Monday, January 28, 2008

Scratching the Itch

We had a nice, temperate 50 degree day today, albeit with winds at 11 gusting 19. A quick consultation of Al Gore's "101 Things To Do With Your Global Warming" (#1 on Amazon this week) indicated that the best use of this opportunity would be to go fly, both to get some heat into the engine and recharge Papa's and my internal batteries. The 11G19 would have given me pause had it not been coming from 190 degrees, only 30 degrees off of the runway heading.

Papa's battery was a little reluctant to crank the engine, but with 4 strokes of primer and an ever enthusiastic motor, he started right up after three blades. I checked in with the tower and received my taxi directions to the expected runway 22. It was a new voice today, so I was only mildly surprised to receive an unusual query from the tower while taxiing out: "Which direction are you headed?" They usually don't care about that until I check in for takeoff, but since it was a new guy, I figured it was just his style. I told him that I'd be heading out West, and he replied that "they were painting some precip about 20 miles out that way." That wasn't much of a surprise to me considering how cloudy the day was, but it was a bit of a surprise that they had equipment capable of showing it. That's news to me! It wasn't a factor, though, since I'd only be flying for 15 minutes anyway, but I appreciated him sharing it with me.

I could feel the wind a bit on takeoff, but even more prominent was the dragging of the brakes as I failed to get my feet down low enough on the pedals. I chalk that up to being a bit rusty, and I think I can blame the same rustiness on my forgetting to turn on the fuel boost pump before taking the runway. These are small things, but a perfect indicator of why I hate going a couple of weeks without flying. That said, there's more of an excuse for misplacing my big feet than there is for missing a checklist item - that's what checklists are for after all. Duly noted, and herewith tallied up as a lesson learned/reminded.

We've got a nice big high pressure system sitting on us, and the combination of that and the low-ish temps gave me a gratifying 1500fpm climb at 115 mph. I didn't go very high, though, figuring 3000' MSL to be plenty for just a few minutes of stooging around getting Papa's and my juices flowing. I figured I might be in for a bit of a workout on the landing, so I just flew around long enough to regain my feel for flying. You can see that even with the temps today, we've been pretty chilly for the last few weeks:

It was pretty gray and dark, so I ended up somewhat out of focus on that picture. I suspect the automatic setting on the camera gave me a pretty low shutter speed and that's more motion blur than it is bad focus.

As I headed back to land, I tried to think ahead to what it was going to be like. I figured I could expect a pretty good clip on downwind, followed by a long, slow drag down final. Once on downwind, I didn't even need to look at the GPS to see that I was, in fact, moving right along. I made the turn to right base just past the numbers, figuring to keep some altitude in the bank and fully expecting a relatively steep approach as the wind held my ground speed down. Sure enough, even though every sinew was telling me that I was way high and would end up needing to slip it in, we came down more like an elevator than an escalator and hit my normal landing target without having to shed off any excess altitude. The wind being mostly on the nose like it was meant that I would be able to hold alignment with the runway with just a little rudder, but that I could expect a little uncertainty in the flare. I carried a little poser into a pretty smooth wheel landing, so I must have caught a lull in the gusts.

I as I was pushing Papa back into the hangar, I did a little math in my head. I put .23 hours on the tach, which is just shy of 15 minutes in human time. That's about two gallons of gas, which is right around $10. BARGAIN!!

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