Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving - The Time to Fly

As I watched the evening news story about how Thanksgiving is the most heavily traveled holiday in the U.S., I felt very fortunate that I would not be dealing with the hassle of airport security or battling with thousands of SUVs on our highways. I have the benefit of a private pilot certificate, and for that, I am very thankful!
Maureen and I made plans to fly to Tampa to spend the holiday with my sister's family, Mom, Dad, my Aunt & Uncle from Denver, Dad, Nita and Kathy. Unfortunately, the Warrior was down with a bad transponder which would preclude flying in Tampa's Class B airspace.

Fortunately, Sterling had a very new Cessna 172S available. What a great bunch of folks these people are! When they acquired the leaseback for the Cessna about 2 years ago, I flew the plane once with an instructor--that was the only time I had spent in a 172. In spite of this, I remembered the starting sequence for the fuel-injected Lycoming IO-320, and the Malone's agreed to allow me to take the plane as long as I did three takeoff/landings before taking passengers.

Early Thanksgiving day, I took the Skyhawk up for a familiarization flight. The weather was predicted to be stormy early followed by stiff winds with clear skies. The weatherman was right. I told Maureen to meet me at the airport at 10:30 and I left early for my practice. After a pre-flight inspection that included draining 13(!) sumps, the engine started very easily. Gotta love that fuel injection!

Taxiing, it seemed as though the nose wheel steering was non-existent. I could not steer without touching the brakes. That's a bit unusual, but I suppose the bungees could be in need of replacement.

This is one incredibly nice plane - N5280R. Nice leather interior, almost every bell and whistle except for a flight director and HSI. GPS with a color moving map...dual nav/com...AUTOPILOT!!! Whooee! And the power!!! Ok, so my car has twice as much horsepower (close to it, actually), but my car won't climb at 1,000 fpm, and it only holds two people.

I had a fairly stiff crosswind about 10 to 20 degrees from the left with a total wind of 15 knots as I made my takeoff roll. I really had to crab quit a bit to maintain the runway centerline, but boy could this plane climb!

I proceeded to climb to about 4,000 feet and headed south to the practice area. Although Hayden had said I could take the plane after three TnGs, I thought it would be a good idea to do some stalls and slow flight before attempting a landing. So I did some slow flight and found that this is an incredibly stable plane. I then did a couple of power off stalls followed by an emergency spiral descent. I really like the way this plane handles.

As I tried to tune the NAV to the CRG ILS, I discovered that the GPS/VOR button was missing and the freq swap button on NAV2 was also gone. Oh, well, can't use the ILS this time.

I did my three landings and parked the plane in front of SkyHarbor for refueling. The plane was only about half full when I took off the first time and I didn't want to go away for a holiday weekend only to discover that the FBO at my destination was closed (it was, actually).

While I waited for fuel and Maureen, I found Hayden and asked him about the GPS/VOR switch and learned that it had popped out before and had previously been replaced. That's a flaw in a 2 year old aircraft, if you ask me. A search of the floor found no missing pushbutton. Looks like I won't be using NAV1. I found that by using my pen, I could swap channels on NAV2.

Anyway, Maureen arrived right at 10:30 just as I was about to drain the sumps again and we were wheels up at 10:45.

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