway for departure. There were about four planes in front of us so we were sitting there at idle for a few minutes before it was our turn. Onto the runway, full power, and...
Well, just watch the video below.
Our second attempt to leave resulted in an aborted takeoff - here's the unedited footage
My best guess, as narrated in the video, is that we were in that magical temperature/humidity range and carburetor ice formed while we were waiting in line for takeoff. I had done a run-up and checked the carb heat; everything performed normally. However, it was a few minutes later that we finally rolled onto the runway for takeoff. Thankfully, it happened within seconds of pushing the throttle in and we were still on the ground.
You may be wondering if I felt we were doomed at this point. Honestly, I wasn't. Although at the time I was thought it was an issue with the carburetor accelerator pump (the carb ice idea didn't cross my mind until discussing it with other pilots later) everything else appeared normal. I did two extended, full-power run-ups and had no issues so I felt confident that everything checked out mechanically. We took off and - finally - headed home on an uneventful, 30-minute flight. Third time's the charm, eh?
More of Stewart's unique normalcy - all these planes were preparing for a stadium flyover
As you can imagine, this was a great learning experience. I feel as though I did the right thing in both instances. Diagnosing a problem on the ground and flying the airplane first (aviate, navigate, communicate!) is always the best option. I'm also a bit surprised that carb ice didn't cross my mind when the engine lost power and ultimately died. Still, I checked everything I could check prior to deciding to fly home and it all checked out. I also know that I'll likely never forget to consider carb ice in the future if I experience anything similar.
And lest I forget, the fly-in was a lot of fun too! :)
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.7 hours
Total Time: 235.7 hours