Because of the walking, that's why.
I was looking for someplace to fly today after I finished the mowing, a small repair on the tail light fairing on the RV-6, and the breaking down of the crate that the RV-12 fuselage kit came in. It was getting late, but there are plenty of airports nearby. What there's a shortage of, though, is airports nearby that offer some excuse for choosing them as a destination. Not that it's needed, mind you, but still. It helps salve the conscience when burning $4.00/gallon fuel. A truly impecunious situation not always being a staunch requirement for a frugal lifestyle when one is engaging in ostentatious and conspicuous consumption, as it were. It's all about appearances, you see.
I had never taken a close look at Newark-Heath, an airport over on the east side of town. Through the miracle of Bing Maps and its fancy new Silverlight-based "find the closest grub" feature, I found a Skyline Chili just a short walk from the airport. Short being relative, as it turns out, because my co-pilot of the day quickly evidenced an aversion to any walk of greater than five minutes duration. In her defence, she was probably still a bit wobbly from the atrocious landing that I made upon arrival. In my defense of the landing, I too was still a bit unsettled after a brief hallucination in which I thought I saw a tremendously large basket, of all things.
Well, actually, part of that is untrue. I did see a really huge basket, but that doesn't explain the bad landing. That was due to a shifty right crosswind that was boiling across the tree line north of the runway. No complaints, though, since that wind was keeping the air nice and clear and providing one of those rare days when the horizon is clearly visible and the light makes the ground shine. Even though it was just a few minutes of flying, it was enough to shake off the burdens of the week past and improve everyone's mood.
Well, until that landing, anyway. Oh, and the looonnngg walk to the restaurant down a narrow but busy road, diving down into the drainage trenches every time a car came along. Which was a lot. At the end of the narrow road, we found yet another challenging hazard: we had to get across to the other side of an even busier road!
The flight back was a little bumpier, but that was no big deal. It got a bit hectic as we got back to Bolton, though. We were about seven and a half miles southeast of Bolton and I was just getting ready to call the tower, when:
"Bolton Tower, Meridian [whatever] is ten miles southeast, inbound, landing."
Uh-oh. That's pretty much the neighborhood we're in, and a Meridian is a big, fast turboprop.
"Meridian, report a two mile right base, runway four."
Hmm, I better get in this game before I get shut out.
"Bolton Tower, experimental four six six papa golf, seven miles southeast, inbound, landing."
"Six papa golf, report two mile right base runway four."
Uh, no. Bad idea.
"Tower, six papa golf, why don't I head for a mid-field right downwind instead. That Meridian is going to over take me."
"Six papa golf, you can do that if you want to. (Chicken!)"
I wanted to. I really wanted to. I had already slowed down to dump the altitude that I had kept to cross over the Rickenbacker Class D airspace and now had to lose before getting to the pattern at Bolton. I didn't want to hit the pattern with a gigantic basket full of airspeed, so I had slowed down to buy myself time. Getting in line behind a Meridian would be no big deal since it's a big, fast turboprop. And he'd still be boogeying along at 120 - 130 knots at least, I figured.
Just as I was thinking how odd it was to see two Meridians in one day (a different one had been taxiing out for takeoff when we arrived at Newark - he didn't see my awful landing, though) when I hardly ever see one, the radio came alive again.
"Bolton Tower, Cessna six two two six six over downtown, inbound, landing."
Hmm, about the same distance as us, but since he's pretty much pointed straight down the runway the tower will put him in a left downwind.
"Two six six, enter a right downwind, runway four."
Whaaaaaatt?? Why would he do that?? Oh, I had forgotten about the student that was doing his first solo. (He's sitting at home right now writing one hell of a blog posting, I'll bet) He must be on the left downwind and the tower is keeping him out of the fray. Great, something else to worry about. He'd be turning left base at just about the same time I'd be turning right base. Nose-to-nose with a guy making only the second solo landing of his life. Sounded like fun.
A couple of minutes later I caught sight of the Meridian off to my left screaming along in a wide right base. He definitely would have caught up with us. A glance to the right and there was the Cessna coming in from downtown. I wasn't quite to the point where I would usually make my turn into the downwind (I normally get pretty tight in so I can glide to the runway if for some reason I ever need to) but I went ahead and started my turn while simultaneously telling the tower that I had both the Meridian and 266 in sight.
Six papa golf, follow the Meridian. Meridian [whatever], cleared to land runway four. Two six six, your traffic is an experimental in front of you on the downwind."
At that point, everything was lined up nicely and I figured the only potential wrench in the works was the guy doing his first solo, but...
"Eight three nine, taxi back from taxiway alpha four via alpha."
Oh, he was doing stop & goes. That nicely solved for one of the variables in the equation, but left as an unknown why 266 wasn't on a left downwind. I'll never know that, and it didn't really matter anyway. There was one more nagging thing, though: in my opinion, "follow the Meridian" does not carry the same legal weight as "cleared to land."
"Tower, Papa Golf is right base.(hint hint)"
"Papa Golf, cleared to land. (didn't I already tell you that??)"
In the flare I thought it was going to be another horrible bouncer, but I somehow finessed it into a fairly decent arrival. It's almost as if the runway at Bolton is padded in some way that other runways aren't. As I was rolling out on the runway, still going pretty quickly because 266 was coming down final:
"Six papa golf, left at alpha three, hold short at the parallel."
Ah, there's yet another Cessna taxiing out. I made the left off of the runway onto Alpha 3 and was just reaching up to pop open the canopy for a little air, when:
"Six papa golf, WITHOUT DELAY continue across the parallel on Alpha 3 onto the ramp."
"Without delay" is something I'm particularly good at, and so is your typical Van's airplane.
"Wilco, six papa golf."
I love saying "Wilco," especially when it's followed with a blast of throttle. Makes me feel like, I don't know... a pilot!