Sunday, September 02, 2007

Noble County lakeside relaxation

I've long held that Noble Co. airport (I10) is the closest you can get to an Idaho back-country airport in Ohio (which is, admittedly, not very close at all), without moving 2000 miles west and buying a Super Cub. Hard on the banks of Wolf Run Lake, and very sparsely used, it's one of my secret places that I go to when I want to really spend some alone time. I've also mentioned that there's a bit of a Deliverance vibe to it that often makes me wish I was more comfortable with traveling with a handgun, but I suspect that's more about my paranoid agoraphobia than anything else. After all, there is a state park just on the other side of the lake, so it really isn't as remote as it seems on the airport side.

Interestingly, Noble Co. was also the airport chosen by my flying buddy Rick S. as a good place to land and re-latch the door latch on the borrowed Cherokee that he flew to Parkersburg, WV a few weeks ago. It wasn't chosen in that case for any inherent recreational aspects, of course; it was more of an any-port-in-a-storm thing. That said, Rick was there long enough to see that it was definitely a place that he wanted to return to some day, and mentioned that to me. Well, today dawned clear and beautiful again, which made me really want to fly somewhere. Naturally, weather like this makes everyone want to fly somewhere, so a lot of the more popular destinations get scarily crowded. For example, you couldn't pay me to fly to Put-in-bay on a weekend day like this. Knowing that Noble Co. is very rarely, if ever, used by pilots, I suggested to Rick that we fly out there and just relax on the side of the lake for a few hours. If nothing else, Rick is one of the more agreeable people you'll ever meet when it comes to enduring my inconsistent landings, and today was no different.

The winds at Bolton were essentially non-existent, and a straightforward and departure found us quickly at a 5,500' cruise altitude for the 30 minute ride to Noble. Even out there, very little wind was having any effect whatsoever on the landing, but there was just enough to favor an approach to runway 23. This is an interesting approach, but not in the same way that the approach to 5 is interesting. Landing on 5 takes you over the 'V' of the lake that embraces the airport, so that's an aesthetic kind of interesting. Landing on 23, however, is the Chinese proverb "may you live in interesting times" kind of interesting. The daunting, tree-lined hill that acts as the end point of a takeoff from 5 is the cause of the displaced landing threshold of 23. On the plus side, the tree-shy amongst us (and that certainly is the group I'm in) can carry a little extra altitude over the hard and unyielding ground on final, safe in the assurance that we will be able to get the airplane stopped on the runway due to the uphill grade. Of course, that same grade is likely to bollocks up your flare and result in a firm arrival, but the speed scuffed off as the tires leave a few hours of their lives on the runway surface works towards the overall good of the pilot and passenger. Who's going to complain about that?

We pulled off into the grass parking area on the camping side of the runway, and I immediately found us a nice parking spot with the left main wheel stuck down in a tire rut. Luckily, I wasn't alone today so I had enough help from Rick to pull it back out of there. 3/4 throttle wasn't enough to get the job done, and I was reluctant to give it any more in fear of pulling the nose right down into the dirt. The thing about a relatively remote airport is that you have to be even more conscious of things that can disable the airplane because there isn't a whole lot of available help on hand.

Parking finally and safely out of the way, we grabbed the folding chairs and walked down to the lake. It was immediately apparent that the lake was a lot busier than is normal, with a half dozen 10 hp fishing boats puttering up and down, and a crying baby audible from the campground across the water. No worries, though - it was still a nice, pleasant place to sit and talk. No beer, of course, but I did remember to bring a couple of bottle of orange Gatorade. Granted, orange Gatorade is eerily similar to Tang made with sea water, but it does handle the thirst resulting from the flight and the trek down to the lake quite adequately. So, we sat by the lake and solved the World's problems. Net result: politicians will be the ruin of us all, taxes are too high, there are nicer places to retire to than where we live now, and RVs are very desirable to have. Substitute 'chariot,' 'horse', or 'frigate' for 'RV' and you probably have the same guy-to-guy discussions that have been going on for centuries, with pretty much the same results.

By the time we decided to leave, the Sun had had a chance to make the inside of the airplane into a very hot and inhospitable place. I swear, I needed asbestos gloves just to touch the throttle knob. A layer of clouds had also shown up, so we were presented with the choice of bouncing around in an aerial sauna, or slogging our way to the top of the clouds where the temperatures would be lower. I opted for the top, and found it 8,500' later. It was cool and smooth up there, but it took awhile to get there. I've been wanting to see how long it takes to get that high while near gross weight, though, so it was as good of a time as any to find out. As it turned out, it took about 15 minutes. Not too bad, really.

Back at Bolton, the winds had still not arrived at all, so I had the luxury of a no-wind landing. It was kind of hot, though, but since the flying was done for the day, I was able to join Rick in cooling off with a frosty can of beer as he wiped a few bugs off of the wings. Man, these management positions are great!

Sure, we could have done pretty much the same thing sitting at home on the front porch, but there's something about flying out to a lake and sitting in the shade of the pine trees that makes it oh so much better. Maybe it's the distance from the potentially interruptive honey-dos, but it's more likely to be because of just how cool RVs are, and the beautiful lake environment certainly doesn't hurt...

Here's some video that Rick took:

It starts with us on left base to runway 23 at Noble Co., then resumes with our departure on 23. There's some of the climb to get over the clouds, then the long descent into Bolton. The huge airport just before we get back to Bolton is Rickenbacker AFB. You'll see that on my landing back at Bolton, I missed my normal turnoff by that much - I was trying hard to get a greaser of a landing and carried just a bit too much power and speed into the flare.

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