Saturday, March 23, 2013

Human Ballast

As the idiom goes, "March: in like a lion, out like a.... well, like an ill-tempered grizzly bear with bursitis." At least that's how it has seemed this year, anyway. But into every rainy, windy, snowy month, a day or two of decent weather may crop up now and then, albeit most typically on a work day. Today, however, was one of those rare gems we luck into every now and then. A little cold early, but forecast to warm up to a bearably temperate afternoon. Light winds under gray clouds, those too expected to diminish throughout the day and allow us to enjoy some cyan in the palette.  And best of all, no competing demands on my time. 

Flying weather.

But where to go? The thing about being surprised at having the opportunity to fly is that quite unsurprisingly, no plans are in place. Through the miracle of modern telephony, though, a 9:30 breakfast rendezvous with The Jackson Two was arranged for an airport diner down in the southern reaches of Ohio. I arrived at the hangar in plenty of time for an on-time departure which one would expect to be able to parlay into the symmetrical on-time arrival, but I had forgotten that I had left the fuel tank endowed with an insufficient amount of juice to make the trip. Reluctant to pay the unconscionable $6.70 per gallon being demanded by my domicile, I decided that I would have to suffer the indignity of being late for breakfast so that I could hop over to nearby Madison County to procure the requisite petroleum for the equally unconscionable yet slightly more palatable rate of $5.53 per.  

Once tanked up, I headed south towards Portsmouth. The Skyview, having taken into account each and every minute facet of the operation, proudly proclaimed that we would arrive at 9:35, a mere five minutes late. While it would have meant a chillier day, a little wind out of the north might have rectified the problem of my impending tardiness, but it was not to be. The nearly straight up plumes of the power plant that I flew over confirmed what the Mighty Skyview had already postulated: little to no wind to be found.

With no prevailing wind to determine which direction to land, one would think that my southward flight would culminate in a landing on the southerly-facing runway, but to think that would be to ignore the hyper-judgmental nature of pilots. Landing in the most efficient way possible would fly in the face of one of the nonsensical bugaboos of airport etiquette: I would be tried and sentenced in the court of aviator obsessive-compulsiveness and ineluctably found guilty of performing the despicable straight-in approach.  No, it would be better to brave the intimidatingly large hills on the west side of the runway and fly a left downwind to a landing facing to the north, the very direction from which I had come.

You may think I'm joking about the potential ramifications of flying the despised straight-in approach, but consider, if you will, the rather deadly piece of hardware placed on the airport grounds to prevent any such malfeasance.  See it right over there by the flag? yeah, not to be trifled with, that.

Yeah, rub it in: my canopy doesn't lock. Providing a lock would have added $1.82 to the cost of the kit -- can't have that!

One passingly decent breakfast delivered by a more than passingly cute young waitress later, it was back to the end of the north-facing runway for to commence my journey back... north. Oddly enough, the straight-out departure is perfectly acceptable, and admittedly made somewhat safer by the fact that the risk of ostracization and/or anti-aircraft fire precludes most fliers from arriving directly into departing northbound aircraft such as my own.

Funny how that all works out, isn't it?

I was no sooner home than I realized that weather Karma was hunkered down in the tundra waiting to pounce on me like a March lion on an April gazelle: the forecast for Sunday was abysmal. I've heard that Eskimos have some unbelievable number of words to describe the various and sundry types of frozen precipitation they encounter up there in their frozen wasteland -- we're slated to receive no less that half of them all at once in the next 24 - 48 hours. Rather than idle away the afternoon sitting at home, I thought, perhaps I ought to go back to the airport and fly some more. This naturally presented a bit of a quandary: what possible reason could I come up with to justify flying twice in the same day??

Where there's a will, there's... a scheming homicidal relative, if old 50's era mysteries are to be believed.

Oops, no, another malformed trope.

What I meant to say is that where there's a will, there's a way.  (See also: Where there's a curd, there's a whey) After a little thought, I came up with the perfect plan: I would contact Co-pilot Rick, my companion on many, many flights back in my taildragger days. If he turned out to be amenable to a ride in a semi-proven airplane, I could kill a number of birds with, uh, poor choice of words accomplish a number of goals. To wit, I could see how the airplane behaves with an additional [redacted] pounds of human ballast on board, I could hop back over to MadCo to avail myself of the shiny new compass rose painted on the parking apron to improve the accuracy of the Skyview's determination of magnetic compass direction (the previous somewhat deficient calibration having been performed with my iPad sitting in the pilot's seat while Pete and I pushed the plane around through the four cardinal headings), and I could refill the fuel reservoir to prevent future tardiness.

Being of a kind and generous nature (to a fault, I tell ya, A FAULT!), I let Rick fly around for awhile to get a feel for the new plane. As he is considering building one himself some day, I thought he should do what I didn't do: try flying one before leaping into building one. I took over for the landing, of course.  My generosity has limits.

So, for the second time in one day I found myself pouring liquid gold into the tank.

The new compass rose was provided courtesy of a local high school, Class of 2012, or so I infer from the signature painted in the central circle. I ought to send a thank-you note -- compass roses are hard to find these days, but eminently useful. Having one nearby has benefited me a number of times.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, the glow of which I currently find myself basking in. Which is good, because the next few are going to be fairly rotten if the forecasts are even remotely accurate.


Brent at said...

Now that you are flying vs. building, I'm looking forward to these PIREPs! Keep 'em coming!

Ted said...

Just last Friday I heard on the radio:

"Bonanza xyz beach arrival straight in runway 23"
(beach arrival is not an IFR procedure)
"CT left downwind touch and go, a few others are in the pattern too."
"You have trouble with straight in?" (stern voice)
"CT wil stay out of your way"

There are something about you light sport pilots.

Leon said...

Did you ever finally get rid of the tail dragger?

DaveG said...

Nope, still suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to airplanes.

Anonymous said...

Dave, now that construction is finished, are you going to post Schmetterling Aviation - Volume 2? Keep up the ramblings, really enjoy your posts. Jim D

DaveG said...

Ah, yes, Volume 2. I've been thinking about that for awhile now, mostly trying to remember how I did Vol. 1. There's a web site that converts blogs to paper books and I think I just used it to generate a very large PDF - I'll see if I can find it again. Stay tuned!

Jerre Hill said...

You should have provided a picture of the waitress. ;-)

Leon said...

What I think you did was covertly sneak another plane into the hanger without your wife noticing too much.

Tyler said...

I think the compass roses are painted by the "99s". It is one of their signature marks at a lot of airports.

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