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.

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