Saturday, November 12, 2005

Our first UFO

The Ohio Valley RV Group periodically have functions they refer to as UFO's. I think it stands for Ultimate Fly Out, but I'm not 100% sure of that. Basically a UFO involves a mini fly-in at a designated airport. This one was at New Philadelphia (KPHD) Harry Clever Field, over towards the eastern side of Ohio. The weather was terrific for flying again, so I launched out of Bolton at about 9:30 and headed east.

Downtown Columbus as seen from my lofty perch

The skies were severe-clear, and I had a pretty good tailwind out of the west, so I climbed to 5500' to get over the Columbus class C airspace and enjoyed a smooth, relaxing flight at 165 knots. About 20 miles out of New Philly, I began a 500 foot per minute descent and watched as the GPS speed approach 180 knots. It finally topped out at 184. My thrill in this was tempered by the realization that I was going to be going against those same winds on the way home, but it was still a great feeling!

Approaching New Philly

As I approached the airport from the west, it appeared that everyone had managed to arrive at the same time. In reality, there were only four other RVs in the pattern, but the difference in patterns that they were flying caused a bit of crowding at the end of the runway. As I turned final behind one of the RVs, another that had flown a closer pattern turned in front of me. That's not all that unusual, and as long as everyone communicates what's going on and what their intentions are, it all works out fine. He heard me on the radio confirming that I had him in sight and would be landing right behind him, so he compensated by landing a bit long and leaving the near end of the runway for me. It was nowhere near as tight as the landing clearances at Oshkosh, and the level of cooperation and competance kept everything neat and orderly.

Parked on the flightline

Closer look at the tail art

I didn't make a formal count, but there had to be between 15 and 20 RVs there. It's always fun to walk around looking at them and seeing how other builders did things. Today I was particularly interested in looking at the cowl hinge wires that hold the top and bottom cowl halves together. The large majority used the front-to-back method, and I'm not sure if any of them used the through-the-panel method like my plane has. Those that had the front-to-back were pretty much evenly split between those that had a fancy custom plate to secure the end of the hinge and those that had a simple screw into a nut plate. I'm convinced that I'm going to change mine to the front-to-back method since 1) it will make a huge difference in the maintainability of the plane, and 2) it looks to be a very straightforward job. I went ahead and ordered the Vans cowl hinge kits to get started. The only thing that I will have to figure out is how to install nut plates on the cowl to hold the retaining screw.

I visited with some of the other RV folks and had a nice lunch. As I meet more and more RV pilots, I continue to be struck by how many of them are professional military or airline pilots. They seem to really gravitate to the Vans planes. I like to think it's because the RVs fly like small, light fighters. Wish I had thought to ask one of them how they compare to various military jets in their flying qualities.

Departing New Philly

As predicted, the flight back to Bolton took a bit longer. I tried to stay low, hoping the winds would be lighter, but the bumps at 3500' encouraged me to try for a smoother ride a little higher. It smoothed out considerably at 4500, but I was only making 125 knots. I consoled myself with the idea that I would have only been doing 75 - 80 in the Tampico, which seemed to help.

The winds at Bolton had really picked up while I was gone, and I was a little surprised to hear "winds 190 at 14" when I contacted the tower. That's a pretty healthy crosswind, but I was able to get her settled in with only a few small bounces. I could feel the wind tugging at the stick as I taxiied in.

One of the nicest things about flying this time of year is that there are very few bugs. Clean-up was a cinch, so I was able to get the bird bedded down with a minimum of fuss and get home just in time to catch the last few minutes of the football game.

What a great way to spend a Saturday! I'll have to play catch-up on my chores tomorrow, but it's worth it!

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