Flying JournalóLanding in the Goody Grandpa Club

Thatís what our chapter VP, Bill Cheek calls it: the Goofy Grandpa club. I think he was surprised how easily he rolled down the slippery slope from rational, hard-nosed (but soft-hearted?) university administrator to Goofy Grandpa.

Bill just earned his Instrument Rating under the intense scrutiny of TWO examiners 1) Doug Jackson, newly Designated Examiner, who was being observed administering his
first instrument checkride by 2) our friendly neighborhood FAA Inspector. Bill was the only one of three applicants who passed during that "visit" by the FAA. Hats off to Bill and Doug!

Bill has been my student through his Private and Instrument training, but we have also become friends. So when he heard that my daughter Heidi and husband Stan were expecting their first child, Bill began teasing me about how long it would take the logical flight instructor to become, like him, a Goofy Grandpa.

Claire Taylor was born 9-30-99 in Indianapolis. We had seen several pictures of her over the hospitalís website, but looked forward to meeting her in person, and planned a flight for early November.

Mooney advertises its aircraft as "personal airliners." The Cherokee Six one of my students graciously loaned me is not a Mooney, but roomier and sometimes it will beat the airlines, too.

I think itís about a 10-hour drive to Indy. The airlines route you through St. Louis, so it would probably take about 4 hours, plus parking and baggage time. Heidi and Stan had a nightmare flight of delays last Christmas. Last year I had discovered the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport on a fuel and food stop enroute to Cleveland with Dr. Terry Winkler and Roni Burns. Turns out it is the closest airport to Heidi, Stan, and Claire. After we visited last summer, it took 3.8 hours airtime to get back home with a typical southwest wind and a stop at Spirit of St. Louis for lunch at one of our favorites, Annie Gunnsí in Chesterfield.

The weather looked fine, and all went well on this trip until I tuned in the ASOS about 50 miles out. Worse than forecast, the wind varied between 220 and 240 degrees at 20 knots, gusting to 25. That wouldnít normally concern me too much, especially in a heavy, 300 hp aircraft. That wind would be right down parallel runways 22L and R at Indy International, but it would be a direct crosswind across runways 15-33 at Metro. The "demonstrated crosswind component" for the PA-32 is 17 knots, although that is not necessarily a limiting number.

I teach students various tricks to safely exceed that number if needed: carry more speed, or angle across a wide runway a few degrees to reduce the crosswind component, or heaven forbid, let it land a little crooked (in a nosewheel plane, since we all proved as students that they CAN safely land crooked). But there I was, the one who preaches against hazardous attitudes like "get-home-itis," getting ready to try 50% over the crosswind component in a plane I hadnít landed for two months. There were other airports within 15 miles with better alignment, but I decided to make one pass and see how it felt (Donít do as I do, do as I say?) Plus, I wanted to beat the airline time. (Another Bad Attitude). The timer on the ADF had come on when I turned the avionics master switch on, and Dianne happened to notice it showed seven minutes when we had lifted off SGF.

I flew final approach at 90 knots instead of the checklist 80 and I cranked n so much left rudder trim that I had to push some right rudder pressure to keep it straight. (The Six does take lots of rudder pressure). We heard a Cessna on the ramp tell the Unicom he was taxiing back, having decided not to fly. We rode through some turbulence on final, but I lowered the wing into the southwest wind as I lined up for Runway 15. The rudder trim brought the nose into alignment nicely.

With the extra speed and only two notches of flaps, it floated a few hundred feet down the runway, but it stayed aligned. I thought it was ready to touch down when a gust floated us a little higher, but then it settled with three little chirps and we were down. Dianne, who usually grades papers and I didnít think paid much attention to my landings, said it was possibly my best ever in that plane. Go figure! I suppose paying very close attention and concentrating extra hard made the difference. Itís easy to get too nonchalant after 6000 landings. Or maybe we were really supposed to meet that grandbaby. And thanks to gap seals and a good tailwind, the timer showed 2:19 as we touched down, minus 7 minutes at the start for two hours and twelve minutes on Cherokee Airlines. Thatíll spoil you.

And how was Claire? Beautiful and sweet, of course, and she didnít scream when either one of us held her (you never know). We babysat while Mom and Dad went out to eat and shop for the first time in 5 weeks. I hadnít changed diapers for many years, but soon remembered how. Only the technology has changed. Now they use Velcro fastenings and odor-tight diaper receptacles. Saturday night she slept and dreamed on my chest for three hours while we watched TV. Her parents thought we had to leave too soon

The return trip was also non-stop and took just under three hours. Now that is general aviation at its finest. And goofy? Well, ask Bill, heís the expert, but as for me, bring on the goofy! Love your family and fly safely! (It all goes together).

Earl Holmer

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