Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gallipolis: it's a KGAS KGAS KGAS, man

There was a fly-in scheduled for Saturday morning at Gallia-Meigs airport (KGAS), which is 76 miles down south, right on the norther bank of the Ohio River. The forecast was for hot and humid, so an early start seemed best. Tromping around on the black tarmac of the typical airport ramp is not the wisest choice when it comes to ways to spend time in the sun, so I usually like to have the bird back in the barn by the time the afternoon sun kicks in. The air was glassy smooth on the way down there, but as usual when our weather is being dominated by a summer high and a southerly wind, that came at the cost of visibility; it was hazy down below 4,000' feet and the usual lush, forested scenery was for all practical purposes invisible.

The approach to KGAS from the north is a bit different from the normal airport in that you can't see the runway until you're just about on top of the airport. The northern approach is blocked by a line of hills that are perfectly positioned so as to completely block the entire airport from sight. I tucked in nice and tight on the northern side of the hills and made a sweeping left base leg around the westernmost peak to land on the northeast facing runway. The landing was fairly good, but that was mostly a factor of having very little wind to deal with.

Being early ensures a nice parking sopt, but being really early ensures that there won't be much going on when you get there. That's no problem if there are restaurants nearby, and while the half mile hike to BK wasn't exactly right on the airport, it was close enough that sitting in the "dining room" drinking a big mugga BK's finest Columbian Roast, watching the teenage employee setting the letters in the marquee to read "NOW HIRING ALL SHIFTS" but deliberately delaying the application of the letter 'F' until he had time to photograph the resulting scatalogical variation with his cell phone, was worth the walk.

By the time we got back to the airport, a few more planes had arrived. There was a bevy of five or six very small homebuilts and ultralights, and a CH-701 had come in.

The CH-701 is a fascinating airplane, able to takeoff and land in less than 100yds, fully loaded. Of course, that kind of high lift capability is incredibly draggy, so the top cruise speed is a paltry 85 mph. Still, it's an intriguing bird due to some of its aerodynamic features. The leading edge of the wing has full-time slats, and the horizontal stab is clearly designed to provide a lot of authority at very low airspeeds. The construciton is almost totally done with blind rivets which greatly simplifies the building process.

One of the hangars had its door open, and the Globe Swift inside had for sale signs on it. The asking price is $58k, which seems pretty reasonable at first glance. I'd want to know quite a bit more than I could find on a cursory external inspection, but it sure seemed like a sweet little classic 2-seater for a pretty fair price.

A helicopter flew in to give short rides over the town for $30 per, and they seemed to be doing a fairly good business considering how awful the visibility was for aerial photography, but that's probably something that's pretty hard for the customers to realize from the ground since they don't know the indicators. I usually can tell what the airborne visibility in general will be just by looking at how well defined the haze line is on the horizon.

I always like it when my plane attracts admirers:

At this point, they seemed fascinated by the folded up mountain bike behind the seats. That's not surprising - it shocks me too every time I'm able to successfully get that thing in there!

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