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