Oshkosh Trip Report Post #4

Yes, my opinion is biased but I would not write and post what I do not believe. And I believe the Merlin is an excellent aircraft! I knew that before but making a 2,400 mile round-trip to Oshkosh and back over some 26 flight hours really provides an honest, fresh, and real perspective. Let me count the ways:

  • It is comfortable. I made a second temper foam seat cushion so the seat feels like a lounge chair. I have plenty of leg room, plenty of shoulder room and a comfy butt. It works perfect for my 2-hour flight legs. I think I would be fine for 2-1/2 hours but even in the SportCruiser most of my XC flights were under 3 hours.
  • With 2-hour flight legs I have plenty of reserve fuel. Depending on power setting usually around another hour. This gives me options and options are important when flying in unpredictable weather. I can reach alternative airports. I can do a 180 and get back to airports I passed. I do not have to stress out over fuel if I fly conservatively as one always should.
  • I can carry all I need and more. See the last post. Plenty of baggage space, plenty of baggage weight capacity. I am pretty sure I can fit one of those new folding electric bikes with a 20 mile range inside the Merlin. Cool. I want one.
  • It is comfortable to fly all day. And this is coming from someone who does not like turbulence much. But with a higher wing loading than most LSA aircraft plus the pilot is centered on all three axis the bumps are minimized and the aircraft just feels solid.
  • Stable. I can fly for most of the 2-hour leg hands free for most of it in calm conditions. I make small course corrections to keep on the GPS track with a touch on the rudder pedals. This all adds up to a low-fatigue aircraft which makes XC flights much nicer and easier.
  • The avionics are super. Plenty of panel space to put in all you need and more. See the prior post for avionics comments.
  • The Merlin feels like a refined aircraft. From my experience creating and designing new aircraft I know it can take years of refinement before the aircraft is truly near perfect. The Merlin feels like this now but after all it has been flying in Europe for several years so maybe those refinements are already there. Or maybe the design is just good. But the Merlin feels and flys right.
  • I can fly low, I can fly high, I can fly slow, I can fly fast, I can land on hard surface, I can land on grass. Go dog go.
  • Being single-seat it is light, small, and easy to move around the tarmac or in the hangar. This is important being lazy like me.
  • It looks pretty good (but don’t call it cute). There is a saying if it looks right it will fly right. That certainly is not universally true but the Merlin looks modern because it is. And it flys right.

That being said so how was the trip? Well, pretty good most of the time. I did not even have much to write about on the way up to Oshkosh and most of the way back either. Until Georgia.

IMG_20160807_104621

Here is a screen shot 2 days later with the storm system pretty much still sitting there. It was bigger and farther north which blocked my path completely once I approached it from the north. The best I could do was work my way east hoping the system would stay put yet the storms it through off would move out to the Atlantic. This was almost a good plan. But I still had a tough time getting east. The next photo is a view from 9,000 feet. the cumulus clouds were higher than that but I picked my way through some ‘valleys’ and finally got about as far as I could for the day. At least a little closer to home.

Flying high:

View from 9000 feetIMG_20160806_065558 IMG_20160804_124359

The Merlin feels just fine at 9,000 feet. I am sure I could climb a few thousand more. I have flown over the Alps several times in other aircraft and they were getting pretty weak by then. But they often had floats too.

VIRB_0025

Flying low

It is important to have personal limits and stick to them plus have a back-up plan. When I took off my destination airport was VFR but by the time I arrived the ceilings had dropped and I went lower with them. I was surprised the conditions had changed so quickly but I was prepared to make the 180 and before it got too late that is exactly what I did. I already knew I had an airport behind me about 14 miles so I quickly headed that direction at about 500 feet but clear of clouds and with reasonable visibility. Note the yellow terrain warning on the GPS. I even saw the flock of circling vultures just in time to avoid them. I cooled my heels a couple hours until the airports ahead of me returned to VFR then continued to my stop for the night, hopefully setting myself up for the 2 home stretch legs in the morning.

IMG_20160806_065558

My plan was to take off before dawn and fly as far as a could until the t-storms woke up and decide to rag-doll me. I did not count on ground fog. However by the time I had the aircraft packed and ready to go the fog had moved off the airport and I climbed out of it. Above photo is looking east so that is really dawn patrol!

I had a perfectly smooth and enjoyable flight (except for the dish-water tasting cheap hotel coffee) 2 hours closer to home. Just have to get around the last storms and clouds. Last leg. I was not sure I would make it and had alternatives lined up but I kept getting closer and closer. A few times changing altitudes to avoid the clouds but all was good and finally home! Just in time to make my sons’ hockey games too!

Another adventure in the books.

CWE