Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Furey Fly-in

I don't do fly-ins that much anymore. Truth be told, using this year as a reference I don't even do much flying at all anymore! Between the periods of inclement weather and an ever-growing collection of competing demands and distractions, I just haven't done much more than proficiency flights for most of the year. Having been blessed with a few wonderful days of eminently flyable weather, though, I made sure that I had everything arranged to attend the Furey Fly-in. This one in particular is one I hate to miss; it's held at John Furey's private airstrip out east near Canton, OH and is my clear favorite.

There are some things to note in the chart above. First, just to the west of the airport (the circle with the 'R' in it) there is a waypoint named MINER. That's important because it is the nearest navigatable spot to the airport that I'd be trying to find. Just to the east of the airport, there is a blue teepee with the number 1549 next to it.

You can't tell from the teepee-shaped rune, but there is a big hill there with a very unfriendly (to airplanes) tower on top of it.  The 1549 indicates its height in feet. The hill is right in line with the runway. Inconvenient, that. It necessitates a somewhat non-standard approach in which the pilot kind of slides around the side of the hill to get lined up with the runway. One wants to get down onto the runway as close to the end of it as possible to leave plenty of distance to get stopped before the end, keeping in mind that tires don't have nearly the braking action on grass that they do on pavement. Let's just say that it's a somewhat more complicated operation than landing on 5,000+ feet of smooth, 75' wide pavement at Bolton.

I would be taking Sailor Jack with me on this trip. Jack is considering building an RV-12, and the only thing stopping him is that he is equally passionate about sailing as he is about flying. Yeah, so? Why can't he just do both? Sad as it is to say, the reason is that sometimes in life you simply have to choose one. He's torn between getting himself a nice sailboat and building an airplane. Until he decides, though, I'm doing my utmost to score another player on our team, and what better argument could I make than taking him along out to Furey's and letting him soak in some of the true RV experience? To really seal the deal, I'd let him fly us out there and save the bumpier return leg for myself. Uncharacteristically generous, you might say, and you'd be right!

There were no balloons crowding up against the edge of the airport like there had been the previous evening so the departure was non-eventful. I got us turned onto course and climbed up past 2,000' before handing the reins to Jack. He hasn't flown in twenty years or so, but it really doesn't show. While he held a steady heading and altitude, I did a little sight seeing.

The MINER waypoint is only a mile or two from Furey Field, so the GPS was able to get us well and truly into the correct neighborhood, but when it comes to grass fields, that's not always enough. They can be real buggers to find. Looking out the windshield, we had two candidates for the airport - both we open areas surrounded by trees. Odds were pretty good that one of them was the field we were looking for. I noticed a bright orange spot on one of them, and mistaking it for a windsock, declared that field to the one we wanted.

Then the windsock started moving. Now I don't mean it was moving around as the wind shifted. No, I mean it was moving.  As we approached the field, I could see that not only was it not a windsock, it was also not alone. There were two or three of them, and they were buzzing around in circles and cavorting up and down the runway. I was finally able to discern that they were powered parachutes. I called on the radio a couple of times to see if I could get them to move away from the runway, but no joy. All I could do was orbit the field and hope they'd eventually notice us. After only a couple of times around the field, someone below took pity on my dwindling fuel budget and told us it was okay to land. The parachutists (that's probably not what they're called, but I'm at a loss as to what the correct term might be) were aware that we'd be landing and would stay clear of the runway.

That left only one big problem: making the approach around the side of the hill, getting the plane onto the runway close enough to the approach end to leave room to stop, and making a smooth enough landing to not be embarrassing.  It was a few moments of very intense concentration and to be perfectly honest I can't remember most of it. My general feeling is that it went pretty well. My starkest memory is maneuvering the plane to get it lined up with the runway and thinking air speed, air speed, air speed! Being down low like that, struggling with a little tailwind/crosswind that threatened to tempt me into over-banking to get lined up with the runway, seemed like the perfect recipe for a stall-spin wreck. The most critical function in a situation like that is to be very careful not to exceed the stalling angle-of-attack. I don't have an angle-of-attack gauge, though, so I had to rely on its idiot-savant cousin, the airspeed indicator.  As I'm sitting here writing this, it seems the case that the airspeed indicator was sufficient to the task.

The remainder of the day was spent socializing and watching other pilots make their landings.

Some didn't land - they just made low passes:

That thing was FAST!

There was plenty of food and flying talk to be found. You can always tell by the hands that they're talking flying, although sometimes those motions can also be about food. He was either describing his landing around the hill or sharing some of the finer points on how to make toast.

I didn't get an accurate count of planes that landed, but it was close to two dozen at least.

The takeoff to leave was, thankfully, back towards the hill. It's slightly uphill going that way, but by mid-afternoon there was a nice breeze from that direction to help get some air across the wings. The flight back to Bolton was a lot smoother than I had expected it to be. As I was pushing the plane back into the hangar, Jack busied himself with digging something out of the saddle bags of his motorcycle.

Hey, a couple of beers!  I think he's got this flying thing pretty well figured out.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing as how I am a pilot and a sailor, I might be able to help captain Jack make his decision. Or maybe he cam help me. I stuck in the same delimnia.