Saturday, January 19, 2013

Soft Field Take Off

Its wintertime, so its cold. Yesterday the dismal gray clouds finally parted but we were still grounded by the frigid blustery winds. The Saturday morning forecast looked like flying might be possible if Sally and I got out before the sun started to warm the earth. Friday afternoon I stopped by the Sunoco station and got five gallons of 93 octane and drove out to 7N8 to give Sally another hour of fuel. I took the time to do a quick preflight and a little cleanup just to insure I would have no surprises in the morning.

Its hard to get up when its still dark outside. When the alarm rang I just pushed the button and rolled over. Not yet. Minutes later I focused my right eye on the display and read 30 degrees and sunshine. Not bad, but my old body was feeling every day of its age. I slumped back on the pillow until the sunrise glowed in the curtains. I reminded myself that there simply won't be many good winter flying days so I need to take advantage of the weather when I can. My heart just wasn't in it.

I started the coffee and sat down at the computer to do the planning. Not bad, actually pretty good. Southerly winds at 5kts, clear skies and temperatures just above freezing. Airmet for moderate turbulence, no TFRs or NOTAMS, nothing that would hinder a short flight. I heard a "pop pop pop" in the distance and realized someone was making venison. I poured some coffee in a stainless steel travel mug and headed out.

The hangar doors seemed heavy. Sally felt cold as I ran my fingers over the control surfaces and did the other preflight checks. I noticed ice on the pond during my F.O.D. walk down. Geese were honking as I pulled her out of the hangar and I thought they might be a hazard during my pattern work. I put the mug in the cup holder and climbed in. My disposition changed. Although cold, I was comfortable. I shouted "Clear" and quickly closed the canopy. I apologized to Sally before turning the key as I knew cranking that cold Rotax was going to hurt. Five props and she started, ran roughly for a few seconds then smoothed out. We waited for the oil temp and I took the time to complete my cockpit checks. I appreciated the coffee and the bubble canopy to help warm me up.

We taxied down past the old silo, out onto the turf to go over to our run up spot. The engine was humming smoothly and all checks were good. The windsock showed a direct crosswind tending from the south so we back taxied to use runway one six. That end has an extended turf threshold. I decided to do a soft filed take off and use a maximum angle of climb airspeed, treating the geese on the pond as a possible fifty foot obstacle. There was frost on the grass.

After the checklist was complete I added full power, got over 4900RPM and although breaks were applied started to slide. I kept her straight with differential braking and set the take off attitude immediately to get into ground effect. We were airborne before the asphalt and accelerated quickly to 60kts. Nose up, positive rate of climb, flaps up, we were climbing quickly. The geese were not a factor.

Ahhhh. That feeling. How fortunate I am to be flying this airplane on a crisp beautiful morning. Sally is at 2500' in no time. Recheck flaps, fuel pump, and landing light, set the throttle for under 5 gal/hr and stabilize cruise. I took another sip of coffee and we headed south towards Pottstown Muni.

The radio was quiet. The nuclear windsock showed winds from the southwest so I chose runway two six and called traffic at five miles out. The crosswind entry was bumpy. The downwind was bumpy and when I checked the windsock it confirmed my choice of runway. I turned on final a bit high so did a shallow slip to lose excess altitude. (Sally told me to beware of sink rate.) Gusts were from the left so I crabbed a bit in that direction before kicking her straight before touchdown. Nice. I looked down the runway to see three beautiful bucks waiting patiently just off the runway for me to make my exit.  Once I called clear they crossed over and ran down the runway.  I watched until they were out of sight. wow.

We did one more circuit and departed to the north. It was getting bumpy and my 696 showed that local METARs had winds picking up as well. We headed for home. The bright new windsock showed almost a direct crosswind so I decided to use one six for landing. Sally doesn't like that runway very much and constantly reminds me about the terrain just north of the field. We turned base over the power lines and planned our touch down point on the turf, well before the asphalt strip. (The runway goes downhill at that point so planning to land on the asphalt won't work.)  An easy touch down and we were almost at taxi speed when we transitioned to the hard surface. When we passed the windsock it was pointing straight out. Time to call it a day.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't feel motivated yeterday either. Maybe it is the cold on our older bodies, i'm not sure. I was reading along nodding in agreement when you noted, "My disposition changed. Although cold, I was comfortable." I know that feeling, I pick up and get my flying face on and feel good in the seat with my belts on.

    I ended up making a run to Millvile for brunch then headed home. It was good to get the oil pumping and give 08Romeo some exercise. This time of year we have to take advantage of the good wx days.