Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heating up the oil

Papa is due for an oil transfusion, and long experience shows that the whole draining process goes far easier if the oil is nice, hot, and thin as water. Sure, that sounds like an excuse to go flying around on one of those evenings that are so incredibly pretty that even people that have no interest at all in flying look to the skies wistfully, feeling a tug in their gut that they can neither understand nor satisfy. But really, it needed to be done, and the task fell to me. Which, of course, I can live with. I'm civic-minded that way, you know.

By 1945 hours, the winds had died to a barely negligible 3 knots, and the sky was as cloudless as any I've ever seen. As I was pulling up to the hangar, I saw that my new airport neighbor was also enjoying the evening at the airport. He's the exact opposite of the former tenant, who had to be the unhappiest airplane owner that I've ever met. He had a beautiful Mooney 232, hardly ever flown. Asked if he was going to fly on any given day, the answer was invariably no, followed by a litany of complaints and general grousing. The new guy is building an RV-6, a clear hallmark of a discerning and dedicated aviator. Anyway, short story already long, he greeted me with a hearty "Hey Dave, going flying?"

"Yep, gotta heat up the oil and drain it."

"So, do you wanna take a pretty girl along?" he asked.

"Sure, do you have one handy?"

Turns out his daughter, who is post-solo but pre-checkride, was there as well, and having spent the lion's share of her hours in a Cessna 150 was clearly excited about a change of pace. And yes, she was pretty, a fact which I, of course, noted merely in order to be able to present an accurate record here. Being young and spry, she had no trouble getting into the plane and belted up. No help needed from me, alas.

Being as it was after 1930, the tower was closed so we were able to taxi straight out to runway 4. We took off and I climbed to 3,500' at a nice 1,200 feet per minute while maintaining 100 knots or so, an airspeed right around the top cruise speed of the trainers she's used to. Ah, suitably impressed. My shoulder straps were too tight to allow any kind of chest thumping, though.

At 3,500' I let her take over, and she immediately impressed me by not over controlling in the way most people do on their first attempt. She flew around for a bit, then I showed her stalls and other stuff she's been doing in her training. I didn't want to stay out too long since I still needed to get the cowls off and the oil drained, so we headed back towards the airport. By accident or design (and I'm not saying which), we were nicely positioned 8 miles out from a straight-in to runway 4. I had left the common traffic frequency on the radio the whole time, so I knew that to all appearances the pattern was empty. I called that we were 8 miles inbound for an overhead break, and started a slow descent to pattern altitude.

By the time we got to the airport, the pattern was still empty so we flew down the runway at pattern altitude and with 150 knots on the speedometer. A nice tight break to the left dropped that to just a few knots over the 100 knot flap extension speed. Down they went, and we made a nice base leg right over my house. The wind was dead calm and I landed right on the spot I aim for when using runway 4.

And get this: I greased it in. It was one of those landings where the wheels just start rolling, and you have to convince yourself that you're actually on the runway. You only get a few of those a year, and I have to tell you, it sure is nice to get one at the same time that you're flying with a pretty girl! Everyone had a good time, but her dad is in for a lot of nagging to get his -6 done!


  1. Hmm. There were no pretty girls lining up to go up in the Arrow. I need a -4. Glad you got to go up today!

  2. Although the tower was closed this time, I have found the source of the chatty controlers and their turn-by-turn directions. I received the following in Flying Magazine's eNewsletter:

    FAA Institutes More Stringent Taxi Instructions
    If it seems that ground controllers are sounding more chatty lately, it's because the FAA has mandated more detailed taxi instructions for aircraft and ground vehicles as of May 19. For example, controllers can no longer clear an aircraft to a specific destination (such as a runway) without defining the route to be used to get there. Recommended by the FAA Runway Safety Call to Action committee, the new communications standards are the result of information gleaned from safety risk managers from FAA and include input from pilot associations, according to the agency.

    I love reading your blog. Keep it coming. I am only as far into my -7 as watching the info DVD and reading about others.

  3. Rick -

    I know. You'd think I would know by now to never leave the camera at home. But even after repeated disappointments like this, I still do it now and then.

    One of these days, I want to get a small digital like one of the Nikon Coolpix and carry it in a cell phone holster. There are so many times when I wish that I had a camera on me... but I can't carry the big Olympus with me.