Points of View

Posted January 2007

It has been a real ugly month-and-a-half.  Part of it has been work.  Things have been very, very ugly. Normally, we get the period off between Christmas and New Years (by giving up holidays in the rest of the year).  Not this time, though...had the holiday days themselves, and half the "eves", otherwise I worked every day between the 7th of December and the 10th of January.

During the same period, the Seattle area has had some of the worst weather in memory.  Record rainfall in November, mudslides (always a concern when you live atop a 400-foot cliff!), three sessions of snow (rare enough in Seattle) with one of them followed by freezing rain and skate-park roads, and three major windstorms, one of which killed our power for four nights (with ~40 degree weather outside), knocked two trees down across our street, etc.

Work's been a bear, but there are some compensations.  One of which is, well the compensation...unlike most aerospace engineers, the ones working for my company get paid overtime.  My wife got a *real* nice Christmas present this year.

The second compensation is my co-workers.  Several are pilots (one is my former partner in the Stinson), several are fairly big airplane nuts.  We've all bought some of those cheap foam electric RC airplanes... $30 for an F-16 that goes like a bat out 'o Hades, $100 for a dual ducted-fan 757, etc...and blow off steam by going out during lunch and flying them in the parking lot.  Some of the guys even had battery chargers for the planes rigged up in their cars.

But with the weather, we weren't getting much time on our RC toys, much less getting the Fly Baby out of the hangar. I flew on the 2nd of December, and between the weather and work, otherwise didn't really get much of a chance.  Until the end of the month came close.

Saturday the 30th dawned pretty promising.  The sun was shining up above, and there was fog in the valley (where the airport is at) that had a good likelihood of burning off.  I went into work as usual, but at our 9AM status briefing, announced, "If the weather clears up, I'm going to duck out early today and go flying."  I got a little good-natured ribbing, but the boss allowed I'd probably earned a day off.

So I worked like a beaver, through lunch and into the early afternoon.  No windows where I work, and no way to look outside without going through a lot of corridors.  I was just too busy for that.

But one of my RC-flying buddies came back from lunch about 1:30.  "Ron, it's BEAUTIFUL out there!  Get out and go flying!"

I was buried in work, but after a half-hour, I'd had enough.  I was going to have to come in Sunday anyway (New Years' eve), so I might as well duck out and head to the airport.

So I announced I was going aviating ("So long, you poor ground-pounders!"), told folks I'd give them the products they needed tomorrow afternoon, packed up my briefcase, pulled on my leather jacket, and headed for the exit.

I finally punched out the windowless door to the big, bright, outdoors.  But, after blinking, I realized:  It *wasn't* as bright as it had looked that morning.  I looked up the street...and saw the same ground fog.  There was, perhaps, just a tinge of sunlight to the whole scene.  It wasn't the deep gloomy gray we'd had for the past two weeks...but it wasn't really a nice day, either.

I kept walking towards my car...but slowly ground to a halt.  This was NOT a day to go flying.  Maybe...MAYBE...it was legal VFR.  But it sure the heck wouldn't be fun.

Go home anyway, take the time off?  No.  TOMORROW might be better.  Best to get some more work in today, and see if I could fly on Sunday, instead.

Grrr.  I slunk back into the office.  Told folks I was back.  And yes, I'd get that pricing form completed today. And I went to my "fair weather" buddy and complained about his weather report.

"But...but, Ron, there's NO WIND!  It's a perfect day to fly!"

It was all a matter of Points of View.  He was a someday pilot (who loves the "Junkers" Fly Baby) but a dyed-in-the-wool RC'er.  It didn't matter to him that the visibility on the ground was barely a couple of blocks... he wouldn't lose track of his RC airplane, and heck, there was NO WIND to blow it away.

Sigh.  I dropped my briefcase by the desk, hung up my leather coat, and fired up my computer again.  I worked until 7 PM that Saturday night, getting completely caught up.  If the weather was OK Sunday, I wouldn't have to come in at all.

And lo and behold...it was.

Me and Moonraker launched into a sunny afternoon...a bit of haze still about, I couldn't see Mt. St. Helens eighty miles to the south, but Mt. Rainier was tall and proud.  I flew over my RC-flying buddy's house and blipped the throttle, just to try to chase him out of the house.  No joy.  Went over an RV-builder buddy's house and circled a bit, no joy there, either.

Did some more sightseeing, then headed home for some touch-and-goes.  As the first decent weekend day in about three weeks, the pattern was packed.  A Mooney and a Bonanza sat at the departure end, waiting for a break.  On one circuit, as I turned crosswind to downwind, a Seneca entered the pattern at midfield about 500 feet high.  He called downwind...and kept going.  I watched the airplane disappear in the distance as I puttered along.  As I got abeam of the number, I heard him call..."Seneca XXXX turning four-and-a-half mile base leg."

Geeze.  The guy probably though that was a normal approach, on a busy, hazy, day.  Points of View, again.

Me, I just chopped the throttle, turned base, turned final, and was rolling my wheels along by the time the Seneca called "Two mile final."  I was turning onto downwind again behind a Cherokee when the Piper twin finally turned off the active.  "Fly Baby 484 turning downwind, number three behind the Warrior."

"Fly Baby on downwind, this is the Bonanza on the ground.  I've been trying to take off for ten minutes, could you leave me a space?"

I punched the mike button.  "Sure," I said, "I'll fly a Seneca pattern." :-)

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