Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breaking in the flying shoes

It's been a couple of weeks since I've flown, but this extremely odd October weather presented an opportunity to get back in the air. I couldn't get the early start that I prefer, though. I thought it might be a good thing to get Co-pilot Egg involved in some sort of volunteer work now that she is a teenager, but everything I looked at required an adult companion due to her relatively low age. Well, if I'm going to be doing it to, there's only one place to go: we will be volunteering some time at the same humane society where we got Hogarth.

As usual, that kind of thing is easier said than done. While you'd think that dog walking or cat socialization would be things that could be assumed to be second nature to people that, you know, already have a dog and a cat, lawyers (and, to be fair, get-rich-quick litigants) have created a nice little cocoon of cradle-to-grave liability concern for any organization involving more than one person that requires everything to be covered in minute and legally-binding detail. Consider the litany of warnings that make up 90% of the paper that accompanies even the most benign products these days. Today we had to attend an hour long orientation session to prepare us for the hour and a half orientation session that will prepare us for our first exposure to the dangerous and unpredictable domesticated house cat.

After completing that and a couple of honey-do tack-ons ("While you're out, could you....") and grabbing half of a sandwich, it was finally time to start thinking about flying somewhere. I poked around the internet for awhile looking for ideas, and finally came up with Beaver Falls International (KBVI), home of the Air Heritage Museum. I think they have a grand total of seven airplanes, many of which are still being restored. When you think about it in comparison to something like the Air Force Museum an hour's drive away at Wright-Patterson, it doesn't seem like it's really worth an hour's flight, until you break it down to a comparison of the words "drive" and "flight." Then it all becomes obvious why I'd select the seven plane museum over the 400+ airplane museum.

A quick call to Co-pilot Rick (note the recent promotion to Co-pilot, earned today for a reason that we'll get to soon) to see if he was interested in riding along, and it was quickly determined that we'd meet at the airport at 1230 hours. That left ample time to make the rounds between the various web-based flight planning aids that I use, and to print off the briefing materials that I'd carry in the plane. Armed with six pages of data, it was off to the airport!

I had hoped for a non-stop flight to Beaver Falls International, and had also hoped that I wouldn't need to refuel there. I had forgotten that I burned a lot of gas the last time I flew, though, so preflight inspection of the current fuel state axed that plan. Loath to pay the premium price demanded at Bolton, but equally loath to fly in the wrong direction to MadCo where I usually tank up, I took a look at the en route map I had included in my ream of planning materials. Lo and behold, there was Richard Downing Airport (I40) right along the way. Well, I40 is known far and wide as the lowest cost place to buy fuel in the entire state of Ohio, so I decided to take advantage of the fortuitous routing right over it to buy gas at a miserly $4.00 per.

Me, and just about everyone else, as it turned out. Before learning about that, however, I had to get through my first landing using the new flying shoes. It wasn't bad, but we did catch a very unexpected (and I mean VERY unexpected as there was very little wind to contend with all day) gust in the flare that lifted the right wing in an extremely disconcerting manner at an equally extremely disconcerting point in the flare. Well recovered, though, and I give total credit to the shoes.

So, back to the crowd at the airport. Richard Downing Airport was hosting an event:

While we arrived too late to have any chili (and I'm not convinced it would have been a good idea anyway - chili and hot, bumpy flying don't always mix, and low-cost chili is only a bargain if you can keep it down until dinner), we were in plenty of time to wait for what seemed like every single airplane on the airport to be fueled before us. It took well over an hour for us to get fueled up and paid up, and by that time I was beginning to wonder if the museum would still be open. It's a $10 landing fee at Beaver Falls, and it seemed a shame to spend that only to find the seven airplanes locked away for the day.

Luckily, there's nothing preventing ad hoc adjustment to the planned destination, so another quick perusal of the charts was undertaken and a decision arrived at. Ah, a mere 22 miles away was Harry Clever Field (KPHD), just outside of New Philadelphia. I've been there a number of times, and know it to have a very good restaurant right on the field. What with the wonderful Native American Summer (nee Indian Summer, pre-rampant political correctness) weather we're having, it didn't seem to matter very much where we went, as long as we were flying:

With the new destination plugged into the Garmin, it was a short hop up to PHD. Harry Clever is another one of those airports that can at times be horribly difficult to find, even with the Garmin saying "it's right there, you blind fool."

Sure enough, the Garmin was convinced that we were only 1.2 miles away, but all I could see were highways and Wal-Marts. Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel and clear the area to the east to make another try from a different direction, Passenger Rick caught sight of the airport and pointed me in the right direction. Rick has been in line for promotion to Co-pilot Rick for quite awhile now, particularly as he proved his mettle in the aborted approach to Mansfield during the MERFI debacle. Having pulled the proverbial bacon out of the fire today, I decided that it was time to make it official.

The restaurant at New Philly is known for their $.99 hamburgers (but few know that adding a slice of cheese, as about 99% of people do, raises the price to $3.99) and that was Rick's choice. Just kidding about the cheese, by the way. I had a big basket of some of the best onion rings I've ever had and a smoked sausage sandwich. I'm going to need an FAA ruling on the beer batter onion rings, though. Is there an "8 hours from rings to wings" rule to mirror the "8 hours from bottle to throttle" rule?

On the way out of the restaurant, I was momentarily confused as to how to navigate my way through the chain link fence back to the airplane. Unfortunately, a couple of ladies were sitting out there and witnessed my brief befuddlement. Trying to retain some measure of esteem, I openly wondered "how to get out of here?" so they wouldn't think that I always walk around looking like I just walked out of the Cuckoo's nest.

"Depends on whether you drove in or flew in," was the response.

"Well, I drove in, but I'm thinking of flying out. Looks easy enough." With that, I went through the airplane gate.

On the way back to Bolton, I dialed Appleton VOR into the GPS and decided I'd call Columbus Approach on the way back. I couldn't get high enough to just go over their airspace because of the clouds, but I thought maybe they'd cut a few miles off of the trip around their space if I contacted them and let them vector me around. Sometimes they keep me completely outside their Class C, but sometimes they let me cut down through the alley between CMH and OSU, which not only saves a few miles, but presents the opportunity to take some pictures of local landmarks. It also let's them tell me if there is any traffic to worry about. I'll let the next series of photos show you how that turned out:

Approach called United 496 as traffic, my 2:00, 500' above. He wasn't hard to find! The Co-pilot grabbed a picture as he zoomed by.

The Ohio State University, home of The Buckeyes.

Downtown Columbus.

Having Approach vector me through the Class C rather than going around probably shaved 5 - 10 miles off the trip. That's not that big of a deal, but it's also good practice.

Bolton Tower gave me a straight in approach to 22, which while expedient, seems to always cause me problems. It's not a normal approach for me, and I always struggle to get slowed down in time. I thought I had done pretty good today, but I still nearly went past my planned turn-off on Alpha 3. I'm going to have to re-think the aim point that I've been using - I seem to be landing longer than I usually do lately. Today might have been more a factor of the momentum of the heavier airplane, but still... I shouldn't be needing quite that much braking to make my turn off.

I wonder if it's the shoes...


  1. Hey Dave, Does this me I have to address you as "Sir"??

    Co-Pilot Rick

  2. Of course not! "Captain" will do.