Friday, January 30, 2015

Escape from Butter Valley

A cold winter's day.

Almost no breeze, the sun was shining on the snow covered yard. It was bitter cold but the weather conditions wouldn't keep me from flying.

As I turned onto the entrance road to the airport I could see the work Harry had done on the turf "taxi way". It looked passable. But as I approached the runway I was disappointed to see that it hadn't been touched. I wouldn't be able to go until that was cleared. I parked in the lot and walked down past my old hangar to find Harry in his workshop. The cowling was off so he could show me all of the work that had been done.  It looked good. After a thorough inspection I climbed into the cockpit and put the key into the ignition. I read out the numbers for the Hobbs meter and he jotted it down for the records. I finished the cockpit preflight, looked to make sure he was clear, got a thumbs up and turned the key. She cranked but no start. I rechecked everything, called "Clear" and tried again. Rough at first but she smoothed out quickly. "Hello Sally."

Pressures, temperatures and RPM all looked good. I let her idle for awhile before shutting her down. We rechecked everything and once convinced there weren't any leaks put the cowling back on and buttoned everything up. The pilot and airplane were ready, the weather was OK but deteriorating, and the runway still wasn't ready. Harry went to find out about the delay. (The plow truck wouldn't start, but eventually got repaired.) I walked the plowed taxiway to insure there were no clumps of grass or ruts or icebergs that might be in my way. Two cross-country skiers using the runway as their play ground stopped to chat. They were happy to share Butter Valley with me.

I checked the weather one more time then climbed back into the cockpit and went through the checklist again. This time she started easily. I let her warm up as I watched the plow go out to runway and begin running up and down its length. I think the skiers were watching too but couldn't be sure. When the snow plow left I started my taxi. Slow but deliberate. I wanted to keep the momentum up. When I reached the runway I was pleased with the work the plow had done. The windsock showed the breeze was from the south so I used the back taxi to inspect the runway surface. I turned at the end of the asphalt and did my final checks. Time to go. We were off in about 100' and climbing quickly.

The forecast for the afternoon called for snow showers and increasing winds. The next day brought more snow and low ceilings. More snow and wind after that. If I hadn't been able to take advantage of that narrow window I might have been trapped there for a long time. I was very happy to land at Quakertown.

Video Notes: Escape

I couldn't get the hangar doors open. They were blocked by the ribbon of snow and ice left over from the plowing operation. I found Mike and borrowed a snow shovel. After a half hour of digging I finally got Sally back into her hangar. It started snowing as I locked the hangar door.

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