Flying Journal - Some Joyous Flying-and a Great Sadness!
It would have been a great month in my flying. While I had given Wings lessons or a B.F.R. for a little flying each month this winter, it had been a while since I had flown much by myself or any distance. Last weekend everything came together for me and I borrowed a Cherokee Six to fly to Indianopolis to visit my daughter Heidi, her husband Stan, and my granddaughter, Claire.
There are several GA airports around Indy. In the past, I had used Indy Metropolitan, but Heidi and Stan have moved a little farther west in the city to their own condo, so this time I tried Eagle Creek Airpark (EYE), just west of the city, and just north of International Airport, just under the Class C shelf, rather like Springfield Downtown sits under the shelf of SGF. It's only a couple miles from the old Speedway airport, sadly now closed. That's another airport I will never have landed at, along with Meigs and St. Louis Weiss.
When I'm an old (really old) pilot I'll probably still be telling my students, "If you see a plane you want to fly (or an airport you want to land at), go ahead and do it, because it may not be there next month or next year."
The flight up on Friday was uneventful and beautiful. Only a few high thin clouds, and the southerly winds were pretty much a wash, little headwind or tailwind component. The first thing I noticed was Illinois looked rather dry, especially compared to the lush green of Spring in both Missouri and Indiana. I have flown to and over the Indy area many times, but of course never to this airport. I had considered it once before. The Metro Airport I had used before was the only one in the area with 15-33 runways. All the other airports have runway alignments more like 2-20 and 3-21. Once when I came in the wind was gusting around 25 from the northeast, making a nasty direct crosswind at Metro. My plan was to make one attempt and if I didn't like it, I would try another airport. But the landing went well (better than some of my less challenging ones-go figure!) and I never tried another airport.
Upon my arrival, the wind was moderate, so I just had to find the 4200 foot runway in the haze and urban sprawl (don't worry, I had Loran and GPS, but when I'm VFR, I still like to SEE the damn thing I'm going to land on). Fortunately Eagle Creek Airpark is adjacent to Eagle Creek Reservoir so it was easy to find. I think the lake is about 1200 acres, a couple square miles, so that's a nice big landmark. It is in Eagle Creek Park, which at 3700 acres, claims to be the 4th largest city park in America.
We had a great visit. Saturday Stan and Claire and I spent some time hiking and visiting the Nature Center in Eagle Creek Park. The flying was a little different returning on Sunday. A front was moving through Illinois with a strong westerly flow. Pilot reports indicated moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet. Winds upon my return to SGF were forecast around 20 and gusty. As I left Indiana, it was almost constant turbulence. I dodged clouds and tried different altitudes as I worked my way through Illinois. Twice, my head hit the headliner. Well actually, I was just sitting there minding my own business when the ceiling of the cockpit came down and hit me! Yes, my seatbelt was snug. Yes, it smoothed out a little around 8500 feet, but there were more clouds ahead and above, and I didn't feel like being blasted through all those rising cumulous IFR. About the time I got high enough to be smooth, the groundspeed dropped 15-20 knots, so I worked my way back down, to take the speed and saved fuel in return for the rough ride.
Actually, it was roughest between 5 and 6 thousand. When I crossed south of Festus into Missouri, I was past the front so clouds were gone, but even windier. Winds on the surface were around 150-160 degrees, from the southeast, but about 190 degrees at 30 knots or so at 6,000 feet. Yep, there's that Coriolis Effect you learned about. Finally, I ended up cruising over Missouri about 3500 feet, so I got the good view, and little headwind. And somehow, the turbulence didn't really bother me. I guess I was so glad to be flying. Also, I was very relaxed, and didn't fight it, and just let the plane bounce around me. Now I've got to figure out how to teach that to students who tense up and resist the bumps and thereby make it worse.
I guess the wind had gusted to thirty a little earlier, but it was 160 at 19, gusting to 26 when I landed on Runway 14 at SGF. It's the only place I worry much about what my landings look like, since I know several controllers, who have a ringside seat right there by runway 14. I thought I had it nailed, but at the last minute a gust held me back up for a moment, but it was otherwise uneventful. So it ended up being one of the best birthdays I've had in a long time. I'll just say this about fuel prices. I paid from $2.50 to $3.55 per gallon for 100 LL Avgas on this trip. That's an adventure in itself, and maybe another story.
So what was so bad about the month? My cousin, Thomas Arthur Holmer, SGF chapter member and former President of our Chapter, died March 28 of lung cancer. Sadly, we were out of town for his memorial get-together. My mother and one brother were able to attend. Those of you who knew Tom know what a great person he was. He was also a great pilot, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard, with thousands of hours in both business jets and turbine helicopters. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Mary, daughters Anne and Kate, and all his family and friends. Tom and I went to the same school in Gowrie, Iowa when I was in first grade and he was in fifth grade, but then they moved to Mississippi and we moved to Colorado. I was so pleased when they moved to Springfield 4 or 5 years ago. Tom's parents, Art and Lil, live in Mesa, Arizona. He is also survived by sisters, Ruth and Sally and their families. Sadly, Tom's younger brother, Bill, was killed in a crop-dusting accident in the early 70s.
Fly safely, and share the joy (and don't forget to share your love with your loved ones)!