Flying Journal - A Little Timing Can Be Everything!
I had been trying to get to Indianapolis to see my new grandson for about three weeks. Finally all the schedules worked together, but I only had a couple of days available, and since it's a 7-8 hour drive, if I drove, I'd have to turn around and come back the day after I got there. Sounds like a good time to take an airplane. I packed up and headed out to the airport on Sunday, hoping to return on Tuesday, then drive or fly Wednesday to Stillwater, Oklahoma for my once-weekly summer class on Thursday. That would be a snap in a Citation, wouldn't it?
Alas, there was a large system with ceilings below 1000 feet stalled over Illinois and southern Indiana, as well as a growing chance throughout the day of thunderboomers over Missouri. Reluctantly, I returned to the house. My only other chance that week would be to try again Monday, returning on Wednesday, which would mean I would have to leave by 7 am Thursday to make it to my class in Stillwater by noon.
I got to the airport early Monday to make the most of my time. But the remnants of Tropical Storm Arlene had not yet cleared out of Indiana. But after carefully studying the weather charts and forecasts, I determined I had a window of opportunity and sure enough, I was able to get out of Springfield ahead of thunderstorms moving in from the west and with one fuel stop and taking my time, the weather had cleared by the time I got to Indiana. I even had a good stiff tailwind that gave me a good push.
I couldn't imagine that same stiff westerly flow would still be hanging around two days later, but I should have know I couldn't be so lucky. Of course I stretched my visit with the grandchildren until after lunch and by then the winds had begun to lessen, and even more so as I flew west. Aside from the headwind, it was a beautiful day to fly. The big decision was whether to stay below a scattered layer around 5000 feet, get bumped around, or go up to 6500 or 8500 to smooth air but slow down 10-15 knots.
Actually I had started out the flight even lower to take advantage of some southeasterly surface winds. I enjoyed the closer view of the fields and towns and the Wabash River Valley, but when I finally got enough of the bumps, I cruise climbed until I found a compromise of smoothness and speed I could live with. Somewhere southwest of St. Louis the clouds cleared out completely and I cruised on into SGF at a cool 6500 feet.
I really should have just kept on flying on down to Stillwater Wednesday night. It would have only been another hour and a half. But I landed in Springfield, and by Thursday morning a new line of storms was developing in Oklahoma, so I left at 7 am to drive.
On the four-hour drive I meditated about time and our perception of time. The previous day, in the Cherokee Six, a headwind had made me spend an extra half an hour in the plane. Of course most of us hurried and harried Americans bemoan the time lost. We could just as easily change our attitude and be grateful for that extra time we got to spend in an airplane. It's not like it was 9 days!
By 9 days I am referring of course to the time it took Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager to fly non-stop and un-refueled around the world back in Voyager. Of course Dick was one of our speakers at the MPA State Convention in Neosho last week. We tend to romanticize such exploits and it was quite an eye-opener to hear what that was really like, to have to recline for 9 days, wiggling back and forth between the pilot and rest positions in that cramped "cockpit," sleeping an hour or two a day, trying to take off with the wingtips drooping into negative lift from more weight than they had ever carried, re-plumbing the 14 or so fuel tanks to work around a burned out pump on the last day to complete the flight. I was always impressed with that flight, now even more so as I learned more details. It was also intriguing to learn so much about Dick's brother Burt and his many designs, and the coming adventures of private spaceflight.
Thanks to those of you who made it to that memorable convention, to Mike Curtis and the Southwest Chapter and to the many sponsors and volunteers who made it possible.
Fly safely, and I hope to see you at the chapter meeting!