Blending In

Posted November 2013

Weather finally broke, here, and it coincided with successfully completing the Fly Baby's annual condition inspection.

Clear skies, crisp (mid '40s) but hazy; often when the weather breaks in Seattle, we get a temperature inversion.  I could see the layer of haze towards the east.  Been fighting a cold, but been feeling better.  I deliberately didn't take any medicine for it today, just to be safe.

Driving to the airport, it stuck me that it might be interesting to carry a thermometer to try to measure the inversion.  I stopped by a department store on the way to the airport and picked up a $6 digital thermometer.

To the airport.  Tie-wraps attached the thermometer to the Master Turnbuckle, then it was preflight and roll out.  With this being the first flight after the inspection, I took a bit of extra care to ensure everything had been put back properly.

The temperature was about at my threshold to use a face mask, but with the sun, I figured I'd give it a pass.  With a flannel shirt, the A2 was sufficient.  Wrap the RAF scarf around my neck, tie it off, grab gloves, and head for the airplane.

This was my first cold-weather flight since the major re-cushioning work on the seat, and I was instantly reminded of how HARD cold temperfoam is.  I've got rather aggressive shaping of the seat base, and it was like sitting on a couple of bricks.  I had to let the shoulder harness and seat belt out a tad, 'cause they were set for softer foam.

Tie in, crank up.  Stiff the air a bit with the engine running; the last start up during the annual smelled a bit as soap and solvent burned off the engine.  Got it all last time, apparently.

The prop wash on the cheeks was a bit stinging, and for a moment I regretted not wearing my ski mask.  A bit of a lean forward took care of it; either that, or my cheeks had gone numb.  The thermometer read 47 degrees.

Taxi to the end of the runway and sit awhile to let the engine and the seat foam warm up.  Tug the harness tight, goggles down, run up the engine.  Missed badly on the left mag...weird, because it had run just fine during the engine check after the annual.  Crud in the plugs?  I fiddled with the mixture and power levels, and apparently got it cleared out.

Power up, roll down the runway, and lift off into the hazy skies.  The plane quickly climbed through the haze, leaving me surrounded as usual by the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.

Whup, thermometer up to 60 degrees?

Damn, it doesn't feel like it.  In the past, I've easily been able to detect when going through a thermal inversion.  Check to make sure the heater is off.  Flick the thermometer a couple of times.  It goes blank for a few seconds, then comes back reading 50 degrees.  It did a few more wild changes over the next five minutes, then I started to ignore it.

(Been fiddling with it here, at my computer desk.  I've had it reading from 63 degrees to 82 degrees, just sitting on my desktop.  Piece of crap....)

No doubt the big boys would have to declare an emergency with such a major instrument failure, but I kept sliding through the crisp fall sky.  The haze layer stood below me, softening the ground, going to an opaque mass a few miles away.  The only ground clearly in sight was that I could glide to...and you really can't beat that.

Back to the home drome for some touch-and-goes.  With good flying weather for the weekend (for once), the pattern was extremely busy.  In my last mile heading toward the west-side 45-entry point, three other planes announced that they were entering the pattern.  I latched onto the third and followed him in.

Four or five fixed-wings and helicopters in the pattern, two or three line up on the ground ready to take off.  "Hey, Ron, bet you're cold" came over the radio.

Standard response #1:  "Many are cold, but few are frozen."

Shoehorn myself into the pattern, shoot a couple of touch and goes.  As I break ground and climb on the third, a Piper calls in that he's East of the field, and is going to enter the pattern from that side.

I call crosswind, then call turning downwind.  The Piper immediately asks where I am.  I spot him on a converging course to my left.  I've got the right-of-way, but since he obviously hasn't seen me yet, I turn tight left and drop to keep him in sight.  It's oddly similar to my situation with the Bellanca a couple of months back.

As he passes by, I haul back on the stick and chandelle over to get on his tail and follow him into the pattern.

"Fly Baby, I'm sorry, I didn't see you until just at the end!"

"S'Okay," I reply.  "It was actually kind of fun!"

I follow him around.  He lands, and apologizes again.  "My plane's painted beige," I reassure him, "it kind of blends in on a day like today."

But then...even the colorful Fly Babies do that.  They blend into your life, taking ordinary sunny days and making them special.  It'd be hard to consider life without a Fly Baby waiting in the hangar.

Comments? Contact Ron Wanttaja .

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