Saturday, September 01, 2007

Confessions of a Football Widower

Today is the opening day of the college football season, and thus constitutes the first day of "Whatever, Honey, I'll be watching football." Well, it's not quite that easy; I do still have some yard maintenance responsibilities to take care of, and the recent rains have revitalized my ailing grass crop to the degree that mowing was pretty high up on the to-do list. Still, there was nothing precluding a breakfast flight to Urbana.

I got a call last week from a guy that I'll call 'Jack', not so much to protect his anonymity or anything, but because, well, that's his name. Anyway, Jack is in the position I was just a few short years ago, which is to say that he thinks he might want to join the Van's RV community, but he has a lot of questions that need answering, and he naturally would like to actually have flown in one before making the decision. I had hoped to meet up with him at the MERFI fly-in last weekend, but that was simply fated not to be. He rode all the way up to Mansfield only to find that I was only able to get within spitting distance of the airport due to the unexpectedly low and opaque cloud layer.

Since I was planning on flying to Urbana anyway, it was a simple matter to contact Jack and offer him the empty seat to ride along. Because Jack is also considering (although not strongly, he said) building his own plane, and because he is also undecided just which RV model is right for him, and because it gives me a chance to practice a little station-keeping, and because he's just an all-around nice guy, I also asked Rick S. if he'd like to meet us there too. Rick brings the perspective of a builder, and also argues (quite convincingly) the merits of both RV-9s and nosewheel airplanes. Jack is a relatively low-time pilot and has also been out of flying all together for a decade, so I strongly suspected the merits of the 9A would be a better fit for him than my 6. It's still a tough decision for him to make, though, and it's the reason that I often say that you need at least two, but no more than four, RVs. Heck, I haven't even decided which one I want, and I have one!

The weather was the exact opposite of last week's with no sign of a cloud in the sky, almost unlimited visibility, but a little bit of wind. It wasn't enough wind to keep us from flying, but it was enough that I knew I was going to do a pretty good job of convincing Jack that the 6 not only wasn't for him, but was unsuitable for just about anyone. Just to alleviate the suspense: yes, both landings were bouncers, but the landing back at Bolton was the worse of the two. Oh well. The flying was grand, though, and I think the comparison between the handling qualities of the RV versus those of the Cessnas Jack had previously flown was stark and definitely in favor of the RVs.

I've long held that when you buy or build an RV, you're getting more than just a fantastic all-around flyer; you're also joining a very open and supportive community, should you choose to. As we were entering the pattern at Grimes, someone chimed in on the unicom and said, "Hey Papagolf, is that you Dave?" I answered in the affirmative, and was then asked if I was going to Cincinnati today. Well, no, I was going to be mowing, but now I'm wondering what I missed out on down in Cincy.

After parking, while we were walking across the ramp to the restaurant, another guy called out a hello. I looked back and saw him, but I also saw another couple of guys right behind us. Having been burned so many times by responding to the call or wave, only to find that it was the other guys that were being hailed (and man, is that ever embarrassing), I hedged my bets by making a non-committal wave and hurrying to catch up with Jack and Rick who were still heading for the diner. Of course you see this coming: I was, in fact, the intended recipient of the call, and poor Jeff had to chase me all the way into the restaurant to say hi. Oops! Well, win some, lose some. I sure wish I was better with remembering names and faces (well, in this case faces seen from a distance - I remembered his name just fine) - it sure would avoid a lot of the opportunities I get to feel like a heel!

Anyway, Jeff was instrumental in arranging the airport visit for the retirees last year that Egg enjoyed so much, and also gave me a ride in his beautiful 7A. You might remember this pretty cool picture I got from his right seat:

After breakfast, we followed Rick out of the pattern and headed east in formation. The air was super calm, so I didn't have any problems with holding a nice, steady station off of his right wing. We were at 4,500' and around 100 knots, so I was able to hang onto his wing for a good 15 minutes or so. After turning back to the west, though, we descended down to 3,500' where it was a bit choppier, so we decided to forge ahead back to Bolton. The winds were still not horrible back home, and I think the tower was calling them as 10 knots in a right crosswind. As I mentioned before, the landing wasn't one of my best, but I didn't break anything.

Rick caught up a few minutes later and spent some more time answering Jack's questions while I scooted back home to get the mowing done and check up on the football scores. Co-pilot Egg helped out with the mowing, the Bucks won, and Michigan lost their first game of the season in a stunning upset, so what can I say? Great flying in the morning, and a great afternoon too!

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