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santa clara valley 99s

Hangar Flying

The following is a reprint of a story first published in the Ninety Nines list serv. If you are a 99 and would like to subscribe, find out how on the Ninety Nines International website.

What to do on a lazy Sunday? Why, go flying, of course!

A Sunday Drive
By Melanie

Ah, today was one of those rare days in TX - sunny, warm, breezy instead of the usual wild winds - I called Wx Brief promptly to find out what the winds were doing and was elated to here 050 - 060 at 5 to 8K - Yes, a great day to fly, and light crosswinds to play with, too! This was going to be great!

I eagerly headed out the door for the airport the minute hubby left for work, and leisurely pre-flighted while watching other people at the airport who'd come "out of the woodwork" to fly on such a nice day (Saginaw airport has usually been a ghost town).

Taxiing out behind an Ercoupe, I couldn't believe there was a "line" for take off! I did my run-up, 360 to check traffic in the pattern, called Meacham with my location and intentions, and, after waiting for a gorgeous military L-4 to clear the runway after landing, I was off.

I'd glanced at the chart, trying to figure out where I wanted to go in the 2 hours I had, but nothing really appealed to me, so I just headed out over Eagle Mountain Lake to admire the beautiful sailboats drifting lazily about. I did slow flight while enjoying these sights, a few mushy turns, etc - anything to keep me slow to enjoy the scenery below.

As I finally came upon the north end of the lake, I decided to head to Decatur to say "HI". I switched to Decatur's frequency, and couldn't believe how quiet it was on such a gorgeous flying day. Upon entering downwind and landing, calling out on the radio as I did so, there still wasn't an airplane to be heard or seen.

I taxied up to the FBO, intending to check out a pristine Beech 18 parked there after I got out, and was shocked to find that the FBO was closed, and not a soul in sight! This was unusual! The Beech owners must have run into town for dinner.

Oh, well, since the place was deserted, I decided this was an excellent time to practice some T&G's since no one was there to watch me embarrass myself (and I was glad, as my teardrop approach to final due to the winds blowing me around wasn't one of my prettiest).

I was glad for the light crosswinds to practice in, since it'd been awhile since I'd done crosswind practice. On downwind, I noticed I really had to crab a lot to stay parallel to the runway - this sure didn't feel like "5 to 8K" as reported. Again, I did a teardrop approach, as the winds had blown me off of my approach path. Grrrr! Now this was making me mad! Next go round, I was determined to fly the "perfect" pattern all the way, damned the winds! Well, I did it, and did a full stop, taxiing back to start again. I finally glanced at the windsock and it was straight out - there had to be at least 15K crosswinds! No wonder I was having a few problems! Now I REALLY felt good about "beating the winds into submission" on that last go 'round. I also know stiff winds won't take advantage of me anymore - I have conquered them and won!!!!!

Enough with that, but I still wanting to lally-gag around and prolong the gorgeous sunny day, so I headed over toward my place (too wet to land, though) and, enroute, did a 1,000' fly by over Rhome Meadows - another deserted grass strip due to the recent rains, then resumed flying to my airport, doing S turns and turns around a point along the way. I flew the pattern and went about 500' over my runway, again, fighting the winds to stay centered over the runway. I was surprised that I hadn't encountered any aircraft around my home turf, as there is usually a lot of "local traffic" in the area - why weren't people up flying today? I just couldn't understand it, but relished in having the sky to myself.

Well, I'd had enough lazy fun for one day and headed back to Saginaw, detouring over Eagle Mountain Lake again to stay out of the way of Hicks traffic (that was the only place I saw any). As I entered downwind, a 172 was on its take off roll, and soon was upon me on downwind as I turned base to final. He deviated farther south to allow this "slow poke" enough time to land. I didn't roll very far, and immediately cleared the runway, calling that I was clear of the active. I'd barely started my taxi back when the 172 came floating past me over the far end of the runway, and it was clear he wasn't going to get down and had to do a go around. As I was refueling, he came in for landing and again, floated a bit before managing to settle to the ground, this time with enough runway left!

I couldn't understand his problem, as Saginaw was by far less windy than my other destinations had been and I had, in fact, just "plunked her down" when the stall warning sounded.

Then it dawned on me - my "superior skills" from tailwheel flying must have kicked in!!!

As I was putting the hose away, 2 older gentlemen and a young couple approached me at the fuel tanks. The older guys told me what a beautiful landing I had made (aha, had I known they were watching....).

Then the young couple said they saw me land too, and wanted to see my plane - then I saw an infant with them who was just cooing away. They explained that he was a fussy 20 month old, and the only thing that seemed to calm him down was being around airplanes.

So, we sat him in there and his face just lit up with glee, as he clumsily reached out for the yoke and bumped his chin on it as his arms missed the grab. Instead of crying, he just burst out with the biggest laugh I ever heard from a baby! Needless to say, I now believe some people ARE born to be flyers!

After putting the plane away, I leaned against the prop to watch the L-4 come in and make a beautiful landing.

Yes, I really believe there is something to say about sharpening your skills flying tailwheels!

Here's what Melanie has to say about herself:

I am a proud member of the Golden Triangle chapter in TX. I obtained my private pilot certificate in Apr 2000, and am a tailwheel fanatic. I have a clipped wing J3 Cub and hope to get aerobatics training as well as my instrument, commercial, and CFI ratings. I would like to specialize in tailwheel training. I currently work for American Airlines in Group and Meeting Travel, am married to an airline pilot, and live on a residential airpark.

reprinted with permission from the author.

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