I've taken to calling it "The Mansfield Curse." For a few years now, it seems that every attempt to land at Mansfield-Lahm (KMFD) for breakfast has been stymied by weather, the restaurant being closed, or some other untoward event. This weekend looked as if it would be no different. The late week forecast predicted Sunday to be the day to fly, so I planned accordingly. Lo and behold, the forecast I looked at on Saturday night had a completed contrary opinion: low clouds scattered, slightly less low clouds overcast. Figuring that I'd have to eat anyway, I called Co-pilot Rick to see if he'd be interested in a ground transportation-based trip for morning victuals.
Forecasts are worth exactly what you pay for them, as it turns out. The morning dawned clear and blue. The updated forecast confirmed it: it was to be a good flying day. Having already arranged for a breakfast rendezvous, it was a simple matter to re-format the day to include a fly-out meal. Mansfield was back on the menu, so to speak.
We met at 0915 and I handed Rick his brief sheets. I had decided to give him the first leg, rather than the normal return leg. Papa was ready to go in just a few moments and I had Rick call the tower for taxi clearance. I usually do the taxiing, but I got to thinking that there's no real reason not to let him give it a try. It takes awhile to get used to the difference between taxiing a nosewheel plane and a tailwheel plane, but since we would be making the long trek out to runway 4, he had plenty of time to get the hang of it. There were no other planes flying yet, so I made a quick takeoff and handed the reins back to Rick for the rest of the flight.
Mansfield is a big airport, and we had it in sight 22 miles out. The ATIS reported that they were landing on runway 5, which set us up for a straight in approach. We were cruising at 5,500', so I had Rick start a descent down to 3,500 while we were still fairly far out. It was good that I did since the tower cleared us to land at a stunning 12 miles out from the airport! Long straight in approaches are normally tricky for me, but this one was even trickier because of the immense size of the runway. I ended up slowed to 100 mph while we were still 6 or 7 miles out, flying into a 10 knot head wind. It felt like we were going to be out there all flipping day, so I boosted us back up to a more efficacious 140 mph.
It was still no big deal to get slowed back down to 100 mph and gets the flaps hung out, and I nailed the landing on the big, huge number 5. We were able to easily make the first turn off, which of course was nearly a mile from the restaurant. Normally I would have simply landed further down the runway, but I wanted to pass by the C-130s parked on the ramp in order to snap a couple of pictures.
The ramp in front of the restaurant was deserted, so I was immediately concerned that we had yet again arrived only to find a closed restaurant. Such was not the case, though, and we were seated and perusing menus just minutes after landing. Story of my life, though: I ordered the #2: Center-cut ham, two eggs, and toast. Naturally they were out of that. It's amazing how often that happens to me. I went with my second choice, which was two pancakes and sausage. The menu selections and the food itself was just average, but having finally slain the Mansfield Curse made it special. And, in addition to the normal "outside looking in" picture, I was finally able to get an "inside looking out" picture.
After an uneventful return to Bolton, I made an appearance at home just long enough to change into "rolling around on the hangar floor" clothes and headed back to the airport to begin the process of the annual condition inspection. This entails removing the engine cowls, the inspection panels that allow access to some of the moving parts down inside the airplane, and the prop spinner. Everything went fine, at least for the first three hours.
Removing the prop spinner is the job that I usually save for last because it's pretty easy, but this time it turned out to be atypically irksome. At the point when I was two screws from being done, I ran into a rounded screw that I just could not get to budge. Thus began a comedy of tortuous events that included a dysfunctional air drill and other ignominious technical failures, but I eventually got the bad screw removed.
I had my scanner turned on to listen to the tower as he was working the four or five touch & go renters, and the occasional arrival or departure. There was one particular touch & go that was in the pattern for what must have been an hour and a half. Finally, long after all of the others had landed or returned to their home base, he was on his last landing. The radio traffic went something like this:
Tower: "Cessna 123, you outlasted them all!"
Cessna 123: "Yeah. Hey, good work on your part today."
Tower: "You know, we keep some forms down in the terminal at the base of the tower to gather feedback. You could fill one of those out for me. We could use the help; we had a guy fill one out last week that just raked us over the coals. He didn't know what he was doing and had a lot of problems following directions."
Cessna 123: "Yeah, I filled that one out. You were much better today."
Tower: " [dead, uncomfortable silence] "
Cessna 123: "I'll fill a nice one out today."