I think I mentioned that our insurance company wanted me to get more time (10 hours dual) before they would cover me as PIC. That’s more than I would’ve expected, having completed the factory training already, but I did want to get some transition in our plane anyway, so it wasn’t a big lay-on. To that end, I’ve been trying to get either John from the factory, or our good friend Dave Bertram to drop by and fly with me for the last several weeks. They both have struggled to get here, Dave because he’s got an extensive engine overhaul going on, and John because of his new baby… but today John was close enough (upstate NY) visiting family with the factory demo plane to drop by and do some flying. I warned him it would be a long day.
The V-Twin demo plane drew a lot of stares at Warren County
N91VT at the FBO
John and his little pilot-to-be
John with BabRaham
All together I did 5 hours with John, and then he did another 30 minutes with Elizabeth – getting her comfortable from the right seat (so she can safety pilot for me knowing she can land from over there if need-be). It was a long day of flying, but it was really great. John showed up just before 11 and we hopped right into the airplane. It was hot and muggy already, but the broken layers of clouds had been lifting all day. We took off on RWY19, and headed out to Ceasar’s Creek Lake, the local practice area, and climbed up above the broken clouds to about 3,000′ and practiced some stalls (about 70-72 kias with John and I) and slow flight – driving around at 85 kias practicing leading with heavy rudder for my turns. For me, this was mostly about working off my nerves. With a little practice down, we headed north for a planned run at longish airports surrounding the Dayton Class C airspace, about 180 nm total so we could get plenty of time in, and avoid my just getting dialed in for one airport and not really learning anything.
First up was Xenia/Greene County, which has a gravel pit on the one end. I know that it tends to suck airplanes with it’s downdraft, but I still let my sink rate get too high. I also don’t know if our airplane is a little more pitch sensitive than the trainer, or if just seems like it because the GRT EFIS doesn’t have any lag in the VSI indication, but I was chasing pitch a little all day. After 2 acceptable landings here, we moved north to Urbana/Grimes, which has a lovely Cafe that we didn’t visit. 😉 Here the clouds were a bit more problematic. They seemed to be a bit more coherent, and I didn’t want to risk getting on top, to clear Springfield’s airspace, just to immediately have to find a hole to dive back down through, so I ended up creeping between the 2 airspace rings just below the layer. By the way, we poked around all day because we needed the hours anyway. Two more landings at Urbana, and we were off to the west to Piqua. A few years ago Beth had an ugly landing, so I was curious if it would effect me. It didn’t. Again I kept letting the airplane get lower than I wanted sooner than I wanted, but I got back onto my glideslope and put in 2 pretty good landings.
Next we were meant to head further west for Richmond, Indiana and Miami University Oxford, but the weather was looking a little grim over there. The actual storms were quite a ways off, but it was looking darkish and scuzzy, so we decided to head closer to home. I foolishly called Dayton (Columbus Approach) to see if I could transition their airspace (via flight following). The answer was, ah, no. Often they’ll let Elizabeth fly right over the center of the field, but they took me half way to the state line anyways. John was mumbling in his beer that I should just cancel, but that would’ve left me guilt stricken, so I just tooled along. The upshot is while scudding along they called out traffic, a Liberator, 11 o’clock and 3 miles. After a bit, sure enough there was the unmistakable tail of a B-24. Apparently the CAF’s “Diamond Lil” was in town for the Dayton Airshow over the weekend and was working her way home, or giving rides. I would’ve gotten a picture, but we never got within iPhone range.
About halfway to Hamilton the sky opened back up, and it was very pleasant. This was the first time in the trip that I was on the wrong side of the active pattern, so I got to show off my crossfield technique, and another 2 landings. Hamilton is huge really, so it wasn’t much of a challenge (VASI too). Then it was time to head home, check the weather and get some water… I was sweating like a pig. So we jogged back to I68, another crossfield entry, and my first pattern was godawful. Really. I’d been a bit nervous about this one, because although long, Warren County is a bit narrow compared to everything we’d done so far. I came in too low and sinking too fast, and as I added power to arrest the descent, I hit the wind burble off of the trees at the approach end. I ended up off center and fighting aligning with the runway. I just did touch the pavement as John called for the go-around. Nothing dangerous, mind you, but not good. The next time around was OK, but also not good, and John called for the 3rd to be full stop to let me get my bearings. That actually settled me down enough that this one was pretty good. We rolled out and headed for the hangar and some welcome cold drinks.
At this point it was after 1, and I was going to get John some lunch, but the weather looked iffy, so we decided to get another hour in before taking a break, just in case. So, back in the airplane for one of the worst hot-starts I’ve ever done. Wow. Nothing like a hot engine to put the hurt on a battery. Anyway, I did get it started, and we went back up and did several patterns here at Lebanon. The wind was starting to get up and was blowing at least 15 kts, but mostly down the runway, so John had me move up to Wright Brothers for a little crosswind practice. They have a great runway up there, and still there was nobody else flying. It was a bit weird that pretty much everywhere we went we were the only airplane, and almost no one was on the radio. But, I did 3 or 4 up there, came back home and did a few more, and pulled in after an hour to get some lunch.
John had never had “Cincinnati style chili” before, so I took him to Skyline. I don’t think he really enjoyed it, but he did eat most of it. I enjoyed mine very much, as well as copious water and soda. Man was I parched. Soon enough we were headed back to the airport to splash some gas in the airplane and go do the last hour or so. Surprisingly the weather was improving again, and we headed back to Hamilton for some crosswind work. On my second or third lap, my technical counselor, Ray Parker, came on the radio to rass me. He made a point of inviting me back on Saturday so our EAA friends could grade my landings. I made my good-byes and went up to Middletown for some work. It’s kind of in a bowl with the river around it on three sides, but by this point I was really settling in. I can still use some practice, but my touchdowns were smooth and I was catching the nose no problem. Now I was playing with the nose and trying to hold it up too long, but catch it I did. All too soon it was time to go home, do a few more there, and start to wind up the visit. It was starting to get late, and I didn’t want to send John home for a night landing (he didn’t seem to care). Elizabeth was able to get away from work just early enough to do some right seat takeoffs and landings, which will really help her confidence flying with me. All and all, it was a great visit, and puts me well on my way to solo time.
The Drippy Personal
I have to say this is a huge milestone for me. We are nearing our 13th year since that first Oshkosh and I’m finally really flying my airplane. I visited most of the special places in my ‘flying’ life yesterday as pilot in command of an airplane that I built. That’s a hard thing to overstate. I visited the home the Wright Brother’s Museum, home of the first canard ever built (a homebuilt too, I might add)… I visited Hook Field in Middletown, where I watched those 70’s era Blue Angel and Thunderbird performances, and dreamed of flying myself. I went to Hamilton where our EAA chapter and Tech Counsel are housed, and Ray just happened to be at the airport and talked to me while I was in the pattern. I went to Piqua, the closest paved runway to Elizabeth’s parents, and site of one of our little hiccups on this journey. I flew fairly close to a B-24 south of Dayton. My brother and his oldest boy will be in town soon, and I hope to take them flying… it’s something I’ve daydreamed about for many years now. There have been so many people that have helped make this journey possible, I can’t justly list them all… but they know who they are, and I do thank them, for every helpful piece of advice, a hand on a wrench, a kick in the pants, or just to listen to me complain about whatever the setback of the moment was. Without each of you, I would not be here today. But most of all to my Sweetie, who dared me to take the leap. Sometimes the courage to do the outlandish simply comes some someone else believing that you can. I know it did for me.
Posted By: Brett FerrellMonday June 30th, 2014 at 8:18 PM