Friday, May 16, 2008


Truth be told, I've never been a big fan of early spring flying in Minnesota. And given the sort of spring we've had, May 16 qualifies as early spring. And with the weather pattern ushering in some heat, and my flight time being late day, I knew I was in for a, ummm, ride.

If you've ever boogeyboarded at the ocean, you know what flying in early spring heat is like. Hold altitude? Forget it. You're passing -- quickly -- from dense (cold) to thin (warm) air depending on whether you're flying over water or unplowed farm fields.

I never did get throttle settings correct in the pattern. At one point, I pulled back to about 1500 RPM, and I was still climbing. Then the thermal would give out, and I'd drop 200 feet in a second and have to firewall the throttle. A few times the turbulence was so hard, it pushed my hand on the throttle. In other words, it wasn't the kind of day to take a passenger on a first flight, and so I flew alone.

I took a bunch of pictures but they're all terrible. The above picture is about 6 miles northwest of Airlake (Lakeville, Minn.).

I haven't flown in a couple of months so I stayed at Flying Cloud for three touch-and-gos of questionable pedigrees. The wind was pretty much right down the runway at Flying Cloud, but the winds were gusting to about 24 mph, which required me to carry extra speed on landing (12 knots) to guard against a sudden loss of airspeed. So I floated...and floated...and floated. But the goal is getting down in gusty conditions and that mission was accomplished.

I then headed for Airlake where I knew the wind was about 30 degrees off runway heading, which would give me a little crosswind practice. The initial landing was OK -- not great -- but the second landing was a beauty, featuring the nice little "chirp.... chirp" of an upwind single wheel landing.

Then it was back to Flying Cloud for a final landing (another questionable one). With gas being close to $4 a gallon, it really doesn't make much sense to drive all the way from Woodbury (on the eastern end of the Twin Cities) to Flying Cloud (on the western side) just to rent a plane. I should think about something closer to home.

I was going to stop at Fleming Field in South St. Paul for a little practice at my home airport (it's where my RV-7A project is currently housed), but the runway configuration had a 90 degree gusty crosswind -- too much for me, at least today.

Armed with inspiration, I stopped at Fleming on the drive back home, and worked on the RV project a little bit, drilling the hole in the axle for the cotter pin that holds the axle nut on. Lots of folks seem befuddled by this process, but it went flawlessly for me, which makes me think that I probably did something wrong.


  1. If you are in Woodbury, why not rent out of 21D?

  2. I probably should but I have an affinity for Thunderbird. They're VERY professional there.

    I first started going there after giving up on Wings at the downtown St. Paul airport years ago. I'd learned to fly there but when I walked in as a renter, I'd encounter disinterested kids just building time, was made to feel like I was intruding on their day and -- oh yeah -- the Cessna 172s were pieces of garbage.

    Wings has since gone out of business.

    At the time I made the switch, 21D didn't have an FBO. The owner of the previous one was dying and the place was rarely open. Valters hadn't purchased it yet. I should go check it out although I really hate being checked out for rental.

  3. I only have experience in the 152 and 172 at Valters, none of the Piper products, but they were solid aircraft in my (limited experience) opinion. Well used, but well maintained.

    I've appreciated the fact that you'll often find Gatis behind the desk, or his wife, working at a family business. They have been quite accomodating for early morning (I like the sunrise) or evening flights as well.

    I understand your feeling about checkout flights, but if you schedule correctly, there are worse things than being crammed into a small plane with a charming young woman for an hour. =]

    --and thanks, I just found, and am enjoying your blog.


  4. You know, I just don't test well. I can't explain it, but I just don't. So I go into BFRs and checkouts, probably, in the wrong frame of mind to begin with.