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.