Saturday, April 21, 2007

Getting to the bottom of these daggone landings

Bee-uh-you-tee-full. Forecast to see temps in the low 70's, not a cloud to be seen for hundreds and hundreds of square miles, and any significant wind (or breeze, for that matter) completely absent from the picture. If you could freeze dry and/or bottle perfect flying weather, you would be looking for exactly that forecast as the recipe.

In pursuit with my resolution to branch out of Ohio destinations, the plan was to stop by at MadCo to tank up, continue to the southwest to orbit around the class B airspace around Cincinnati, and finally make a jog to the west into Indiana to arrive at Lee Bottom Flying Field, "where old planes go to fly," as proclaimed on their web site. Lee Bottom is a privately owned, public use air field right on the banks of the Ohio river and is well renowned for the classic aircraft fly-ins they host a few times a year. Nothing was scheduled on this particular day, but it still seemed like it might be an interesting place to see. Since these kinds of trips are always more fun with someone else riding along, I pulled Rick away from working on his RV-9A to spend a day flying instead.

The morning started with the first of the many "I don't wannas" I was going to hear from PapaGolf. Sure, it is by no means uncommon for it to take 5, 6, or even 10 blades to start a Lycoming, but Papa has always been a one or two blade kinda guy. With that in mind, I should have known that the relatively reluctant start was a precursor of a day full of passive-aggressive resistance to my will on the part of my mount. Nothing blatant or hostile, mind you, but more of a general malaise. I think Papa generally prefers a lone rider, truth be told, but as I like to consider myself the primary decision maker in our relationship, I remained firm in my decision to fly with both seats occupied. Besides, it is good and necessary to practice flying with the extra weight now and then; nothing will spoil you faster than spending too much time flying a lightly loaded RV.

So, saddled up and off to MadCo for the required load of fuel. The takeoff from Bolton was the opportunity for a second "I don't wanna" from Papa. As expected, the takeoff roll was much longer than when it's just me in the seat, but what was unexpected was the unintentional return to the runway after I had lifted the wheels. Sure, it was destined to be the lightest touchdown of the day, but that doesn't count for anything on takeoff. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Not desirable at all, no matter how smooth.

MadCo seemed to be favoring runway 9, which was not a particularly good omen as I have never had a good landing heading that direction. I don't know why, it's just one of those things, I suppose. Of course, this is exactly the mental hangup that inevitably becomes self-fulfilling, and such was indeed the case. I always seem to talk myself into carrying a little extra speed and power into the landing when we're heavy, and the results are almost always the same: big, big bounce. I'm going to score this landing an 'A'. That isn't the same 'A' you get on your report card, though. In my landing grading scale, 'A' stands for 'Ayyyy-trocious'. Gassing up didn't go all that smoothly either, what with waiting 15 - 20 minutes for the guy who had managed to park his plane such that it blocked the pumps to finish his extended sojourn in the mens room. The $3.71 toll for gas was a bit of a shocker as well. It's going to be an expensive summer!

Full fuel and full seats with nary a puff of breeze to assist with the takeoff did nothing to improve Papa's petulant and pouty mood, as evidenced by the lethargic climb to cruising altitude. Once at 3,500', we settled into a bumpy, hour long ride to Indiana. A side effect of approaching the airport from the East was that it was hidden behind a ridge until we were just about right one it. The lines are faint, but in the picture below you can see the 700+ foot ridge blocking the view on the Kentucky side of the river:

No problem, though, since the GPS knew exactly how far away it was and provided me with the distance information I needed to determine when to start slowing down. Getting an early start on reining Papa in is important when he's in the "I don't wanna" mood, as the extra weight causes issues in that realm as well. "Slow to get started, slow to get stopped," is the nature of that beast. In any event, the landing wasn't particularly bad, although some of the less smooth areas of the 3,100' grass runway caused some late bounces. Those don't count against my grade, though. The runway's bad grade doesn't give me a bad grade, which seems only fair.

There wasn't much going on at Lee Bottom, but it was still a great place to visit. The few folks and two airport dogs were all very friendly, and took a few minutes to show us around. In addition to being a flying field that is a perfect example of the type of grass roots aviation that built this country and is now under fire from the desperate and abysmally managed airlines in concert with a corporation friendly government, Lee Bottom is located right on the Indiana bank of the Ohio river and is therefore very scenic. I could have spent hours there just wandering around sight-seeing, but nature was calling (no, not in the way nature reminds you of the downside of coffee-fueled flight - that call had already been answered) and telling me that it was time to find some lunch.

The takeoff from Lee Bottom gave Papa another chance to try out his new trick of settling back onto the runway post-liftoff, and the climb was again relatively lazy, but we weren't going that high anyway. The plan was to stay under the southern shelf of the Cincy Class B airspace as we headed due East to Portsmouth, Ohio, so our cruise altitude for the first 20 miles or so was only 3,000'. By early afternoon, the sun had warmed the ground to the extent that the convective bumps were beyond being noticeable, and had in fact risen to the level of being a tad annoying. Portsmouth, while being an Ohio airport and thus not in compliance with my interstate travel resolution, was still an airport that I had never been to. Approaching from the West, it became the second airport in a row that was invisible until we were right on it. It was also another landing that was affected by the reluctance of Papa to slow down once he had worked up a good gallop, so a bit of mid-final slip was required to shed unwanted surplus altitude, and interestingly enough, the landing itself was actually pretty good. And to top it all off, it was apparently taildragger day at Portsmouth:

The airport diner was worth the trip. Clean, well lit, excellent service, and as you can see from the menu, another argument in favor of the economic benefits of owning an airplane:

Until, that is, it came time to buy some gas. Papa wanted 18.3 gallons, and at $4.17 per, ran up a pretty big tab. Ah, well, even at that price it still remains the case that fuel is the cheapest thing I put into the airplane, and given what I get in return, one of the best bargains ever.

On the flight back to Bolton, I stayed to the East of the two MOAs that block a large area of southern-central Ohio. In retrospect, that was kind of stupid since at the altitude we were flying, I really only needed to stay away from the smaller of the two MOAs. We could have easily stayed under the minimum altitude of the bigger MOA and saved 5 - 10 minutes of flying. The more easterly route did give me the opportunity to see if anything was going on at the Circleville Kart racing track, though. I haven't raced there for years and I was wondering if they were still a going concern - it looks like it is.

The landing back at Bolton was scored an 'A++'. A huge bounce, a bit of power to flatten the porpoising, another bounce, another burst of power, and finally the most dreaded of all, the chatter-bounce (tail wheel, mains, tail wheel, mains, tail wheel, mains, chatter chatter chatter), each impact accentuated with a snare drum accompaniment of F-word based expletives. With my luck, if I'm ever going to accidentally key the mike, it will be in the midst of one of these incredibly aggravating chatter-bounce landings. I can only imagine what the FAA and/or FCC fines for that would be. Guessing at $100 per occurrence, it would have been a $1000 landing.

It's a poor rider that blames his mount, much along the lines of the poor worker blaming his tools, so I can't blame Papa for that terrible performance. Still, while he got his post-flight bug wiping, he didn't get the normal pat on the jowls and compliment for a job well done. We have some work to do on our landings, me and Papa. We can do better. Other than that, though, it was another terrific day of flying. I can't think of anything I would have rather been doing than gallivanting around the tri-state area on a beautiful Spring day.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and pics, Dave. I felt like I was almost there with you.

    I appreciated greatly the link to Bob Collins' article, too.