The freedom to fly. Finally some good weekend weather. Thursday I went out after work, just to fly in the pattern. Mild winds, right down the runway and most of the energy from the day had dissipated. I couldn't make any excuses. I hadn't practiced from the left seat in awhile and it showed. The pattern work was solid, safe with no forced wave offs, but they weren't pretty either. I was visited by a red and white Champ who stayed in the pastern for one pass, then went down to N47. Later an Sr20 came in, made a pass and pulled off to let me land. They had some difficulty closing their door and were still on the ground the next time I came around so I pulled up, popped the canopy and asked if I could help. They were looking for a pair of pliers and got some from the Pro Shop. Once buttoned up they departed so I again had the airport to myself. Still need to work on the landings.
Saturday there were Presidential TFRS to the west at Camp David, so I decided to go east. KBLM is close to the ocean and I hadn't seen the Atlantic in awhile. A nice low and slow kind of flight, over Trenton, NYC clearly visible in the distance. As I got closer CTAF announced jumpers in the air. Three others in the pattern, I decided to do a low approach and get out of the way. I traveled south down the coast just a bit before turning west toward home. I saw Lakehurst , Great Adventure, Willow Grove (or whats left of it) and by Wings (KLOM) prior to their Fly-B-Que.I had hoped to get there but priorities called me elsewhere.
I planned to have Sunday brunch at Wildwood or maybe Georgetown. Kathy was working the church Bingo game all day so it would be a good day to fly. Unfortunately the good weather was about to leave and points south were MVFR at best. The TFR was lifted so I decided to head west. I had not flown out to KUNV yet and that destination was still high on my list. Planning said it should take about an hour, and I wanted to test it so that I was familiar with the trip when taking a passenger. An easy flight, I stayed off the radio and just listened for traffic. The air was silky until I approached Mt. Nittany then the bumps started as easterly winds drove up the air over the last line of ridges. I took the standard tour, overflew the airport and started home. Still bouncing, I thought maybe 1000' higher would be smoother, but the weather was changing and air was now filled with potholes.
I had a decision to make. The magenta message in the top left says I have 75.9 miles to go, and my ground speed is 082 Kts. (I should reach my destination in less than an hour.) My fuel flow is 5.1 gals/hour, and my total fuel on board is 5+6=11 gals. So I should be able to land with 6 gallons, or about 1 hour of fuel remaining. (More than VFR minimums, but below my normal limits.) I usually like to land with 5 per side, which is very conservative. So, this might be a good time to push the envelope. Clear weather, close alternates if I needed them, I decided to go for it. The orange needle on the HSI is dialed into a VOR station halfway along my route. When that swings by my wingtip I'll reassess my options.
How accurate are the fuel gauges? How reliable my weather forecast? What if my destination airport has a problem and I do have to divert? How many times/minute did I do the fuel consumption formula in my head? How many times did I push the NRST button on my 696 to asses my distance to an airport? The winds had picked up and it was gusty at Butter Valley and I landed with 3 gallons in each tank. I was not comfortable, but now I know she can do it.