Archive for November, 2010

The Kettenkrad

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

While browsing the classifieds on I came across an ad for a Kettenkrad for sale.  Intrigued I did some research on the net.  And if this winter is anything like last year I think I’ll consider one of these as my next vehicle.

Referred to as the “tracked motorcycle” concept, the Kettenkrad was conceived and patented by a German inventor, Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp, in June of 1939.

The SdKfz 2, better known as the Kleines Kettenkraftrad HK 101 or Kettenkrad for short (Ketten = tracks, krad = military abbreviation of the German word Kraftrad, the administrative German term for motorcycle), started its life as a light tractor for airborne troops.  The vehicle was designed to be delivered by Junkers Ju 52 aircraft, though not by parachute. The vehicle had the advantage of being the only gun tractor small enough to fit inside the hold of the Ju 52.

Steering the Kettenkrad was accomplished by turning the handlebars:  if little movement was used then the wheel would steer the vehicle, however if they were turned further they would engage the track brakes to help make turns sharper.

The SdKfz 2 was designed and built by the NSU Motorenwerke AG at Neckarsulm, Germany.  It was first used in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Later in the war Stoewer from Stettin also produced Kettenkrads under license, accounting for about 10% of the total production.

Most Kettenkrads saw service on the Eastern Front, where they were used to lay communication cables, pull heavy loads and carry soldiers through the deep Russian mud.  Late in the war, Kettenkrads were used as runway tugs for aircraft, including jets such as the Me 262. In order to conserve aviation fuel, the aircraft would be towed rather than run the engines while taxiing.

The vehicle was also used in the North African theater and in Western Europe.

The Kettenkrad came with a special trailer that could be attached to it to improve its cargo capacity.  Other trailers used by the Kettenkrads could be used for other lightweight vehicles such as the Kubelwagon and the Schwimmwagon (pictured below – the two vehicles on the right).

Being a tracked vehicle the Kettenkrad could climb up to 24° in sand and even more in hard ground, as long as the driver had courage for it.

Only two significant sub-variations of the Kettenkrad were constructed, and production of the vehicle was stopped in 1944, at which time 8,345 had been constructed.   After the war the production went on until 1948 or 1949.

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Seaplane Crash in Lake Jessie

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Just a week after a group of us earned our seaplane ratings at Jack Brown’s Seaplane Based an Okeechobee man was killed when his amphibious, ultralight airplane plunged into Lake Jessie.

For the full story click here

Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base

Friday, November 26th, 2010

The team at planned a trip to Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base to get our Seaplane Rating.  What started out as just a simple trip for Pat and I turned out to be an adventure for a group of folks. 

Founded in the early 1960s by Jack Brown (pictured below), Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base has trained more seaplane pilots than any other place in the world. 

Pat and I headed south on Saturday morning driving our motor-home.  We decided being able to stay right there at the seaplane base would make the training that much more enjoyable and less stressful.  Our class did not start until Tuesday so we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there.  Arriving on Sunday we set up camp with a view of the lake right outside our window.  We checked in at the school to let them know we were there and eager to start training.  The folks at the school informed us that our friends Susan and Andy Beall had checked in earlier that day.  Accompanied with her flight instructor Gary, Susan flew down in her Cessna 172 and used the flight down as her long cross country for her commercial rating.  And while Susan was out splashing around in the lakes in the seaplane her husband Andy (a student pilot) was flight training with Gary in their Cessna 172 and also logging some solo cross country time.  Lin Caywood, her husband to be (Carlo), and Brenda (Lin’s flight instructor) also arrived on Sunday but their flight was not so uneventful.  Lin owns a Cessna 182 equipped with the G1000.  Well north of their final destination the alternator failed and they continued as far as they could using the backup battery.  Lin was also using the trip down to receive some flight training with her instructor Brenda.  Lin got as far as they could but did not make it to the seaplane base.  They made it to Craig Municipal Airport in Jacksonville, Florida and rented a car to continue on.  Both Lin and Susan were scheduled to start flight training on Monday morning.  While Lin was training in the seaplane Carlo (an Airframe & Powerplant mechanic) drove back up to Jacksonville to try and correct the alternator problem.  After a few trips to Jacksonville and numerous phone calls to find parts, Carlo finally corrected the problem.


Lin’s plane wasn’t the only plane that had issues.  One evening Pat, Susan, and I were hanging out with one of the senior instructors at Jack Brown’s discussing what to expect on our flight test.  Susan received a call from her husband Andy who was out with their flight instructor getting some night flying experience.  Instead of out flying, he was calling Susan from a bar explaining to her that on one of their landings they blew a tire and couldn’t get it fixed until the next day.  Susan’s plane is for sale if anyone is interested – click here for more information.

Mid week we were joined by Debi Dreyfuss and Linda Knowles who had also signed up for the course.  Debi and Linda flew down in Debi’s Cessna 182 equipped with the G1000 system.  Debi had the only plane that did not have any maintenance issues on the flight down.  But Debi did have 2 seaplanes break down while she was training.  By the way, I sold Susan and Lin their aircraft new when I was a Cessna dealer and I helped sell Debi her 182 just before I became a dealer.

The course is a two day class consisting of some classroom time and five hours of flying time.  Lin Caywood got a bit of a scare and learned a lesson during a session in the classroom.  One of Lin’s classroom sessions was interrupted by one of the employees barging in shouting “Quick where is the shot gun?”  Well poor Lin thought “Am I doing that bad that they want to shoot me?” It turns out that they have a snake problem at Jack Brown’s.  The Cottonmouth Water Moccasin to be exact.  They are very aggressive and will actually chase after people.  As soon as one is spotted there is no trial, nothing, they are shot on site.  One of the instructors spotted one while she and Pat were getting ready to go flying.  The video below sums it up for the snake.

The J3 Piper Cub, built in the 1940s is a very basic aircraft. 

With no electrical system, this means no starter, so you have to hand prop the aircraft to start it.

But once underway it is nothing but pure fun.

We had one day when we could not fly due to high winds and one morning we had to wait for some fog to burn off, but other than that the weather was perfect.   The worst part of each lesson was returning to the dock (the fun was over for this session).

It was very different flying experience for all involved.  We never got any higher than 500 feet above the ground.  Often while pre-flighting the plane or securing it for the evening you would see alligators on the beach or dock sunning themselves.  

All total 6 of us received our seaplane rating over the course of the week.  For more information on Jack Brown’s visit the Day Tripper section of our site or use the search box in the upper right corner of our site and search for seaplane.

 Here are some shots of the wildlife that we enjoyed seeing during our stay.

Here is a slide show with some highlights of our visit at Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. 

Click here for Linda’s pictures of her adventure at Jack Brown’s.

Precautions for starting an engine that has sat

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

There are some precautions to take when first starting an engine that has sat and not run for several years.  The information in this newsletter is for informational purposes only.  Always consult with an A&P or IA with any questions related to this topic.  The information within this newsletter is based on an aircraft that was brokering.  It had not been flown for several years and the engine had not been run for over a year and a half. as well as several customers spoke with several shops and all agreed that the power-plant could be serviceable in its current state however everyone also agreed that the power-plant could also have too much internal damage from sitting and require a major overhaul.  The shops interviewed said that they have seen cases of both circumstances on aircraft after sitting similar amounts of time.

A total of 3 shops were consulted with regarding this particular aircraft.  And all 3 shops seem to share a common belief in a fairly similar procedure for starting the aircraft:

Pull the top spark plugs and borescope all 4 cylinders to see what they look like internally.  If the cylinders look acceptable, pre-oil the cylinders through the spark plug hole using Marvel Mystery Oil, WD-40, or similar.  Then hand-prop the engine several times to circulate the pre-oil.  One shop suggested allowing the pre-oil to sit overnight.

One shop recommended turning over the engine with the starter (fuel off or mixture lean) until oil pressure registers on the pressure gauge.  This further pre-oils the engine.

Start the engine and run for 5-7 minutes.  Stop the engine, conduct a full oil change, and see what metal, if any, is in the cut oil filter and oil screen.  If you do not find any metal, consider flying the plane for 5-6 hours, then conduct another oil change and look for metal again. If metal is found at any time in the process, it is likely that a top overhaul may be required or a major overhaul may be necessary due to rust scoring the moving components.

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