Monday, June 18, 2012

Three "First Flights"

I guess it's good that I'm too busy to write much in this blog because it means that I have some money to go flying!!!!

Since my last entry, I've taken three different passengers up with me.  The first is a friend with whom I study Hapkido (my other passion).  John Paul has flown in a light sport aircraft not long ago, so the Skyhawk seems absolutely luxurious to him.  We set out from Chicago Executive to Rockford (KRFD), and the air was a lot like glass once we cleared Chicago's Bravo airspace.  While I had planned to take a couple of laps around the patch once arriving in Rockford, there looked to be some rather nefarious weather headed our direction - weather that was certainly not forecast.  Thus, I opted for just a touch and go and back to PWK.  The landing was rather sweet if not a bit off the center line to the left (of course).  On the way back, I was able to point out my office to John Paul.  I had never really noticed it before that day.

Last Saturday, my nearly five year-old son got his first flight.  As the time for this flight approached, I realized that I really had two sets of minimums.  I have more tolerance for crosswinds and gusts when it is just me in the plane because I know that I'm working diligently to have pretty good landings most of the time even under those conditions.  However, with another person in the plane - particularly one of my children - I am less tolerant of such things.  The winds had been screwing around all day long because of a stupid low pressure system moving through Canada.  But we worked our way out there, and "the Boy" had his first flight.  It was simply magic to hear him yelling "wow!" as I advanced the throttle on the Skyhawk and we became airborne.  He was very happy to see one of his favorite places - Lake Geneva - from the air.  Unfortunately, he was unhappy that we didn't make time for a swim and sulked all the way home.  As we approached PWK, the pattern was NUTS.  There were so many aircraft that the tower was actually sending people away for five or ten minutes.  I think I was number 10 for the field at one point.  I was so distracted by keeping an eye out for traffic (there was plenty), comforting my now melting-down son, and listening to the craziness of the radio that I came within a razor's edge of busting the bravo.  I would estimate my altitude was 1899 feet MSL with a 1900 shelf... would have taught my son a potty word but he had taken off his headset.  A serviceable landing with winds that were about at those "alone" minimums since they deteriorated after we left.  Lesson: if the winds are toying with your minimums, the flying gods will see to it that you're challenged for making a go decision. The good news is that a week later he "loved" it and wants to go again soon.

Today, "the Banana" (my seven year-old daughter) got her first flight, though in the DA-20 Eclipse that I had not flown for two months because I was focused on developing proficiency in the Cessna.  She had 100 questions for me the whole time, which was actually very fun for me.  We headed up to KUGN where we would depart out toward Lake Geneva (they love this place), and then we visited Watertown, Wisconsin (KRYV).  As I advanced the throttle, she too made plenty of music with her excitement.  She said "cool!" at least 20 times as we flew around, and she was interested in how high we were.  She was disappointed that I would not go higher than 6500 MSL because it just didn't make any sense given the distances.  After I slowed down and did a few steep turns over Lake Geneva so she could see things, we turned toward Watertown.  It was "her airplane" for about two minutes... well, at least she thought so.  She kept telling me that she didn't think that she was allowed to fly the plane.  She gently banked the plane, but I figured out that after about 45 degrees there was no stopping in sight for her.  I said I didn't think it would be a very comfortable ride if we kept turning, and "helped" her back to level.  It was fun to watch her.  Took a few laps around Watertown's pattern with a few nice landings.  That Diamond is a heck of a lot easier to land than the Skyhawk.  The Banana was a bit unhappy that her ears plugged up, but we got that fixed.  We were on our way back to KUGN, and the Banana helped me look for traffic.  As we entered the pattern at Waukegan, the Banana was again chattering away and I had to keep reminding her that this was a time to be very quiet.  Two more squeakers made me very happy, and the Banana could hardly wait to get out of the plane and tell her mother what an awesome time she had.

Note: I started this post on June 8, but got pretty busy and was not able to finish it.  So these things all happened a bit ago.

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