Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Silent Birdman... Nests

I've been short on flying yarns lately, although Gail and I were aloft last Sunday for a nice evening ride. We have been keeping busy making wedding plans and setting up housekeeping, and busy enjoying our own company as well. Gail has been working hard, and circumstances (and her employers) have been kind; so we will be able to spend almost all of our time together for the next few months.

The most important element of a happy marriage is ensured, though... Gail loves to fly! Commercially, of course, she being an inveterate world traveler; but my kind of flying, too. In my last entry I mentioned flying above the clouds, and we did some steep turns and maneuvering. I don't normally do that kind of thing with pax aboard; only with assurance from Gail that she was comfortable, and indeed enjoying it.

Last Sunday we went up again, and I let myself play a little more. The barrel roll is an easy maneuver for almost any aircraft, keeps everyone in their seat and puts very little stress on the airframe. Start with a little dive for airspeed, raise the nose about 20 degrees, and then full aileron and a touch of rudder for a maximum-performance roll. (5 MB video clip). Gail got out her camera and nodded ready, and I flicked around once to the left. Wide grins on each of us; "Again, again!"

Gosh, I love this girl. I continued with a series of tight rolls, the late-day horizon spinning in the windscreen, the lake far below arcing over our heads. Since the wing remains flying throughout this maneuver, there is always a downward force in the cabin; there is an element of lightness in the tummy, but the effect is mostly visual. I find it most thrilling, and so does my intended. We enjoyed some more steep turns and climbs as the daylight faded.

I leveled out and we enjoyed the sunset from the plane. We kept flying west into Wilkes-Barre airspace and shot a touch-and-go on the big runway, then headed back home for dinner and the Pilot's Association meeting; another opportunity for Gail to meet my flying buddies, and for me to share the news of our betrothal.

No flying so far this week - both of us have been busy with work, and the weather has not been too great. But you know... I've been very, very happy nonetheless.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Of clouds and glory

Gail and I spent a great evening with one of my CAP flying comrades Saturday night. Dale and his wife Ingrid are another "international" couple - she British, he Texan - and they invited us to meet and welcome my fiancee into the fold.

Dale prepared a fine round of steaks and we all enjoyed his homemade wine (and a wee bit of scotch) late into the night. Sunday morning we were happy to enjoy the bonus DST hour in bed, and our host engineered a pancake breakfast that could put him in the Michelin guide - with crushed cashews and raisins, and a secret batter.

Sunday afternoon we stole away to the airport for a few hours to get in some flying time. The winds were strong and gusty, but Gail and I are stalwart flyers, so I was soon wrestling 02P off the runway and bouncing skyward. The clear blue morning was giving way to a broken layer of clouds, with their bases at about 7,000 feet. For Gail's second flight in my plane - our plane - I thought it might be nice to get above the clouds. Circling over the lake, we climbed slowly into smoother air, and eventually rose above the white tufted cloudtops.

Gail was taking photos and enjoying the ride, and I began to swoop around the hills and valleys of white cotton. After a few gentle turns I began to enjoy myself as I often do alone amongst the clouds; diving through gaps in the fluff, banking hard around mile-wide boulders, rolling madly from one turn into the next. The short and stubby old Tri-Pacer maneuvers beautifully for play like this, much more responsive and light on the controls than newer, more stable aircraft.

I looked over and saw that Gail was wearing a grin to match mine, still snapping pictures and video. I circled up-sun from one of the clouds and chased our shadow across its flank, and we saw the unique phenomenon called a "glory" - sometimes when an airplane flies above a cloud layer, the water droplets cause a set of rainbow-colored rings around the shadow of the plane. We marveled at it, and I came around again; Gail captured it beautifully in a short video clip.

Too soon, we had to return to the airport to make our dinner plans. While I refueled 02P, one of the other local pilots taxied up in his 2-seat Cessna; an older Polish gentleman, a friend of mine. I introduced Gail, and he congratulated us warmly, and we exchanged some hangar talk.

As I pushed the plane backwards into the hangar, some darker clouds showed up with a few drops of rain; but it was too late for them to do any harm to our fine day.