Weather: Clear, 58 degrees, wind 220 degrees at 5 knots
Today's flight was a last-minute concoction that turned out great. Originally I had planned to take my boss' boss' kids up for a pseudo Young Eagles flight. Those plans changed Friday afternoon so I asked a bunch of friends if they wanted to fly out to grab breakfast this morning. Somewhat surprisingly, I only got one yes out of about ten different people! Not that I begrudge anyone for being busy since it was such a spur-of-the-moment offer.
Ahmed, a coworker of mine, texted me back around 11pm last night and said he'd love to go up. I thought about the roughly four hours I had the plane reserved and decided Urbana was the perfect choice. It would be his first flight in a small plane so I didn't want to go too far - especially after filling our stomachs. This would allow us to keep a leisurely pace and venture off for some sightseeing on the way home if we were so inclined. Plus, the food's always great at the Airport Cafe!
There are more flying highlights than fall colors in this video from today
Ahmed wasn't familiar with driving down to Waynesville so I had him meet me at Greene County Airport (I19) in Xenia. I loaded up the plane (after clearing a decent amount of frost off the wings and control surfaces - it was cold this morning!) and topped off the tanks, then launched solo from Stewart for the very short hop to pick up my passenger. The pond near the approach end of Runway 25 was covered in fog, which had not yet burned off in the sunlight. It was a very cool sight as I descended on final and touched down smoothly on the asphalt.
I shut down the plane, met Ahmed at his car, and then got him situated in the 172. After explaining the door and seatbelt operation, I climbed into the left seat and started up the engine. There was no traffic in the pattern and the wind was calm so I departed the opposite direction on Runway 7. We lifted off quickly in the cool air and that fog that covered the pond only fifteen minutes earlier had completely disappeared.
Springfield-Beckley Tower was open (not common on a Saturday but I saw it when I checked NOTAMs) so I contacted them for clearance through the top of their Class D airspace. Visibility was unreal; we could see downtown Columbus from over 45 miles away as we approached downtown Springfield. Urbana was reporting calm winds so I elected to land Runway 20 since I was in a better position to enter that pattern.
Following my initial call over the CTAF I heard a voice come over the radio saying, "you wouldn't happen to be from Waynesville, would you?" Turns out one of our local aviation legends, John Lane, was just departing Urbana after breakfast with his wife. He's been a pilot forever, owned the land and first opened what is now Warren County Airport, and is a Designated Pilot Examiner so it's no surprise he recognized our N-number.
By the time I was turning downwind the pattern had come alive. I believe there were four airplanes inbound, including us. Everyone sequenced in perfectly and we were the first to land - a nice, soft touchdown and I used the brakes to hit the first turnoff to keep the traffic flowing.
Urbana's infamous Airport Cafe
This DC-3 was parked on the grass at Grimes Field
Champaign Aviation Museum's B-25 Mitchell
Our breakfast was completely delicious like every meal I've ever enjoyed at the Airport Cafe. I had the Airport Omelet (ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns, onions, peppers, and cheese) and a glass of orange juice. I also picked up a peach crisp pie to take back to Stewart. They always bug me about bringing some pie back with me (it's another thing the Airport Cafe's famous for) so I figured I was more than due to return home with some fresh-baked dessert!
I called Stewart to see if anyone had the 172 immediately after me and there was an open slot, so I had them extend my time by an hour. This let us have a little more time for sightseeing on the way home. I departed via a short field takeoff (Ahmed thought that was quite fun) and headed north to show him the Transportation Research Center's giant auto test track from 3,500 feet.
During this stretch of the flight we passed over some amazing fall foliage. I can't believe how much better the colors are only 50 or so miles away from home. Everywhere you looked between Marysville and Bellefontaine there were vivid reds, yellows, oranges, browns, and greens. I snapped a ton of photos - most of which are posted below.
Since we were less than 10 miles away, I decided to land at Bellefontaine Regional Airport (EDJ) so I would be able to log the trip as cross-country time. For those of you who aren't pilots, cross-country time (at least the time required for your Instrument Rating, which is what I'm concerned with) is defined as any flight during which you land at a point 50 miles or more from your point of departure. Urbana's only 41 miles away from Stewart so I can't log that as cross-country on its own. Bellefontaine, however, is 54 miles away so my touch-and-go there allowed me to log all of today's 2.1 hours as cross-country. This flight actually put me at the magic mark - I now have exactly 50.0 hours cross-country PIC, which fulfills a major requirement for the Instrument Rating!
After the touch-and-go, I climbed up to 4,500 feet for a straight shot back to Waynesville. I contacted Dayton Approach for flight following and we enjoyed the view and a mostly smooth flight. With the sun heating the ground and increasing winds, there were a few bumps as compared to the smooth-as-glass flight to Urbana. As we approached Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (FFO) we had a C-5 that was practicing ILS approaches at Dayton International Airport (DAY) pass about five miles off our right wing.
The C-5 that flew past us on our way home
Nearing the Dayton area, I pointed out some familiar landmarks to Ahmed. He loved flying right over top of WPAFB and seeing The Greene from above. I told Dayton Approach that we had Stewart in sight about 10 miles out and they cut us loose. Ahmed was still having a blast so I asked if he wanted to see what a steep turn was like. Other than enjoying watching him grab the handle when I began my clearing turn (should've warned him about doing those first - haha) he quickly realized they're a pretty tame maneuver.
I had also been explaining adverse yaw and coordinated flight earlier, so I did my best to illustrate how the nose swings out if you don't properly use rudder in turns. It was a little hard because the air was bumpy but he saw what I was talking about. Then I used a forward slip to lose altitude and get down to 1,800 feet to enter the pattern.
My landing back on Stewart's grass was probably the smoothest, best landing I've ever made in the 172. Ahmed didn't even realize we had touched down! He said he had an absolutely great time and I'm happy to have had yet another opportunity to introduce someone to general aviation.
Taxiing off the runway and back to the tiedown I heard a familiar voice over the radio again asking, "how was everything at Urbana?" Sure enough, John (who had said hello over the radio a couple hours earlier) had landed at Stewart on his way home and was preparing to fly back home. I sure hope I have half that man's stamina and still can fly if I ever make it to his octogenarian age!
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.1 hours
Total Time: 179.8 hours