Sunday, January 22, 2006

Columbiana County

Today I made one of those trips that really show the value of a fast, efficient airplane. Co-pilot Egg and I flew up to Columbiana County (02G) to visit my little sister and her family. Normally, this would entail a three hour drive each way, and as driving has joined other things on the list of things I never thought I'd get sick of, but have, it's a trip I don't make nearly as often as I should. Papa Golf can do it in just under an hour.

I got to thinking about the economics of trips like this. The last 50 hours of flying Papa Golf has shown me that I can pretty reliably plan on burning 8.5 gallons for every hour of flight. I could probably improve on the a little bit by leaning the mixture more agressively, but without any kind of engine temperature gauges like cylinder head temp or exhaust gas temp, I don't like to. So, straight line from Bolton to 02G is 123 miles. Add 5 miles for going around the Columbus Class C airspace and you get pretty close to 130 nautical miles. It took .9 of an hour to get there (54 minutes), so I burned an estimated 7.65 gallons of gas. That works out to about 17 nautical miles per gallon, which is about 19.5 statute miles. My Subaru would probably have gotten 22 - 24 miles per gallon for that trip, so a comparison of 19.5 isn't too bad. Of course, this doesn't really paint an accurate picture of the associated costs since I don't burn $2.25/gallon auto gas in the plane, although I could if I wanted to. The gas I'm burning costs $3.35/gallon.

So, it costs a bit more, but as one that will always choose to pay for convenience if the perceived benefit is high enough, it's worth it to me.

The weather was flyable, but it wasn't the prettiest of days. It actually seemed pretty gloomy. Witness this picture of what appears to be an albino golf course:

The hundreds of square miles we could see from 5,500' all seemed to have this blanched, gloomy look. Here's another gloomy shot:

The air was very smooth, though, and the visibility was at least ten miles, so it was a pleasant enough flight. The airport (02G) is surrounded by hills, and the hills are often topped with high tension power lines and the accompanying towers, so it's not one of my favorites on take-off. Every now and then, you just have to trust your airplane. Places like Put-in-Bay, Kelleys Island, or airports surrounded by wooded hills or dense housing don't offer a lot of options if you have some kind of engine problem on take-off, and Columbiana County is definitely on that list. I've said it before, and I said it again today: I love a 200 hour engine!

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