The weather radio said partly cloudy, low temperatures below freezing with the highs slightly above. I peaked through the bedroom curtains to see a bright red sunrise. Patches of snow and ice are still in the shady parts of the yard, still in the gulleys where the high winds of the past few days haven't been able to scrape it off the grass. Winter in Pennsylvania is not good for flying.
The backyard weather station was only indicating five to ten knots and the noise of wind buffeting the house was gone. By noon the clouds had thinned out and we had almost reached 0C. Planning indicated no TFRs and nothing really bad with the weather so I decided to go see how Sally was doing. It had been over two weeks since we were out together.
Harry's door was open so I stopped in to chat. He has a 182 in for an annual, the little home built "kite" is ready for some more test flights and the refinishing project is still on schedule. He is happily keeping busy. We discussed the legal actions Pennsylvania has taken against the NCAA and agreed that any and all due process is a good thing. He advised me to be careful of the ice patches on the taxi way, to make sure I had plenty of room to maneuver. I wished him a Happy New Year and drove up the little hill to the Hangar. (It was slippery.)
Sally looked good. A little dust on the canopy is all that was apparent from the awful weather we've been having. Just so much better than being out on the line. I'm really fortunate to have her protected now. It took just ten pulls for the burp. I like doing this procedure AFTER each flight as it makes the preflight so much easier. I carefully pulled her out and did the remaining checks. It was cold.
Five seconds and no start. Wait five seconds, check everything again, and turn the ignition. Three props and shes going, oil pressure is good. Slowly advance the choke, set the throttle for 2500 RPM and wait for the oil to warm up. I pulled on the cabin heater but most of the warmth came from the sun shining through the large bubble canopy. There is comfort in the sound of a smooth running engine. After awhile the oil temperature finally got up to 122F and we taxied out across the turf to the run up area. All was good. The new windsock showed a slight left to right cross wind. RPM well over 4900 and all engine instruments looked good. I released the brakes and she jumped into the air. Rate of climb well over 1000FPM, I had to concentrate on keeping the nose up higher than normal to maintain best rate of climb. Airplanes love the cold winter temperatures (even if their pilots don't.)
We departed to the west, flew over some interesting landmarks and just enjoyed being airborne. At 2000' the OAT was -6C, but the cockpit was comfortable. I haven't put the new canopy seal in yet but the old "home improvement" weather stripping is doing its job. I didn't notice any drafts. We flew over Bally Spring Farm (PA35) and headed back to Butter Valley. A nice little crosswind made the three landing challenging. Just less than an hour on the Hobbs. A good first flight of 2013.