Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mark Smith's Posey Patch First Annual Fly-in

I got back on Sunday night from Mt. Vernon, Indiana, home of Mark Smith's Tri-State Kite sales. I had a fantastic time for the entire 4 days I was there.

Wow! Where to begin? First off, a very large thanks to all the folks who helped this fly-in become reality, especially Mr. Mark Smith and Mr. Steve Gould. Everybody was willing to help everybody else have a good time and this was one of the things that helped make the first annual Posey Patch gathering a success! Also, please forgive me for not remembering the name of everybody I met, but I tried real hard! It doesn't mean you weren't important, just that I have a real bad memory! Everybody was so kind and enjoyable it was just a pleasure. Us ultralight fliers just must be real enjoyable people to be around!

Just a sampling of the flying I did at the Posey Patch. I didn't carry my GPS with me all the time. The trip to Henderson County airport was to look at a nearly completed Affordaplane. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 23rd

I arrived on Thursday (6/23) afternoon at about 3:00. Nary a cloud in the sky and very warm. Nobody seemed to notice my arrival so I walked up to where the action seemed to be taking place. Mark and a group of other people were repairing a starter rope on the GT400 twin. I met Charlie Powell from Hamilton, Ontario. He was such a brute that when he was helping Mark start the twin, he snatched the starter rope and broke it! I told Mark who I was and he said he remembered me. Then I met Louis Vasconcelos, also from Hamilton. Charlie doesn't fly, but Louis has an MX. They got it fixed and Mark promptly did a demo flight. Awesome! Great sound too!

Mark has so many planes that he has to remove the rudders to get them all to fit in his hangars. I helped put the rudder on the orange shorty, then went into the hangar to escape the sun. Steve Gould was preparing the trainer while I was relaxing, oblivious to everything except the fact that I was finally there after months of anticipation. Steve pointed towards the hangar and I pointed to myself and said "ME?" and he said yes. Cool! Flyin' in the trainer! I put the helmet on (I usually don't use one, but that was part of the patch rules) and we went up, up, up! I was amazed at the flatness and wide open spaces all around. You could literally fly for miles and miles just above the crops. We went about a mile to the Ohio River. Talk about beautiful! Steve tried to get me to fly, but I couldn't quite understand his hand signals, so I just let go of the stick and crossed my feet between the pedals and chilled! I was enjoying the flight big-time. I guess the minute or two I actually controlled some aspect of flight consisted of my check ride. We landed and as soon as I sat down inside the hangar, Steve asked if I wanted to take the Grey Navy plane up. I didn't need to be asked twice!

Before this weekend, I have never flown a plane with a gearbox. As I took off, everything was fine except for the fact that I could hardly hear the engine and there was no tach on the plane. The prop noise was all I could hear! I eventually throttled back enough where the plane would fly hands off...about 23-24 MPH according to the Halls indicator. The plane was smooth, gentle and predictable. I had no problem with the plane at all and slowly became familiar with the ailerons, which were nice. I flew for about 20 minutes before I landed. It was great. Steve gave me a critique of how I flew, as he did with every new plane that I flew, which was helpful. Before the night was over, I flew the Orange Shorty, which was very similar to the Grey Navy, but a bit faster and a bit more nimble. No surprises though. I sat outside with Louis and Charlie after everyone had left and drank a couple of beers, before going to bed. I didn't get much sleep, thanks to a leaky air matress. About 2AM I hear a car pull in and park. I was in my undies so I wasn't about to get dressed and see who it was, but as soon as they started to unpack and pitch a tent, I figured it was Andrew from New Hampshire, so I finally drifted off to sleep to Andrew's pounding on tent stakes.

Mark Landing in the GT400 twin. Posted by Hello

Mark Smith doing a high-speed fly-by in the GT400 twin. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24th

Friday morning began at 5:30 when I woke up from only about 3 hours sleep. I had to get ready for 6:00 breakfast at Lucky Linda's. Andrew had arrived early that morning, about 2:00...just about the time I was falling asleep. Louis and Charlie were still sleeping and I chose not to wake them. I'd only met them the day before and I didn't know their plans. I didn't wake Andrew either, because I knew he had to be tired and I also had never met him. I got to Linda's right on time and Kyle and Father Lee were already there. We had introductions as Mark and Steve arrived. Shortly after, Louis and Charlie appeared and we had a great breakfast.

Friday was more of the same as Thursday, same weather, same heat...different people. First thing after getting back from Linda's, I had to visit the porta-pottie at the Radio Control field at the end of the long diagonal runway. When I returned to the hangar, there was a bright orange X-Air model H parked along the runway. Cool plane. It belonged to Dan Kessinger. Dan didn't stay long and headed back to his place in Munfordville, Kentucky early on. Kyle and Andrew wasted no time getting familiar with the gray and orange planes. Then "Crazy Andy" showed up! He did some things in a Quicksilver that I've only seen pilots like Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover do in GA planes. "No Fear" should have been Andy's motto! Andrew (from New Hampshire) is a budding young pilot with tons of experience and hopes of Navy jet piloting, saw "Crazy Andy's" little routine and wasn't about to be out-done! By the end of the day was doing much of the same stuff. Low aerobatics are a high-risk event. I hope both of these guys live to be "old" pilots. Altitude is your friend. A few people showed up in their planes during the day. Kentucky Keith showed up in his Super MX and some georgeous MXs and MXLs also flew in. Lunch was at Linda's this day, and I just ate too much. I was worthless until evening. I was so sorry that I even ate dinner when Mark started to cook, even though I wasn't really hungry. At dusk, I cracked open a beer and enjoyed a few well into the dark hours and went to bed around 10. Another great day.

Another beautiful GT400 belonging to Mike the commercial pilot from Owensboro, Kentucky. Posted by Hello

Lee Prestwood on his first landing in a plane with rudder on the pedals. Notice the crab angle? Posted by Hello

Lee Prestwood taxiing after his first landing in the Grey Navy plane. Posted by Hello

Andrew in the GT400. Posted by Hello

Andrew (left) and Rohn. Posted by Hello

The Posey Patch. Posted by Hello

An aerial view of Mark Smith's Posey Patch. Posted by Hello

Kyle or Andrew in the Grey Navy plane. Posted by Hello

Mark and student? make a fly by... Posted by Hello

(from left to right) Kyle and Lee Prestwood, Crazy Andy and Charlie Powell pose for a picture before Crazy Andy takes someone up for a flight. I can't remember who, but I'll bet it was a flight to remember! Posted by Hello

Dan Kessinger (right) and Steve Gould pose for a picture with Dan's X-Air before he flys back to Kentucky. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 25th

Saturday morning started earlier than Friday morning. I got up at 5:10 so I could wash my hair under the hose and generally clean up. I'm sure the others who would be arriving soon would appreciate it. I decided to stay at the patch and guard the planes while the others went to breakfast at Linda's. I had about an hour to myself to sit and watch the sun come up and listen to Rush's "Hemispheres" CD. It was great, just as always. The arrivals started right at seven O'clock or so. After the initial two or three that got there right about the same time from different directions, they arrived about one every 15 minutes or so until there were nearly 20+ aircraft parked all over the place. I saw two Challengers, a couple of Quicksilver MXLs, some Quicksilver MXs and various hybrid Quicksilvers with different modification kits made by Mark Smith. There were always at least four or five in the air practicing touch-N-gos, giving rides, taking lessons, or just plane hot-doggin' for the fun of it. At around ten O'clock, I went flew to the Henderson (Kentucky) county airport to view an almost completed affordaplane built by Don Taylor. It was a beautiful construction of an airplane and I am very happy I chose to go see it. I don't believe I'll be building one. Too much work. When I returned to Marks, all sorts of planes were on the ground. From the air, it was similar to a kaleidoscope on the ground...random patterns of assorted beautiful colors! Like an idiot, I didn't take a picture. I landed and gave up the plane to others who were chompin' at the bit to get some flying time in and I really have had my share up to this point. It was just as hot on Saturday as on Thursday and Friday. Lunchtime came and Mark cooked hamburger and hot dogs for all.

In the afternoon, I decided to try the GT400. I was the last of the "new people" to fly this plane, by my choice of course. Andrew (Crazy Hot Shot Andy) was first, of course. I can't remember if Kyle or Louis flew it next, but they both were before me. I was a bit intimidated, but not as much as the previous day when all the others flew. I figured I could fly it, but I knew it would require more of me than the MX that I own. One big difference...It had a yoke instead of a stick. I have never flown with a yoke. Also, the throttle was on the right instead of the left. I didn't see this as a problem, but others (probably Steve Gould) said it was something to take notice and be aware of. I had heard all the other new GT400 pilots asking questions, so I knew the approach speed to shoot for when landing. Like an idiot, I forgot to ask what to use for a climbout speed before flying. Steve showed me where to set the flaps for takeoff and instructed me to leave them on for my first landing. Electric flaps...what a nice touch! This GT has electric start. I love that! Strap in, get comfortable, then hit the start key and taxi out! Since a yoke has a wheel, if you stick a wheel in front of me, I perceive that it's supposed to turn the plane on the ground. Imagine my surprise when I turned it and the plane kept going straight. "Rudder pedals you idiot!" as I realized I was still in an airplane and not a car. After that everything was fine. The takeoff was pretty uneventful, but I did notice that flying a plane that's twice as heavy as what I'm used to takes up more runway...duh! Climb out was shallow, which was my doing because I didn't know the stall characteristics of this plane. I made shallow banked turns for the same reason. I made a really Looooong downwind leg and a shallow turn for the base and final which were really just one 180 degree turn. The windshield was very dirty and it was a hazy day, so it was difficult seeing the runway, but I did the best to guess where I wanted to touch down. The approach was way more shallow than what I would normally fly with an MX type airplane. I'm sure with practice, I could make them quite a bit more steep, but I was just trying to make a decent return to terra-firma this time around. As I dropped below 100 feet above ground, it looked like it was going to work out fine...I would find out in just a few seconds that the hard part was already behind me. As I flared, it seemed the wheels would never touch down. Airspeed was near 20MPH when they finally touched. I hit the brakes (yeah, brakes are a nice thing to have) and turned around at the end of the runway and taxied back for another takeoff.

After being airborne the second time, I slowly retracted the flaps and watched the airspeed climb! My last flight didn't get above 45. This flight, until I throttled back on climb-out, I was approaching 65MPH! (I told you I was making shallow climb-outs!). I cruised around at about 55 and tried out the maneuverability of this beast. "S" turns about a road (as I found out with this weekends different type check flights) are my favorite way to asses the flight characteristics of different planes. With my very little experience, I didn't feel comfortable trying to get this plane to match the steep turns of the MX series, but I did bank about 40 degrees. This plane was gentle, yet snappy. It was completely predictable. I was able to space the turns at what I would guess to be 150 yards apart on the straight road I was using. I thought this was pretty good for such a fast, heavy airplane. I'll bet crazy Andy (or Mark or Steve or Tommy...damn near anybody for that matter) could turn this brute in 1/3 or even 1/4 less space, but I wasn't going to push my luck. After the S-turns, I climbed higher to test the stall speed. I didn't know if this plane would spin, but I didn't want to find out either, so I didn't press my luck. As the airspeed needle slowly went under 20MPH, I could feel a bit of shaking, but there wasn't any break. I didn't want a wing to tuck under with my big 20 minutes of flight time with this airplane, so I stopped trying to make it stall. I figure if it wouldn't stall at 20, it was going to be difficult to inadvertently stall on approach, so I stopped the stall testing and headed back to the patch. I set the flap and approached a bit steeper this time, but still it was pretty shallow. Damn windscreen is still dirty. On flaring, I kept pulling back on the yoke more and more, waiting to feel the wheels touch. I never did! I hit the brakes and immediately slowed down, so I knew I was down, but I thought that was incredible. I've never greased a landing so smooth as to never feel the wheels touch! What a fine landing plane.

About five O'clock, Several people started to gather at the water runway where the floats were laying on the ground. Then the Grey Navy plane taxied over to the pond/runway and I knew that was the place to be and walked over to help install the floats. Of course Mark had to test out the structural integrity of the installation and proceeded to show off how well he could taxi, then positioned himself at the far end of the runway and gunned it, taking off just feet before the end of the water runway. It was awesome seeing the modified MX fly with floats. Mark turned and landed, coming in over our heads and plopping the plane onto the water, then turned around and took off again. He circled and landed once more before giving up the plane to Tommy, his nephew. Tommy looked like he was having fun as he took off and purposefully splashed stinky pond water over us onlookers. He landed, taxied then took off again, splashing us again before landing and shutting off the engine. Guess who was next...who else...Andrew, the blossoming jet pilot. After a bit of briefing, Andrew got pushed out into the pond and started taxing flawlessly. Of course, everything Andrew did was perfect, as usual. He took off and landed twice, with no problems whatsoever. Then Mark asked me if I wanted to taxi. I opted to wait and watch as many people who were going to try out the floats. I wasn't really sure I was going to do it. Kyle spoke up and after being pushed out into the pond, performed his two take-off and landings just as well as Andrew. When he beached the plane at the end of the runway and got out, nobody else wanted to try it. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I opted to try it, despite my nervousness and trepidation.

I strapped in and was shoved out just like the rest. I did a circle in the runway just fine and started taxiing to the opposite end and turned around. I did a high-speed pass down the pond strip getting planed out and then cut the throttle, but I didn't do is soon enough to be able to make the turn at the end of the pond and I snagged the edge. After being pushed back out by several on the bank, I taxied to the downwind side again, only to turn around and get snagged on the bank again. Since I was all alone at the opposite end of the runway, I had to free myself. I shut off the engine, climbed out on the float, pushed off, then got back in and re-fastened the belt. Then I pulled the rope from the seat, starting the engine before hitting the opposite bank backwards. I was a nervous wreck by this time and completely humiliated and embarrassed by my lack of water taxiing skills, but I was going to go for it. I advanced the throttle to wide open. I felt the floats get up on the step. The end of the runway was approaching, but nobody else had problems getting airborne before the end. Nobody else had taxiing issues either. I eased in some back elevator...more, a bit more....and the plane broke free, and I was flying with no problems. With the floats attached, the airplane was about 150 pounds heavier, and it certainly felt like it. Still, it flew very well. I made a pattern to the left and made a LONG downwind leg to allow me plenty of time to setup the landing. Since the runway was relatively short, you wanted to touch the water as close to the start as possible, but you surely didn't want to touch down in the grass. That would be par for me...hit the bank, miss the runway...blah, blah. Judging the correct power setting for the proper descent was a bit more difficult. Hell, for me, judging the correct descent was difficult! As I got closer, I jockeyed the throttle a bit, but it was clear to me that I would touch down in about the right spot. As I touched the water, I bounced, but not too terribly bad...OK, I bounced two or three times. I had done it! Now I was going to do it again! I carefully (and successfully) turned around and headed back to the far end of the runway, once again successfully turning around. I gunned it and the second takeoff was just like the first. This time instead of doing a left pattern, I flew out straight and did as tight of a turn as I dared with the heavy floats attached, and I set-up for a landing from the same direction I took off. Others had done it this way also and I didn't want to be left out. My approach was a bit steeper since I had less time to descend and the landing was just about the same, with a bounce or two. Still, I didn't bend any tubes or rip any fabric, so I guess I was pretty successful at float flying. I'm sure if I had an hour or so on the river to practice, I would get much better at landing. But of course, leave it to the young bucks like Andrew and Kyle to show me up by not hitting the banks! Good job guys! You are both excellent pilots!

Dinner time came again, and the hot dogs and hamburgers were excellent. Yum, Yum, eat'um up! After dinner I cracked open a beer so the flying was over for me. From what I hear, Steve-O and Rohn were up flying damn near dark:30. From some of the pics I've seen in the Yahoo "Quicksilverultralightowners" group, it sure looks dark! Steve said that if somebody wasn't really familiar with the area, they might not have been able to find the landing strip. Glad you guys made it back OK! When it got dark, I realized that I was so busy having fun that I had neglected to take a single picture on the busiest day of the fly-in. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

Kyle and Andrew were making plans for Andrew to come visit the hotel so he could take a shower, just like the night before. Rohn was standing with them and he was staying in a room also at the same hotel. I harassed Andrew about not being able to rough it and doing without a shower. About that time Rohn told me I was welcome to stop by and wash off under the shower in his room. It took me all of about 3 seconds to accept, at which time Andrew harassed me back about not "roughing it". Louis and Charlie also made plans to go to Evansville and get a room so they could shower and sleep on a bed for the night, but were planning on returning in the morning. I got my stuff together and Andrew and I left in our respective cars to go to the motel. The shower was wonderful, let me tell you...cool and clean. I finished quickly, got dressed and said goodbye to Rohn, as he was going home and not coming back to the field on Sunday. I went back to the patch and brushed my teeth and said goodnight to Steve, who was also staying out at the patch for whatever reason, and I hit the air mattress and was shortly off to sleep, even before Andrew made it back.

Sunday, June 26th

Sunday morning the cell phone alarm went off at 5:30, and I felt quite refreshed. At 6:00, Andrew, Steve and I all were at Linda's ready for breakfast. Mark joined us as well as Kendall and a friend of his whose name I can't remember right now. They were both students learning how to fly. I ordered biscuits and gravy, three pieces of bacon and hash browns. When the biscuits came, it was a huge plate with 2 biscuits split in half and filled to the rim with gravy. Then the bacon and hash browns came. If I had only known, I would not have ordered bacon or potatoes, but I didn't have too much of a hard time polishing it all off, but I was very full. Back at the patch about 7:30, we pulled all the planes out and before long, Andrew was up in the GT400 twin, Lee and Kyle were taking their last flight, Lee in the Grey Navy and Kyle in the Orange Shorty. This was the only time they had flown together. I snagged the Grey Navy plane when they returned and took one last ride around Diamond Island in the middle of the Ohio River.

Over the next couple of hours, Kyle and Lee left, Louis and Charlie left, Andrew left and the only people remaining at the patch were Myself, Tommy Smith & relative (a lady), Steve, Mark, Victor and Jesse and his wife Diane. I found the time to take one last flight in the GT400 and I still wasn't comfortable in it. It would probably take another 5 or 6 hours to really start enjoying it's capabilities. I did a couple of touch'N'gos and was up for about half an hour. After that I enjoyed the company of all that were left sitting and talking outside under an umbrella. Jesse noticed that a storm was blowing up to the southeast. We quickly got the planes in the hanger and all battened up. Tommy left with his relative in the two-place and then the downpour came. It rained heavily accompanied by 20MPH+ winds that really beat my tent up bad and blew some rain inside. Diane and I were stuck in one hangar, everybody else was in the other, watching the NASCAR race on TV! After 20-30 minutes, the rain quit and we joined the others in the other hangar. I had a final piece of the cake that Diane made (OK...it was two) and I decided to pack up and head home. I did an expeditious job of packing because another storm was looming. I said my final good-byes and told Mark and Steve how much I enjoyed the fly-in. I left at 4:00 on the nose, stopping in Evansville to fill up with gas and then headed home. It was about a 7+ hour ride home, but it went fast.

The western tip of Diamond Island. The structure you see on the right is some oil processing equipment. Posted by Hello

Another boat on the south side of the Island. It's a float boat (raft) and all the people were waving to me! Posted by Hello

Some oil processing equipment on the west end of Diamond Island. Posted by Hello

My shadow on the river as take from between my legs out the bottom of the Gray Navy plane. Posted by Hello

South shore of Diamond Island. The whole interior is one large field that somebody told me is about 500 acres. It's currently planted in what appear to be soybeans. Posted by Hello

Another boat on the South side of Diamond Island as I go eastward down the Ohio River. Posted by Hello

A boat that is motionless on the north side Diamond Island. Wonder what's going on in there... Posted by Hello

Flying to the north side of Diamond Island going eastward along the Ohio River. Posted by Hello

Tommy Smith talking business with some perspective students. Posted by Hello

Kyle and Dad (Lee) prepare for thier first ever flight together in different airplanes. Posted by Hello

Kyle or possibly Louis returning from a flight. Posted by Hello