Flight 1058 Placida

This was a very satisfying flight. Yesterday, I was at Lake Suzi and decided not to fly, it just didn’t feel right. The wind was cycling between 3 and 8 mph and shifting randomly through 45 degrees. I didn’t want to have another 2 minute pucker flight because I was being thrashed as soon as I cleared the trees. So, with not a small amount of reluctance, I turned back and headed for home.

It’s early in daylight savings time, the sun is rising at 7:30. Like yesterday, I got up at 5:30 and was out the door an hour later. The predicted winds were 30 degrees off the forecast, making for a cross wind launch at Suzi so at the last minute, I changed plans and skipped Suzi and went to Placida instead.

There was a beautiful pink full moon setting as I drove over the El Jobean Bridge. When we hit the dew point of 70 degrees the windshield fogged up. It was certainly a much warmer morning than usual.

The inflation and runout was,” the best overall “ in a long time. It took about 150 feet to reach takeoff speed but the rotation was clean. It was a little twitchy up to 300 ft and the winds aloft were 45 degrees further south. The clouds were coming in bands. Flying just above them, it looked like a total overcast. The cloud bands were moving southwest at about 12 mph. I’m adverse to landing blind, so, I paid close attention. I was confident that I would not lose sight of the surface but the overcast illusion was persistent until I was 1000 feet above the clouds. They were thickest to the north and very light over the Gaspirilla causeway.

I quit climbing about 15minutes into the flight and enjoyed “buttery air”. The only turbulence I encountered was my own prop wash after some button hook turns. The decent was smooth to 500 feet where it got spicy real quick. I setup to flyby the windsock and hit some nasty sink at 200 feet. In a heartbeat I was 100 feet lower and still descending . I powered up and flew level through some strong rotor coming off the jungle. Eventually I got above it and circled back to a surprising soft and slow landing.

The APCO Lift EZ did really well with the turbulence despite being trims in for landing. I was getting pushed around pretty bad but the wing didn’t oscillate. Today would have been a good day to experiment with 2D steering while I was at altitude in smooth air, I really should have tried flying the wing with both wing tip and brakes together.

After the flight I kited for a bit. Again, the wing felt great. It was a bit damp but still came up nicely. Another point of note; this was the first time I flew with the new flight suit and swamp boots. No bugs or wet feet. No weeds snagging my legs and at altitude I was warm and comfortable. It fits great, even after I landed and tied the top part around my waist. (The alterations cost more than the suit). I’m not sure I care for the color (red) but performance wise …. I’m happy.

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Flight #1046 It was like butter…..

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.