Is it finally here? The grass is green and growing, the sky is blue, and the winds have abated to a doldrumesque 9 gusting 16 out of the northwest. That, of course, meant that I had to go flying! Winds from 340 mean that Bolton would be using runway 4, which points to the northeast. It doesn't take a whole lot of trigonometry to discern the import of that: a nearly direct crosswind from the left.
If you remember, the crosswind from the left on takeoff is a tad harder to deal with than if it were from the right because there is already a left turning tendency from the torque of the engine combined with the spiralling air spilling off of the prop and onto the side of the rudder. No problem yesterday, though, as despite the promise of healthy gusts, it was actually a nice steady wind. Which, as is normally the case, went from being a crosswind to being a headwind once I established my course towards Urbana, where I would be dining. At 2500 rpm, I couldn't get much more than 134 knots. Pitiful, but hey, at least it was a short trip.
The runway at Urbana is aligned 20 degrees further north than the one at Bolton, so most of the crosswind component was removed for the landing. Still, it was a 9 knot wind and that should have some effect on the landing, but I greased the landing, much to my surprise. It must have been apparent even from a distance because the fellow on left downwind said something about my being a "helluva flier," although his radio cut out a bit and it sounded more like "liar." Odd, that.
Should you ever (and I admit, the odds are against it) find yourself in the position of deciding between the meatloaf and the scalloped chicken at Urbana, I'd go with the meatloaf. Not that I had it, mind you. I opted for the chicken. Read into that what you will.
Fortunately my issues with the chicken didn't really rise to emergency status until I was home, so the relatively bumpy/choppy ride last night wasn't overly unpleasant. In fact, with the motor run up to 2500 and shaking in its restraints like a greyhound in the race gate poised for a screeching run after the rabbit, it was a great reminder as to why I fly in the first place, especially as I noted the 164 knot ground speed. The feeling of unlimited freedom to move fluidly about in the sky, the delicate balancing of risk vs. reward, the immensity of being the total master of your own destiny, the lofty perch from which to view a few hundred square miles of central Ohio, the mastery of a complex and powerful machine, these all combine to make flying one of the most rewarding activities known to man.
Coming back into Bolton, the tower control called me out as traffic to a departing Cessna as "I think it's an RV-6." A few moments later, his normal decorum gave way to his curiosity: "6 Papa Golf, what is that thing? Is it an RV-6?"
"You are correct," I replied.
His response was cute: "I knew it!" I love it when those guys allow a tiny break in their stern, professional facade and show an actual interest in the airplanes that they work with.
The wind had died down by the time I got back, but still required a little bit of correction down final. They were still landing on runway 4, so I made my normal high approach that allows me to land a third of the way down the runway and depart the runway on the taxiway closest to my hangar. The landing was pretty good, but I did flare a little higher than I should have, which is a typical result of going from a narrow runway to a wide runway. I've lately started carrying a bit more power into the flare and have found that it generally improves things. It had been a cardinal rule of mine to make sure the throttle was all the way back in the flare because it had caused enormous bounces back in my tailwheel transition training days, but it seems that wheel landings (my new norm) are aided by a bit of cushion provided by the residual thrust of a high idle throttle setting. in any event, it was one of those landings that feel like laying your head on a thick down pillow: you can feel a little bit of initial cushioning, but you just keep sinking lower and lower, knowing that you will eventually hit bottom. Touchdown wasn't particularly firm, nor was there any bouncing, so I'm scoring it as a fairly good landing, with just a few points deducted for starting the flare a bit too soon.
Update: If you're wondering who Hogarth Kramer is, allow me to briefly explain: he's my dog. I was fooling around with my Blogger profile and there were, uh, unintended consequences, since fixed. Bob has a sharp eye...