Monday, September 22, 2008

Cruising the End of Summer...

A pilot could hardly ask for a better day on which to launch an end-of-summer day of flying as we had around the Air Capital on Sept. 20. A small pilot club to which I belong planned a mid-day fly-in and lunch meeting at a tiny little prairie strip about 25 miles north of Dead Cow International.

With an invitation from The Leprechaun and a loaner Aeronca Chief available, we twisted ourselves into the tandem cabin, fired up the 85-horse Continental, and motoring off Runway 35, launched for an late-morning cruise in the low-and-slow lane.

We weren't past Dead Cow on our northbound track when The Leprechaun asked me to take the plane so he could enjoy the landscape slipping past below while sipping the black coffee I'd brought him. Green fields, grain elevators, other small airports and an occasional airplane slipped by us as we beat a track northwest from The Air Capital.

Now for anyone who's tried, there's no surprise in the challenge of keeping a trimmed attitude from the back seat of a Champ; no instruments -- not even a skid ball, and a panel and horizon mostly hidden by the shoulders and head of The Leprechaun up front.

But a little maneuvering allowed me a view of the tach and altimeter over his left shoulder and the airspeed indicator over his right. Between them, these on-and-off views of the dials helped me maintain level flight; a view of two big grain elevators just south of our destination airport helped me maintain heading.

And the little 85 churned along, dragging us across the textured Kansas landscape to the long, wide grass runway awaiting us.

Confirmation of the accuracy of my method came about five miles out, where even from only 800 agl we could see the row of 20-plus airplanes parked along the east-west taxiway at our destination.

Now if only those X-ray glasses would come through -- then I could have logged at least one takeoff and landing, at the party destination and at another grass airport we visited en route back to Dead Cow.

Throughout, the bumps of solar-heated air were moderate, the winds light and easy to endure.

And all the way, the 85-horse heart of the little Champ beat heartily enough to show 100 mph on the airspeed dial.

Can't think of a better way to wrap up a week than a little low-and-slow cruising, a few hours hangar flying with fellow aviation addicts, and the view available only from a small plane with a couple of vintage aviators in tow.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful vignette, Dave. That perfectly captures my vision of what I want much of my flying to be like once I get my private pilot license.

While you were chugging northwest of Wichita on Saturday, I was bumming a ride in a 1940s Funk B-75-L at the Funk Fly-in in Coffeville, Kansas. It was a great little plane and a wonderful platform for a scenic ride over the Verdigris River valley.


1:45 PM  
Blogger Stephen Force (Steve Tupper) said...

Geez, Dave, if only you got aviation a little better.

(Great stuff, man!)

- Steve

9:02 AM  

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