I had a choice between flying Co-pilot Egg out to my parent's horse farm in Darke Co. where she will be spending the week, or driving her there. This morning's forecast called for winds at 14 gusting 20, so driving looked like the better option. The noon forecast, though, had a better guess (better, in this case, meaning more amenable to my needs, not more accurate) of 6 to 8 knot winds. Well, that pretty much made the decision a no-brainer.
One thing they always tell you before taking a test is to trust your first answer. This would be good advice for weather guessers too, as it turns out. We arrived at VES to find gusting winds well over 15 knots, coming from the northwest. This wasn't really a surprise as the en route speed ranging from 137 to 143 knots indicated that there was quite a bit of air pushing against us.
Darke Co. is one of those airports where I seldom have a good landing because of the active up and down drafts coming from the farm fields just off the end of the runway, and because of the way the wind swirls around a stand of trees just south of the arrival end of runway 27. The wind being out of the northwest negated the effect of those trees, but the row of hangars did a good job of messing things up in their stead.
Add in the fact that I was heavy with fuel and Egg's luggage (like Paris H., Egg does not travel lightly) and you get a relatively crappy landing. Followed by a half hour of waiting for my parents to arrive to shuttle her back to the farm. The delay was caused by a bridge on the road that they use being unexpectedly closed. An alternate route was attempted, only to find yet another bridge closed. Wow, when a plan falls apart, it really falls apart!
Taking off into the 18 - 20 knot crosswind was exciting, but being lighter by the weight of Egg and her bulky luggage allowed me to get off the runway pretty quickly. Once off the runway, the wind doesn't play much of a factor. The return trip flew by at a satisfying 185 knots, and I hit the pattern area back at Bolton at an astonishing 200 knots over the ground. The tower reported winds out of the west at a paltry 8 knots, but the incredible GPS speed belied that. Sure, I imagine ants and grasshoppers were only feeling 8 knots, but Papa and I knew better.
Even forewarned, I ended up overshooting my base to final turn, found myself way high on final, and ultimately ended up whistling right on by my normal turn off. Having the wheel pants back on after flying so long without them really screwed up my timing. Injury to insult, an unfortunate gust in the flare slapped me down so hard that I could have sworn I heard the newly painted wheel pants scraping on the runway surface. Later inspection showed no damage, though.
So, an exciting trip, but even with the unforeseen complexities the whole thing was done in less than half the time it would have taken to drive. And I gotta tell ya, there's something head swelling about seeing 200+ knots on the GPS in a 150hp airplane!