They Call the Wind...Wanttaja?

Posted May 2023

Seattle has a heat wave going; into the high 80s yesterday, going to be in the 90s tomorrow.

Perfect time to own an open-cockpit airplane, right? Got to the airport about 12:30 and walked out to sniff the wind. Seemed...a LITTLE strong. Bit of a crosswind. Should be OK.

Warm enough so I'm using the ear bud headset. Strapped it on, mounted up, taxied out, and took my place in line.

My home field has a lot of helicopter training, in Robinson R-22s and -44s. Was #1 for takeoff, watching an R-22 fly a ....slow... approach. It stopped a few feet above the numbers and hovered for a bit.

Grrr. Then it moved out. I let it get about 3/4ths the way down the runway, then powered up and rolled out.

Takeoff was normal, but the plane bucked around a lot. I could see the helicopter about a third of a mile ahead. Rotor wash?

Maybe. But a touch of westerly in the wind (runway was 34) means there's air pushing through the warehouses just to the left of the runway. Think I was getting turbulence from the buildings.

Flew south, still bucking around a little. That's one of the drawbacks when things get warm. And I was flying just beyond a ridgeline; again, more opportunity for the wind to act up. Seems like more than I felt when I took off, though.

A few minutes later, it officially became summer: I turned off the cockpit heat knob.

Did a little sightseeing, then headed back. Heard someone activate the ATIS: Wind was 320 degrees (not bad), at NINE KNOTS with gusts to 16!

Yow. When did THAT happen?

Probably explained why there actually wasn't much traffic around. A couple of the flight school helicopters, and a Cessna or two.

There's a very prominent set of water towers to the northwest of the airport, and its regularly used as the starting point for doing a 45 entry to the pattern. I came back, took the 45 to the downwind, and set up for a touch-and-go.

The wind threw me around a bit. I had come in a bit hot, and used up the extra speed fighting the crosswind and turbulence. Bonk on the runway, good enough, power up to go around.

Second pass was REAL ugly. A gust caught me a few feet above the ground. I fumbled around for a second, then said "***** this!" and powered up for a go-around. First one I've done in a couple of year.

Then it got interesting. As I turned for the crosswind, there was a radio call. "Pilatus XXXX approaching the water tower, going to turn to go to Boeing Field."

My airport is under the SeaTac Class B shelf. A lot of high-performance airplanes, including some business jets squirm under the 1800-foot floor to avoid having to deal with the controllers. They hang a left turn RIGHT at the north end of the pattern.

Spotting the blur heading my way. "Fly Baby has the crowd-killer."

Pilatus came back, "Yeah, we've got the Fly Baby on the box."

Huh. Spent about $2,000 on my ADS-B out. This is the first time anyone in flight has acknowledged picking me up.....

Anyway, well clear, and I dropped in behind a Cessna on downwind. "Cessna XXX turning base for a stop-and-go."

Uhhh. I hate it when traffic does stop-and-goes. You don't know how long they're going to sit there.

I gave them a bit more room than normal, eventually turning final behind them. Was primed to go around if they sat too long (go around TWICE in one flight? Arg!).

Watched and watched... and that Cessna tracked smoothly along the runway without a pause.

I punched the mike. "Man, that's gotta be the QUICKEST stop-and-go I've ever seen."

Response: "Uhhh, yeah, Cessna XXX going around."

"That wind is a bear today, isn't it."

The bear tried to take a juicy piece out of my tushie on that landing, but I managed to set down without leaving any wood or steel behind. Did a bit of weaving, though.

Weirdest thing happened as I was taxiing back to my hangar. There was one of the flight school R-44s sitting and running on one of the exit taxiways on the north side of the runway. He was facing north, I was coming up from the south.

As I neared him, he powered-up for takeoff. I jammed the stick hard left and back. 'Raker rocked in the downwash. Switched the stick to the other corner as I passed.

They probably (probably) wouldn't have done that if they'd known I was passing. But it would have been nice if they'd been sitting so they could tell someone was passing by.....

(and for those wondering, my last name, indeed, rhymes with "Mariah".

Ron Wanttaja

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