Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Colors

The forecast for this morning called for classic brisk fall weather, cool but clear. With that in mind, Co-pilot Rick and I planned for a trip down to Portsmouth for breakfast, hoping to grab some pictures of the stunning Fall colors we're seeing this year. Unfortunately, the clear morning was running late - we had a light fog at Bolton and Portsmouth was reporting 1/4 mile visibility and 100 foot ceilings. Uh, no. That won't do at all! We postponed our departure and I took the newly found time down to the Schmetterling Aircraft production floor to spend some quality time on the RV-12 tail.

Things at Bolton had cleared up by the newly established departure time of 10:30, but Portsmouth was still reporting horrible conditions. It's an odd airport, though. They will sometimes be reporting conditions that would ground even the bravest horsefly on one end of the runway while the other end is sparkling clear. Worth a look, we figured. With the fallback plan of simply turning around and heading back, we launched ourselves to the south.

It was indeed a pretty Fall day:

At first, anyway. As we approached Portsmouth, it became apparent that we would be eating elsewhere. Still, it was pretty:

Somewhere down under that blanket of clouds lies Portsmouth.

We turned tail and fled back to the clear air of Columbus.

It was a nice day to fly, though, even without accomplishing the breakfast mission. And that left plenty of time in the day to get back to work on the RV-12. I got quite a bit done on that:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ya still gotta airplane, doncha??

Yes, I know. It must seem as if I've completely forsaken flying my RV-6 and writing to the Papa Golf Chronicles in favor of building an RV-12 (which you have to admit is twice as good as an RV-6, if only numerically) but between the unfavorable weather and a lingering lower back pain, I simply haven't been able to fly. Until today, that is.

While the Weather-out-the-Window™ screamed "Fall Football," it was still adequate for a local trip. More than adequate, really, with crystal clear air and very few clouds hanging around up at the 6,000' level. A little windy, though, with winds out of the north at a brisk 10 gusting 15. Well within my limits, of course, but maybe a little challenging after not having flown for awhile. Just the kind of thing that one could accurately call "good practice," or maybe even "character building."

Bolton was using runway 4 which equated to a roughly 45 degree crosswind from the left. As I lined up for takeoff I reminded myself that a left crosswind accentuates the normal left-turning tendency on takeoff caused by the torque of the engine, so I'd need to be ready with copious amounts of corrective right rudder. I reminded my brain just fine, but as is sometimes the case, my feet didn't get the memo. The first 50 yards or so of alternately swerving towards the grass to the left and then to the right was enough to wake them up, the lazy good-for-nothing slackers.

I could tell almost right away that while the skies looked benign from the ground, in actuality they were going to be pretty bumpy. Why that came as even a slight surprise to me in light of 10 gusting 15 winds is beyond me - I should have expected it. I tried to take a few pictures of my neighborhood as I flew past, but the bumps kept me from getting any in sharp focus. This one was the best I could get:

With no real plan in mind, I headed towards the south east to see how the fall foliage was doing. I took a circle around Mister Sterling (which is what Co-pilot Egg and I call Mt. Sterling after seeing a road sign the misspelled it as Mr. Sterling) and grabbed a shot of the dam:

As I was cruising around (and by "cruising" I mean 2,000 rpm and 120 knots, which both saves gas and gets me acclimated to RV-12 speeds) I noticed that my articial horizon had devloped a bit of a bad attitude. It was, in fact, spinning faster than a White House Press Secretary:

Good thing I don't need it, eh?

I pointed Papa back to the north for the short trip back to Bolton with the idea that I'd approach the field from a position between Bolton and Rickenbacker International. That would set me up for either a right downwind or a direct entry into right base for runway 4, whichever suited the tower controller best at the moment. I called in while still eight miles southeast, hoping for the direct to right base approach. That's right around the time all hell broke loose. A Cessna followed right on my transmission with a call that placed him right in my current area, two more Cessnas were struggling for position on right downwind, and a helicopter wanted to transition the Class D airspace. I was given clearance to enter a right downwind with the stipulation that I should report 3 miles from the field and should also start looking for the Cessna that was somewhere nearby. He was cleared to watch out for me.

As I usually do when confronted with the info that there's a Cessna near me and headed for the same place, I abandoned my RV-12 acclimation training and goosed Papa up to 2,600 rpm. Better to get there first than it is to get there together, I always say. It worked fine for that, but unfortunately caused a wee bit of bother when I reached the 3 mile point:

"Six Papa Golf, three mile right base runway four."

"Six Papa Golf, continue right base, report turning three mile final. Zero Six Bravo, make a 360 from your downwind and report re-entering downwind. [pause] Zero Six Bravo, make a 360 from your downwind and report re-entering downwind. [pause] Zero Six Bravo? [pause] ZERO SIX BRAVO??"

"Tower, Zero Six Bravo, we're on a right base."

Me: cringe! So am I!!

Tower: "Oh. Cessna Two Six Six, make a 360 from your downwind and report re-entering downwind."

By that time, I was ready for the turn onto final, and reported that to the tower.

"Six Papa Golf, cleared to land number two behind the Cessna on right base."

"Tower, Six Papa Golf, traffic not in sight."

"He's now on short final, just over the numbers."

Ah, there he was. Four airplanes stacked up behind him and me on final, and he was landing right.on.the.numbers. If ever there was a situation for intelligently landing a bit long so as to clear the runway more quickly, this was it. I still had a pocket full o' scoot going and was really working hard to get Papa slowed down to 100mph so I could drop the flaps to help get him slowed down even more. Now here's a bit of free advice for you: if you're going to insist on landing right on the numbers and giving yourself a three-quarter mile taxi to the first available taxi way on a day when four airplanes are stacked up behind you, don't slow to a crawl on the runway and taxi at walking speed. Really. Just don't do it.

I had planned on landing long as is my wont when arriving on runway four, but that clearly wasn't in the cards any longer. And getting slowed down in time to land shorter than I had planned required a bit of hard rein on Papa, but I got it done. Even with all that and the gusty winds besides, it was actually a pretty good landing.

At the end of the day I'd say some character got built, especially considering the high degree of hecticity on the landing.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Driving with Co-pilot Egg, Flying without Co-pilot Rick

I stated on Twitter Friday afternoon that the weekend forecast made it look as if the best flying day for the weekend was going to be.... Monday. And it was.

Sunday dawned with low-ish clouds and 12 knot winds. Flyable if I had somewhere to go, but I've found that Co-pilot Rick's extended vacation in Maui has caused a rather sizable hole to form in the flying schedule. Sure, I can fly without him, but I've grown accustomed to the additional ballast he provides to settle Papa down in choppy air. And without Rick, well, just who would fly the bumpy legs? Me?? No, I'd sooner leave Papa in the hangar and fulfill my fatherly duty to pass down my driving skills to Co-pilot Egg in order to ensure that she will follow in my hereditary footsteps. Which is to say, to make sure she's as obnoxious and aggressive on the road as her dear old dad. But, you gotta crawl before you can walk, and you gotta walk before you can run into other people, so we're still working on the basics.

I've mentioned before that it helps to have a destination in mind (and programmed into the GPS) before departing, so we decided on a road trip to Yellow Springs. And by 'we decided,' I mean 'I dictated'. She wanted to go to the mall. Again. I couldn't take the chance of an honest debate not going my way. Daddy's prerogative.

You may never have heard of Yellow Springs, OH, so I will help you visualize it. Have you ever heard of Berkeley, California? Ok, start with that, but remove the incredibly lush scenery and shrink it down to a postage stamp size. But don't shrink the prevalent political viewpoints. There ya go: Yellow Springs. It's where Ohio hippies that can't afford to move to Berkeley live. Me, I'm all about exposing Egg to diverse viewpoints and encouraging her to keep an open mind. Well, an open mind to my explanations about why they're completely wrong about literally everything, of course, but yeah, an open mind.

We took rural country roads on the way there and it was, for the most part, a relatively uneventful drive. By 'relatively' I mean that I only slapped my foot on the illusory passenger-side brake pedal a half dozen times. As opposed to doing that a handful of times while trying to avoid a wreck just getting out of the neighborhood, as I have in recent memory. She's definitely showing progress. Daddy is proud!

As much as learning to drive has been a learning experience for her, it has been for me as well. Seriously, there's not much to do while driving through Central Ohio other than talk. And as we've been going to places, I learn more and more about what she knows that I didn't think she knew. You're probably thinking that I'm talking about the swear words I use when she scares me, and she has surely learned a few of those as we drive, but that's not really what I'm getting at. She already knew all of them (and more!) from school. Here, I'll provide an example of what I mean:

The Import House. Sounds benign, right? Well, I forgot where we were. In we went.

"Hey, Dad, this place is full of bongs!"

You know how a series of thoughts can pass through your mind in the blink of an eye? Well, here's how mine went:


Act cool.

Hey, wait a minute! She knows what a bong is???

How did that happen??

Omagawd, I'm getting soooo old.

She then said, "How is this even legal?"

"Ah, there you go: Daddy's little Republican!"

So, yeah, we didn't spend much time or any money in The Import House.

But you know what she had never actually seen before?


Go figure.

So, off to the Comic Book store, filled with visions of Archie & Jughead, Richie Rich the Poor Little Rich Boy, and maybe a super hero or two.


As I was thinking that it might be time to beat another hasty and ignominious retreat, I heard her talking to The Comic Book Guy:

"Do you have any DeathNote," she asked.

"Whhaaaaatttttt??? I thought. What the heck is Death Note???

Japanese "comic" books. Manga, in the vernacular.

Geez, now she not only knew more than I thought she did, she knew stuff that I didn't!


On the way back to our car, (she will undoubtedly note the use of 'our' instead of 'the' or 'my') I had to stop and read the political tenets on public display on a Toyota:

I really don't think this guy fully understood the intent of this one:

I don't think it is meant to be in favor of robbing Peter, but I can sure see how Paul might think it's a pretty good deal.

We stopped to pick up a couple of racks of BBQ ribs to take home for dinner:

They were phenomenal, and the Meat Is Murder pamphlet that they included made for excellent dinner time reading.

Just kidding.

The low lying clouds were long gone by Monday afternoon so I took the opportunity to pop over to MadCo for some 100LL for Papa. It was a nice flight over, albeit a little bumpy (and me without a co-pilot!!), but the air was that kind of see-forever clear that makes the Ohio farmscape look like an extremely detailed HO train setup. A sign of the season was the number of combines out in the fields harvesting crops of soybeans and corn. Scenic, but such a sad foreboding of the winter to come.

Despite the choppy air, the ground winds were nearly dead calm and I made a very nice landing at MadCo. Papa took 21 gallons, but the bite in the wallet was somewhat mitigated by the $3.91 price.

Flying back, the air had calmed down and was providing a smooth and comfortable ride. Just as I was thinking how easy it would be to become complacent in this kind of weather, a Citabria (or Decathlon) went winging past at my altitude and about a half mile away. Surprise! I hadn't heard Bolton clear anyone for takeoff, and the GPS showed that we were both well inside Bolton's class D airspace. After the tower had cleared me to land, I asked if anyone had departed recently.

"No, why?"

I told him about the other airplane.

"Never heard of him, never saw him, and he didn't come from here."


Thank goodness for the clear air! And, if nothing else, a great reminder of why we keep looking, no matter where we are.