Saturday, September 04, 2004

Back-breaking Labor Day

Despite a badly sprained back, I went off the pain meds this morning and went flying. Alan, a squadron mate of mine, met me at the airport and helped me get the hangar door open and my plane rolled out.

It was a beautiful, calm morning, with morning haze beginning to dissipate into broken clouds. We flew south to Mount Pocono to get the CAP Cessna out, to take one of my young lady cadets for a training flight and to return some equipment to a nearby squadron. Julie is becoming comfortable in small planes, this was about the fourth flight for her. She did much of the flying today, even executing some nice turns to remain clear of the clouds on the way back.

Back at Mount Pocono airport, I took Julie's mom and little brother (age 5) for a short ride in my Tri-Pacer. Robert found some money in his house so he could pay me for the flight - he gave me a quarter! He's very cute, and he had a good time riding around his house - propped up on a big cushion so he could see out, with the headset looking too big for his head. He also drew me a picture while he was waiting for his sister. He will have to be very patient - he can't become a CAP cadet himself until he's 12.

The last time climbing in and out of my plane, my back started to yell again, so I let Alan fly left seat on the way home. Alan is a pilot from way back, getting recurrent to fly more modern planes with the CAP; this was good practice for him. My old plane is less stable and a bit harder to fly than the Cessna he has been flying, and he was working hard to keep it in line as we headed back north. (The Cessna tends to stay straight-and-level; the Tri-Pacer often has it's own ideas about which direction it wishes to fly, and needs a firm hand on the controls at all times.) Alan did well, I only took the controls on final approach to land.

Back at Cherry Ridge, we fueled 02P and watched a parade of beautiful old planes. In front of us at the pumps was a restored Belgian Stampe biplane from the 1930s, it's fabric painted in a snappy scheme of navy blue over cream. One of the earliest Cessna Skyhawks, a straight-tailed 1957 model, rolled by with it's polished aluminum prop ticking over in the sun. (Black, white and canary yellow on that one, in the doo-wop factory paint scheme.) Nearby on the ramp was a homebuilt RV-4, an aerobatic kit plane with two tandem seats and a bubble canopy. This one was obviously turned out by a master builder, the finish and quality better than most factory-built planes.

A great day to plane-watch, and to swap hangar talk with one of our veteran old aviators; Chet, the founder of the airport, stopped by to see how I was doing with my old bird. Chet has been flying biplanes over these hills since long before I was born, even before my plane was built. I listen respectfully to the old birdman, trying to glean the bits of flying wisdom from the wild yarns; I do aspire to be an old flier myself, someday!

I would have liked to fly more, the day was just continuing to be clear and smooth, but I thought it prudent to come back here and eat and take a muscle relaxant for my back. Just another flying day that should never end.