Flying Journal - Two Outta Three Ain't Bad

I had three noteworthy flights this month. The first two went smoothly. With four aboard, the new cowling on the Turbo-Lance allowed it to make about 165 knots true airspeed on the way to Indianapolis. I wanted to try a little higher to see what the turbocharger would do for the airspeed, but for several days, the winds got weaker with altitude, some kind of inversion. We started where the winds gave the best push, at 7500 feet, but a St. Louis controller informed us that was a bad altitude as we approached their Class B airspace, so we climbed to 9500 and slipped right through.

It was a quick visit, one evening and the next morning. While my friends went to a concert, I visited my daughter Heidi and family. It was so nice to visit my granddaughter, Claire again. She is 20 months old. We are starting to relate to each other as individuals. Her parents are very sweet and deny this, but here's my version of this incident: she came into the room, curious and excited to have company. She looked at me for about a second and a half, right in the eyes, then a cloud passed over her face. I am quite sure she was remembering the time a few months before when her parents went out and I babysat and she cried over half the time. There was that moment of recognition. But she appeared to forgive me and soon warmed up to me again and we had a great time.

They took me to the airport the next morning. Claire loves machines of any kind. She has already figured out how to put the keys in the ignition of the car! Fortunately, you have to also push the clutch in or the car won't start. They figure they are safe for a couple years. It seems most adults don't remember much before the age of three or so, but I think we might try giving Claire her first air-plane ride with Grandpa in the next year or so (she's already flown on an airliner). I let her sit in the cockpit for a while and I could see that she was enthralled and trying to take it all in, immediately going for the buttons and knobs.

The return trip provided just enough adventure to keep it interesting for my instrument student and our non-pilot passengers. Some fairly serious thunderstorms were developing along our direct route and also approaching Indy from the Northwest. In fact storms began to pound SGF as we got our briefing. But that's where a faster plane and a Stormscope help so much. By leaving quickly, we got out ahead of the storms approaching Indy. We filed IFR, on a route over Decatur and Springfield, IL, then Quincy, and finally Columbia, MO and home. That routing would miss the worst cells showing on radar and allow many possible fuel or weather stops, with good airports on each leg of flight. For weight and balance, we had left the fuel 20 gallons down, and with prevailing SW headwinds, we would probably need fuel, too.

We were on top or in clouds or light rain for about an hour. A quick survey of the pilots and passengers produced a consensus to find a bathroom, so we descended through the clouds for a visual approach at Columbia. The restaurant was still open and we ordered lunch. Well, one passenger ordered a ham and cheese omelet; the rest of us ordered the home-style burgers and fries.

As we were wolfing down our meals, we asked about the omelet. She grinned and said it was so good she could hardly believe it, but she hadn't said anything because she didn't want to make the rest of us feel bad that we just had plain old hamburgers. We all protested that our meals were excellent, too. I tried to explain, as a flight instructor, that food always tastes good when you are back on the ground, glad to be alive again! Not that there was anything especially dangerous about that flight, but you know what they say about flying being the second happiest moment but landing being the happiest. Even if you have had a routine flight, I think there is often a little sigh of gratitude, to be on the ground again.

The next week, Bill Cheek and I flew to Spirit of St. Louis Airport. We took a courtesy car to one of my favorite places to eat, "Annie Gunn's." It's just about three miles east of the airport on Chesterfield Airport Road. We got there on Wednesday about 11:30 a. m. and we got the last table for two before they expected a 30-40 minute wait. In the evening there is often a two-hour wait. But it is expertly prepared and very fresh food in a variety of styles. When we fly, I never get to sample the extensive wine list, but sometimes we go for an evening when we are staying overnight in St. Louis and I can vouch the wine is excellent, too.

While you are waiting for your table, you can shop in the Smokehouse next door, a gourmet meat market, deli and specialty grocery story. On our flight back, we airport hopped, enjoying a turn in the pattern and landing and take-off at Washington Airport (also enjoy seeing the Katy Trail as it hugs the bluffs beside the river) and also Sullivan, one of those airports you drive by all the time but one we had never tried out before.

Well, it would have been a great flying month if I'd quit while ahead. And wouldn't you know my expensive aggravating trouble would involve an airline flight. But I'm out of space now, so I'll have to tell my sad story next month.

Fly Safely and Enjoy!

[Copyright 2001 - Earl Holmer]

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