Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Garden Island

Just a quick post-- we're back from Kauai. What a beautiful, amazing place! We had a blast-- and the highlight of the trip was our ultralight tour of the island. Pictures and stories will be forthcoming... for now, a few quick pics (sorry about the sideways ones... I don't know why Blogger is publishing them that way!). Oh-- and I finally have a second aircraft listed in my flight log!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Old Friends

I spent the weekend catching up with "old" friends. Readers that I grew up with may know Nancy and Matt. Our families were all part of a close knit group that spent a lot of holidays and time together. Nancy and Mat have recently reconnected, married, and are moving to the DC Area! It was amazing to catch up with them and get to know them as adults (I hadn't seen them in years). Turns out that Matt is a big "car guy"... and we joked about trading rides in one of his old cars for rides in our plane. We had a great evening and I look forward to seeing more of them both.

Sunday, Husband and I caught up with another "old" friend (ok, not so old!). We went flying with M, our old flight instructor. We've been trying to get together with M for a while, but every time our schedules coordinate, the weather's been bad. So we met up Sunday morning for a flight to JGG for lunch. When we arrived at the airport, a fellow pilot alerted us to a couple of potential problems. Apparently there was an unmanned rocket launch NOTAM for right over our route-- and the clouds were decreasing at a much faster rate than anticipated. Hearing this, I figured I should check out the NOTAMS and get the information for myself. I searched and searched, but never could find the notice about the rocket launch. After conferring with Husband and M, we decided we'd go ahead with our planned flight-- but would make sure to get flight following to help keep us out of trouble (always a good thing, anyway).

It was strange flying with M again. Husband sat in the back on the way out, so M handled the radios for me while I flew-- and kept accidentally starting to use his call sign (Wisconsin) to begin/end radio calls instead of ours (Cessna). We all got a chuckle when the controller heard one of these slips and said "Gee, Wonder what your day job is?!" The flight went pretty smoothly. We had to descend from our desired altitude of 6500 feet because we encountered precipitation (and it was -2C outside-- definite icing potential), but the air was a balmy 2C at 4500, and the precipitation didn't do more than spit on the windscreen. Landing at JGG is always fun. Near the water, the winds always seem more variable-- which translates to more challenging! And JGG is right traffic for 13-- the runway of choice. On the plus side, the runway is a healthy 3200 feet long, and there's really good lunch waiting at the other end! Somehow, after all the landings with M, I got nervous on this one. But still managed to get the plane down reasonably well-- and without embarrassing myself in front of all the people watching from the restaurant!

We had a great lunch-- who can resist their homemade bread and great sandwiches! Though not as busy as in the summer, several planes came and went while we sat outside. We struck up a conversation with a guy that's in process of buying land to make his very own grass strip. Husband was pretty fascinated. We also checked out a group of ultra light planes that later left as a flock. We laughed to see one of them put on a helmet and start the engine while standing outside the plane. Not giving us warm and fuzzies for flying with him! Maybe it was for protection against potential bird strikes!

During the trip home we quizzed M about his new airplane job. Sounds like he's really having a blast. He described his panel and the avionics in the planes he flies. It's crazy to think that in some ways, we have more advanced avionics in our little 2550 lb airplane than in his $40million dollar plane.

All in all, a most excellent weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Vacation Time!

Husband and I are taking a little vacation soon. Since we missed the good ski weather (my crazy project kept us from going in March), we've decided that we should go warm instead... so Kauai, here we come! We were hoping to do a little flying while there-- we read a very cool article about flying on Maui... but we can't find an FBO on Kauai. Has anyone heard of any FBOs that fly out of Kauai?

In the meantime, we've found the next best way to explore... we're going to do an ultralight lesson. It looks very cool! And I will definitely post about it afterward. I know some pilots are really hesitant about the whole ultralight scene... but it's actually one of the things that contributed to my wanting to learn to fly. We di a similar thing in Durban (South Africa)-- took an ultralight flight out over the beaches and the ocean. I was terrified to do it-- Husband and the instructor had to sort of talk me into it. But once I was in the air with the instructor, it was amazing! Very different than I expected-- very smooth and freeing. It helped me to really understand the aerodynamics of flying.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Night on the Town

Ok... so maybe this is better termed "Early Evening on the Town"!

Husband and I finally made it up to HGR this past weekend. We've had two or three trips scheduled and something has always gotten in the way... either P-40 is expanded, the weather is bad, etc.

I didn't think we were going to fly this weekend. The plane was booked by someone else on Sunday, and on Saturday: I had a volleyball tournament, Husband had to work, and the weather looked awful. But... Saturday morning, we started seeing some blue through the clouds. My volleyball playing ended early (read: we lost!), and Husband managed to get his work wrapped up by late afternoon.

So, we headed out for an early evening treat: a flight to Hagerstown and dinner at the airport. HGR is so close, we each only got .6 hours of Hobbs, even with the runup and taxi time! But it was nice out-- almost smooth, and a lot of blue sky (and also a lot of haze!). I had done all the flight planning, so I flew on the way out and Husband manned the radios. HGR is a towered airport-- but we've gotten much better at our radio calls, so even that wasn't a big deal. Our approach brought us within a few degrees of the prevailing runway path, so we were told to call a 3 mile final. As soon as we did, we were cleared to land. We asked how to get to the restaurant, and Tower gave us instructions to park at Jet Ryder, an FBO on the field.

We pulled onto the ramp and were directed into a spot. The marshaller then met us at the plane. We were worried when he said that we couldn't walk to the restaurant, but he quickly followed that with an invitation to use the crew car. As long as we were back within 1:15, it would be free! ('course, we ended up with an $11 ramp fee because we didn't need fuel, but that's ok)

Within a couple of minutes, we were in the courtesy car (a maroon blazer) and we headed around the perimeter of the airport to Nick's Airport Inn. We felt a little strange going to dinner at 5:30 (can you say early bird special?!)... but the food was great; I even had plenty left for lunch the next day. (The dinner rolls and mashed potatoes were especially good!) Being accustomed to DC pricing, it seemed inexpensive-- especially since no wine with dinner!

After a nice dinner, we drove back over to the FBO and did a quick preflight. Husband flew us home... he even hummed a little (sure sign of a happy husband). We were back just as the sun started to get low on the horizon. We closed up the plane for the night and headed for our car. What a great date. In only a little more time (and a little more money) than we might spend for an expensive restaurant in DC, we had a great flight and dinner at HGR.

It was only as I started to get in the car that I remembered... the take away box. Hopefully, another hungry pilot borrowed the crew car after us!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Stealin' Grace

Last week I did something I haven't done in a loooong time... I cut out of work early and went flying just for the heck of it! The Washington area had had a string of grey, gloomy days (and that seems to have the effect of turning normally sane people into "Eyeores"). My crazy project at work was finally coming to an end, but my schedule hadn't filled back up with other stuff. Oh- and inexplicably, it was a beautiful blue sky day.

So after staring at my computer for a while after lunch-- without actually getting much done at all, I just shut it down (I discovered the next day that I didn't even click send on the email I was writing!) and left the office. I was torn between a nice indulgent mid-afternoon nap and a peaceful jaunt through the skies. I decided to do both! A quick 40 minute nap had me refreshed and ready for the flight. So I headed for the airport.

It was nice to be out there again. I took my time with the preflight. I'm a little embarassed to admit it, but I always greet our plane when I arrive. I love to see "the Dog" sitting out there on the ramp, with it's cute stubby nose. I whisper a little hello and give it a pat on the wing as I walk up, and feel like I'm greeting a dear old friend. (Does anyone else admit to such foolishness! Husband makes terrific fun of me for it!)

I decided to head somewhere familar- just to shake the rust off. It didn't matter much where I flew-- but I know that to enjoy the flight, I need a destination. So I picked Luray. It's a nice little airport, out in the country. It's only about 45 minutes away, the perfect length for a quick mid-week pick-me-up.

On the way out, there was a ton of traffic! Every time I glanced at the fish finder, there were more planes headed my way. Without Husband there to help me spot the planes, I felt a little out of sorts. But I eventually made it through the fray and headed on out. As soon as I got out from the Bravo, I went ahead and crossed over the ridge to the long skinny valley that Luray is in. It was comforting to fly somewhere that I could basically find by feel. The airport is about halfway down the valley between the last two of the long ridges that make up the geography of the area.

I landed without incident and taxied to the small ramp. Once on the ramp, I braked, but didn't shut off the engine. Instead, I turned the plane so that I could look out over the nearby farms. I opened the window and breathed in the cool late afternoon air. Ah. That was more like it! After a few deep refreshing breaths, I ran through my checklists and made my calls to back taxi to the end of the runway.

Taking off (of course I did a soft-field!), I felt much more relaxed and in control. While the flight down had been a bit stressful with all the traffic sightings, the flight back was exactly what I wanted: peaceful and full of grace. I felt alive again. Just me and the flocks of birds around me. I landed back at JYO feeling rested and happy. I found I was smiling again for the first time in ages. Too bad you can't bottle that feeling... Well, no, I take that back. Then we might take it for granted, and flying is way too amazing to take for granted!

Oh-- and of course, I thanked the plane as I said goodnight, stopping to lean my forehead against the strut for just a second.