Saturday, September 24, 2005

Like riding a bike, unless you fall off

Takeoff roll
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Gail and I slept in this morning, enjoying the weekend break from my radiation treatments. When we finally roused ourselves, Gail took me up to the Cherry Ridge airport to enjoy the beautiful weather, and in hopes of catching a plane ride with one of my pilot friends.

Things worked out just that way, in very short order; in fact, I had just stepped out of our car when my friend Mr. Tibor pulled up behind us, and asked if I would like to go up with him. He owns a very clean little 2-seat Cessna 150, and likes to fly in the evenings - we often see each other at the fuel pump, but have never flown together. Gail shooed me off to go and have fun, and went off to take pictures around the airport grounds.

I watched as Mr. Tibor carefully preflighted his plane. It's a beauty, an all-metal 1975 Cessna that looks like brand-new, and which he keeps well-maintained and neat as a pin. It's a bit smaller than the Tri-Pacer (not many planes are!) but has some nice equipment; one item of interest is a traffic alert, which his daughter bought for him. It detects the transponder signal of any aircraft within a few miles, and gives a spoken alert over the intercom when another plane is nearby.

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
We ran through our cockpit checks and took off, and then did one practice landing and took off again. Over Lake Wallenpaupack, I snapped some pictures and then took the controls for a while; I haven't flown a 150 in years, but it's a very easy plane to handle. Back at the airport, I even managed to grease on a smooth landing from the right seat; I guess I still remember how it's done, even though it's been - gasp - over two months since I've logged any stick time.

With my confidence restored, I offered to reciprocate, and take Mr. Tibor up in my Tri-Pacer. We walked from his hangar over to mine, and I preflighted 02P in the long evening shadows. As we taxied out, we chatted about the differences in our planes - mine is older, noisier and carries a bit more weight, his burns less fuel - but the performance of each is very similar. The air was getting late-evening smooth as we took off to the south, and turned east towards Lake Ariel to fly over Mr. Tibor's house. He took his turn flying, and noted how the Tri-Pacer is as light on the controls as his Cessna, but with a quicker roll rate due to the short wings. Back at the airport, I did one touch-and-go for practice; my approach was a little low, the first time. The next time around I did a bit better, and squeaked down right on the numbers.

It felt absolutely great, to get back into the air again. I really needed a day like this, after weeks of treatments and illness, to lift my spirits. So many thanks to Gail, for coaxing me out to the airport, and to Mr. Tibor for spending some time in the air with me!