Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Staying in the Pattern

Sunday I woke up to beautiful blue skies. As I ventured to the computer I was glad to see very little wind outside and no frost on the ground. Maybe. But when I checked the local weather many of the nearby airports were reporting fog. I decided to wait to see if the sun would burn it off. As I waited clouds from the west started to turn the blue sky to gray and brought the winds with them. Not today. I bought 10 gallons of gas and fueled Sally anticipating some flight time later in the week.

Sally at Butter Valley (7N8)
An early appointment had me out of the house on Monday, again beautiful blue clear skies. Maybe. I checked the weather when I got back home and this time the METARs were good. I made my break at just before noon and went over to Butter Valley. Harry had his door open and was busy working an annual inspection on a C172. We made the visit short this time, good weather doesn't last very long.

Gary wrote in his blog about moving his plane to New Garden (N57) so I planned to fly the 20 minutes south to check it out. I had overflown it a few times but never landed there. But as I did my run up the windsock showed the breeze had really kicked up a notch and a scattered layer was moving in. Nothing on the 696 but local METARs did indicate winds from the East at 10 gusts to 15. Change in plans. We took off to the North and announced "closed pattern".

I haven't had much of a chance to practice any under shooting crosswinds lately and the long base leg does require some patience. The first landing was bit firm. Some pattern adjustments and the next two were sweet. So I got bold and flew one in the no flap configuration. This requires an extended downwind leg to allow for a long, flat final. The gusty winds added a bit of extra challenge while flying the approach about 10 knots faster. Not bad.

The next was a non-standard right hand pattern. Without my normal ground reference points I let the wind blow me too close on downwind eliminating any base leg. I salvaged it with a nice slip an made one of the better landings of the day.

For the next we departed to the west, bore a couple of holes in the sky and made a normal re-entry. All very nice. One more circuit and we called it a day. A wonderful workout.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

Sunday was the day after the big snow storm. While Boston got pounded, we only got about 3" and that was rapidly melting. The winter weather was finally perfect for Light Sport flying!

As I entered the airport I was disappointed to see snow still on the runway. The turf taxiway was also covered although it was hard to tell how deep the snow was. I drove through the parking lot and over to the hangar. Situated between two buildings, that concrete taxiway was still covered with the 3" of wet, melting snow. I parked the car and walked the path I would take to get to the runway. A little slippery. That turn at the silo could be interesting. And then the trip across the sod, which might be too soft for Sally and me. And the runway with partial snow, no winds now but what about the return trip. Consider a crosswind landing on a narrow strip with partial snow and possible ice. Very reluctantly I decided No Go. (Perhaps too conservative, perhaps not. Remember, I'm doing this for fun.) argh.

Thursday was the day after another snow storm.  Around lunchtime I decided to venture out to the airport to look at the conditions again. This time I was pleased to find that the snow was gone except for a few patches in shady areas. I walked the taxiway and cleared it of a few sticks and stones and came back and pulled Sally out of the hangar. It had been awhile and I found myself a bit rusty so I pulled the checklist out of the side pocket and took my time looking at each item. Once I sat down and buckled in I felt at home again. Sally started easily and it was a joy to sit there with the engine humming while the oil warmed up.

No wind to speak of, we chose runway 34 and departed to the east. The Pennsylvania countryside was still mostly white and much of the lakes were iced over. We turned south toward the power plant and continued to climb up to 2500'. All checks were good, Sally was running nicely. Satisfied with all engine system checks, we re-entered the pattern at Butter Valley to see if I still remembered how to land. A little fast but not bad. So we stayed in the pattern for another. A bit high and close this time, I needed to slip to get back down to the proper glide slope. I salvaged a nice landing from a crummy pattern.

We departed and headed towards KLOM. A light scattered layer at 3500' was a little choppy so I let the autopilot continue the climb to 4500'. Very smooth there and all the navigation systems were performing well. After a few minutes I went to the FPL button, selected 7N8 and hit direct/enter/enter. Sally made a nice turn to the left and started heading towards home. I disengaged the NAV button and went to HDG mode, twisted the knob to the left and once again headed toward the power plant. Another push of the knob, selected 2500' and let Sally start the descent. The RPM crept up to 5400 and TAS read 123 kts. Nice.

I thanked Sally for her help and told her I would take it from here, so I pushed the red "Autopilot Disengage" button and swung back to the north. Runway 34 was directly in front of me at about 8 miles. I made my radio call planning a straight in. No one else was flying today so I continued as planned. Another call at 3 miles and I committed to the straight in approach. Without the standard checkpoints a straight in can be a bit challenging. Getting on speed, on glide path configured properly takes a good eye and a bit of planning. As it happens a nice breeze from the west gave me the opportunity to practice with a crosswind. What a sweet landing.

Back to the barn. Less than an hour, but it felt soooo good.