Sunday, March 23, 2014

Too Early?

I can't help it. I'm leaning into Spring a little more than I should, knowing the March can push back harder, but I just can't help ramping up for a great season. The plane is done so there are going to be quite a few more hours to fill than I'm used to, and not all of those can be transferred to flying it. Many will, mind you, but there will be plenty left over.

So, where to start. Probably the best place is the long-term project of building a pilot. Jeff had his second "lesson" (quotes because nothing is loggable until I'm certified as a flight instructor - more on that soon) Friday evening when the ubiquitous March winds (Lions and lambs? Ban. "March: In like a bellicose blustering buffoon, out like a bellicose blustering buffoon) seems more apt to me) did us the favor of blowing through town right down our runway heading. Since this would be Jeff's first flight (other than a couple of joyrides: ) and we would be working on rudimentary stuff like flying straight and level, following a course, and making gentle turns, I would do the takeoff and landing anyway.

Even though our first lesson had been in how to taxi the plane, I went ahead and did the driving. With a very light airplane, a big vertical stabilizer, and a swiveling nose wheel, I thought the blustery crosswind we would have while taxiing down to the runway might be challenging. Not being distracted by having to concentrate on driving, we were able to talk a little more deeply about the comms interactions with the tower.

Good radio communications take a long time to learn; don't be offended, but I have to say that a great many pilots that I hear on the weekends have not yet accomplished it. To be fair, Jeff will have the advantage of learning at a tower-controlled airport - he will get to routinely deal with both controlled- and un-controlled fields. And not to brag, but he will be learning from an instrument rated pilot, a rating that is like a Masters degree in aviation radio communications.  With Bolton Field having been my home airfield for nigh on thirty years now, I've heard just about every directive in the Tower's play book.  For the most part, there are only a dozen or so things that they will routinely ask us to do. I rehearsed what I was going to say to the tower out loud for Jeff to hear, told him what I thought the mostly likely response would be, then keyed the mike and made the call.

I wonder if a flow chart mapping the different call/response interactions would be a good learning aid.  I'll have to think about that.

I explained what to expect on the takeoff, and suggested that he keep his hand loosely on the control stick while I did the takeoff so he could feel what I was doing. I'm not convinced that I have ever learned anything from that technique, but for all I know that's simply not my learning style. Nothing to lose, so why not? That said, my personal opinion is that there is more to be gained by the student just riding through the first half dozen takeoffs and landings in order to get a feel for the procedures involved and for what good takeoffs/landings should look like before getting into the stressful position of having to try it for themselves.

At 500 feet I let Jeff take over. We stayed on a straight out departure until 1,000 feet, when I had him make a right turn to the west. It took about  half hour to get to where he would keep us pointed in a cardinal direction, mostly because I never really thought about how I would teach it. What emerged as the best method was finding something on the ground we could follow. The railroad track heading west out of London, OH worked very well. When that had been mastered, I had him add the HSI to his instrument scan. I was then able to have him turn to the south and maintain that general direction. Without a convenient road to follow, we went to the next step: picking out something out near the horizon to aim it.  It's central Ohio we're talking about here, so suitable targets were sparse - mostly just flat farmland as far as we could see.

Easily solved. I pointed out the very large lake (Caesar Creek) and had him take us there. I had him make a circle around the lake and head us back to Bolton. I took over the approach and made the same mistake I always make: I call the tower at "eight miles south west."  I don't know why I do that. It causes them to send me over to the other side of the runway for a right downwind. If I had said "South" instead, the would have cleared us for the left downwind. The benefit of which would have been that my prediction as to what the tower would say wouldn't have been so embarrassingly wrong.

Well, at least the landing was a greaser.

The next thing keeping me busy is test prep for the two written tests that I have to take for the instructor certification. That, and I really need to get busy finding someone to do the dual instruction that I need.

Beyond flying, I'm starting to get other stuff ready. I got the canoe registered and a trailer for it and the kayak is on the way from Harbor Freight. I ultimately decided against getting the little flatbed trailer and modifying it. I bought the 14' boat trailer instead. I was initially turned off by the $499 price tag, but then I remembered: Harbor Freight. Sure enough, along cam a $100 off sale.  $399.  Better. But wait... I wonder if one of those 25% off coupons sitting in my allotted HCS (horizontal clutter space) parcel in the kitchen would work.  Voila!  $299, but surely they will make it all back on the shipping.

Care to guess?

What to bet on it?

You aren't going to believe it.


FedEx Ground. FedEx wouldn't two-day deliver a feather for that. To be fair, FedEx two-day was $279. Overnight was $457.  Time, it can safely be said, is money.

It will take a little while to assemble the trailer and rig some suitable cross bars in it, but that will be fun. Assembling stuff?  Well, yeah, I've been known to do that.

Having all of these modes of transportation cued up and ready to go, I've started thinking about what to do with them. I've gotten it into my head that I would like to be able to go fishing now and then, using plane, canoe, or kayak. All three require the same thing: a small fishing rod. The kayak in particular is exceedingly frugal with space.  I looked at Walmart to see what was going on in the world of really short fishing rods, of which they had a couple, but I wanted to get home and do some research first. It turns out the one of the Walmart options wasn't too bad, but it was still pretty long for the airplane and much too long for the kayak.

Give Google enough time and you will eventually find what you want. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Emmrod Packer Cast Pole:

That's small enough.

Not super cheap, though. Amazon wanted $71 + shipping (less than $6.99, if you're wondering) including a cheap casting reel. I thought it was kind of spendy, but then I met this guy.

He convinced me that it is a quality product, and it really sold me that even as small as this rod is, it can be made even smaller. The canoe is far more voluminous, so when it comes to outfitting Co-pilot Egg, herself reportedly being an avid fisher, I will likely opt for the cheaper Walmart pole.

So, now we have flying and boating/fishing lined up.  What else can I do?

I remembered my discovery of last year: the trail up to the round barn is open to pets! Cabot Bennett had an answer when I asked him if he would like to "gopher" a walk with Co-pilot Egg and me: "Woof!"

As I mentioned, March is not the most pleasant of months, but it still beats the stuffing out of February. The wind chill caused by the 20 knot winds was a not-quite-balmy 21 degrees, so Cabot had to wear his coat.

Extra points for people that remember that hat.

Cabot sometimes exhibits a tendency toward holding an exaggerated idea of his own grandeur - he often thinks he's a thoroughbred race horse:

We had a pretty stiff headwind walking up the trail, which bothered Cabot not in the least. The tailwind walking back was another story entirely.  His coat wouldn't stay down where it could do him some good. It can't possible have felt good having that cold wind blowing on his flux capacitor, either.

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