Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Small Triangle

Mid January, bitter cold temperatures but time to go flying. "Bitter cold" is a relative term. It dropped into the high 40's overnight, but was nearly 60 °F at 10:00am as I drove to the airport. No frozen hangar doors to worry about, I wore a light sweatshirt instead of a heavy coat. Snow and ice are not in our forecast.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge
The weather looked good for the entire route. There were some scattered low clouds to the east but I anticipated they would be gone by the time I got airborne. I've added a new weather site to my standard briefing. Just by chance, I heard a weather advisory for the Skyway Bridge. In addition to small craft advisory for boats, this seems like a good review for surface winds in the local area.

I noticed that Wawa is selling ethanol free gas. Unfortunately it is only the "Plus" octane. I'll keep checking to see if they bump it up to premium.

Sally looked good but somewhat dirty. I'm really glad to have all of the plugs and covers to protect her from the elements. The birds seem to use her wings for target practice, much like they did in the hangar at Butter Valley. I'll have to think about some kind of wing covers. The nasty part of the preflight today was cleaning away all of the spider webs. I wrapped my hand in a used Walmart bag and brushed away the webs from the tie down ropes, the prop covers and engine cowling. Then I pulled her into the sun to do the rest of the preflight. No problems found.

This would be a simple flight. Just a small "round robin" to get me away from KVDF and see some nearby airports. However this is complicated airspace. The Tampa Class "B" is very irregular with many steps and the coverage is far from being circular. In addition there are numerous Class "D" airports that go over 2500'. I opted not to use Flight Following. I'm thankful for my 696.

She started easily and for the first time this year I taxied out to the runway at our new home. We drove over to the run up area for Rwy05 and waited for the oil temperature to rise to the minimum. It was turning into a beautiful day and as we waited a Cessna Citation called to announce his intent to taxi from the FBO. I responded as number two behind him so as not delay his departure. Besides, I had a front row seat to watch a beautiful airplane take off. He was gone in an instant and probably passing 10,000' by the time I took the runway. Mindful of wake turbulence I took off a bit early and drifted to the upwind side of the runway immediately. No issues, I did my checklist after leveling at 1500' for my short flight over to Zephyrhills.
This airport has a long history of skydiving, possibly the longest continuous history of skydiving at any U.S. airport. Skydive City, Inc., founded in 1990, operates a skydiving center, or drop zone, on the southeast side of the airport.
A small triangle
 "Jumpers Away". I would be joining two other airplanes in the pattern as well as the jump plane using a separate runway. I came in wide to give myself a good long 45° entry and took the number two position behind a Cessna 172. While keeping interval on him, I watched the jumpers come in for their landings. The visibility from the PiperSport (and her sister SportCruisers) is amazing, and at a busy airport with jumpers it really helps with situation awareness. This is a busy little field. I like it.

I very nice landing! (I think the water landings helped.) We taxied back and held number two behind another LSA. I had the opportunity to watch another band of skydivers make their landings on the other side of the field. We took off and departed to the east enroute to Winter Haven. 1500' felt very comfortable. I enjoyed seeing the familiar sights along I4, including the "Fantasy of Flight" museum.
Winter Haven's Gilbert Airport is a city-owned, public-use airport located three nautical miles (6 km) northwest of the central business district of Winter Haven, a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. It is owned by the City of Winter Haven.[1] It is also known as Winter Haven Municipal Airport or Gilbert Field. Jack Browns Seaplane Base is located adjacent to the airport, connected by a taxiway.
Enjoying the view
The pattern took us right over Jack Brown's Seaplane Base. I enjoyed it seeing again, even if from a different perspective. I immediately looked at the surface of the lake to determine wind direction then refocused on my pattern at KGIF.  Another nice landing and immediate taxi back for takeoff. This time we would climb up high, 2800' to stay clear for the Lakeland Class "D" airspace.

The trip home was uneventful except for the scenery.  Florida is beautiful. Lakes and waterways are everywhere, cities rise up to decorate the horizon and even at low altitudes you can see forever. I really like landing on RWY36. Right next to a canal, the downwind points right at metropolitan Tampa. This is a wonderful place to fly.

Video Notes: Zephyrhills

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