Ah, the sweet smell of avgas in the morning…
After two weeks of illness I finally rose from the nearly dead to amble down to the local airport this morning. The first thing I realized was that I had just missed the usual go-for-breakfast crowd. As in - as I pulled in the parking lot their wheels were leaving the runway.
Maybe I should have moved just a little quicker this morning…
Anyhow, it was one of the first warm days of spring, so I parked me on the picnic table and tried to look forelorn and pitiful. Amazingly enough, it actually worked. “Where you been? Sick? Still don’t feel up to being the pilot? Oh, you poor thing… climb in the back of the airplane, I’ll take you for a ride…”
Anyhow, flying is always an adventure to one degree or another. My first ride of the day was with this guy S, who has owed me a ride for about six months now (he was late getting back and wiped out my time slot on a rental plane). So we went up in the C172 he has a quarter-share in. We take off and…
(Brief digression: Two important distinctions in flying are between VFR and IFR flying. “IFR” stands for “Instrument Flight Rules”, meaning you are flying by looking at the instruments in the airplane, and no minimal visibility is required. “VFR” stands for “Visual Flight Rules”, meaning flight you conduct mostly by looking out the window to see where you’re going. Needless to say, you need to be able to see where you’re going if you want to do this, and thus, minimal visibility rules have been instituted, for the most part a minimum of 3 miles. If asked, pilots flying VFR may say “oh, yes, visibility was 3 miles” which means it was 3 miles. Or they might say “Of course visibility was 3 miles” which often means maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but we won’t admit it to flying in any manner other than completely legal. And that’s all you non-pilots need to know, so back to the story)
We take off and of course visibility was at least three miles in low-laying haze, just a touch heavier than we expected, but we could clearly see the runway and S was interested in landing practice so it was all good. We’re humming along on downwind, keeping an eye out for other airborne traffic, and as S is turning onto the base leg he says “Oh, by the way, I haven’t flown this plane in 4 months”. Geez, guy now you tell me! But he has been flying a Champ every weekend and rented a Warrior a few times in those four months, so I’m not really concerned. I mean, I wouldn’t get into the plane unless I could trust the guy. And here we are, on final approach to the runway and the nose is aiming left of center. Let me rephrase that. It’s aiming left of the pavement. I’m starting to think that S has been flying that Champ off sod so much he’s forgotten that you’re allowed to land on asphalt. But he does get it on the pavement and the touchdown is so smoooooooooooth, the wheels just kissing the ground.
We did a number of other laps around the patch, S getting a little more precise with each one, and the haze getting a little thinner, and the air getting just a little bumpier as the breeze starts to build with the day.
Then S decided he had enough and put it away. I hung out for awhile more, had some lunch with one of the guys down at the local cafe, then back to the airport to pick up my truck and start back home.
As I’m starting to head to my truck I see someone waving me over from the flight line. It’s E, who will shorly be flying M’s plane, a hot-rod aircraft known as a Bellonca Viking, around our field also known as the “Flying Coffin” because it is not considered a beginner’s airplane. M, you see, would like to have some video of his airplane flying, and since no one else seems to have successfully taken pictures of it in flight he will do the job himself, but that, of course, requires someone else to fly the plane.
“You’ve been sick? You poor thing… get in the back of the plane, I’ll give you a ride”.
So it’s E in the front along with C, another pilot E took pity on (C’s plane is being repainted, therefore he is not flying much), and me in the back. As usual, the back seat intercom is not working, the engine is loud, requiring much shouting (and my voice is still hoarse), and with the sun beating in the windows it’s… ah… ‘tis a manly scent in the cockpit, with a touch of me, too. Lawdy, lawdy, must be summer comin’ in because I am too young for hot flashes.
Now, Bellonca’s are, as I said, not considered a beginner’s plane. It is not forgiving of mistakes or inattention. Even on the ground. It has all the ground stability of a taildragger in a tricyle gear airplane. Now, E is an excellent pilot, but despite his efforts at Rudderdance we are waltzing back and forth a bit along the centerline going out to the runway. A quick but thorough check of systems to make sure everything is OK and zooooooom!, we’re off.
This puppy is fast. Woowee! Yeeha! We’re going like a bat out of hell now, boys! And the haze has pretty much cleared away so, despite some bumpy air it’s a fine day to fly and a fine machine to be flying. E flies some, then C tries flying (a little less smooth - it’s his first time flying a Bellonca, although he owns a bit of a hot-rod plane himself). Then E is flying again and…
(OK, here’s another brief digression, this one about digestion: Due to complications of my illness, I have been on a “low residue” diet for about half a week. That means I can eat steak or fish and lots of pasta but nothing with fiber. No fruit but lots of fruit juice. And it did work, and I am feeling better, but you see, lunch was basically a slab of greasy, juicy ol’ ham - lukewarm pork, you might say - and a big ol’ glass of grapefruit juice. Tasty, but not exactly the meal that sits easiest in the old stomach. And remember - I climbed into this airplane about 15 minutes after eating. Think about it. Also remember, I am not hooked into the intercom system, so we have to do a lot of shouting to be heard.)
Then E is flying again, and getting a little frisky. :eek: First he climbs… then turns one way… then turns steeper :eek: the other way… then turns… well, about turn 5 :eek: or 6 :eek: :eek: we’re up to about a 60 degree bank, :eek: which happens to be about 2 g’s, :eek: and the tail gives this cute little :eek: sashay :eek: wiggle :eek: :eek: which, me being in the back seat, I :eek: well :eek: and :eek: truly :eek: feel…
:eek: LEVEL OUT!:eek:
:eek: LEVEL OUT!:eek:
:eek: LEVEL OUT :eek: OR SEE MY LUNCH :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:
Since sound is clearly not working I make gagging motions. OK… THAT worked. Maybe a little too good.
YOU POOR THING… DO WE NEED TO GO BACK NOW? C, WHERE’S THE BARF BAGS? ARE YOU OK? YOU SURE? YOU SURE YOU’RE SURE?
Yeah, guys, I’m OK as long as we’re not flying sideways to the ground under alien gravity forces, alright? And I promise not to barf on a plane none of us own, OK?
After about five minutes the guys are convinced I’m not about to turn inside out in the back seat and we go back to having fun.
Anyhow, one of the local twin engines is up flying, the Apache called the “Pumpkin” for it’s distinctive and obnoxious orange color. It’s that same shade of orange used by state road construction vehicles with pinstriping the color of traffic cones. You see this thing coming miles away. Or, in our case, going miles away. E pours on the juice and we come up on the Apache from behind and, so help me, this hot-rod single barely big enough to squeeze three adults into is now flying an honest-to-God circle around this twin engine airplane. Show-off. :rolleyes: Hope that got onto the video tape.
(Third and last digression - because someone always asks. Yes, both the Viking and the Apache pilots were in communication with each other, we didn’t just sneak up and surprise this guy. And we maintain adequate and safe separations, both horizontal and vertical because we were having fun, not stupidity)
Then it’s back home. The Bellonca comes in fast. Very nice ground rush, with E doing his Rudderdance again, C going “There has GOT to be something wrong with the ground steering on this thing” and E going “No, they’re all like this” and “No, they can’t be” and “Yes, they are” and so on and so forth.
Which, all and all, is a pretty nice way to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon. This, by the way, is my definition of a quet weekend and taking it easy.