not really but almost …..Cross Country #967

Beautiful calm morning
59 degrees
3-4 ENE
1hour 36 minutes
53.9 miles
avg altitude 1000 ft.

Great Flight!  My definition of a cross-country is launching at one place and landing at another.  It is usually a longer flight.  Well this wasn’t officially a cross country but it did cover some miles.

After the blowout at Lake Wales it was a pleasure to get in a nice long flight.  I followed a triangle course from Shell Creek to Arcadia Airport and back via Red Neck Yacht Club and Tracks and trails.
No Drama….
The most interesting feature was Carlstrom Field. It was built in the early part of the last century to train pilots for WWI and later WWII.  Back in the day it sported a circular runway for the old bi-planes.  Imagine that?
Over the years it was a juvenile detention facility and insane asylum.  After being abandoned for several years it was sold for 2 million dollars to a motor sports company who were going to use it for a rally car track.  I did see one video on YouTube of a little rice burner, tearing around the abandoned buildings.  The asphalt roads are in poor shape, too narrow and not laid out for good racing.  From the air it looked much better.  Maybe they are going to spend some money and do it up. I’ll bet the old runway would be fun for a few laps.


Planet PPG Christmas week Fly-In 852

I almost didn’t make it this year.  Dawn and I were chilling at the Taj McQue after returning from New Jersey with the family, when I got a text from Mike Lange ….Pine Island at dawn? ….   Wow! … I looked over the next few days and tomorrow morning was it, the only window of opportunity to attend the 10th annual Pine island Fly-In.  I kissed my bride goodnight at 11:45 and was up and fixing coffee at 4:45.

Here is the video by Eric Farewell

It was 68F with light wind and scattered mists on the way to Pine Island.  I arrived before first light and “not a creature was stirring” but by the time I unloaded my rig and pulled on my flight suit, people were starting to move about.  Mike pulled in and Paul came around with a pot of coffee.  
While we were waiting for the briefing, patchy low clouds started rolling over from the east.  By the time Paul finished the brief we were fogged in.  Undeterred the guys began setting up at the kiting field in front of the hangers.  I didn’t like the tree line at the east end of the field so I pushed the Falcon to the runway.  By now the fog was thicker than I had ever launched in.  I could just barely see the hangers and the tall trees surrounding the area were all but gone. But… I figured, that, as long as I could see the sides, with the wind coming straight down the runway, I would be able to launch and climb out just fine.  While setting up I heard several launches but by the time I was set and ready to start the motor it was dead quiet.  
What the hell…. I fired it up and launched!  I 
The wing came up clean and I was off in a blink.   The rate of accent must have been pretty good because the sides and ground disappeared as soon as I left the ground.  The fog coated my glasses, and all I could see was a kaleidoscope of tiny round prisms.  They were beautiful but totally obscured my vision.  If there had been an obstruction, there’s no doubt….I would have felt it, before seeing it.  At 300 ft I could see a faint orb ahead and at 350 ft, I was above the soup.  The entire area was socked in, it felt like flying over a giant bowl of cotton candy.  There were a couple of wings in the distance heading south so I turned to chase them, thinking the whole time, I hope this stuff has moved on when I get back or I’m going to be landing out.
Photo credits to Aviator You Tube Channel. (I stole a few screen grabs… 

I trimmed to full reflex leaving the right side a little faster and a few minutes later I started seeing glimpses of the surface.  Yea!  Cheated death again.  Forming up with three pilots ahead and two behind we flew south into increasing strong breeze for about an hour.  The APCO was hauling ass.  I don’t know what the other guys we’re flying but I was doing a 360 every few minutes to keep from leaving the group.  About halfway down the island, the Garmin gave a low battery warning, so I turned it off just in case the clouds were still around and I needed a little help to get over the runway for landing.
The plan was to fly to Saint James City and muster.  Then, those who wanted to do the water crossing could climb a couple thousand feet and head over to Sanibel Island.  As it turned out the wind was just too strong.  I was in full reflex at Saint James City and only penetrating at 6 mph.  To safely make that passage we would have had to climb really high and more than likely the winds at altitude would have been even stronger.  Also, we burned a lot of fuel getting to the bottom of Pine Island and I doubt anyone had enough fuel to do the crossing and return to base. I think somebody might have tried because when we returned Paul got a call from a pilot who need a recovery from “Gilligans Island”.  The flight back was very fast, I turned off the GPS because of a low battery warning, so I don’t know exactly, but I think I was going at least 50 mph.
Back at The airport the sky was clear with a stiff breeze.  I set up for final on the runway and landed without drama. Paul cooked up a batch of breakfast and we swapped hanger stories.
Great Flight !   Thanks Paul!    And Thank You Mike Lange for the heads up!

First Florida Cross Country 841

It’s about time.  
My old friend Rex came down from Colorado to study with Paul at Planet PPG.  I had a pretty full week but still managed to get down to Pine Island a couple of times to cheer him on.  The first time was Wednesday and they were towing.  Poor Rex.  One new hip and another about to be replaced… He got up though and was making it work.  I caddied the wing a couple of times and when Rex had had enough I surprised myself and asked for a sled ride.  Paul hauled me up and I enjoyed my first foot launch and landing in a long time.  It was only a short hop but I think I’m hooked.  Foot launching is almost effortless when you don’t have to worry about running it  out with a motor on your back.  I will definitely try it again.  
Thursday morning I drove down even though the winds were predicted to be a bit on the high side.  When I arrived it was blowing about 10mph.  In the wind shadow of the runway it felt much lower but it was coming from the North North East across the runway.  I inflated fine but wasn’t able to stabilize the wing and aborted.  I’m not exactly sure what all my problems were but from the way the wing was reacting I think I should have damped the surge a little better and probably moved the trike a little slower.  Anyway before I could reset, Paul went up in his Falcon 38hp,  he got off fine but it was clear that there was some rotor to contend with.  He landed within 5 minutes and pronounced it “sporty”.  I choose to bag the wing.
That evening I drove back down and had dinner with everybody at Pine Island.  Somehow during the course of the meal Paul suggested that I fly down from Shell Creek.  My first reaction was, Hell No!….but of course I said , ” Sure that would be fun”.
  ……Well, I got to thinking  about it….and it has been a couple of days since my last flight…. and there is a low front moving in which is going to nix flying for awhile….and they did offer to provide a shuttle back up to the truck… The more I thought about it, the better it sounded.  Later back at the house, I fooled with FlySkyHy and managed to lay a few waypoints that would steer me around the Restricted airspace and get me over Pine Island Airport.
I wasn’t convinced that I was going for it but decided to plan on a SCA flight regardless and if it felt good …  go for the cross country.
The next morning the winds were 10mph from the North East, almost a straight shot to Pine Island Airport.  The launch was clean and quick.  Without missing a beat I headed South West and made my way around Punta Gorda Airspace.  The air was pretty smooth with occasional patches of bumps.  I had to crab around the airport and even so was flying between 35 and 40 mph.  After clearing PGA and hwy 75  I was able to turn directly downwind and race toward the Burnt Store hwy.  Acending to 2800ft agl I encountered turbulent air and so I decended a few hundred feet until it smoothed out.  Just past Burnt Store Marina I had to turn and crab the wing South East to stay onshore until I was lined up to cross over to the Island.  I was thinking to continue south till I got to the causeway, cross there and work my way back to PIA but the winds were picking up and I decided it was better to go with the flow.  I certainly had enough altitude to make the crossing without power so I turned South West, crossed my fingers and instantly I was “feet Wet”.   My biggest concern was without merit.  I was worried that I would not be able to spot the small airstrip….. Nonsense, Pine Island is tiny and the airstrip stuck out like a beacon.  AND…. There was Paul and Rex flying a couple hundred feet over the patch.  I was still pretty high, they looked like a toy Paraglider pulling circles down there.  Shortly after I spotted the guys they landed and so I over flew the patch and glided into the wind for a nice steep landing.
Rex, Paul and I fooled around the airport for a little while and then Rex and I set of to retrieve my truck at SCA.  Later we stopped at Peace River Seafood for blue crab.  It was a victory lunch for both of us.

741 Back to Gasparilla Island

Mark , Bob and I launched in light wind and played around for an hour.  
Here is the video

   The climb out to 1100 ft was smooth with a 10 mph tailwind.  I was aware but not concerned to be flying downwind of the landing zone.  It might be a long slog back and at worst the wind would pick up and I would have to land out, but I was careful to keep an emergency LZ within reach by following the road instead of overflying the mangrove swamps.  

At the causeway I descended to 500 ft and kept it right under me until I could glide to the island.  

I suppose a wind front could have come through and blown me out of the safe zone but the clouds were offshore and either moving away or stationary and the skies were clear back to weather, it was an acceptable risk.  

As expected, I wasn’t able to fly the beach because of rotor caused by the wind coming across the island.  When I dropped down to 50 ft it was starting to get bumpy and at 30 ft, I called it quits.  Someday,  I will get down in the sand, but not today, on a lee shore.  I did pop up and check out the windward side but it was too thick with houses and palms with no place to land.


 So… I turned back and slowly flew back across the sound.  There wasn’t much going on, a few boats were heading out to the gulf and some kayakers were out enjoying the morning cool but no dolphins, rays, manatees or any wildlife, except for the birds that are everywhere.

Since I wasn’t able to follow my original plan and fly the length of Gasparilla, I turned north and did some sightseeing on the mainland.  It’s not Aspen…. too shiny and white, and probably rebuilt after Huricane Charlie but from what I saw its a very well monied place.  Big beautiful mansions and even bigger condominiums populate the verdant shoreline.  

I was especially taken buy an 80 ft sloop, snug in her berth behind a particularly palatial estate and I wondered who owned the private jet port just nort of town.

Pick your own runway fellas!

The wind was picking up back at Placida where Bob was playing on the low and Mike was practicing wing overs above 2000 ft.  His last was spectacular, two robust swings and a high energy dive, culminating in a hard turn 100 ft above tree line.  I was satisfied with a slow floaty landing, the trike had almost zero rollout.
After packing up we headed over to Ryan’s for breakfast.

733 Placida to Gaspirilla Island

This was the best flight Florida flight ….so far.
 I arrived at the LZ while it was still dark.  The skies were clear except for one cell off to the SouthWest.  Launch was fine except that there was a layer very low to the ground and I found myself flying with a tailwind almost as soon as I launched.  When I came back to land it was the same thing.  Dead calm at the surface and a 10+ mph at 30 feet.

I followed the road to the Gaspirilla Toll Way and crossed over to the island at about 1100 ft MSL.
The wind was 10 mph heading out to sea but there wasn’t any weather that looked to change anything so I flew down the beach and took in the sights.  I decided to stay at 100 ft. because the wind blowing over the island was making for rotor at the beach.  I look forward to being there when it’s blowing on shore. 

On the return I spotted my first Manatee but that was the only non flying  wildlife I saw.  There is a private jet port on the other side of Gaspirilla Road.  I was temped to do a touch and go but the tall fences with concertina wire dissuaded me.  I could picture some security guys with fully automatic weapons meeting me on the tarmac.  

When I was coming back to Placita I noticed the guy in the closest house taking pictures and waving.  No trouble there, thank The Lord.
Tomorrow I’m heading down to Fort Meyers to fly with those guys.