Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vinton Co. 2007

My rider for today unfortunately had to cancel, but I have to say that he did it exactly right. He called right on the briefed 0830 final check to let me know that he wasn't going to be able to make it. Having endured the frustration of the silent cancellation before, I sure appreciated that he called to let me know.

As I pulled up at the hangar, Guy was busy airing up his tires for a flight. He only had time for a few trips around the pattern due to a family commitment, but I figured that as long as he was taking off anyway and heading basically the same direction I was going to be going, we might as well join up for a couple of minutes of formation practice for me, and a nice air-to-air picture for him. We briefed a straight out departure from 22 to an altitude of 3500', and a frequency join up on 122.85. It was nice and smooth, and he courteously held his speed down to a sedate 100 mph (what? That's all he can do anyway?? Oh well, 'tis the thought that counts) while I joined on his right wing:

As I approached the Vinton Co. area I heard that they were landing on runway 9. Normally when approaching from the northwest, I would have set myself up for a direct entry into the left base for runway 9, but this is a pretty well attended fly-in and I suspected that flying a fuller pattern would be much safer:

To do that, I broke away from the direct-to line about 8 miles out and positioned myself 5 miles due north of the field. That would allow me to enter left downwind midfield, which is where any other planes already in the pattern would expect me:

I was just getting ready to key the mike and declare myself as "5 miles north, inbound left traffic to runway niner," when someone else keyed-up and announced exactly the same thing. I love it when a plan falls apart - now I cleverly put myself in the situation of being in essentially the same piece of air as someone else that I couldn't see. He told me that he was down at 2500' descending to pattern altitude, and I was still up at 3500', so there was no immediate danger. I still had 155 knots going, so it didn't take long at all until I had to start down or shoot right over the airport.

I still didn't see the other plane, but I figured that it was unlikely that he was going as fast as me (RV ego, hard at work!), so after going a couple miles further from the point where we had been equidistant from the airport, I figured I'd be well in front of him. Having done that didn't leave me with a whole lot of time or distance to "go down and slow down," to patter altitude, though, and I was still a little nervous about descending my low-wing airplane into a presumably occupied space that I couldn't see because of my very opaque wing.

This is the perfect occasion to use a slip, whereby I put in a bunch of left aileron and a whole boot full of right rudder. This accomplishes two things: I can come down very quickly without gaining unwanted airspeed, and it drops the left wing out of my view so I can see below me so as to avoid descending right onto him. Sure enough, as I got to the entry point of the pattern I saw him behind and below me. A quick 270 degree turn positioned me perfectly behind him on the left downwind.

It was early enough that there weren't a whole lot of witnesses for my landing, which is too bad this time (normally it's a good thing) since it was actually a pretty good landing for the conditions, the conditions being a downhill runway that caused me to flare and flare and flare, wondering if I was ever going to find the damned runway. The eventual touchdown was pretty good, though.

Once parked, I spent a couple of hours walking around taking pictures of planes that were already there, and some of the arrivals as they occurred:

Because I had afternoon plans, I didn't want to get caught by the runway closure for the air show again like I did last year, so I saddled up to head home at about 11:30. It was getting pretty crowded by that time, as you can see from the departure shot:

Even with the 10 or 15 minute wait to get out between the nearly constant stream of arrivals it turned out that 11:30 was a lot sooner than I really needed to go, of course, but I was anxious to get back so I'd be ready for the early afternoon ride I had promised to a first-timer. Good landing back at Bolton, making me two for two for the day so far, and now I'm just waiting for the next rider to call.


  1. Keeping in mind, I'm a low-time pilot, I ask the following as a matter of me needing more instruction.

    Why did you descend when you knew there was another plane reporting the same position, without visual contact?

    Did he have contact with you?

    Since you knew you were higher than he was, what about a 360 in that situation?

  2. Bob -

    In retrospect, a 360 would have worked quite well, or even a 270 to the left entered a bit sooner. It helped a lot, though, that I had the wing out of the way and could see the space I was descending into and I knew that he was behind me.

    The bigger failing on my part has more to do with getting so close to the airport with so much excess altitude and airspeed to get rid of. Having too much of one or the other isn't much of a problem, but shedding both at the same time is a little trickier. A wide 360/270 would have given me more time to deal with the whole situation.

    Slips work too, but with an incremental increase in risk. I agree that the better method would have been to buy more time, and the experience will be filed away for future reference.

    You never stop learning about flying...

  3. VERY NICE PICS!!! What camera are you using? I have a Fuji 7.3 and I love that thing. I thought it took great pics...that is until I saw yours on here. :)

    PS: If I have to crawl on my hands & knees down Norton Rd. to get to the FBO to fly with you, I will. See you soon!

  4. Dave,
    As always a great write up to go along with your sharp photographs.
    Too bad you didn't stick around for the airshow. It was a great show and Brett Hunter did a knife edge on takeoff. You don't see that everyday. I think I was the second last arrival at 12:50. The show started at 1300 and ended around 1630. Emerson Stewart always impresses me with the dead stick routine in the Decathalon.
    Plus the Vinton County locals sure know how to barbeque great chicken too boot.
    Bernie Ockuly