Sunday afternoon flights in the winter used to be a thing. I remember the warm glow driving home from the field after a magical twilight flight. The air was so calm that you could hear the sounds of nature with extra normal clarity.
I arrived at the field about 4:00. “GOOD NEWS….! The weeds have been cut down to stubble. I wasn’t restricted to taking off from one of the roads. There was just a hint of breeze from the east so I set up centered at the western edge. The clouds were thin and high, but still thick enough to dampen the bumps. It was the perfect recipe for buttery air.
I took my time laying out the wing perfectly flat with a tuck in the leading edge. It worked well to deflect the prop wash and today the motor was running about 30 seconds before starting the rollout. So we had that working for us, ….however, it took forever to get the wing up and inflated. There was a cravat on the left side which required brake input and looking to the right, I caught a glimpse of a poorly inflated and unloaded wing. It was a good thing to be in a field where I could look up and pay attention to the wing and not worry about staying on the road. It might have been lines snagging in the stubble or perhaps the 30 seconds of prop wash, whatever the cause, the wing was poorly prepared to initiate inflation. Eventually it got sorted out and I accelerated to liftoff.
It was a soft grey day. The overcast sky washed out the colors and removed any sharp edges. The horizon was indistinguishable over the ocean. I headed west to the Gaspirilla Marina climbing to 2000 feet. After a few turns I cruised over to the northwest corner of the Mangrove preserve where I observed a large sedan doing donuts and powering through shallow bogs. There was also a pickup that looked to be stuck in the mud. So Florida Man, was having fun tearing up the nature preserve and exercising his vintage sedan. Eventually they raced out of the bog and charged into the Meadows going at least 70mph.
I’d descended to 200 feet while watching the car play, so I added power and turned back toward the LZ, taking care to avoid the new houses that had sprung up over the last year. I flew to the far eastern corner looking for good launch sites and there was Florida Man, tucked way back into one of the wooded cul de sacs. There was a bunch of steam coming out from under the hood and kids pouring out of the back doors. I circled down and waved at “Florida Man and his family. They didn’t seem distressed by the clouds of steam and were happily waving so I did some mild wing overs and waved back.
I stayed low and enjoyed the calm air for awhile before returning to the LZ and landing. It was a great flight that reminded me of another Sunday afternoon in another place and another life.