Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The North Country

Over the years, I have come to realize that flying the Lake Ontario shoreline eastbound, rounding the end of the Great Lake, and continuing eastbound along the Saint Lawrence is one of my favorite routes for casual cruising. It is a beautiful region of the state for sightseeing, but distinctly different from the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks, or even New York City itself.

It also features relatively flat, open terrain, making it a perfect place to fly a new engine during break-in. Wanting to combine a pleasure flight with accumulating more engine time, I made two solo flights to the northernmost reaches of New York state within a span of three days.

Truncated

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
04 Jul 2020 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - OGS (Ogdensburg, NY) - SDC 2.5 2102.0

I planned to launch for Plattsburgh International, a former Air Force base on the western shore of Lake Champlain in the far northeast corner of New York state. The reasons were simple: I had never been there before and the journey would put significant time on the new engine.

But I got a late start and had an early afternoon commitment. My goal is to avoid rushing aviation activities because, aside from the obvious safety aspects, being pressed for time takes all the fun out of flying. The last time I rushed during preflight, I earned a severely sprained wrist as a painful lesson about taking my time. So I decided to cut the route short by flying the hour to Ogdensburg, refueling there, and returning to Sodus.

While I sat in the Williamson Flying Club clubhouse updating the GNS-430W data card for the first time since late February, I saw Scott's yellow Cessna 150 launch on runway 10. I was not the only one with the itch to fly that morning.


The air was cool, clear, and calm. A heat wave that would dominate the coming week had not yet taken hold.



The flight was incredibly relaxing and I enjoyed the view while aerial photographs again.


Eventually, I made my way to Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River, home to the magnificent Boldt Castle and the place where Thousand Island dressing was invented.


I was flying the same performance profile from the engine’s first flight, operating at 2600 rpm at 3,000 feet with an indicated airspeed of 120 knots. When adjusted for true airspeed and converted to miles per hour, I calculated that I whizzed past Boldt Castle at roughly 150 mph. Considering the Warrior’s velocity, I was surprised by the crispness of the photos.


Speaking of the Thousand Islands, here are a few more of them where they lie strewn along the US-Canada border.

Small World at a Small International Airport

As I monitored the frequency for Ogdensburg, it became clear that I was just a few minutes behind an inbound Cessna. I found myself silently critiquing the Cessna pilot's radio calls; they were unnecessarily wordy and borderline confusing. Maybe the pilot was new to the area or relatively experienced. But at least I could understand him. In the north country, much of the UNICOM chatter is in French.


Ogdensburg International is a 6400 foot long slab of asphalt in the middle of nowhere near the Canadian border. Lacking a tower, the field nonetheless supports Allegiant as a commercial carrier. The airport is frequently used by Canadians seeking an easy flight to Florida. I once followed an Airbus A319 to a landing on runway 27, echoing the same traffic pattern calls on UNICOM made by the airline pilot. My pattern might have been a little tighter than the Airbus', though.

As I taxied onto the FBO ramp, I was surprised to recognize Scott’s yellow Cessna 150 from Sodus and felt guilty for my critique of the no longer anonymous Cessna pilot. Despite having departed 45 minutes behind Scott, I had nearly caught up to him.

"Hey, you got your airplane back!" exclaimed Scott. Word of how a defective impulse coupling trashed my engine had obviously spread around the airport because I had not talked to Scott in well over a year.

"We had another pilot in here a couple of days ago from your airport," the lineman told us. I learned a few days later that it was probably Matt in N1185X. Evidently, Ogdensburg is the place to go even if you're not just looking to escape the Canadian winter with a budget flight to Florida.

I took on fuel and chatted with Scott, his passenger, and the line crew at Ogdensburg before departing for home. Though I had landed on runway 27, the wind was calm and because I did not want to taxi over a mile to the other end of the runway (low power ground runs are to be minimized during break-in), I simply departed from runway 9.



The return home was just as scenic as the outbound flight. Over the course of the journey, the cylinder head temperatures continued to decrease as the engine wore-in.

Exploration

I took a vacation day on Tuesday, July 7 to put more time on the new engine. Without any time constraints, I decided to make the trek to Plattsburgh (airport #202), estimating a round trip flight time of just over four hours. On return to Sodus, I would have just over 10 hours on the engine and it would be time for the first oil change.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
07 Jul 2020 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - PBG (Plattsburgh, NY) - SDC 4.4 2106.4

Ground track from ForeFlight between Sodus and Plattsburgh.

The first half of the flight was a retread of the same route used to get to Ogdensburg, flying north around the east end of Lake Ontario and skirting the complex of Military Operations Areas dominating northern New York. From there, I bypassed the northernmost peaks of the Adirondacks, then proceeded south from LATTS intersection (near Plattsburgh, get it?) to the former Air Force base.

Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands.

I passed many familiar sights in the first half of the trip, but once I flew east of Potsdam, I entered unfamiliar territory. That was a novel experience for me in New York State.

When I was a few miles north of Plattsburg, a flight of four Cessnas announced inbound for "the initial", meaning that they intended to do a military style overhead break pattern entry. At first, I wondered if I misheard “RV” as "Cessna". I offered to stay high over the airport while they landed because their pattern calls were mostly nonsensical to me and I was not interested in guessing about where they were.

"Hey, Cherokee, thanks for the help," called the lead ship as the four Cessnas rolled out in a line on the runway, little aluminum ducks all in a row.

Just north of Plattsburgh International was the old municipal airport. The runways with their large yellow Xs at each end still looked serviceable from 3,000 feet up. Although the FBO staff referred to it as the "little airport", there was nothing objectively little about it. It was just smaller than the former Air Force Base that had supplanted the old civil airport.

Scanning the backside of the Adirondacks as I maneuvered into the pattern, I recognized the distinctive profile of Whiteface Mountain and was amused by the notion that I was viewing it from the "wrong" side of the range.


Like other former military bases, Plattsburgh boasts a lot of runway (11,759' x 200'). While not the longest I have ever landed on (Griffiss International in Rome, NY is just slightly longer at 11,821' x 200'), it is always interesting to land on a runway that is as wide as a parking lot. As I pondered the acres of mostly empty concrete ramp parallel to the runway, it occurred to me that I could probably land Warrior 481 width-wise on that ramp.


A commercial terminal occupies the north end of the seemingly endless concrete ramp area. The FBO, Eagle Aviation, is located at the base of the old military tower near the southern terminus of the ramp. The FBO staff members were extremely friendly and only charged me the self-serve rate after they fueled Warrior 481 from the truck.

I met a student pilot who recently bought a Cherokee in Spokane, WA. While flying it home with her airline pilot husband, they had engine issues near Cleveland and temporarily abandoned it there. After the previous four months, I could relate with her plight. While I was preparing the Warrior for flight, the husband wandered over from a T-hangar where he was working on his RV-7 and introduced himself.

As we chatted, I noticed that the wind had come up significantly since my arrival. The airline pilot chuckled. "Yeah, you're gonna feel that when you leave." It was blowing out of the southeast at 14 knots gusting to 22.

With about eight hours of total time in service, the engine’s oil level was down just below 6 quarts. I added another quart for the two hour flight home, deciding that it was inexpensive insurance.

As I climbed back into Warrior 481, I realized how much I'd missed visiting new airports and meeting interesting people over the past few months.

I chose to do a midfield departure to minimize ground run time. I still had 6,000 feet of runway available, which is absolutely ridiculous and entirely cool.



On take off, I spied the Valcour Lighthouse on Valcour Island in Lake Champlain.



As I flew back past Plattsburgh International, I was again struck by the size of the facility. Along with Griffiss, Plattsburgh was designated an East Coast Abort Landing (ECAL) site for the space shuttle. While not quite matching the 15,000' x 300' of the Nasa Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida (KTTS), it was not hard to imagine that the shuttle could have made a "short field" landing into Plattsburgh.

10.4 SMOH

In the heat of the day, the flight home was rough, particularly downwind of the Adirondacks. But the flight served its purpose. I added a new airport to my map, explored a new area, enjoyed some time away from work, met some nice people, and made progress breaking-in the engine. By the time I returned to Sodus, front cylinder CHTs had come down into the mid 370°F range, #3 was showing 410°F, and #4 was running at 398°F (from 390°F, 425°F, and 415°F on the two front cylinders, #3, and #4 respectively on the night of the first flight).

I did the first oil change which was a bit challenged by the fact that the engine no longer had a quick drain, but a simple plug. As a result, the process was messier than usual, especially when I dropped the plug into the bucket full of hot oil. Ray came by to reinstall my old quick drain to simplify future oil changes.

So far, so good.

Friday, July 3, 2020

How Warrior 481 Got Her Groove Back

Conjoined


Warrior 481 was reborn from the unlikely womb of Dansville's World War II era hangar. Jeff from Dansville Aero was kind enough to keep her under a roof while Ray hung the engine (June 26) and completed the annual (July 2).

"Unfortunately, the roof leaks," Jeff lamented. "I don't understand why we were funded to replace the door before the roof."

"I guess that depends on what you want to keep out," I rationalized for him. He responded by making a face.


I visited on July 1 to prepare the Warrior for annual by opening inspection panels, removing the interior, etc. While I was at it, I gave her a much needed sponge bath in the hangar. The filth was abundant and contact of my wet, fleece-wrapped sponge with the airframe immediately blackened the water I was using. I also learned that there is nothing quite like (almost) four months outside to remove all vestiges of wax.


We had a good spa day together on July 1.

Slacker


I use MyFlightBook for my electronic logbook needs. Sure, ForeFlight has a built in logbook function, but I think that MyFlightBook is more powerful in its ability to process and sort data.

MyFlightBook sends a monthly email to users summarizing recent experience. My June summary read more like an admonishment than anything else and contained significant reminders that I have been slacking as an aviator. My 90 day passenger currency lapsed for the first time since I earned my certificate in 2002.

On top of that, the airplane was out of annual as of the end of May and the IFR / transponder certification lapsed in April.

This will not be a matter of simply picking up right where I left off in March. There is work to be done.

First Flight

Ray completed the annual on July 2 and released the aircraft for flight.

"It's smooooooth," he commented by text message after wrapping everything up.

"When I get home, I'll do all the paperwork so that you'll be legal when you take off tonight," Ray explained by phone that afternoon. He can be thoughtful like that. He provided some updates and warned about the momentary stumble that occurs with the SureFly while checking the mags. Having read through SureFly's FAQ, I was already aware of the possibility.

I am always delighted by how helpful members of the aviation community are to each other. I had multiple offers of a ride to Dansville for the pickup. In the end, I made the flight with Ed in his Archer II. It was a great opportunity to admire his airplane's beautiful new interior, which caused me to reflect on how tired Warrior 481's interior has become. One thing at a time, I guess.

Arriving in Dansville after hours, I needed access to the hangar after it was closed up for the night. Fortunately, I already knew Bernie, a Dansville-based pilot who keeps his Skylane in the same hangar. I met Bernie last year when he joined us for a tour of Lycoming. Bernie was happy to spring Warrior 481 from maintenance jail and was already opening the hangar for us when we arrived.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
02 Jul 2020 N21481 DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC (Sodus, NY) 1.1 2097.0

After a more exacting preflight than usual, I cranked the engine. It fired almost immediately and positively purred.

At full power, we broke ground and, despite the 90°F heat of the day, climbed at 800 feet/minute at 79 knots indicated. The old engine was not capable of that kind of performance in recent years. Once I had a couple hundred feet of air under the wings, I pushed the nose over into a shallow climb to increase cooling airflow over the engine.

Although this was the engine's first flight, it was not untried. Penn Yan runs their engines in a test cell for ninety minutes before draining the oil and shipping them off to customers. Some of the break-in was likely already completed.

I had two hours worth of fuel on board, what remained of the avgas I carried with me from Sodus to breakfast back in March. Remarkably, it contained no detectable water even after four months of the airplane sitting outside. Out of caution, I resolved to orbit Dansville for about 40 minutes (5 orbits) before completing the overdue return leg of my March 7 breakfast flight.

GPS ground track from ForeFlight showing five laps around Dansville and the flight home.

After four months away from the cockpit, rusty skills were evident in the amount of concentration and work required to maintain heading and altitude. As I worked at it, the effort slowly decreased.

For engine break-in, the object is to run at high power to help the rings scour freshly-honed cylinder walls, but cylinder head temperatures need to be managed. While high temperatures are unavoidable, they should not be punishing. As I orbited, cylinder head temperatures stabilized around 390°F on the front cylinders and 415-425°F on the back cylinders. I maintained 3,000 feet, 2600 RPM, and indicated about 120 knots. Though a higher altitude cruise would be safer from the perspective of an engine catastrophe, flying lower is preferred for break-in to ensure that the air is dense enough for the engine to make high power while receiving adequate cooling.

Ray was right. She was smooth.

The flight home was without incident and as I flared mere inches above the familiar runway at Sodus, the stall warning horn chimed moments before the wheels eased onto the pavement. It was a gratifying 9.5/10 landing after four months without practice.

Yes, the right strut was a little soft. Ray took care of that the next morning.

I topped off the fuel tanks and Ed was kind enough to help me push the airplane back to my hangar, eliminating an unnecessary ground run. With Warrior 481 back under my own roof, I felt a significant amount of the stress I had borne since March finally slip away.

Certifiable

I scheduled the Warrior's IFR certification at Boshart Enterprises for July 1, but had to cancel when the airplane was still in pieces in Dansville that day. Jake was flexible with me and agreed to do the work on Friday, July 3 despite the rest of the shop being closed in observance of Independence Day.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
03 Jul 2020 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) - SDC 2.5 2099.5

In the interests of proper engine break-in, I wanted at least an hour at high power before shutting down at the Genesee County Airport and so plotted a scenic route from Sodus to Batavia via Weedsport, Skaneateles, Seneca Falls, Canandaigua, and the Geneseo VOR. It was a great opportunity to dial-in my ability to hold heading and altitude. Along the way, I did the 30 day VOR check off of Geneseo, checking off another lapsed item from my aeronautical to do list.

Actual GPS ground track from Sodus to Batavia as captured by ForeFlight.

On-air congratulations were offered by Don, Alan, and Lee when they heard my callsign over the radio. I felt as though I had not only reunited with my airplane, but with the broader aviation community.


In Batavia, Jake connected Warrior 481's pitot-static system to the test stand and artificially brought her up to 16,000 feet and back down. Everything performed flawlessly, but the ancient altitude encoder supporting my Mode C transponder output was slow to warm up. Jake explained that my G5 is now an approved altitude encoder source, so we resolved to make that change on my next visit and eliminate the old 1970s encoder hidden under the panel.



Darrell was visiting from Florida, so we held an impromptu ex-Le Roy Pilot's Association meeting there at Boshart Enterprises. It was good to see him again. As he laid hands on Warrior 481, he explained how much the Warrior sitting outside in Dansville had stressed him out.

Happy pilot. Photo by Darrell.

3.6 hours SMOH

With the first few flight hours complete and the paperwork done, Warrior 481 is mostly back in service. I'll need to complete Penn Yan's break-in regimen, which recommends avoiding punishing power changes in flight for the first 30 hours. This means that I will not be regaining my instrument currency anytime soon unless I fly a different airplane.

Acknowledgement

This adventure has not been my cross to bear exclusively. I am grateful to many in the aviation community for their help since March 7.
  • Brad R for rescuing my passengers Derek and Dan from Dansville on March 7 when the failure occurred.
  • Denny A for rescuing me from Dansville on the day of the incident.
  • Lee S and Alan V for checking on Warrior 481 periodically in Dansville and cleaning nesting materials out of the cowling.
  • Ed C, Paula S, and Tom C for taking me flying when I was unable to fly myself.
  • Bernie Q for helping with the hangar in Dansville
  • Darrell K and Mark B for useful discussions about the SureFly.
  • Jake from Boshart Enterprises for being flexible with scheduling the IFR cert.
  • Jeff from Dansville Aero for providing Ray a clean, dry place to work out of the weather.
  • Most of all, thanks to Ray C, Mike S, and Jack F for multiple trips to Dansville to diagnose, dismantle, and eventually resurrect Warrior 481.
One of the best parts about being a pilot is being a part of the pilot community and I am grateful to everyone for their support.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Lousy Tenants

After my discovery a week prior that starlings had taken up residence in Warrior 481's engine compartment, I shooed the (living) birds out of the airplane and replaced the dislodged bucket intended to block the circular opening in the cowling. At the time, I had no way to further remedy the situation.


Kristy and I returned on the following Saturday to clean up the engine compartment. After all, someone needed to do it and when Ray has time to install the engine, I would rather he spent his effort on the technical work than cleaning up bird shit.

To be clear, starlings are awful tenants and sloppy engineers. Some of the nesting material -- twigs, dried grass, a few candy wrappers, and one cigar wrapper -- was actually incorporated into a nest, but much of it was simply scattered everywhere. There were two dead birds lying in the bottom of the cowling, one of them obviously a baby that had been pushed out of the nest. Bird droppings were everywhere, mostly on the lower bowl of the cowling, but also on the engine mounts and places sensitive to corrosion. A foul smell permeated the compartment.

I removed what I could manually, including the dead birds, then scrubbed everything down. The most satisfying moment came when I returned with a full bucket of clean water that I sluiced into the lower bowl, flushing the remaining hard to reach nesting materials out the bottom of the cowling (photo above). In its wake, everything was clean again.

By purging the mess I purged a little bit of the stress I have been carrying at the same time. Kristy spot cleaned bird droppings accumulated on the airframe while I blocked up all the holes in the cowling again. I stretched a bungee cord around the back of the bucket to prevent it from being knocked inside again.

Nesting season might be over, but I am taking no chances. Just say no to squatters.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Socially Distanced Fly-Out

Time Capsule

With the explosion of COVID-19 in the United States, our nation largely shut itself down in March. Per the CDC, there were 119,055 deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of 20 June 2020. I have been working from home since the second week of March while Kristy scrambled to teach band classes remotely and The Bear adjusted to a new paradigm of only seeing her classmates through tiled Zoom windows on a Chromebook. It has been a stressful time for everyone as social contact gave way to isolation, the US unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% in April 2020, and the economy tumbled into an abyss of uncertainty. As if our physical isolation was not enough, another massive spark was tossed into the dry kindling that are race relations in our country; an event that resulted in a collective outcry of "Why has this happened again?" 2020 has been an exhausting year to be a human being.

It has also been an interesting time to be a scientist and to observe the general public's varied reactions to a natural scourge. The resoundingly strident denial of inconvenient data reinforces that unbiased interpretation of information is not a natural human state, but rather a learned discipline. That lack of discipline is evident from the appalling politicization of the pandemic. One thing that can be said of the universe at large; it has no interest in politics or economics. It just is. But none of this is really news to anyone, is it? Just ask Galileo.

To put it mildly, a global pandemic makes for an interesting backdrop to chairing the Williamson Flying Club's Activities Committee. All but incidental in-person social interaction was halted. That included the flight training that is the club's lifeblood, member and Board of Directors meetings, and all activities. Those who continued to commit aviation did so following an SOP meant to curtail viral spread and they did it without any instructors on board. If they shared a cockpit with someone outside of their household, mask use was required. Although the ability to fly was generally unrestricted, there was simply nowhere to go with so many restaurants and other attractions closed.

Thawing

With COVID-19 rates falling in New York state, we are experiencing something of a second spring. Not a free-for-all, per se, but an ability to loosen some of our protective isolation. The idea for our first COVID-era fly-out came from Brad and his sister Melodie. Why not fly somewhere for a socially-distanced picnic lunch? I put some structure around this idea, chose what I thought was an appropriately idyllic location (Piseco Airport, K09, in the Adirondacks), and pitched the idea to the WFC Board of Directors. After some back and forth with clarification on Board-required precautions, I sent an invitation for our first club fly-out activity since the disastrous March 7 trip to Dansville that left Warrior 481 stranded there for months.

The call to action was a simple one: grab an airplane, a picnic lunch, and a camp chair to enjoy a socially distanced event with fellow members. Have fun, but follow the Board-mandated COVID-19 rules; no arguments, no exceptions. The eighteen people who attended were a testament to the pent-up demand for this type of event.

With a borderline forecast in the mountains, we changed our plans that morning to fly west rather than east. I pitched the Perry Warsaw Airport (01G) knowing that there was a grassy picnic area shaded beneath a massive tree right on the edge of the turf runway. Like Piseco, Perry Warsaw is a generally quiet airport with adequate parking and a relatively small pilot population. It fit the bill for our event perfectly.

A Return to Activity

When it became apparent that Warrior 481 would not be back in the air in time for the event, Tom and Alicia offered to carry me as ballast with them in Archer Eight Five X-Ray.


Observing the mask use requirement in club aircraft, we nonetheless gave the camera our best COVID-19 smiles. Though the smiles are not actually visible, I like to think that they softened our eyes.


Eight aircraft launched from the Williamson Sodus Airport, the first mass departure in many months. As I watched the aircraft queue up for departure, my heart fluttered a bit with pride knowing that I had helped make this event happen.


Due to hangar availability, Paula's new-to-her airplane, Nine Four Romeo, was relegated to a tie down in our open hangar where it is generally open season on the aircraft during nesting season. With my hangar empty, I offered it to Paula so that Nine Four Romeo would be protected from the birds. The timing worked out well; Paula got a hangar of her own the same week that Penn Yan finished Warrior 481's engine.

Brad and Melodie in Two Mike Sierra photographed from Eight Five X-Ray


It was a bit of a shock to see the lush world below. For the first time in years, I had missed the transformation of brown to green.

Invasion

The Perry Warsaw Airport (01G)

Perry Warsaw periodically plays host to skydiving activities, but Rochester Approach confirmed for us that no one was jumping that morning. During my years at Le Roy, Perry Warsaw was a common destination for me when I wanted crosswind landing practice. My last flight there was with The Bear to attend a 2014 pancake breakfast.

Downwind for runway 28 just north of Silver Lake in Perry, NY

As usual, we arrived as a gaggle, but did a good job of sequencing ourselves for landing.




As Tom parked Eight Five X-Ray on the edge of the ramp, a pair of local pilots in an open hangar cast puzzled glances our way as eight aircraft arrived out of the literal blue to invade their quiet airport.


Eric and Dawn arrived in One Delta Tango.


In the background, Ed parked his Archer II on the edge of the ramp.


Who is that masked pilot? It's Paula!



Greg and Dick arrived in Dick's Cherokee 140, an aircraft that once belonged to Joe, my first contact at the Williamson Flying Club.


Dan and his friend Tom arrived in Five Five Whiskey. This third time must have been the charm. On Dan's first fly-out with the club on 01 March 2020, a mag problem in one of the club Cherokees stranded him at St Marys until a replacement mag could be flown down to him. His second club fly-out was in Warrior 481 on March 7, the day my impulse coupling fell apart. (Many have commented on the commonality of Dan's presence and aircraft mag issues, but I know that the correlation is not causal.) I am happy to report that Dan's third flight with the club went exactly according to plan.


Brad and Melodie — "the instigators" — arrived in Two Mike Sierra. We owe the idea for our wonderful day to them.

Where's Yogi Bear?

All eighteen club members settled into a large circle in the grass to enjoy our lunches and each others' company for the first time in many months. Finally unmasked for lunch, we delighted in the fresh air. Though it was a sunny day in June, a cool breeze off of Lake Ontario necessitated light jackets for many of us.


Lesly relaxes in our large circle of club members, enjoying the conversation. Behind him are Ed's Archer and Denny's Comanche.

Dick, Greg, and Steve


If Tom and Alicia appear to be squinting here, it's because the sun was intense. I sunburned the left side of my face in the time required to eat a sandwich. Granted, it was an enormous sandwich.

Melodie, Brad, Gary, Paula, Dan, and Tom.

Panoramic taken by Dan of the full circle. Eric, Alicia, Tom, Ed, me, Marie, Denny, Melodie, Brad, Paula, Gary, Dan's chair, Tom, Dick, Greg, Steve, Lesly, and Dawn
Dessert!

With our change in airport came a new opportunity. We all decided to divert to Dansville on the way home to Sodus for hand-dipped ice cream from Ice Cream Island across the street from the airport.

Eric and Dawn preparing to depart in One Delta Tango

Nine Four Romeo, Five One November, Five Five Whiskey, and One Delta Tango from the cockpit of Eight Five X-Ray

Denny's Comanche (Four Eight Papa) and Ed's Archer II (Four Four Papa) from the cockpit of Eight Five X-Ray

Ice Cream Island

At Dansville, Tom rolled Eight Five X-Ray to a stop wingtip to wingtip with Warrior 481.


Inspection of the Warrior was not inspiring. The bucket plugging the front of the cowling was dislodged and the starlings had moved in, creating a foul tableau of nesting materials, bird droppings, and at least one dead baby bird. It was thoroughly depressing. I could not even bring myself to take a photo of my wounded Warrior.


Fortunately, I really enjoyed my Maine Wild Blueberry ice cream, kindly purchased for me by Lesly in thanks for a past flight together.

Warrior 481, Eight Five X-Ray, Nine Four Romeo, One Delta Tango, Four Eight Papa, Five One November, Four Four Papa, Five Five Whiskey, and Two Mike Sierra

I could not help but wonder how much time had passed since the Dansville ramp was last this full of airplanes; nine airplanes from the Williamson Flying Club, including Warrior 481 which had taken up an extended residency. The crowded ramp was a positive sign of things to come, I hope.

Lesly, Paula, and Steve with Nine Four Romeo


Dawn and Eric with One Delta Tango


Denny brought a friend! Marie and Denny with Four Eight Papa

Denny, of course, was my rescuer on March 7. As I stood frowning at the mess the birds had made of my airplane, he offered to fly me back to Dansville when the time came to bring Warrior 481 home. It would be a privilege to fly in his beautiful Comanche again.

Afterglow

Tom lines Eight Five X-Ray up on final approach for the Williamson Sodus Airport

During the inevitable gathering at the fuel pump that follows every mass return from a club fly-out, I received multiple heartfelt thanks from the participating members for organizing the event. Everyone, including me, has missed this. The fact that we were able to find an activity that satisfied the combined aeronautical and social cravings while still conforming to expectations around minimizing viral spread was like a balm to everyone's soul.


I owe a tremendous thanks to Tom and Alicia for bringing me along with them, even if doing so meant that everyone had to wear masks in the cockpit because of the mixed households present in close quarters.

As we chatted in the hangar, we began to plan for the next event. Penn's Cave in central Pennsylvania opened some weeks ago. Though appropriate COVID-19 precautions were in place, we were not eager to be tourists just yet. But by the end of June, we assume that the kinks will be worked out of the system.

Baby steps to normalcy.

Afterword

(Cue the silly music.)


Eric demonstrated elements of the Williamson Flying Club's "Socially Distant Exercise Program for Aviators" by pulling One Delta Tango toward the fuel pump. He is working his way up to pulling the aircraft with his teeth like an old-timey strong man. Great work, Eric!

Man, have I missed this.