Flying Journal - Good News, Bad News Stream of Consciousness . . .

I could start in the tone of last month, deep in the wintertime blues. You know, like complaining about the airlines. I only fly airlines once or twice a year. Like probably all other airline pax I am becoming increasingly frustrated. Trying to get to Albany, New York for a couple days around June 1. Invited to read a paper at the 16th Annual World War II History conference at Siena College. "A Public and a Private's Rhetoric: Journals and Journalism Interpret World War II."

But it's all good news, bad news. Good news is United now goes direct SGF to Chicago, then direct to Albany. Cool! Bad "newses": 1) United may be heading for a strike, and 2) O'Hare has one of the worst on-time records. Then talk about frustrating--try to figure out which week to buy the ticket. Really wish I could fly myself, but it would cost twice as much to rent a plane for a thousand mile flight. So I'm at the mercy of the airlines and our overworked airspace.

I could start out moaning about that. But Spring--and better flying and better moods--surely can't be far away. Indeed, had two great flights just yesterday (3/10/01). Pleased and honored to fly with our own Jerry McClure, MPA State Prez extraordinaire, for a good hard Wings session. (Plug the Program and Contest! And if anybody else needs their Wings at the last minute, give me a call, I've got Spring Break coming up.)

But good news, bad news flights. Good news: We are flying again! Bad news: front coming in, hazy inversion, bumpy as h___! Wind 170@14 gusting to 21. Yuck! Kept trying to climb in the practice area to smoother air for airwork--4500, then 6500. Just as bad, maybe worse, approaching top of approach airspace, still not close to top of haze layer. But we survived. I started to NOT enjoy the last couple steep turns. Jerry told of seeing in the Navy a guy whose harness wasn't tight enough get thrown around by turbulence and left needing nine stitches. We tightened our belts and harnesses. Jerry complained about the indistinct horizon. I teased him, "You military guys just like to watch the instruments anyway!"

Then, practice emergency descent and approach for landing, maybe a little smoother at pattern altitude. A great gusty cross-wind landing work-out at Bolivar, then even more cross-wind returning to SGF. A good mix and some challenging real-world flying. And Jerry met and enjoyed the challenge.

Earlier in the day, Raymond Plaster and I had traded practice instrument approaches. Good news, bad news--glad to be in the air; bad news--all the turbulence described above. The controller asked if we wanted the VOR 20 approach with vectors or with the procedure turn. Good news! We hadn't practiced procedure turns for a while so that would be great. Bad news! Just as we got headed north, a burst of Saturday traffic hit the airspace. Bucking strong winds aloft, we got vectored as far as Bolivar trying to make room for a procedure turn against the opposing inbound traffic. Light to moderate turbulence most of the time. I usually cheer up the instrument student bouncing around under the hood, "Hey! This is great practice. Just like the real thing, bouncing around between cloud decks!" But somehow it didn't seem funny this time. Like a sailplane searching for lift, suddenly one wing or the other would be jerked up as an updraft increased the lift on that side, twisting the plane in all three axes. Good practice at this stage in Raymond's training, but NOT REALLY MUCH FUN! For me either. Tightening our straps, wrestling to stay trimmed. Worst of all, an approach which we usually do three to an hour now was taking over thirty-five stomach churning minutes.

Take a break, switch roles. Raymond helps me stay instrument current as my safety pilot every couple months. Good news--I really got to fly, you know, "sole manipulator of the controls!" Bad news, "rougher than a cob!" as we used to say on the farm. 25 knot cross-wind on the NDB 14 approach. Just as it looked like I had intercepted final with the ADF needle right on the approach heading, ATC said radar showed us "passing through final." I peeked, might have been blowing a little north of Willard. We knew the compass hadn't been right since they installed the new attitude indicator. Descend--FAST!--the cross-wind must be quartering some tailwind, too.

But, I would have made it to the airport and I remembered all over again, WOW, THIS FUN, to be totally engaging all your attention in this one deceptively simple task of descending on a radial to an airport without looking outside (much). Now the Ides of March are upon us. Halfway through and not too windy for March--yet. Good news, bad news. The hangars and planes are all thawed out, but the winds and migratory waterfowl have taken wing. You should, too. Take wing and finish your Wings.

Fly safely!

for Bill's March Message
for our March Aviation Safety Corner
to return to our Main Page
to return to the MPA Home Page
to visit EAA Chapter 821's Web Site