Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kacy J's

The MERFI fly-in was this weekend over in Urbana. I went last year, but this year I decided to find something else to do. I'm getting more and more afraid of things that I used to do without a second thought, much like Brave Sir Hogarth is as he too advances in age. For him, the new thing is the child gate that we've been using to restrict the movements of the as yet not-proven-worthy-of-trust Puppy Cabot. Hogarth won't go near it. For me, it's large groups of planes converging on uncontrolled airports. Besides that, there's very little there to attract me. Last year it was nice to go over and meet the guy that built my airplane, and this year it would have been fun to visit Lynda at her Girls With Wings booth, but it's getting late in the year and I still had not made it to Kacy J's, the new restaurant at the airport in Muncie, Indiana.

I think the original attempt at Kacy J's was back at the beginning of summer on or around Fathers Day. I was going to land at KVES (Darke Co. - Versailles airport) and pick up my dad for a ride over to Muncie. Airport restaurants have come and gone at Muncie, and the most recently departed of the bunch didn't have a very good reputation, but word-of-mouth had it that the new establishment, Kacy J's, was worth the trip. A perusal of their online menu showed that there was something there that would be worth the trip: the Indiana Classic,their name for a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. I'm not sure where I heard it (maybe Man Vs. Food, a ridiculous but surprisingly enjoyable show on the Travel Channel) , but the pork tenderloin sandwich is reportedly an Indiana specialty and I wanted to try one.

The first trip fell through when my preflight planning showed that the Darke Co. airport was closed. A few weeks later after Darke Co. was re-opened and I wanted to try again, Muncie was closed to all traffic except helicopters.  One thing led to another and before I knew it was counting the days until the end of the traditional flying season. As it is, today was plan B. I had hoped to fly out on Saturday but the final weather forecast check in the morning showed the strong possibility of rain and low ceilings. Today was better, although the wind was expected to pick up to as high as 15 knots in the afternoon. I'll fly with a forecast for 15 knot winds, but it's right on my borderline. Had the prediction been 15 gusting to anything, I would have probably canceled again.

The flight out to KVES was okay, but it was already starting to get bumpy. I could tell that it wasn't going to be smooth sailing coming back later in the day - it was only going to get worse. It was the kind of bumpy you get when the sun heating the farm fields and causing updrafts combines with the turmoil of wind-addled air to make it hard to even press buttons and turn knobs on the avionics. You reach for a button just as you hit a bump in the air and your hand goes shooting off in unpredictable directions. It is precisely that type of air that has convinced me that I will never give up my avionics that have real buttons in favor of the ill-advised move to touch screens. No, no, no, NO! I will NOT GO!

I tuned into 122.7 as I flew south of Urbana and mentally patted myself on the back for deciding not to get into that mess. There were no less than five planes trying to sort themselves into a reasonable line for the left downwind when some yahoo called that he was planning a straight in approach.  Good luck with that, fella. That's rude on a normal Urbana breakfast Sunday. You gotta be kidding if you think that's going to fly during a high attendance event like MERFI. I didn't hang around on frequency long enough to see how that turned out - I wanted to get over to Darke Co's ASOS and see what the winds were doing. 320 at 7. Not bad at all! I made a pretty decent landing, although I didn't get stopped as short as I'd have liked to and rolled about 10 feet past the first taxiway. A quick 180 on the runway fixed that.

I wanted to get out and stretch a little bit before jumping right back into the plane for the short 40 mile hop over the Muncie. While I was out walking around, I came across the coolest canopy cover I've ever seen.

While I was taking pictures of the Piper, my dad was approached by one of the uniformed pilots of the big Cessna Citation 7 I had parked next to. He was looking for someplace to get some coffee and donuts for his expected passengers. Unfortunately he hadn't realized that KVES is a very rural airport and there's not much of anything nearby. In fact, that Citation was the largest jet I've ever seen there. The past competition was small for that honor though, as I don't think I have ever seen a jet there. As he wandered off to find the airport manager, my dad told me that the corporate pilot had asked what kind of plane I was flying, and suggested that he thought it might be a trainer of some sort. As if!! I explained to my dad that it's not uncommon for the guys that fly business and commercial jets to not know much about the smaller planes you'll find out in the boonies. They live and fly in a very different world. I think, though, that at least some level they envy us for our type of flying as much as we envy them for theirs. The grass? It's always greener, isn't it?

The ride over to Muncie was all too short. Before I knew it we were dialing in the ATIS and learning that the moderate winds were pointed right down runway 32. As we were approaching from the east, I figured we'd either get cleared for a pattern entry into a right base for runway 32 or into a right downwind for the same runway. I was hoping for the right base entry so we wouldn't have to fly up north to meet with the midfield downwind or, I suppose, try to negotiate for the entry I wanted. Muncie Tower responded as I had hoped and we were cleared to enter on the right base. Just before we got to the pattern, I heard another plane being cleared to land. It was a Stearman. That was lucky - I thought my dad would be interested in seeing a venerable old workhorse like that. And an actual trainer, no less! Albeit a trainer for WWII military pilots.

The landing was accomplished with no more that a light bounce and a gentle scuffing of the tires on the wide, wide runway. I easily made the first turn off to the ramp. And there it was: the beautiful Stearman was right there in front of the restaurant. I parked nearby.

My dad wanted to go take a look at it but seemed wary. I told him to go on over - other pilots are usually fine with people walking around and looking at their planes as long as there are no hands or feet involved. Look, but don't touch. They aren't Braille, after all. You can see just fine without climbing all over them or smearing your hands all over the canopy trying to look inside. Can you tell I have a little experience with this? It's another of the reasons I don't do many fly-ins anymore.

Note the lack of a GPS. I think he was flying via pilotage and a sectional chart: old school!

While I was doing my best to act as a Stearman tour guide, the owner/pilot returned. He was working his way back from someplace down south back up to his home in Wisconsin. That's a pretty long trip in a Stearman! He mentioned over lunch that he usually takes his T-6 (!!!) on the longer trips. A Stearman and a T-6? Wow!  As I've always said, when it comes to airplanes you need at least two but no more than five. I often entertain myself on my long drive to and from work trying to decide what my five would be, and a Stearman or a T-6 always make the list. I probably wouldn't do one of each, though. I can tell you this: it would be mighty hard to decide between the two! I love them both.

We headed into the restaurant where we were greeted by the owner(?)/manager. The place was not at all crowded which came as something of a surprise to me. Muncie has a huge GA ramp, big runways, a friendly tower, and very little traffic. It seems perfect for a weekend lunch stop, but there was hardly anyone there. It makes me wonder if they're having trouble getting the word out that there's a new restaurant there and that it's not affiliated with the former place that had gotten such a bad reputation. It's clearly a pilot-friendly outfit - just look at the decorations:

The owner(?)/manager was particularly proud of the light on this corner table. The airport had recently replaced their runway lights with LED models and he was able to get ahold of one of the old lights. He had to find a fixture for it and step the voltage down from what it was expecting (3000 volts, I think he said), and his first choice of bulb, a 100 watt halogen, was far too bright, but he finally got it working. I wish I had thought to ask him if he could build another for me!

As we were working our way through our Indiana Classics (which, by the way, were every bit as enjoyable as the conversation with Dr. Stan)...

...  another military retiree landed.

That one is a T-34 Mentor.

Dr. Stan hasn't got one of those.


Awww, come on. I'm allowed to be just a little bit jealous, aren't I?

Kidding aside, I'll bet he's tempted. They're wonderful airplanes, despite their AD history. Use them appropriately and they're fine.

After lunch we headed to our respective planes. I suggested to my dad that we stick around long enough to hear the Stearman's engine start. They make a wonderful sound and I can't get enough of them. They kind of stumble into life, as opposed to the immediate blast of noise from something like my Lycoming. The restaurant owner(?)/manager, himself a pilot and owner of two airplanes (what is it with these guys???!? I had no idea that I wasn't alone in my "at least two" thinking, Harrison Ford notwithstanding) apparently agreed since he too came out for the show.

By the time we hopped into Papa for the short flight back to KVES, the wind had whipped itself into the type of frenzy normally associated with Puppy Cabot when he hears bacon coming out of the fridge. If the flight to Muncie had seemed short, the flight back was going to be no more than a chip shot. The ASOS at KVES unemotionally shared the bad news: winds were 320 at 15 gusting 18. That was going to be a treat! We hit the left downwind with 120 knots showing on the speedo, but 145 showing on the GPS. Nothing for it but to man up and work my way through it. It actually didn't turn out too badly, although I must have looked like I was simultaneously trying to churn butter and squash grapes while I wrestled our way through the landing flare and touchdown. One decent bounce and a lot of aileron and rudder work had us down and rolling on the runway, but there was no hope of making the first turn off this time.

I didn't mind. I was just happy to have it over with.

The trip back to Bolton was equally brief, at least relative to the normal ride. I was cruising at an indicated 140 knots, but the GPS was showing 168 knots across the ground. As I called Bolton Tower over Lilly Chapel (a reporting point 8 miles west of the airport), I was again showing 120 on the airspeed and 145 on the GPS. Now I've heard a lot of real whoppers this year ("It'll bend the cost curve down." and "Gee Dad, I don't know how that dent got in my car." and "He'll calm down once he's neutered.") but none of them hold a candle to this:

"Four six six papa golf, report two mile left base runway four, winds three zero zero at five."

Five? As in five knots?? Are you serious??? When I'm doing 145 knots across the ground and showing 120 knots on the speedometer, there is no way I'm facing 5 knot winds on the runway. It had to be at least 12 to 14 knots.

It was. Gusty, too. But again, it wasn't a horrible landing. Practice seems to be helping!

There was quite a bit of clean up to do in the hangar. It's late in the summer and the bugs are fat. I think the updrafts help to carry them up high enough for me to hit them, too. There were at least three smears on the windshield that had to come from bugs close to the size of sparrows. I wonder what happens when a bug like that hits an open cockpit Stearman. I shudder to think....


  1. Nice trip report. Muncie's just a hop for me. I think I may have to get one of those tenderloins!

  2. Great recap of the trip to Kacy J's and glad you guys enjoyed it as much as we did back in June!

    It was surprisingly empty when we flew in as well - I agree that hopefully the word gets out because it'd be a shame to lose a great restaurant at MIE.

    I also skipped MERFI this weekend although I had originally planned to go. Weather on Saturday was a no-go as it was for you and I had too much other stuff to do today.