Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Things I used to do

We are back to the “living in a mooring field” routine. We have just about decided, whenever Kintala runs out of water, to drop the mooring lines and head to the dock. It doesn’t take any more time than repeated runs in the Ding hauling water jugs, is easier on the back, warms up the oil in the Beast, and wakes all the accessory gear out of its slumber to make sure it all still works. It is also some practice for one part of running a boat where I could use some practice, getting on and off a dock. Not serious practice since the fuel dock here is really easy, an open face dock that sits parallel to the current flow. The only trick is to wait for something other than peak for that current, and not go in on a weekend. I’m pretty shy about the current, it can peak out at near two knots here, and I don’t want to push my luck.

It didn’t used to be that way.

Once upon a long, long time ago Deb and I owned a little Cessna 150 airplane. It was equipped with an engine having 50% more horsepower than the original, and modified wings. All which added up to impressive short take off and landing capabilities. (STOL in pilot speak.) It could also fly at very low indicated airspeeds. (And do a pretty decent loop and barrel roll, though don’t tell anyone I told you that.) One day I didn’t have much to do and the wind at the airport where we based was howling directly down the runway at something like 40 knots. So I went out to fly, doing repeated take offs and landings just for fun. (Touch and goes in pilot speak.)

Normally one flies a rectangle pattern around an airport. But that day launching into that wind was almost a vertical take off. Accelerating to near cruise speed while in a slight climb would bring the far end of the runway underneath.  Then the 150 could be slowed and flown at a low enough airspeed for it to drift backward down the runway at about 20 knots, still nose into the wind and under full control. When the approach end of the runway passed below, putting the nose down and accelerating would get the wheels over the runway, then, if the power was played just right, they would touch down and barely spin. I don’t recall having managed a perfect hover landing, but I got pretty close. It was a hoot. But now I can’t imagine what I was thinking or why I would try such a thing. And yes (for those who know a bit about little airplanes and big winds) taxiing to the runway and then back to the hanger was, by far, the most difficult part of the flight. Forty knots worth of wind is enough to put a 150 on its back if one taxis without paying attention.

These days I would not even try to bring Kintala to a dock in a 3 knot current, even with a clear approach path. It should work. Drive up close at a shallow angle, use the Beast just enough to equal the boat speed to the current, and hand a line over without comment. But back in my Cessna 150 days I was too young to know better, too sure of myself to think of all the things that could have gone wrong, and was a far better airplane driver (then) than I am boat pilot (now).

We’ll wait to near slack current to go fill the water tanks.


Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Just to make sure I understood you: you flew your aircraft BACKWARDS over the runway in a 40kt headwind?! Doesn't ATC generally have something to say about this?

TJ said...

Sort of, I was actually flying forward at an indicted 35 kts into a wind that was likely near 50 kts on the nose once away from the ground a little, so the net result was moving backwards along the runway at 15 to 20 kts. There was no tower at our airport, and - not surprisingly - no other traffic in the pattern. It was just me, the 150, and the wind, out playing. Oddly enough I remember it as being smoother than one would expect with that kind of wind. On a different day, in a Beech 99 full of passengers I landed on RW27 at PIT in an indicated 90+ knots worth. The airport's wind-o-meter had gotten blown down in a 100+ knot gust, so we were all stacked up in the holding pattern since there was no official clue as to how hard it was blowing. After a while I was running out of gas with no better weather anywhere within reach; and had little choice but to come in and land, so I was the first one out of the stack. I knew the wind was blowing 90+ because we landed and rolled about 50 feet. Then, with the airplane dead stopped, that 90+ was what the airspeed indicator showed. I gotta say, landing in 90+ knots worth of wind was a damn sight easier than trying to taxi to the gate in 90+ knots. After we landed and the word got out that the wind was blowing pretty much down the runway, the rest of the stack unloaded and came in as well. I think some records might have been set that night, the shortest landing rolls ever seen in heavy jets.

Jeff Pfister said...

I flew with you in that 150. Fond memory and in my logbook. I do remember you as a bit daring back in those days -- no surprise I'm reading this story now! My own 150 bit the dust during Hurrican Sandy in Frederick MD three owners past me.

Thanks for the memory jog.

TJ said...

Hi Jeff, good to hear from you. 75S was lost when the guy I sold it to ran it out of has and hung it in the approach lights at Wheeling. He didn't get killed, then sued me for some reason. He lost. I never thought of myself as "bold," just out doing what pilots do. If I was bold back then, I am certainly less so now, living on the boat. Then again, I was (I think) a far better pilot than I am ever going to be a sailor, and the marine industry is about as opposite from the aviation industry as is possible. There are far more maintenance and quality control issues in the marine industry than in aviation. We buy "new", only to have it fail, not fit, or not function as advertised over and over again. But it is what it is, and we like living on the water.

Jeff Pfister said...

Another memory jog and I do remember the story of the demise of 75S. Old airplanes, it seems, never deserve what they get in the end. Mine simply broke its tiedowns and flipped on the ramp -- after all else it went through in nearly 50 years, some during my ownership. People destroy airplanes more often than not.

In reality, I myself am probably a lot less daring than I once was. I often now think of the quote "experience is what you get when you don't have any", which might be a twist on something Randy Pausch said. I don't think you can get to 60+ years without gaining a little experience (and wisdom) which changes your perspective. With experience (and enduring health), we get to live a long life.

I don't check in on your blog every week, but catch up when I do. I do enjoy your and Deb's writing. Thanks.

PS I know you were (are) a great pilot -- I always admired your skill, flying or with a wrench. I wouldn't hesitate to sail in a little weather with you either.

PS-S Low quality in everything now seems to be pervasive. Glad I'm not in the marine business!

TJ said...

Jeff, kind words, thanks. I suspect there are some people from my past who would tell a slightly different stories about me. Assuming, of course, they remembered me at all. In some ways I suspect I will always be pilot. Habits formed after a lifetime of making a living in the sky get pretty deeply ingrained. Which is okay. They kept me alive than and translate pretty well to living on the water.