Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Four-fer: Flying, Formation, Friends, and Fotography

October seems to be the pinnacle month of the calendar year for good flying weather. It is by no means a given that every day will be amenable to amateur aviation, of course. October can also bring forth the wet, gloomy weather that keeps aviators like me sitting at home watching TV just as well as the others (I'm looking at you, March), but when the weather is good in October, it’s really good. The temperatures are down in the I-could-live-with-this-every-day range, the air is almost as clear as it will be in the frigid days of February, and the ride is often as smooth as a good Weizen Brau. With the promise of an entire weekend of fine, late year weather, my thoughts, as always, turned to the topic of…

Mowing. Well, mowing and flying, but mowing first. I was without my helper this weekend and was therefore on the hook for getting the entire job done myself. I’ve been spoiled of late with the assistance of Co-pilot Egg, but she had a grueling weekend of her own to get through. A full day of school on Friday, followed by an away football game Friday night, and an immediate departure from the football game on a long bus trip to Ypsilanti, MI for a band competition. She wasn’t scheduled to get back home until well after midnight Saturday night. In actuality, she got home at 3:30 AM. The band’s efforts were well worth it, though, since they brought home a second place from a very competitive event. And it would have been a first place, contends Egg, except for the fact that the winning band had such colorful plumes. I guess that could have been the deciding factor....

Knowing that I would want to get some flying in on Saturday morning early enough to get back before the O$U game against Purdue kicked off, I did the mowing after work on Friday. That out of the way, the full weekend was open. In giving up my Friday evening of unwinding from the work grind, I was betting on the forecast being accurate, and it turned out that it was. Saturday morning’s Weather-out-the-Window™ looked perfect, and an electronic follow-up indicated the same.

Given the half-day requirement, I thought it might be a good idea to try to photographically capture some of the recently emerging Fall colors. Winter is the season for Black & White, Summer is more of a watercolor pastel, but Spring and Fall are perfect Kodachrome (or digital equivalent) seasons. The light is good and the haze is light, as it were. And don’t discount the positive effect smooth skies have on focus; it’s significant.

Of course, you can’t just fly around taking pictures in the era of $5 plus avgas. These days, every flight should have at least two goals simply in the interest of fiscal efficiency. As it turns out, the Central Ohio landscape offers few opportunities to capture anything but flat, brown fields. One has to head towards one of the more topographically interesting corners of the state to find rolling hills covered in multi-hued trees. Or, one can head due south, down to Portsmouth (KPMH) where one will also find a restaurant. Photos and food? Good enough. But Portsmouth also offers the opportunity to meet with RV-9A builder/flyer Ted. And meeting with Ted in turn offers up the chance for a few minutes of loose formation flying. Food, Photos, Formation Flying, and… Friends. It’s a four-fer!

Co-pilot Rick was riding along to assist in all four. Arrangements were made for an 0830 show at the gate, and after pre-flight was taken care of, Ted and I made our rendezvous arrangements for our in-flight join-up. Meet over Pike Co. airport at 3,000’. Whoever got there first would orbit to the left. Comms on 122.85. Piece of cake. Rick and I made an on-time departure (which is so very easy to do when you don’t actually set an official departure time) and made our way down south at a fuel-sipping 2,100 rpm. Ted checked in on point-eight-five to report his arrival at the Pike Co. hold while we were still ten minutes out, so we bumped the black knob in a bit to add twenty more knots to our pace.

The sharp-eyed Co-pilot caught sight of the orbiting -9A well before I did. Ted was heading West, but entered a left turn just as we picked him up visually. Perfect! I was able to cut inside his turn and make a nice join on his left wing. We followed Ted’s lead for a few minutes, then Ted fell back and swapped positions to put us in the lead.

I took a heading back to Portsmouth for breakfast. The winds were still dead calm, so I had my choice of runway. I thought a nice overhead break into a left downwind for runway 18 would be nice, and announced such on the Unicom. Thus publicly making a bit of a fool of myself; runway 18 requires a right hand pattern at KPMH. Which… I knew. But forgot. D’oh! Easily rectified, though. It simply required that Ted move from my right wing to my left wing. Still, one likes to be perfect in one’s flying and even with knowing that goal to be unobtainable, one cringes when he makes mistakes.

All in all, it was a superb day for flying, photographing, and breakfasting feeding. The breakfast conversation was enjoyable, although with the Co-pilot and Ted (and you, Dear Reader, due to my unfortunate recent lapses here in the Chronicles) both knowing my weakness for political discussion, it was mostly about our other favorite topic: flying. The flight back was Rick's leg, so I concentrated on taking pictures. The colors were magnificent, as I’m sure you will agree (click each picture for larger):

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