Monday, May 23, 2016

Stretching My Wings

Went flying today.

A good friend asked if it was exciting and fun, and was puzzled when I said it was more akin to finally getting out of the hospital and into rehab. I was flat exhausted, and wiped out for the rest of the day. My darling husband had to wake me from a nap to go to dinner.

There were a few reasons for that - the first being that I haven't gotten my plane down here yet. She's in with the mechanics, getting everything triple-checked and tweaked, a lot of minor fixes done, before I fly her on a long cross-country. So I was flying an unfamiliar airplane, in an area I'd never flown before.

The unfamiliar airplane was really unfamiliar: it was a Grumman Cheetah, which about as different from my plane as you can get and still be a single-engine airplane. Instead of a canvas sling seat that seats two, this has leather seats for four. Instead of high wing with clear patrol doors, it's a low wing with a canopy that slides back. Instead of tailwheel, it's a castering nosewheel. Instead of drum brakes activated by little tabs down by my heels, it has hydraulic toe brakes (at the top of the rudder pedals.)

Instead of cruising along at 85 miles per hour, it cruises at 127 knots (146 mph). It doesn't get down to 85 until you're landing. Oh, and it has flaps. Electric flaps.

Instead of a basic panel and a handheld radio, it has a full IFR setup with two nav/coms, including an IFR-certified GPS. We had to do a VOR check. I didn't even remember what that was...

Essentially, it's like driving a Ford Model T on farm roads for 15 years, and then getting plunked behind a 2016 ferrari with the new-car smell still reeking from the seats, and being asked to perform skids, sharp corners, spinning circles, and parallel parking.

On top of that, we took off in wind 19G30 (nineteen knots steady, gusting up to 30 knots), and found the practice area went from clear on the way over to heavy haze while we were there. So I was trying to perform visual maneuvers without a visual reference... "nose on the horizon" is a whole lot more work when you can't see a horizon.

And then, as the wind got stronger, I started practicing landings. By the time I did my final landing, it was steady 25 knots - thankfully, straight down the runway. The peak wind I like to fly the Taylorcraft in when I'm out of practice is 15 knots - fortunately, this plane is not nearly as good at converting wind to lift, so I was able to get her down smoothly.

Yeah, my brain feels like I took the flying skills portion, and the even-more-atrophied IFR flying skills portion, broke the casts open, and put them through a really vigorous round of physical therapy. The neurons hurt.

Other important thing I learned: must bring water when flying in Texas. I hadn't realized how dehydrated I got in an hour and a half flying, until I was working through the water bottles in my car before I got to less important things like seatbelt, putting keys in the ignition, going home...

But you know what? It was worth doing, and worth doing well. I regret nothing. I got to fly, so it was a good day.


  1. I understand the type of stress & mental strain ... but still, you got to fly. :)

  2. :D When I flew back east, students were limited to 8 kt cross winds and 15 kt total, but 3 miles visibility was considered quite good and 5 was perfect. Back home, we stopped flying at 30 kts, max cross wind 15 kts, and 5 miles visibility was regarded as marginal IFR. I almost had Dekalb-Peachtree Airport to myself one breezy afternoon, doing touch-n-goes in a Cessna 152 with a 12 kt direct cross wind. The students were in awe. *shrug* Different regions, different weather.


  3. Sounds like a great flight with some new challenges to make things interesting. With any luck I'll be up this week.

  4. Woo hoo! Back in the saddle! :-)