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An evening on the airport. - Tina Marie's Ramblings
Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme...
skywhisperer
skywhisperer
An evening on the airport.
Somebody at work yesterday asked me what it was like to fly a small airplane. I didn't have an answer for him off the top of my head - but then I went out to the airport last night.

My multi-engine checkride is on Saturday, and I needed another half an hour in the Duchess to meet the requirements. I was scheduled to fly with my instructor (Matt) on Friday night, but he'd been ask to help someone ferry a Twin Comanche to (Nashville? Nebraska? I don't remember) somewhere, and rescheduled me for last night. The Duchess splits it's time between the two locations of this flight school, spending a week at each airport, and last night it was in Conroe, 30 miles away.

I showed up after work, met up with him, pulled my plane from the hanger, and got settled in for a trip to the gas pumps. When I reached for the master electrical switch, it was already on. I knew this wasn't going to be good, but hit the starter button anyway - nothing happened. Two weeks with the master switch on had drained the battery dry. I didn't have a charger, and we didn't have time to charge it anyway.

So the instructor and I were debating if we were going to fly a rental over to Conroe to get the Duchess or drive. It's a long drive, but I'm not fond of single-engine night flying in a rental, I didn't really want to pay for a rental, he offered to use some of his comp time....then Michael showed up. His plane is in the middle of an annual inspection, so it's grounded, but he suggested we take the Bonanza.

The Bonanza belongs to a student of his, Gary. Gary doesn't fly it much, and can't fly it solo yet for insurance reasons, so he gave Micheal the key and told him he was welcome to fly it anytime. I hadn't gotten to fly it yet at all, and I'd been wanting to, so Michael, Matt, and I gather headsets and tromp over to the Bonanza.

Where we find Gary, putting the finishing touches on 3 days of washing and waxing his airplane. I took one look at the mud between the airplane and the runway and started feeling guilty. In a rare moment of thoughtfulness, we offered to take him with us, but he'd had a beer, so he declined. He looked sort of oddly at us, and the thunderstorms all around, but didn't say anything - but I think he thought he was never going to see his airplane again.

Ah, yes, the thunderstorms. They were everywhere - several on each side of our route of flight, but the skies were clear outside of the thunderstorms, so we could avoid them by just staying out of the clouds. I'd taken a look at the weather on the weather terminal in the flight school, and cloud bases were around 4000 ft, plenty high for our purposes.

We put Matt in the back of the Bonanza, I settled into the left seat, with Michael in the right. I found a checklist, got it started, and headed for the runway. The ergonomics are terrible - nothing was where it belonged. On top of that, unlike 99% of light airplanes, the Bonanza doesn't have dual controls. It has one control yoke that can be flipped so either pilot can fly it, so I was more or less on my own for this.

The takeoff went well, although I held it on the runway a bit more then was necessary, rotated, started the climb, got the gear up, and off we went. Shortly after takeoff, Michael said, "You know this doesn't have a GPS, right?". Oops. No GPS, and no VFR charts. We'd brought instrument approach charts in case the weather went bad, but that was it.

It was enough, though. We set the DME to Hooks to stay out of their airspace, then used the NDB to get to Conroe. I spotted the airport from about 5 miles away, set up on the localizer, and flew a straight-in approach to 14. Matt was asleep in the back, missing all the rain and lightning.

I dropped the gear, slid down the glideslope, and made a nice landing. Not bad for an airplane I'd never been in before.

We parked, and Matt and I went to find the Duchess. I did a quick preflight, only to find 3.5 quarts of oil in the right engine, and 4.5 on the left. They're supposed to be between 5 and 6 quarts each. Of course, there's no oil in the baggage compartment, it's too late to buy any, and the stuff Gary has in the Bonanza is the wrong grade. Finally, Matt finds one quart in the back of another airplane, and I get both engines up to 4.5 quarts.

We decide to take the Duchess back to Weiser a day early - partly because it means Michael doesn't have to wait around an hour for us, but mostly because the flight school will give us a 1/2 hour credit for moving it, and I can't pass up a free half hour in a plane that rents for nearly $200 an hour. Michael waited around for the Duchess paperwork, then headed back to Weiser in the Bonanza.

Matt and I got going in the Duchess - got her started, headed out to the runway, took off. The Duchess is an easy plane to fly - certainly easier then the Bonanza. We headed out to the practice area, climbed up to 4000ft, did a few Vmc demos (you pull one engine to idle, with the other at full throttle, then slow down until you either lose directional control or the plane starts to stall), then did a real engine shutdown and restart. I've got to say, when I feathered that propeller, and it slowly clunked to a stop, I was the most nervous I've been in an airplane in a long time. But it started back up, so I did it again, then did some stalls, an emergency descent, and headed back to Weiser.

The thunderstorms were still booming, and by the time we'd gotten back to Weiser, there was a huge one right over the field. I couldn't fly a pattern without running into it, so we just went out west a bit and turned around for a straight-in landing. As soon as I got on final, I could tell how much rain the field had gotten - half the airport was under water.

But we taxied back, parked and tied down the plane, then Matt went off to do paperwork while I went to go take care of the Bonanza. It was parked on it's pad, but too far back, so I had to pull it forward a few feet to get the tail tied down. You wouldn't think it would be hard to move 2000 pounds of airplane on wheels, but add in a few inches of mud, and some rain, and I was pretty grumpy by the time I had it centered on the pad and tied down.

While we were gone, Michael had put his battery charger on my airplane, and it was charging up nicely.

We spent the next hour sitting in the hanger, telling stories, catching up on logbooks, and the guys had a beer.

That is an evening on a small airport.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

4 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: February 24th, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sorry!

I think I flew it with you last. Sorry if it was me who forgot the master!

Bonanzas are nice though, aren't they!
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: February 24th, 2005 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry!

I was in the left seat when we came back from wherever we were, I think, so it was my fault.

I actually wasn't all that impressed with the Bonanza. I found it uncomfortably heavy in pitch, and whoever had the idea to hide half the switches behind the yoke should be shot. I like the single Comanche much better...
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: February 24th, 2005 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Sorry!

I agree on the ergonomics thing - the Bonanzas of that period have such bad ergonomics that they must have been designed by the British. The S-35 I used to fly had the COM2 switch by COM1, and the COM1 switch by COM2 (as well as the usual thing with the circuit breakers and switches hidden behind the yoke, and totally unimportant things like the oil pressure/temperature gauges being stuck in a hard to see place). I was certain the radio switches were done by some incompetent avionics installer - but no - apparently that's how they came when new!

However, I found it really nice to fly, and not at all heavy in pitch. In fact, I found the fllight controls to be well harmonized, and obviously some thought put into the aerodynamics - no trim change when you extend the flaps or gear, flaps that really mean something, easy to land, easy to fly slow. Also, up high, I found it really did make book speed at a lower than book fuel burn.
(Deleted comment)
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: February 25th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
JPGs. I want JPGs. :)
4 comments or Leave a comment