Thursday, April 29, 2010

Aviation + Barbeque + Crosswinds = Delightful!

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-AXV-40I
Weather: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 180 degrees at 14 knots gusting to 22

Looking outside, today was a picturesque day for flying with spotless blue skies and warm temperatures. The winds were the only possible thing that were going to hamper my plan to meet Marty in Wapakoneta for BBQ. I also would be bringing along a friend, Neil, on his first flight in a small plane. What better way to introduce someone to GA than a $100 burger run?

The weather briefing confirmed my suspicions - wind aside, it was a perfect day to fly. I checked the nearby AWOS stations as I drove to Stewart and I decided everything was still within my limit of acceptability. My theory was that I could always circle around the pattern and land if it felt like there was going to be any issue getting safely to Wapakoneta and back.

Neil arrived just as I was finishing fueling the 150 and I showed him how to operate the doors and a couple things on the instrument panel before we both climbed in. All systems were go so I made a 360 to check the pattern and then rolled down to the end of Runway 26. Full throttle went in as I held full left aileron, slowly reducing as we gained speed to hold the centerline. You could certainly feel the near-direct left crosswind and we quickly weathervaned 10-20 degrees as I lifted off.

Centerville High School

USAF Museum (foreground) and WPAFB Area C (background)

I called Dayton Approach as we were passing Wright Brothers Airport and requested VFR Advisories. They let us know that a C-5 was departing Wright-Patterson AFB and we saw him rolling down the 12,600 foot runway. We were treated to a great view as he climbed out and flew a slight circle to remain clear of us. It never gets old watching giant aircraft maneuvering to avoid a lowly 150!

A C-5 departing WPAFB for a training exercise

Watching the C-5 turn back on course after going around us

Due to the strong winds out of the South, we were really cooking across the ground. My flight plan was in agreement with our actual speeds and we enjoyed the 25-30 knot tailwind as we cruised along at 4,500 feet. Other than a couple good jolts around the halfway point the air was surprisingly smooth. We overflew Dayton International Airport and then continued over top of countless farms until I began our descent around 10 miles out. I made a midfield crosswind entry to the pattern for Runway 8 and noticed not too many pilots appeared to be in the mood to practice crosswind landings - the radio was almost silent.

Approaching Dayton International Airport

Reducing power abeam the numbers, I again had to hold a very sizeable left crab angle into the wind. As I turned base-to-final I elected to only use 20 degrees of flaps and held about 5 knots of extra speed to help with the crosswind. We were getting rocked pretty good on short final and I had my right wing down while using almost full left rudder to hold the plane on the centerline. I had already informed Neil that we might have to go around and possibly head back to Stewart if the wind was too strong. Due to the extra speed, we floated for a few seconds and the plane bobbed around as the gusts swirled across the runway. While the plane probably looked like it was practicing a falling leaf maneuver on short final, touchdown was incredibly soft. I held full right aileron in as we decelerated, then turned off on to the taxiway and continued on towards the hangar.

The wind was blowing so hard when we climbed out that I momentarily wedged two engine oil bottles behind the tires as I ran across the tarmac and grabbed two sets of chocks. We were the only plane that flew in; everyone else elected to drive. They were all pretty impressed that we came by air and I received a few good comments about the approach and landing. Dinner was excellent as always - Marty made a tri tip roast that was to die for and also grilled up some brats from the local meat store that were delicious. In all, we hung around for about 45 minutes while we ate and I talked with some pilot friends.

Safely on the ground at AXV with the oil bottle chocks in place

Can you tell it was a bit breezy?

I decided to depart a few minutes early so we would be back well before sunset even if the headwind was stronger than forecast. Let's face it, the 150 takes long enough to go somewhere when the winds are calm! I made sure the radios were set and my nav log in place before starting the engine so I could have total focus on the controls during taxi. The wind was still directly across the runway so I elected to depart on Runway 8.

As I applied full throttle I held full right aileron, slowly decreasing the deflection as we gained speed. I kept the nose on the ground until we were at about 50 knots and then allowed the plane to lift off and turn smoothly into the wind. Marty got on the Unicom and said, "we give that takeoff a 9.5!" so I suppose it's good all the innocent bystanders enjoyed the show. Neil used his iPhone to record video (below) as we departed and turned back towards Dayton.

Takeoff from Neil Armstrong

That great tailwind was now a delightful headwind and we were clocking a blistering 45 knots groundspeed as I climbed to 5,500 feet. Once at cruise altitude the headwind held steady at around 20 knots. What had been a 35 minute flight up was a 1 hour, 5 minute flight home. The air was almost completely smooth and I flew hands-off for one long stretch as we enjoyed the scenery passing below. I flew slightly East of the straight-line course in order to be a little closer to the base. Neil took a lot of photos enroute and I've included quite a few of them below.

Passing over a levee on our way home

Once again overflying Dayton International Airport

The I-70 and I-75 interchange, about 5 miles north of downtown Dayton

Stebbins High School, where Gina teaches

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Dayton, the Mad River, and the Great Miami River

There was a Dayton Dragons game being played at Fifth Third Field

Tail lights and road signs reflecting the sun near US-35 and Factory Road

That's my office!

Shortly after downtown Dayton was behind us, ATC (we were receiving flight following again) advised I could descend at my discretion. I did my best to make up some of the time lost in the climb against the headwind and came down at about 500 feet per minute at 100 knots indicated. I gently turned left 20 degrees so we would approach Stewart from the Northeast. We passed right over downtown Waynesville as I entered an extended 45 for a left downwind to Runway 8.

Passing over Waynesville at about 800 feet

Stewart as seen from a left downwind for Runway 8

Landing back at Stewart

The wind had died down slightly since our takeoff and was now around 10-12 knots directly across the runway. I was still using lots and lots of left rudder on final but it wasn't to the stop. Since the end of the runway is a little soggy (you're not supposed to land on it) I floated along in ground effect and touched down just past the hump. Another smooth landing and another successful flight on a great day to go up and keep the skills sharp!

Neil absolutely loved the flight and I'm glad I was able to be a part of his first foray into light airplane travel. Maybe he'll take some lessons and look into getting his Private at some point! Either way, I'm pretty sure I can add another flying buddy to my list and plan on taking him up in the Cub soon for some destination-less flying fun.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.0 hours
Total Time: 147.8 hours


  1. Wow, what a tempting runway at the AF Museum...good place to have some engine trouble, cough cough.

    Nice landing too!

  2. They actually repaved it recently for (I think) the big B-25 fly-in for the 68th Doolittle Raiders Reunion a couple weekends ago. It was pretty incredible to see 17 B-25s depart from there.

    It really is a good emergency landing site too - there's not a ton of open spots right nearby if you have to put down.

  3. Great photos. Super clear day to take a new person flying. Good video too of landing at Stewart, especially with the shadow of the plane creeping in on the right! Amazing. Hope the Prog Charts are right, and we can get out there Saturday.

  4. He definitely took some great shots. It was nice since he brought along his nice dSLR - I have one but it's too much to use while also flying the plane so I usually only bring my cheaper digicam.

    YouTube kind of compressed the aspect ratio on the video but you definitely still get to see what's going on. I love watching video of crosswind takeoffs and landings to see the crab angle / wing down action.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing you guys this weekend - agreed, hope the wx decides to play nice!

  5. another classic post on why GA is so great. but man, 45 knot groundspeed? wow...

    the other day at 6,500 we were doing a 12 knot GS, but that was during slow flight! never flown a 150 but looks like you can have a blast.

    nice landing BTW. is that a soft field you're based out of?

  6. Well in defense of 45 knots, we WERE climbing... ;-)

    But yeah, I'm pretty sure I could have nearly been hovering if I put us into slow flight on that return leg. And I likely could have flown backwards had I been in the Cub.

    The 150's certainly not fancy, but she flies nice and will get you there quite cheaply ($65/hr wet for me) so I'm not one to complain.

    I am indeed based out of a grass strip. They keep it in great shape but it is a little softer this time of year - hence the restriction I mentioned in the post about not landing on the West end if at all possible.

  7. Funny .. to practice a looong XC I did a 15G-40I on Flight Sim and on the way home I simulated and engine out at altitude. Medical cleared again, so my XCs are next!!

  8. Got your text about the medical earlier - great news, Dave!

    Hopefully you get to fly that long XC for real soon. If you have enough time, you've got a Cub ride on me at Stewart.