Saturday, August 16, 2008

The inexhaustable, incredible financial benefits of airplane ownership

This must be what it's like to live in southern California: the same great weather day after day after day... you could get sick of that after a few decades I'm sure, but I sure am enjoying the few weeks of consistently fantastic flying weather we're having here in Ohio. Today was another perfect day to fly, and a good thing that it was, too! I had a chat with Co-pilot Rick last night during which he expressed his concern that he was to be demoted from Co-pilot to some lesser status because the Co-owner had found out that it isn't pure torture to fly with me after all. "Not to worry," I reassured him, "the Co-owner doesn't clean the bugs off of the wings, help push the airplane around, close the hangar doors, or any of the myriad other helpful little things that the Co-pilot does. Your job is secure."

Today seemed a great day to make a trip to one of my favorite secret places: the hiking trail at Rocky Fork State Park, down by Highland Co. airport. I also ran out of canopy cleaner while cleaning up the mess from the bug-strewn flight to and from French Lick, so after our hike we'd lunch on free brats at Clermont Co. airport, home of Sporty's Pilot Shop.

It's only a 13 minute flight between the two, so it was practically in the neighborhood. Sporty's does a great job on the brats, too. They have two or three different types, they provide ketchup, mustard, relish, and my favorite, a jar of hot horseradish. The brats are cooked on a charcoal grill, and have that perfect balance between charcoal charring and plump juiciness. Yummy! And free!! I've said it before, and I'll be saying it long after people are tired of hearing it: I don't know how you can afford to not have an airplane! Free brats, and no shipping charges on the canopy cleaner.

But, we had to get there first. It looked like we might have to pass on the hike at Highland Co. when we were monitoring their radio frequency on the way there. I have never heard so many planes going into and out of that airport. It seemed almost as if we were flying into a fly-in, and I really don't like going to fly-ins anymore. The crowded landing pattern and the tendency for fly-ins to attract airplanes that don't have radios have soured me on the whole idea. I hadn't seen anything in the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) when I was doing my pre-flight research, but they aren't always NOTAMed. We decided to overfly the airport nice and high, above all of the fray to see what was going on.

It turned out that nothing special was going on, and I couldn't see more than a few planes down on the ramp. We went out a couple of miles and dropped the excess altitude on the turn back towards the airport. I made a fairly decent landing considering that I'm not a terribly big fan of their runway. It has a pronounced slope to it, and both uphill and downhill landings can be tricky. Today's wind had us landing into the uphill slope. That's nice on landing, in a way, in that you can get stopped pretty quickly once you're down. Of course, the opposite is true on takeoff: it takes a lot longer to get up to speed. That situation was even worse today as I availed myself of the comparatively low gas price and filled up. With full tanks, two pilots, and an uphill runway, it felt like we were rolling through a deep puddle of molasses on take off.

Once we got into the air, the short trip over to Clermont Co. was uneventful. The free brats at Sporty's can sometimes draw a pretty big crowd, but we lucked out in our timing at arrived to an empty pattern. We were slowed down on the runway soon enough to make the first turn off where we were met by a cadre of Sporty's employees to guide us into a parking spot. The service there is phenomenal and they really make you feel welcome. A couple of brats and a transaction in the pilot shop later and we were ready for the trip home.

The plane wasn't a whole lot lighter than it had been when it dragged its reluctant tail out of Highland Co., but at least it was a level runway. It became quickly apparent as we were climbing out, though, that the ride home was going to be bumpier than our smooth ride that we had earlier in the morning. The sun was heating things up, and the air was riled up in response. Hmmm, hot and bumpy: that can mean only one thing. Co-pilot Rick would fly that leg. You don't get that kind of help from a co-owner, mind you, so I think his job is secure.

Now that you've had to read through all of that, here is a video of the whole thing:

Next time you'll know to save yourself some time and just look ahead for the movie, I imagine.

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