Weather: Scattered clouds, 22 degrees, wind 250 degrees at 7 knots
Yesterday morning my friend Mike (he's a student pilot - we both work at Kodak and went to the same ground school last year) and I drove down to Blue Ash Airport near Cincinnati for a seminar put on by the FAA Safety Team on glass cockpits. The plan had been to fly but it was snowing heavily and definitely not a VFR day. So I scheduled the plane for this morning in hopes of better weather. We lucked out with a beautiful winter morning for our flight up to Grimes Field in Urbana. When I arrived at Stewart, they already had pulled 338 into the hangar to melt off the snow and had the heater set up to warm the engine block. I completed my preflight inside (that was a nice treat) and then we towed her out and taxied over to the gas pump.
Flying from Waynesville to Urbana, about 35 minutes each way
Mike was excited to get up as he's put a hold on his own training and has been itching to get back into the air. He asked a lot of questions as I went through my checks and I explained everything I was doing and showed him how to fuel the plane. After re-starting the engine and allowing the oil to warm up, I asked if he was ready and heard a happy "yes" over the intercom. There were just a few wispy clouds as we climbed into the cold, smooth air. This being the first time I flew with snow on the ground, I was surprised how different (and harder to spot, had I not known where to look) the airport looked from above. We flew out over the lake and did a tiny bit of sightseeing before turning North towards Springfield.
800 feet above Caesar Creek Lake in the winter
The flight up was very smooth at 3,500 feet and I climbed up to 3,900 for a couple minutes to go over a few scattered clouds that were in the way. We flew right over Springfield-Beckley airport and the town of Springfield and I spotted Urbana when we were 20 miles out... not bad for having never been there before! With a moderate wind out of the West and a North-South runway, I knew I'd be making a landing with a direct crosswind. Entering the pattern, I extended my downwind slightly to allow me more time to stabilize on final. I transitioned from a crab to a sideslip about 50 feet above the ground and made a remarkably smooth landing with the right wing lowered into the wind. Yup, they're always like that Mike.
Mike enjoying the whole arrival-by-plane experience
I taxied us over to the transient ramp, shut down, and we hopped out and walked over to the terminal and took a seat in the Airport Cafe. This would be a good time to explain the $100 hamburger title to the non-pilots out there. Basically it's poking fun at the fact that we fly somewhere to eat and in the process spend $95 for the fuel/airplane and $5 for the actual food. It actually cost $140 for the rental today and $15 for the food (which Mike picked up - thanks!) but it was completely worth it. The other interesting new experience was how everyone in the restaurant was clearly looking at us, having seen us arrive by plane. A guy sitting behind us actually asked a bunch of questions about how to start taking lessons and we gladly provided him with plenty of information. Oh, and the food was delicious - I had an Airport Sandwich (turkey, ham, bacon, etc.) and Mike had an actual hamburger.
Ok, can't say I didn't enjoy arriving by plane either!
Happily fed and done staring at the bulletin board, we headed back outside and preflighted the 150. Nobody was in the pattern (I pulled out my handheld radio to monitor to the CTAF while preflighting) and since it was still a 90-degree crosswind that didn't favor either runway, I elected to depart on Runway 20 since we were headed South. The takeoff was smooth and the plane weathervaned into a nice 10-20 degree crab once off the ground. A few more planes were inbound as we departed and I saw one (a Cherokee, I think) pass about a mile off the left wing as they entered the pattern. A bunch of clouds had formed in the hour we were on the ground, so I ended up leveling off at 3,000 feet for the flight home. It made for some beautiful sights as we passed 500-1,000 feet below the fluffy clouds with sunlight shining through. On the way back, we also flew through some light snow showers that looked pretty cool from the air.
Flying home from Urbana beneath the clouds
Approaching the lake on the way home
I entered the pattern and saw a Cub on its takeoff roll; they passed right below us while climbing out as I crossed midfield to enter the downwind for Runway 26. Down we glided as I approached the field and I rounded out and made a very comfy landing with a short rollout thanks to the snow. Honestly, I cannot believe how soft the landings felt with the snow on the grass. While I'd love to say I just was kicking ass at landing the plane yesterday, I'm pretty sure that snow had something to do with it. Anyway, Mike said we could go have a little more fun so I took back off and flew some turns around a point over by the lake before heading back to Stewart. This time, I made a short field landing (minus any use of the brakes since the field was most definitely soft) and we dropped in nice and slow over the treeline and landed right on the threshold. Mike really liked the feel of the short field approach and I enjoyed the practice.
Champ taking off shortly after we landed
So there's my first $100 hamburger run. It was a blast and I'm glad Mike enjoyed it as much as I did. Just taking someone up is tons of fun for me but to help someone get back into flying made it even better. Grimes was a cool destination as well, with the great restaurant and all. They even have a B-17 restoration going on up there if you're in the area. I might fly up towards South Bend this weekend with Gina for a friend's birthday party so that'll make for some good cross-country time. Otherwise, I'm just going to keep finding good places to visit like Grimes as I spread my new wings!
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.1 hours
Total Time: 78.8 hours