Flat Lands and Flat Landings                                       

07/19/2014 -

After what had to be more than 40 days and 40 nights of rain (I wondered if I should have built an Ark instead of a Cozy) we've finally had a couple weeks of sun here in MN. We've been taking every chance we can to spend time in the Cozy, and this past weekend had a fun little trip, save for the ending. We made plans to fly from St. Cloud down to Cedar Rapids, IA to visit Chad Wilhelm & Kim Meyer and take a look at their Cozy project on Friday evening. On Saturday another friend (Velocity driver) was gathering some canard drivers together at his place in Rochester, MN to check out the Long-EZ he just purchased. So we made plans to stay with Chad & Kim Friday night, so Chad and I could run up to Rochester for a bit on Saturday before returning to Cedar Rapids to drop off Chad and pick up Christine and Ella for the return flight to St. Cloud.

I used to love to fly at night when I was renting Cessnas, but until I'm a lot more confident in the Cozy I try to avoid night flying with it as much as possible. The earliest Christine would be able to make it out to the airport was going to be about 6pm. It's about an hour and a half to Cedar Rapids, so we'd have no problem making it in daylight so long as the plane was ready to go. So Ella and I went straight to the hangar after I was done with work to preflight. Christine got to the hangar just before 6pm, and with the plane all set to go, we were on our way.

Forest fires in Canada have made for poor visibility here, generally around 6 miles. That combined with the late afternoon cloud build-ups, kept me from going up to my desired 9500 cruise altitude. I picked up flight following and resolved to fly in the chop at 5500' and Va. The ETE was still less than 2 hours, so we'd be arriving with plenty of daylight. Being it was Friday evening I figured it would be busy I would likely have to deviate around the Minneapolis class B, but about 5 miles out I got the welcome "4TF you are cleared through the Minneapolis class bravo." I was rather surprised, considering I was mushing along at Va, must have just had a lucky track that wasn't going to cause any conflicts.

The plane performed flawlessly so despite the bumps, it was a perfect flight in my mind. Chad and Kim greeted us at the ramp when we arrived at Cedar Rapids, and then proceeded to spoil us with Chad's cooking at their house. Unfortunately for Chad, he's camping with us next week at Osh, so he doesn't realize he just got himself elected Camp Cook! :) After dinner we took a look at Chad and Kim's Cozy project. They have the tub mostly complete, wings and canard mostly complete, and have done excellent work so far.

On Saturday morning, Chad and I saddled up the Cozy and made our way back north to Rochester. It was again choppy and hazy, but we weren't in a big hurry, so after another hour at Va we landed in Rochester. We spent some time looking over our friend's Velocity and then headed out for a good burger at Whistle Binkey's, definitely worth burning a few gallons of gas for. At lunch we discussed our plans for Oshkosh (we're all camping together) and I mentioned I had to pick up an order from Aircraft Spruce that consisted of new tires/tubes, new wing bolts, new canard bolts, etc... My reasoning being the tires/tubes are just plain old (the original set from the build - circa 2006), and the wing and canard bolts have been installed and removed a few times throughout the build and my post phase 1 repaint. There was some thought/talk that perhaps I was wasting time/money replacing these things, so I'll discuss this more in a separate email. After lunch we went back to the friend's shop to take a look at a Long-EZ he recently purchased. It's a gorgeous bird, with meticulous glass work. It was still disassembled from transport, so one could easily inspect many unfinished areas to see the quality of the layups.

Mid afternoon we started on our way back to Cedar Rapids at, you guessed it, Va. Plodding along at 172 speeds does start to get a little annoying after a while, but it IS pretty cheap from a fuel burn perspective. When we got back to CR I took another look at weather to see if it was still looking OK for the flight back. It was, so I had Christine and Ella (who had been exploring Cedar Rapids with Kim) meet me for the return trip. I fueled and pre-flighted the plane while waiting, and soon we were plodding back to St. Cloud. We again got cleared through the MSP class B, and we even had a little tailwind on the return, so we were soon home.

Back in STC, as I reported my entry to the downwind at the tower's request, a 172 called to advise he was ready to go. The tower told him to hold short for landing traffic, and for a moment I considered advising tower I would gladly extend DW so the 172 (a friend of mine) could take off. Ultimately I decided to just follow instructions, and land as directed. I didn't realize 'till later how lucky for me, and unlucky for my friend that would be. Some, if not most, probably already know what happens next.

The landing was normal...until about 1/2 way through the rollout. Suddenly there was a lot of vibration from what seemed like behind me. Ahh damn, I bet I know... As the speed decreased the plane wanted to yaw right. I got off the right brake, and pushed harder on the left...and harder...and harder. I managed to keep it from running off the runway, but as the speed dropped to probably 5-10mph, the right wheel locked up, and we did a little 1/2 ground loop right there on the runway.

I advised the tower I had a blown tire and that I'd try to clear the runway as quick as I could, but would need to egress to check the situation. They closed the runway (and because our xwind runway is also closed for resurfacing) effectively closing the airport. I felt bad, though I knew there was little I could have done different. Hopping out confirmed the right main tire was flat, and sadly my right wheel pant was demolished. I attempted to pull the plane off the runway, which proved futile. Christine hopped out to try to help, but even the two of us could not budge it despite removing the remnants of the wheel pant. This is where I was fortunate to have stranded my friend in his 172. He and another friend watching, came over to offer assistance. They grabbed a four wheel cart from their hangar, and the three of us lifted the wing up high enough for Christine to slide the cart under the flat tire. We were then able to easily roll the plane off the runway and back to my hangar. Looking things over revealed that tire still looked good, so it must have been sudden tube failure, as it had 55psi when I left, and still LOOKED fine during pre-flight in CR. Aside from the demolished wheel pant, the rotor suffered a bit a runway rash on the outside edge. It could probably be refinished, but Matco will bring me a new one to Osh in a few days.

Not exactly the best ending to what had otherwise been a good couple days of flying, but really I got pretty lucky all things considered. I was very fortunate to have the tube fail at my home field, and to have such helpful friends nearby when it did.