March 25, 2013
By Ian J. Twombly
The Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Piper Archer is safely back in the hangar at home base in Frederick, Md., awaiting its next adventure. After taking us to Oshkosh and back for EAA AirVenture, and showing off for its fans the entire week, the airplane deserves the break.
Oshkosh was a success by all accounts. The flight there was uneventful, which is exactly what you’re looking for in a cross-country. A fellow staff member and I loaded up N208GG the night before with brochures, the Bruce’s Custom Cover airplane cover, and our bags for an early-morning departure on Saturday, July 26. I had filed IFR the night before in anticipation of having to cross a cold front, but the next morning things looked beautiful, so we blasted off VFR. That lasted until about Cumberland, Maryland, when we picked up an IFR clearance to the fuel stop, Fulton County, Ohio. KUSE was selling fuel for only $4.95, a fantastic bargain when you consider our departure airport was offering the same stuff for $6.13.
Fulton County turned out to be a great stop. The airplane was fueled promptly on arrival, and a readily available courtesy car took us three minutes away for lunch. These things are important.
The leg from KUSE to KOSH was the tricky one. Earlier in the week I had e-mailed a friend in Chicago asking for IFR routing suggestions around the Windy City. My plan was to avoid Chicago Class B altogether. But, he said, “Don't try filing to JOT and then north, because they'll reroute you and dump you down to 3,000 most likely along the lake shore anyway. They'll also keep you about five miles from shore which at that altitude is scary.” So the choice was to be miles off Lake Michigan at low altitude, or straight across at a higher altitude. I chose the latter. Not only was it much shorter, but, given our altitude of 8,500 feet, the exposure was only 10 miles.
All went smoothly. There were strong headwinds thanks to a low in Canada. This seems to be my luck when flying the Archer. At one point our groundspeed over the lake was down in the 88-knot range. Oshkosh’s arrival is great if everyone plays nicely. Unfortunately the airplane in front of me was only doing 65 knots, not the 90 knots required by the Oshkosh arrival notam. Thank goodness for formation training.
Members were really happy with the airplane at the show. Many asked about what it’s like to fly the Aspen (more about that next week). Others wanted to know who did the paint and interior (Oxford Aviation). Some even wanted to know if they could get the custom woodwork or seats. One thing is for sure, everyone really connects with the Archer. We knew going into the project that it would be a popular choice, but we’ve been surprised that so many members love the airplane so much. The reason is because most of us can connect with it. We’ve either flown one or owned one, so there is a special bond. Of course, it’s also a great airplane!
Senior Editor Dave Hirschman took airplane duty for the second half of the show and flew 8GG home. This was Hirschman’s second flight in the airplane, and his first long cross-country. He had to battle some significant weather on the way back, a trip he says he wouldn’t have made had it not been for the on-board weather tools. “An air traffic controller said the storms were likely to be approaching Toledo about the time that I arrived, and he suggested a 45-degree turn to the southwest would put me behind the squall line. But the cockpit weather display on the MFD showed ATC's suggested heading would put me squarely in the midst of a 100-mile-wide area of moderate rain, high winds, and lightning. The MFD game me the situational awareness to decline the suggestion, select a new destination (Mansfield, Ohio), and land there at least 60 miles ahead of the storm. Without the Avidyne MFD, I would have blindly followed ATC into adverse weather conditions that would have pelted 208GG's paint with rain and/or hail and made for an extremely demanding approach and landing. The Avidyne unit allowed me to avoid all that. It was easy and pleasant to use, even for a person (like me) with little previous experience using Avidyne equipment.”
As to the airplane comfort, Hirschman said, “The seats were great. I was concerned that the black leather interior would turn the plane into a sauna on the ground--but the temperatures were comfortable on the ground, and cross-ventilation was excellent with openings on both side windows.”
Hirschman and I both experienced similar performance numbers. I ran the engine between 2,500 and 2,600 rpm, while Hirschman ran it consistently at 2,500 rpm. Hirschman saw a consistent speed of 136 mph true, while I saw as high as 145 mph true. Neither one of us could get fuel burn below 10 gallons per hour, despite what the book says.
Next week: Flying the Aspen Avionics EFD1000
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