Sunday, October 28, 2007

Put-in-Bay after the tourists are gone

Late Fall, and the recipe is usually for dreary, cloudy, windy days or bright, sunny, windy days. Today we got two out of three: bright and sunny, but not much wind. Brave Sir Hogarth was clamoring to get out there and fertilize his little patch of lawn fairly early this morning, but the reward for being the guy to put him out was this promise of a great flying day:

Click on the picture for a larger view, and you can still see the moon high in the western sky:

The forecast had predicted this very thing, and against all odds it actually turned out to be right. Just in case the unthinkable occurred and we really did get the weather that was promised, I had checked in with Co-pilot Rick to see if he was interested in sharing a hop to Urbana for watery coffee and a filling breakfast. After setting that up, I ran the numbers for a follow-on trip up to Put-in-Bay, just in case he was amenable to a trip up there.

We had agreed on an 0830 go time, and the ambient temps at 0800 were best described as brisk gusting frigid, so I bundled up in a long sleeve T-shirt, the very comfy Ohio Valley RVAtors hoody sweatshirt, and an Ohio State jacket that would not only keep me warm but celebrate the decisive victory over Joe Pa's Nittany Lions Saturday night. Gloves and a hat completed the ensemble.

I hadn't had the plane in the air since I flew it out to MadCo for gas nearly three weeks ago, so a pretty detailed pre-flight was in order. That completed, the equally garbed co-pilot and I struggled to fit our bulked up selves into the tight confines of Papa. Chilly, it was, and anxious we were to get the canopy down. I was a little concerned that I might not be able to get him started, but yet again that consideration was mooted by a three-blade start. I just love having primer tubes going to all four cylinders!

Engine cranked and running, radios and avionics juiced up and ready for my commands, and the canopy starting to fog up: it was time to get rolling!

Me: "Bolton Ground, Experimental four six six papa golf, T hangars, ready to taxi."

Tower, apparently poised at the mike just awaiting my call: "Experimental four six six papa golf, altimeter three-zero-five-two, winds calm, cleared to taxi to runway two two."

Me: Add a bit of throttle, start to roll.

Co-pilot Rick: "Aren't you going to close the hangar door?"

Me: "[expletive deleted]"

Me: "Bolton Ground, six papa golf, cancel that, we're going to need a couple of minutes."

Tower: "Roger, let me know when you're ready to go."

Me: Grumble, grumble, shut everything down, grumble, unbuckle, open canopy, grumble, go close hangar door. Wiggle back in. Wrench every muscle in my neck and back getting strapped in again. Get everything started again.

Me: "Bolton Ground, six papa golf, even more ready to taxi."

Sigh. Sometimes being out of practice exhibits itself in the most embarrassing ways!

The takeoff went well, though. The lack of wind makes it pretty easy, as do the fancy new flying shoes. There's always a potential fly in the ointment, though. When it's cold and calm like this, there's always a good chance for ground fog in the low lying areas. Sure enough, just off of Bolton we could see fog over the rivers and small valleys:

If you click on this one for the larger view, you can see a hot air balloon down there just over the trees:

The fog is scenic as all get-out, of course, but experience has taught me that it will nearly always be the case that there is fog at the destination, no matter where it is that I'm going. Sure enough, as we approached Grimes/Urbana I heard a Luscombe in the pattern. A Cessna called a few miles west, intending to follow the Luscombe in. The Luscombe pilot said something about having "to keep it in tight," and I was afraid that might be an allusion to reduced visibility at the airport. I had no idea:

Even at the 45 mph landing speed of a Luscombe, I can't believe he landed in that. Really, their coffee is horrible, and really not worth the risk. One of the traps I've read about in the flying mags is that you might be able to see down through a thin layer of fog, but you probably won't be able to see through it when you're in it and looking through it horizontally. You end up blind in the flare, and that's not a good situation in an RV, particularly on your first landing in three weeks. We gave Urbana a miss, and diverted to P-i-B.

It's normally only a 40 minute ride up there from Urbana, but we had a headwind on the way up that held us down to 137 knots. Still, 45 minutes is a bargain. It was severe clear up on the lake, so there would be no problem with the landing, at least with regards to visibility:

I opted to land on runway 3, which faces northeast, for a number of reasons. First, the approach to the opposite direction (runway 21) requires flying over a bunch of trees, and their proximity to the end of the runway means you lose access to about one-third of the overall runway length. Second, continuing north past the airport and coming back in a right downwind gives the co-pilot a great opportunity to take pictures of the town and the Perry monument. Third, the headwind from the north that had cost us 6 or 7 knots on the way up should be a headwind on landing, which would keep our ground speed slow while approaching the relatively short runway.

That plan almost worked. The only thing that didn't go according to plan was that for some reason that I still cannot fathom, we ended up with a tailwind on landing. We had a lot of gusty breeze and an inconvenient area of lift on short final that resulted in a little more speed in the flare that I would have hoped for, and the small tailwind exacerbated all of that. We got Papa stopped on the runway ok, but I wasn't keen on using any additional bursts of power to smooth out the bumps that are the normal side effect of a three week layoff. In other words, it was a pretty firm arrival, albeit safe.

This could be the textbook photo for displaced thresholds:

Landing photos by Co-pilot Rick, since I was too busy.

You can see the dotted-line pattern that we flew on this picture of the GPS that I took at the end of the rollout on the runway:

I paid the $10 landing fee (used to be $8, but even at $10 much cheaper than the ferry) and we walked the mile to town. There's a $1 bus that seems to always be going in the direction opposite to my needs, and there are taxis that will take you anywhere on the island for $2.50 per rider, but it was a nice day for a walk and I can use the exercise: breakfast at the Golden Corral yesterday (I do what I call the 'Meat Medley' when I breakfast at buffets: ham, sausage links, sausage patties, polish sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, chipped beef, and a slice of bacon quiche) needed to be worked off.

Just outside of town, they have a nifty little hardware store:

I'm a coffee addict, which means that if I miss my morning vig to the Columbian Coffee Gang Lord, Juan Valdez, he sends his goons to give me a massive headache. Mission One, then, was to find a restaurant that hadn't closed for the season yet. We found one, but there was to be no meat medley. The list of things that they were out of was longer than the list of things that they still had. Sausage gravy on top of hash browns was good enough for me, especially considering that their coffee was very hot and very good. The waitress was a real cutey too, not that I notice things like that.

After getting my blood caffeine levels back to normal, we took a walk along the dock area:

I knew this guy would fly away if I tried to get too close. He gave me plenty of warning as he got increasingly skittish, so I was able to at least get this:

These guys I don't understand at all. Usually you can't chase them away with a shotgun and a "Hillary for President" poster, but today they were very anti-social:

I like pictures of old gears. I can't explain why, though:

These two were alert and on duty, but I have to confess to feeling a distinct lack of intimidation, despite their best efforts:

This is a very good place for seafood, and I highly recommend the lobster bisque. When they're open, that is, which they weren't:

Walking back down the waterfront takes you to the Perry Peace Memorial, which commemorates a naval battle in the War of 1812, I believe:

The monument has a fence around it now, and I didn't know why. I was unaware of this until I looked it up on Wiki:

The Memorial had been closed for most of the summer of 2006 after a 500-pound piece of granite broke off of the southeast face of the observation deck, falling 315 feet and leaving a crater in the plaza in June. No one was injured. Following a structural assessment that deemed it safe for visitors, the memorial reopened on August 26, 2006, with a fence surrounding it. A comprehensive study is planned and the results will be used to determine what repairs are necessary and how much the work will cost.

I was wondering if I'd be able to get this picture to turn out well. It's hard to shoot into the sun:

The ride home was faster at 160 knots, which of course was indicative of winds from the north. I still can't figure out how I got a tailwind landing to the north. Geez. It was a bit bumpier than I had expected - it wasn't very windy and the sun didn't seem hot enough to be generating a lot of thermals. It was a quick ride - right around 48 minutes. The scenery was nice, and there were some big puffy clouds a thousand feet or so above us to give us a sense of speed:

I snapped a shot of downtown Columbus as we went by:

The landing back at Bolton wasn't horrible, but it wasn't very good either. The winds were out of the north at 6 knots, which agrees mathematically with the cruise speed I saw on the GPS. Still, how did I end up with a tailwind on runway 3 at Put-in-Bay??


  1. That first shot of the moon and red trees is really nice. Many of your shots seem too light. Does your camera have exposure compensation on it? I keep my Fuji F30 set at -2/3 stop. I kept my F10 on -1/3. It seems pretty common for pocket cameras to overexpose a bit.

  2. Rick -

    I don't think it's the camera, I think it's the monitor I have on my PC. They look too dark to me out of the camera on the PC, so I lighten them up a touch in Picasa. I see them on other people's monitors and they sometimes look too dark, sometimes too light. Even on the three monitors I have at home, they look different on each one. Not sure what to do about that, so I just set them so they look good to me on my PC.

  3. Good fun! Looks like a nice place in the fall with some colorful trees.

  4. Wish I wasn't so afraid of flying. As a photographer, I'd love to have access to these kinds of pictures - only problem is I'd have to actually look outside the plane...

  5. Monitor calibration keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. Go on Amazon and check out the Pantone Huey.

  6. Hey Rick thanks for this, I'm making my first trip via Cessna 172 up to PIB from Lancaster this weekend after receiving my fixed wing in January. I appreciate the insight and the very useful landing info about the airport