Saturday, June 28, 2014


After four long, often stressful days working in the thought mines, each day bookended by a nominal forty-five minute commute, I start to question why I'm voluntarily running such a fatiguing mental marathon. By Thursday evening, I'm wiped out mentally and a form of physical fatigue often makes itself known, the physical wear not so much resulting from any kind of meaningful physical exertion, for it is, to a very large degree, a notably sedentary profession that I engage in, but because getting up every morning long before the dawn cannot help but take a toll. Ask any rooster, and keep in mind that it is people like me that wake them up.

"Why?" I ask myself.  Why am I doing this??"

Because... Friday.

As regular as the phases of the moon and the planet's orbiting of the sun, Friday rolls around and reminds me of the benefit garnered from the four-day cost.  Friday is now also known as Myday. My day to do as I choose (for the most part - every now and then I have to make the cross-town trek to clean up loose ends carried over from what I call "everything's broken Thursday"), answerable to no one but the laws of physics and the vagaries of meteorology.

And such it is that I found myself airborne early Friday morning. The plan was to meet The Jackson Two at Knox Co. airport (4I3) where we would catch a shuttle over to nearby Wynkoop airport, where the annual Waco Reunion would be held.  Not being Waco owners, we were unable to land at Wynkoop itself.

What?  What's a "Waco?" Wouldn't a Waco Reunion be held in, you know, Waco, Texas?

Good question, Strawman. You sure have a penchant for asking exactly what I hope to be asked at precisely the right time.  Keep up the good work.

So, the very first thing you need to know about Waco vs. Waco is that one of them is, in fact, a city in Texas. A close second on the "you gotta know this" scale is that the pronunciations are different.

The city of Waco is pronounced so that it rhymes with mako, as in "a mako shark."  The 'a' is like the 'a' in 'hay', if I may say.

The Waco is a brand of airplane. It is pronounced to rhyme with 'taco'.  Don't worry if you can't remember this because if you mispronounce it in front of a pilot that does remember it, you will be swiftly corrected, every single time.

All well and good, that, but so what?  Well, the Waco is not just any airplane, it is one of the venerable biplanes that dominated the market in the 1920's to late 1940's.  Interestingly, they are still made today, albeit by a brand new company and with more modern (read: safe) materials and designs.

There is also a Waco museum in nearby Troy, Ohio, where the original factory was located.  You can expect a report of a trip to that museum in the near future. For now, though, here's some deeper detail found on Wikipedia:
Waco's history started in 1919 when businessmen Clayton J. Brukner and Elwood Junkin met barnstorming pilots Charley Meyers and George Weaver. Although their initial floatplane design was a failure, they went on to found the Waco company in 1920 and established themselves as producers of reliable, rugged planes that were popular with travelling businessmen, postal services and explorers, especially after the company began producing closed-cabin biplane models after 1930 in addition to the open cockpit biplanes. 
The Waco name was extremely well represented in the U.S. civil aircraft registry between the wars, with more Wacos registered than the aircraft of any other company. Production types including open cockpit biplanes, cabin biplanes and cabin sesquiplanes (known by Waco as Custom Cabins) as well as numerous experimental types.
There wasn't enough fuel in the plane to reach Knox Co. with the FAA-mandated (and common sense) requirement to have a 30 minute reserve, so my first stop was MadCo to pick up some fuel. I was Bolton Tower's first customer of the morning and received quick, cheerful service as I requested a taxi to takeoff. The winds were calm (and would remain so all day), so I was stuck with the mile long taxi to runway 4, itself being designated for some unfathomable reason as the 'calm air runway'.  With good ambient pressure, fairly low temps, a slight (yet virile) pilot-in-command, no passenger, and only six gallons of fuel, we were off the runway in just a few hundred feet and already at pattern altitude while abeam the midfield control tower. The vigorous climb rate of 1,200 - 1,400 feet per minute got us quickly to our cruising altitude of 2,500' for the short ride over to Madco.

With the sun rising behind me and the glass smooth sky supporting me, I couldn't help thinking that it is moments like that that pay for the four days leading up to Myday.

Visibility was good, but not unlimited. It looked like it would be a humid day.  Having departed to the east-ish from Bolton, I set myself up for a left downwind to runway 9 at MadCo since that's where what little wind there was was coming from.  That, and it would allow be to conveniently fly a full traffic pattern rather than make a straight in approach.

I did that with a complete disregard for what was going to happen when I turned back to the east to land, when I would be facing into the sun on a hazy day.  Note how the formerly clear air becomes anything but.

After fueling up, I set a direct-to from MadCo to Knox Co.  As luck at cartography would have it, that route would just clear the airspace around Port Columbus Interstellar airport.  An inch is as good as a nautical mile in the modern world of GPS, though.  Back in the day, I would have given it a much wider berth.

With the autopilot firmly in control (in truth, the air was so calm that very little effort was required), I planned ahead for my arrival in Mt. Vernon by checking the Info pages in the Skyview. I was aghast at the precision required with the reported traffic pattern altitude (TPA) - I'm not sure I can hold an altitude as precise as 1,999 ft.  I made a command decision: I would throw caution to the wind, thumb my nose at the FAA, and fly it at 2,000 ft.

What a rebel!

As I was descending to somewhere between 1,999 and 2,000 ft., the gal that lives in my Skyview chirped up to, yet again, alert me to a nearby threat. I sure do like these new avionics! Despite the (ludicrous) idea that pilots can simply "see & avoid" espoused by federal regulatory agencies, it is extremely unlikely that I would have seen this guy. Yes, he was a good 700' below me and not an immediate risk, but forewarned is forearmed and while we had good vertical separation, horizontal was a different issue indeed.

I arrived precisely at 9:00 am, as is my wont (and a healthy dollop of blind luck) to find The Two already there, and having already found that the promise of a shuttle to the other airport might have been overstated. We discussed the idea of hoofing it, but wiser heads prevailed and a shuttle ride was eventually procured.

So, after long last: a Waco!

Gorgeous, no?

I never knew that I too wanted to be a "Man of Consequence" until learning that such a thing is even possible. I didn't get a chance to talk to Mr. Heins to determine the requirements for such a distinction, though, so I don't like my odds of achieving it in the short term. For once, even Wikipedia fails me.

This isn't a Waco, but it is a wonderful visual metaphor for a perfect Myday.

Back to Wacos.

While we were wandering around, I kept hearing a strange mechanical sound occurring at a somewhat regular rate of once per second or so. I asked Kyle, Lead Sound Engineer for The Jackson Two, if he could identify the sound.

"Sure," he replied confidently, "it's the very old fuel pump they have here."

"Ah, makes sense."

To which, he laughed.

Argghh!  Got me at my own game!

Not one to be bested in my home court, I said, No it's not, it's an ice cream maker."

Unbelievably, that one was ingested hook, line, and two sinkers.

I was still crowing about having gotten even with him when, to my utter chagrin, we tracked down the source of the noise.

I was an ice cream maker.

'Tis an old place, Wynkoop.  Rustic.

It's the perfect ambiance for these guys.

Getting hungry, we put our heads together and decided to fly south to Lancaster for lunch. I would be my second time there in less than a week.

With the airports being so close together, it seemed a shame not to fly over Wynkoop for a picture.

Here's a short video of the event, if you care to watch.

At Lancaster, Kyle and I visited the helicopter school. One of the things on my ever-growing Attainable Bucket List is "Hover a helicopter."  I have no need for the full license (which is good, because it would cost $7,000 and leave me with a license for which I will never have a need), but I would enjoy a lesson or two just for the experience. I had found this school on the internet and was happy about the close proximity, but their marketing materials stressed how focused they are on the full licensing program. I didn't know if they would be amenable to a single lesson or two.

They are.  Kyle and I are going to set a Myday date in the near future for our intro lessons in the Schweitzer 300s.

Lunch was at a new restaurant adjacent to the airport.

Excellent meatloaf!

Having learned my lesson about calling Bolton tower with a "to the east" location when actually southeast, I amended my approach. Instead of going around Rickenbacker, I went over it so that I actually was to the east. That worked out famously.  I got home just at the end of the normal Myday workday, which left plenty of time for... mowing.

There's a story to be told about that as well, but duty calls: Cabot has to go to the vet again, which will be the 2nd Saturday in a row. Last week, his eyes puffed up such that he looked like a really angry Pit Bull, which was rectified through a Prednisone shot, and this week he has a hematoma in one of his ears that has it so puffed up he looks like he swallowed a grape which somehow missed his throat and ended up in his ear.

Poor little guy.

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