Sunday, March 18, 2007

Chip chip chipping away at Mt. Rushmore

Over the course of the last few winter months which distinguished themselves with their nearly ubiquitous foul flying weather, I managed to burn three hours worth of gas out of Papa Golf. I've been wanting to get over to MadCo to fill up and finally had a chance to this afternoon. The winds were a bone-chilling 15 knots out of the northwest but the skies were pleasantly clear with just a few puffies at the 4,500' level, which turned out to be a great place for them to be if you happened to get the urge to loop around the outside of a perfectly sized cloud while you still had a light fuel load. Just 'if,' mind you.

The winds being from the northwest offered a relatively rare opportunity: because Bolton was using runway 4 and MadCo was using 27, I was able to practice crosswind takeoffs and landings from both left and right. The takeoff crosswind was a direct 90 degree crosswind from the left, and the ensuing landing at MadCo was a quartering crosswind from the right. The takeoff was easy, but the landing was a new experience. It was a bit of a gusty wind, so I carried 75 - 80 mph further into the final approach than I usually do. The touchdown was a real smooth greaser, but with the higher than normal landing speed it had to be a wheel landing. Another factor of landing on the mains at a speed that gives the wings enough residual lift to make the weight of the airplane on the main landing gear only a fraction of what it normally is. That wouldn't be a big problem unless you got hit with a sudden gust. That can, and did, lift the upwind wing to an appreciable degree, thereby lifting the upwind wheel back up off of the runway. That, I'm here to tell you, is not a comfortable feeling! A little bit of rudder and aileron got everything re-planted quickly, though.

The guy pumping gas today was pretty gruff as he strung out the grounding wire and clipped it on the exhaust. He really hadn't warmed up much by the time the first 15 gallons had been pumped at the princely rate of $3.35 per gallon, so I decided to go into full banter mode. Just as Spinal Tap's amplifiers go to 11**, my BanterAmp(tm) has a 'high' setting that reaches far beyond normal. Mid-way through the filling of the second tank, I found the sweet spot for this particular topic: the prophecy that as cold as we are today, it won't be long until we're hot and griping about mowing the lawn." As a grin finally cracked his face, I felt that I somehow had sampled the incredible pride and joy Gutzon Borglum and his 400 workers must have felt when gazing at their newly finished sculpture on the face of Mount Rushmore.

The departure from MadCo was normal, which is to say Papa flew like he was bloated from a Thanksgiving buffet and wanted nothing more to get the sofa to digest both dinner and a healthy helping of football. It's rare indeed that I don't depart from there with a full load of fuel, and the difference between a 150hp RV-6 with light tanks and one with full tanks is notable.

Bolton was busy when I got back with a Mooney on left downwind and a Cessna over the outer marker on a straight-in approach. I was three miles west of the field and just about due to report my position as established on a two-mile left base when I received a directive from the tower that came as no surprise: "left 360, please." That got me in a position far enough behind the Mooney to have an essentially clear shot at the runway. The wind was kicking up pretty good and was still a direct left crosswind, so I think the quality of the three-bounce landing I made was only a little bit below expectation. All in all, it was a good enough ride that I think I'm comfortable with carrying passengers again.

** Nigel: "You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You’re on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder."

DiBergi: "Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?"

Nigel (after taking a moment to let this sink in): "These go to 11."

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