Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Drought

The week long weather delay in Addison messed with my schedule. I needed to get a Flight Review in before the end of October and was running out of days. So I called Paul. He was very accommodating, even suggested we attend an FAA evening seminar together at Penn State, inviting me to spend the night in his guest room. An offer I just couldn't refuse.

The flight out was bumpy. Low overcast, some mild snow showers and headwinds. It was not flight review weather. So we concentrated on ground work, discussed current LSA topics and visited his new flight simulator. Paul has made some interesting improvements but still faces some implementation challenges. Anyone who has installed new complex technology understands that getting a production system up and operating takes more than just a "turn of the key." But theses are just minor glitches in the overall scheme of things, I'm convinced this is going to be a very valuable training tool.

We did the actual flight review the next morning. If you are a Sport Pilot I strongly recommend you go to Light Sport Instructor to have his experience for this review. Paul did a superb job, I was challenged and learned some things that I can use in my day to day operations. Insights that most CFIs simply would not have from flying C172s.

The trip home was bumpy, and the landing in very strong cross winds at Butter Valley was a challenge. 45° crab lead to a smooth touchdown, but I danced on the rudders most of the way down. The hangar doors were really flapping by the time I put Sally away for the night.

The annual done, my flight review signed off, it was time to FLY. Except IMSAFE got in the way. A lingering chest cold would not go away. Too many sunny weekends came and went with us stuck on the ground. Finally I feel better, but a winter snow storm has arrived.

It has been a 'dry' month.

Friday, November 1, 2013

From the Summit

I had a light breakfast at the hotel (although I couldn't pass up just one more taste of biscuits and gravy). Checked out and got to the airport just before 8:00am. US Sport was already busy positioning airplanes and people were getting ready to fly.  Dropped off the rental car keys and picked up Sally's and I thanked everyone for their hard work. I carried my luggage out to Sally and began the preflight. She was in good shape so I pulled her away from the parking spot. "Clear!" She purred. Finally I put my headset on and...nothing. No radio. I checked the connections, volumes and got nothing. So I shut her down and found some help. I sit in the right seat and therefore the intercom switch must be on to hear the radio. (Look for that little green light. Thanks Sam, lesson learned). I listened to ATIS and went to adjust the altimeter and found it was set to millibars. Installing the new firmware must have set everything back to the defaults. I took a few minutes to insure all of my settings were correct.

Smooth takeoff to the north and soon I banked right and was climbing on course to 5,500'. It was good to be on my way and Sally was running great. We were traveling through smooth air above the low cumulus clouds off to my right. We even had a slight tailwind. I must never allow myself to forget how beautiful the world looks from up here.  Soon I was looking for Batesville for my first fuel stop. This was a nice clean airport with friendly people. After the fuel truck left a pickup stopped close by and an older guy got out to give Sally an inspection. A retired Marine, he flew a Piper Cub out of this airport and was interested in the Piper logo on Sally's nose. We talked about the joy of flying light airplanes. He offered me a ride to his hangar to look at his plane, but I was anxious to get on my way. We shook hands, he drove off and I climbed in.

The weather briefer said that it would remain VFR but that I could catch up to the remains of the cold front before I reached Bowling Green. Crossing the Mississippi I decided to climb to 7,500' to get above the broken layer. Not too long after that the broken clouds were turning into a solid under cast.  I told ATC my plan and descended down to 3,500' and bounced north of the Campbell MOA. It was gray and turbulent and I was glad to have updated weather available to me. KBWG still looked good. When I switched to unicom I found a plane in the pattern using the short crossing runway. I entered on the 45 and he took interval on me. Nice landing, I was immediately met by a linesman and directed me to roll up under the CO-MAR awning. They made arrangements for me at the hotel and took care of putting Sally to bed. I had an early dinner and went to bed myself... and slept well.

Fog. I peered out across the lighted courtyard in the early morning darkness and saw a layer of fog covering the ground. The weather application on my cell phone was red with poor visibility at local airports. However I knew it wouldn't last. When the sun came up and warmed the earth the fog would dissipate and leave me with beautiful VFR conditions. I got my breakfast and packed my overnight bag, than called CO-MAR for transportation to the airport. By the time I was done with the preflight the sun was shining.

I took off to the north and turned right on course as we climbed to 7,500'. The low lying areas to my right were still covered in mist. On my left, clear. I finished my cruise checks and enjoyed the smooth ride. A large flock of geese were flying well beneath me. Their wedges pointed to my right. I started to notice a change in foliage around Lexington and by the time I got into West Virginia the earth was in its full fall colors.  As I descended into Braxton County the rolling hills were fantastic. I missed having my photographer on board. It was getting windy and we hit some good buffets before we found the airport hidden beyond one of those hills. I really liked this little airport, beautiful "back country" style and friendly people. An RV7 pilot stopped by to chat as I fueled Sally. He had recently lost his medical and was interested in LSA. He was optimistic about getting his Special Issuance and convinced he didn't want to worry about his 3rd class medical after that. He liked Sally.

Sally and I climbed back to 7,500' to enjoy the tailwinds. This last leg would be the fastest speed over the ground, reaching 145kts at times. The route took me just northwest of the SFRA and  I kept busy switching between the many controlling agencies. Sally was having a slight problem maintaining altitude with the rolling waves coming off the Appalachian Mountains, but by the time we reached Harrisburg everything had smoothed out. The Pennsylvania trees were already past their peak color and were now mostly brown with only a few remaining splotches of color. I started my descent approaching Reading and felt the buffeting winds once below 5,000'. It was a challenge at Butter Valley but nothing I hadn't see before. I was delighted when I saw Kathy and her Mom waving to me from the edge of the parking lot. Nice landing.


It's hard to explain the feelings I have after a long cross country like this one. Pride of ownership, accomplishment of a challenging task, the delight in seeing new places and talking with interesting people, its all a part of General Aviation. More than anything else I feel fortunate to be able to participate in the adventure.