Cold today. Not so much for most activities, but if it involves flying it means engine warming and wing de-icing . Yes it was worth the time and trouble so I went to work. A little frost can stall any plane so it’s vital to remove it from most of the wing, rudder and elevator leading edges and surface areas. Reaching into a cold bucket of glycol is similar to fishing out your favorite beverage in a bucket of ice. About twenty times. It helps if you’re warming the engines at this point as it renders the nacelle surfaces blistering hot. Handy since it returns the color of your frozen hands back to a healthy glow instead of lobster red. After fourty five minutes of fun and games it was time to go.
Most of us who fly general aviation aircraft are relegated to older planes, unless you have recently robbed a bank or are close friends with Warren Buffet. I am fortunate to fly at all so I am not complaining. Nonetheless, it means that I break the surly bonds with “steam gage” panels that look like this.
Not nice and splashy like those glass panels I’d love to try but it works. At least most of the time. Too often, light airplanes of this vintage are prone to Things Gone Wrong. Some items are less important, like the fussy autopilot . Other things that can occur in flight involving lost hydraulics or pieces falling off are more inconvenient. Landing gear malfunctions are one of my favorites. I liked them so much , I decided to repeat the experience three times. Sometimes it wouldn’t retract, sometimes it wouldn’t extend. Fortunately, all had a happy ending but it’s interesting to note that the majority of new light singles have fixed gear. Sliding in for a landing is expensive.
Anyway, it was a good day to fly. With apologies to Francis Ford Coppola, I love the smell of Avgas (or Jet-A) in the morning. There’s something about the inside of a cockpit that says “fun” whether it’s the smell of sun baked older plane interiors or the brand new leather of the latest G-Whiz Cirrus marvels. The tower gave permission to taxi and after a brief run-up I was rolling. Cool flying is cool. Props and lifting surfaces all work better with dense air. With wheels up, the plane clawed quickly to 1,500 feet. I reduced manifold pressure, decreased the tach, and leaned the mixture. Aerobatic planes were spinning and rolling above the small lake to the South. Best to steer west. Dozens of white pinwheels twirled in the landscape ahead. It was one of the larger wind farms in the Midwest and I expected to see more in the future. I wheeled the plane into a 50-degree bank and watched as the horizon spun around in a full circle. There was a pat on the tail from my wake. As I glided back home, the sun glowed above the horizon behind the silhouette of the great City of Chicago. It was a privilege to see the world from this perch. Next week, I hoped to see it upside down from 6,000 feet.