A cold night it was in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Got down to freezing and when I woke up at 6:30 to the line guy saying, “what time you wanna get up?” all I could see was fog – pea soup. I went for a run in the spare time waiting for it to burn off and finally leapt into the air past 10:00am – not quite the early start I was hoping for.
The flight was smooth up at 6,500 feet…but it was not fast. Fifty-five miles and hour at times. Slower going than a highway car! Descended to 4,500 feet. (When going west the flying altitudes are always even thousands plus 500 feet for traffic separation purposes.) At 4,500 the plane quickened a bit, sometimes going as fast as 80 mph but the ride was a bit bumpy – sometimes in the fun way.
The strong head winds would have made me run out of fuel before my planned destination so I had to land short at another airport. Got out my airport directory and found a suitable alternate and all of its pertinent info: runway lengths and directions, communications frequencies and field elevations and I was set to go for a straight in approach to landing.
The landing though was not so straight forward. The strong turbulence would carry down to the ground and manifested itself as a nasty crosswind and to make matters worse, the runway was sloped downhill for the first half! Not an ideal situation. So land I did, twice. The first time just a bounce, but for the second, a few seconds later, the wheels held their grip on the pavement. Not my best landing by a long shot but as they say, a good landing is one you can walk away from and a great landing is one in which you can use the aircraft again. Which I did!
The excellent part about the landing was that the slight jar encountered during touch number one somehow fixed the issue with the automatic direction finder (ADF) which points towards strategically placed ground beacons to aid in navigation. I’d been listening for the Morse identifier to sound in my earphones for the last hour to show we were getting the signal. No signal. I left it on so that I’d gear the code once we were in range. But once in range…no code. It was not until we touched down that, what’s that noise? Morse code! Happily the ADF was in back in business. Seems Freddy just had a successful visit with a chiropractor of sorts.
Onwards: fueled up Freddy with 100 low lead octane aviation gas and fueled myself with two pieces of wheat bread, raisons, Triscuts, an apple, a can of pineapple chunks and a few pieces of dried fruit for good measure.
Then the next leg to plan. Found a good one after a few no go’s because of landing fees or distances too long for the amount of sunlight left. 2:30pm it was. Found my spot. Class E airport ( no control tower and usually lower key.) Very close to its home town, shown in yellow on the flying charts.. Bucyrus, Ohio here I come. One hundred and twenty miles.
The highlights of the leg: leaving Youngstown (no offense to the Young’s), seeing a field that had GET LOST written into it and landing at Bucyrus just before the sun went down. Farms surrounding most of the airport. Landed, taxied to the pump, fueled and spayed (3.95/gal). Upon a discussion with Kevin the instructor/airport worker, I asked him if I could sleep in the plane. He said sure and then having already offered me the “courtesy car” (I declined in favor of my bike) I took me to hanger three where his buddy has a live in hangar and a couch for me to sleep on to say nothing of the bathroom and shower. Living it real tonight.
Biked into the farm land in the early twilight throwing my arms in the air and saying, "mon dieau", speaking French like my favorite cyclist character in the movie Breaking Away. A happy bike rider, exploring what I’d seen from the air – though the ride was almost abruptly ended when an un-athletic looking dog tore off his farm land onto the road to chase me. I gave a burst of the pedals as if to say "yeah nice try buddy" and figured he was toast. However, i looked back a few seconds later and not only I had not lost him but he was gaining on me at an alarming rate. A sustained firing was needed this time and thankfully Buddy reached his aerobic threshold before I did and quit the chance. Sadly, Buddy did not respond to my taunting whistles on the return trip.
Then into town I went to find a place to teat and to get the feel for the town. Went opposite the fast food joints and found a Greek family place on the edge of the main road through town. I sat at the front table and had a chicken Gyro - a wonderful chicken sandwich on a fat pita with lettuce and some special sauce. The owner and his worker came out the chatty, just as I had hoped and soon got the question, "you from around here?" The woman - born, raised and lived most of her life in Bucyrus. Now lives in the next town over. The man started the place eleven years ago after he left the local garden/automotive/etc hose plant as a senior manager who had no experience. They said the town used to be an industrial town but most of the industries have gone away now leaving a quiet place. In good sprits though they were and their food delicious.
Biked back to the hangar, stopping once to get some fabric to sew a pencil holder onto my pants. Planned the next leg of the flight and went to bed.
More to come,