Sunday, February 13, 2005

Flying to the sawmill (photos follow text)

I arrived at the airport around 9:45 yesterday morning. My friend Don was already there, piddling around getting ready to fly. We talked for a few minutes before deciding where to fly. The wind was kicking up a bit with gusts up to about 10 knots according to the windsock, blowing anywhere the southwest to the northwest. The wind was only supposed to be 5-7 MPH until noon. So much for accurate weather forecasting, eh? I decided to go up and fly a pattern to see how bad the wind actually was aloft.

I did a thorough preflight before cranking the engine, which fired quite predictably on the first pull after priming. It died because I couldn't get another shot of fuel to it in time, but started up just fine after another pull on the rope. I strapped in without all the electronic gadgets like my GPS or radio or headset. I wore only hearing protection and earmuffs. The weather was about 60 degrees on the ground with sun shining through the haze. I taxied out to the runway and after checking for traffic, taxied out to the far end (runway 33) to takeoff into the wind as much as possible. I checked for traffic once more before turning around and aligning to the runway centerline and pushing the throttle forward.

I was off the ground in about 50 feet. As soon as the tires cleared the pavement, the airplane weathervaned into the wind, which was blowing out of the northeast at that moment. I was at 600 AGL before half the runway was under me. I turned left twice to enter back into the pattern for landing. I went long on downwind because I was a bit high, then I turned base and final. The turn to final was not pretty as the wind wanted to push me into a steeper bank than I wanted. After lining up on the runway, I chopped the power and seemed to float down to the runway. At about 100 feet I added power and pointed the nose down because I was floating like crazy. I was doing the rudder dance as I touched the pavement. Ground speed was about 10 MPH, but airspeed was still about 25 or so. I bounced about 4 times, but they were short little bounced. The wind was trying to keep me up. The upwind wind lifted, so spoiler and rudder in that direction brought it back down. The taxi back was very slow, as the plane wanted to fly. When I got back to the hanger, I told my friend that it was windy, but nothing too terrible, which was true, now that my wing dihederal is half of what it was!

We decided to go flying to a sawmill that my friend was interested in photographing from an airborne perspective. He explained the route we would fly, following certain roads and cautioned me that landing spots enroute were scarce should either of us have a problem. I've flown over this way before and I know that he is telling the truth. The sawmill is about 12 miles straight line distance, but our route following the roads will be about 18 miles. I told him I'm game, and we both strap in and head to the destination.

We gradually climb to 2000 feet MSL. My indicated airspeed is 50+, but the groundspeed varies between 30 and 35 MPH. For the first part of the trip, there are a few suitable landing spots and I feel pretty comfortable, until I notice that one of my EGT gauges is reading about 100 degrees higher than the other. I'm only slightly concerned, because I ordered new probes about 10 hour back, and within an hour, one of them quit working. I sent it back for an exchange, but I installed an older, used probe for the time being. This probe has always reacted differently that the one that was new. I've been meaning to change it out, but you know how things go. I know better...procrastination has no part in airplane repair, so now I'm paying for my laziness by a severe lack of peace of mind. I try different RPM ranges, and the gauge response by getting cooler. This bothers me for the rest of the trip, no matter what RPM range I am running. It seems to be worst about 5200-5400 RPM. It's fine when I slow down to 4800-4900 RPM, but then I can't keep up with my friend, who's ahead of me. To make matters worse, we are starting to fly over areas where there's hardly anyplace to land safely, except maybe on a road. I'm not really comfortable with roads either, but that's another story.

I finally see what appears to be a sawmill in the distance, and I'm relieved that there are several places to land nearby, should they be needed. As we get overhead, my friend starts circling and taking pictures. I also circle off to the side as to give him clear access to any angle that he wants. We are both at about 800 feet AGL. When Don starts climbing, I know he's finished shooting and we both start to head back. I'm still having problems (real or not) with my EGT.

The flight home is relatively uneventful, and we arrive back at the airport with nothing unusual happening. I enter the pattern, turn base and final and land right on the numbers. I taxi off to the side of the runway in the grass and make way for Don to land. As I turn to see what's going on, Don flys over me and lands past me about 100 feet we both taxi back and shutdown. Total flight lasted about 1.1 hours and we covered about 38 miles. It was a pretty good flight.

Notes to myself before flying again...

Change the suspicious EGT probe...
Change my radio to antenna cable to the proper length (reduce length by 10 feet or so)...
Replace a rusty bolt that was found on the preflight inspection...


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