Weather: Haze, 87 degrees, wind 210 degrees at 8 knots
After having to cancel a couple months ago due to weather, I was happy to have the chance to take a friend and coworker flying this evening. Joe was down from Rochester for a few days and I had booked the 172 with the intent of grabbing a $100 burger. We've continued our late-August-in-June weather pattern around here and it was about 88 degrees when we arrived at Stewart.
Since we were early I showed him around the airport for a bit. He couldn't believe how basic the Champ and Cub were and was amused when I showed him how I leave the door wide open when taking the Cub up. Once the 172 landed (it had been out with a CFI and student) we headed over to the tiedown and I hopped in, started the engine back up, and taxied it over to the fuel pumps. Due to the temperatures and the short flight I only added enough fuel to give us 10 gallons per side.
Highlights from tonight's hazy flight to Cincy - click the YouTube logo to view in full HD
I made sure Joe was comfortably and securely seated, buckled myself up, and quickly started the engine started back up to get some air moving in the cabin. All the pre-takeoff checks were good so I taxied on to Runway 26 and we lifted smoothly off the grass. Joe was enjoying the perspective from the air about as soon as we started climbing. Too bad it was so hazy (visibility was being reported as 8 miles everywhere but I think it was more on the lines of 5-7 miles, especially when headed towards the sun) or it would have been a spectacular flight. I turned on course and climbed to 2,500 feet for the short flight down to Cincinnati.
Given the visibility I wanted to get on radar, but had no success in getting a response from Cincinnati Approach. There's a chance we were too low for them to receive our transmission. However, it was such a short flight (28 miles) that I soon after got the ATIS and then contacted Lunken Tower. They asked me to report 5 miles straight-in for Runway 21L. Due to the haze I thought the airport was about 10 degrees left of the actual position and Tower asked me to turn West to get on the extended centerline when we were around 10 miles away. Obviously they have radar there and I'm glad they did because it was quite helpful.
One thing I love about towered fields is straight-in approaches. I don't do them often since I'm usually in a traffic pattern at non-towered fields but they are neat - kind of makes you feel like an airliner coming down the chute! I had the red over white on the VASI all the way down final and we touched down softly on the right main in the slight crosswind. Ground have us instructions to cross Runways 25 and 21R on our way to the terminal.
Dinner was at the Sky Galley, which is located in the old terminal building. Lunken is located right at a bend in the Ohio River just east of downtown. It's quite a historic place and was the original commercial airport in Cincinnati. Charles Lindbergh even stopped here on his way to New York for his famous Atlantic crossing! We both enjoyed the food and our meal very much. I had the pulled pork sandwich and Joe had a sirloin steak that he said was much better than he would have expected. Service was a little slow but I really enjoyed the ambiance and will definitely be back again in the future.
We had a slight hassle as we left the restaurant and tried to get back to the airplane. Being a larger airport and near the city, they have a secured fence that you have to buzz through. We pushed the button and a lady answered and said she'd be right there so we waited, and waited, and waited. After nearly 10 minutes Joe went into the restaurant and thankfully the manager had a key card to open the gate for us. He said this happens about twice a week (what lucky timing we have, eh?) and bid us farewell as we said thanks.
It was now about 8:45pm and we needed to get back to Stewart by dark. Thankfully, there was on heck of a tailwind we would be enjoying for this short hop. I pre-flighted, hopped in and checked the ATIS, then started the engine and called Ground. We did the runup while holding short of Runway 25 and then I called Tower and they cleared us for takeoff on Runway 21L. We climbed straight out until gaining enough altitude (there's hills that are probably 300 feet above the airport to the left of the runway) and then made a 180 left turn on course.
You could see it was still very hazy as we climbed away and I was extra vigilant in paying attention to the visibility and my instruments. I could see the ground and we were certainly above VFR visibility requirements but I paid more attention to the attitude indicator just to be on the safe side. We climbed to 3,500 feet and were zooming along with a ground speed of 130 to 140 knots. I don't think it even took 15 minutes after takeoff to be in the pattern at Stewart - I saw my GPS indicating 145 knots at one point on descent.
The wind was so strong that I made my downwind too close to the runway so even though I made a continuous downwind-base-final turn, we were still way to the right of the runway. I know enough to not force it over so I made a gentle bank and got lined up with the runway just before we crossed the trees. Had it not looked good at that point I would have gone around but I felt safe in salvaging the approach since we were the only ones in the pattern and I had 3,000 feet of very wide grass in front of me. Touchdown was very soft and I taxied back to the tiedown, shut off the engine, packed up my equipment, and tied the plane up.
Another happy passenger on the way to his first $100 Hamburger!
Joe said he really enjoyed the whole experience and had a big smile on his face. That's really all the validation any pilot needs! I will say that it was a great flight for other reasons, though. Kind of like when I flew up to Wapakoneta last October it was a night with some adverse weather I had to consider. Haze and high humidity can certainly place you in a bad situation if you're not careful and conscious of the weather conditions and I'm always glad to add something to my experience folder. I'm hoping that we have a much clearer day next time Joe's in town so I can take him up and he'll actually be able to see stuff and take some photos!
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.1 hours
Total Time: 157.5 hours