Flying Journal - A Little Whining, a Little Flying
At long last, in fact, my last semester at Southwest Missouri State University is now history. Just turned those grades in yesterday. I better be careful about saying that I won't be teaching at SMSU next semester. A friend e-mailed that to a friend in another state and caused all kinds of concern. The friend didn't pay enough attention to the next paragraph. "It's now official. The governor has signed the bill so I will be teaching at Missouri State University next year." Sometimes the name change seems like a tempest in a teapot, but supposedly it sounds more prestigious and will help recruit better faculty and students (like the ones who go elsewhere for better money?) Of course most state-"assisted" universities are also facing declining support from their respective state governments.
I'm going to miss our nice short e-mail addresses, "email@example.com." Don't change them yet, but our new one will be "firstname.lastname@example.org." My carpal tunnel syndrome shudders to think of those extra keystrokes, going on forever.
But enough whining. Let's talk about flying. Bill Cheek invited me along as he ferried the Cessna 172 he likes to fly back to its home base at Pittsburg, Kansas. That flight on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon brought back memories, all the way to my first solo cross-country flight. At that time, about 1990, the runways at Springfield Downtown Airport were numbered 10 and 28. We thought it was amusing that you could take off from Runway 28 at Downtown (3DW), and never turn, flying that runway heading of 280 degrees which would take you almost perfectly to a straight-in final on Runway 28 at Pittsburg (PTS). How often does that happen? The runways at 3DW were renumbered 11 and 29 to keep up with that slippery magnetic north pole when they were widened a few years ago.
Pittsburg hasn't changed much, except that now there are about half a dozen biz-jets based at the field. My instructor had said he sent me there because there were three runways, so you always had one into the wind. Also, it was mostly prairie over that route in case you had trouble. Finally, you had good long landmarks in the form of Highways I-44 and US 71 in case you got lost. When I started working as an instructor, I sent many of my own students on that same route, to Pittsburg, then Joplin, and back to Springfield. You get a little bit of everything-towered and un-towered airports, radar and non-radar towers-there's fuel and friendly people at all the airports, it's not long enough to be really tiring, but long enough to count as cross-country time.
When Part 61 of the FARs was changed a few years ago to drop the solo time requirement for the Private Pilot license from 20 to 10 hours, they also dropped the solo cross-country requirement from 10 to 5 and we started shortening up those flights, usually sending first cross-country solos to Joplin or Harrison. I always worried a little more about the rougher terrain between Springfield and Harrison, but it has never been a problem for any of my students.
When I think back, I'm surprised how many memorable flights I've had to Pittsburg, KS. I flew over there to take my practical exam for the Instrument Instructor Rating. That examiner has since taken an FAA job in Texas. About 6 am one morning I flew a thousand pounds of freight on a charter in an old Piper Aztec. I loved that plane, all 500 horsepower. My first student who has made it to airline captain built some of his turbine time flying freight in a Cessna Caravan between Springfield and Pittsburg for a few months and he took me along one night for my introduction to turbine flying.
If you ever stop in at Pittsburg, be sure to look at the photos and plaques on the wall. You can still see the three-runway configuration from when it was a training base in 1942.
Fly safely, and I hope to see you at the MPA State Convention at Neosho, June 10-11!