A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Return from WV

June 25, 2021
Emilie Phillips

Tyson and I worked during our second week in West Virginia. Isaac built a walking trail with my parents and a few other homeowners. They put in a zig-zag around short drop. It took them four mornings of work to

Isaac building the trail
  • decide where the trail should go
  • cut and dig up the bushes
  • dig a level foot bed with pickmatics
  • reinforce the corner and steep spots with rocks
  • layer gravel on top

The last day of the trail build, they watched the Canada geese on the nearby lake get rounded up and banded. Three geese got away. About a hundred were banded.

We had to fly home Friday because of rainy weather coming over the weekend. The whole family took one last walk down to the valley to see the new trail. Then Tyson, Isaac, and I departed after lunch. We stopped on a hill north of Deep Creek MD for gas. From there, both the Bearhawk and the RV-4 could make it home without another fuel stop. We planned to cruise at a higher altitude with favorable winds.

Tyson and Isaac scooted ahead in the RV-4. I flew the Bearhawk with all the luggage. We kept in touch on the radio. Cruising at 9,500′ is quite boring. Tyson and Isaac were clearly playing the alphabet game. They asked over the radio if I had a “Z” in my cockpit. I didn’t. On the next round, I did have something that started with “P” — packs. No luck on “Q”. And then Tyson announced he had zero oil pressure. Without oil pressure, the engine can seize and quit running. He needed to land immediately.

Bloomsburg PA

Tyson and Isaac circled down to Bloomsburg PA. The only forethought put into picking the airport was that it was within gliding distance and the chart said it had services. I recognized the place when I landed. In October 2015 we stopped for gas. Then, the airport seemed abandoned and falling apart. Since, it has been renovated and now seems active. The buildings are freshly painted. The hundreds of panes of glass in the old doors are restored. It is too bad I didn’t take a picture back in 2015 for comparison. I think there might have been an addition on the left which has since been torn down. Now there is a brand new FBO building to the left of the main antique hangar. The FBO is elevated above flood level. BJ, the airport manager, came out to greet us and offer cold water bottles and the courtesy car. Student pilots passed by on their way to ground school. Totalling up the upgrades, they have put at least $3 million into the airport. In answer to my prior self’s question — the cement building by the river was a boat house. Their next project is to renovate the rotating beacon mounted on top the boat house. But enough of describing Bloomsburg, back to our oil problem.

After landing at Bloomsburg, Tyson knocked on the maintenance shop door. The admin said the mechanics had closed up ten minutes prior. By the time I landed, Tyson had removed the top cowling. He checked the volume of oil — that was correct. Also, the belly of the airplane was as clean as it ever is. I helped Tyson finish unscrewing the access to the instrument panel. He traced the wire from the pressure gage to the sensor on the engine. Nothing was obviously wrong. Tyson called up our mechanic on the phone. He said if the engine was still running normally after descending from 9,500′, then the oil pressure was fine. The gage had to be faulty. Without any more tools, that left us to put the airplane back together and fly home hoping the oil was fine.

Tyson debugging the oil pressure.

Luckily, that’s when we discovered all the mechanics hadn’t gone home. One of them, Steve, had a dead motorcycle battery. He and a few others stayed longer to jump start the motorcycle. On his way out, Steve stopped to help us. He went through the same quick search as Tyson. And he had the same thought experiment as our mechanic. Since the RV-4 is an experimental, he proposed a simple fix — get an analog automative oil pressure gage from the local auto shop. We could replace the electric sensor with a hose and wiggle the other end through the firewall. Tyson could monitor the gage all the way home. They had the RV all put together and read to go by 6:30 PM.

Meanwhile, Isaac and I took the courtesy car to get pizza. I found a consolation prize in town — bubble tea. I haven’t had proper bubble tea since pre-covid.

Clouds at the last ridge before home

The flight home was then a race between sunset and the low pressure moving out of New England. When we took off from Bloomsburg, Jaffrey was 900 foot overcast. It would require an instrument flight plan to land. The forecast at Manchester was for the clouds to clear around sunset. We found a few clouds over the Catskills. A ways up north, more clouds clung to the Green Mountains in Vermont. Tyson was up ahead scouting the weather. By the time he got to New Hampshire, Jaffrey was clear. But the 2,000 foot tall Wapack range was acting like a dike for clouds. East of the ridge, where our home is, was drenched in low clouds. Tyson had a half our before sunset, so he few over the ridge to see what he could see. Amazingly, he found a hole right over the Brookline airport. By the time I got to New Hampshire, the shadows were getting long. I opted to land at Jaffrey with only a little bit of haze. Tyson drove over in the Subaru to pick up Isaac, myself and our stuff.

General WV photos

Flight home photos

GPS track

From Tyson’s tablet.