(UPDATE 5/15/2010) During the days leading up to this trip I had been working on my planned flight to London Ontario Canada for the Diamond Aircraft Factory tour with the Republic Flyers. I had even canceled this flight at one point so I could stay an additional day in Toronto. Unfortunately due to a strong low to our north witch was bringing with it 40+ knot headwinds, low IFR conditions and embedded thunderstorms I had to scrap that flight (see flight to Canada not to be for more information).
The night before, a cold front came through which cleared the air of the thunderstorms but also brought with it stronger surface winds. As the flight neared it became obvious that I would have to contend with some wicked winds at least during our return trip, so the day before I called Ed and asked his comfort level with flying with his niece on a windy day. He assured me that she was a veteran flyer and bumps have never been an issue. I also knew that my son responds well to bumpy air (he falls asleep) hopefully he breaks this little habit before becoming a pilot himself.
Morning of the flight:
I have a little trick I use to determine what flying conditions will be like later in the day. Right after sunrise I look out my window. If I see any movement in the treetops then it is a safe bet there will be some gusty wind to contend with later in the day (Very technical). Well, this morning the trees were moving, not much, but they were moving. A call to flight service confirmed the previous wind predictions. Around my planned arrival time back to Morristown we would be dealing with winds out of the northwest at 20knots with gusts to around 30knots. To make matters worse, runway 31 was closed for parking at my airport therefore we would be landing on runway 05.
We arrived at the airport early in the morning to start our pre-flight. You know it’s going to be windy when the plane is rocking side to side at 7:30 AM. I briefed the kiddies telling them that it would be a bumpy day and it would be OK if they didn’t want to fly. As expected they were more than willing to go for the flight.
We departed Morristown and headed towards the Pottstown VOR with VFR flight following. As we climbed to our cruising altitude of 6000 feet Ed pointed out our slow ground speed. I looked over to the GPS and confirmed our 50 knot ground speed while my true airspeed was about 90 knots. Guess that 40 knot headwind was correct. Looks like I made the right call when I canceled my flight to Canada. As we leveled off at 6000 feet though it was smooth it also became obvious that we weren’t getting to our destination any time soon. After discussing our options for a minute we made the call to descend to 4000 feet where the headwind was lower but it came at the cost of some turbulence and a few clouds (of course I would find clouds during a VFR flight). I briefly considered asking for a pop-up IFR flight plan but decided against it for more direct VFR routing. The decent brought our ground speed to a whopping 89 knots. Once handed off to Philadelphia Approach I requested and received direct New Garden with a Class Bravo transition. Finally we were moving! The landing at New Garden was pretty much a non event. Winds were all over the place above the trees but once below them it calmed down a bit. Besides letting my airspeed climb a bit on short final everything went well.
As expected the event was a pleasant morning with some really good eggs and pancakes. At $6 for all you can eat it’s not bad at all (Thanks for picking up the tab ED). After breakfast we strolled around the field looking at a few of the RV’s. I think there were about 5 or 6 in total, I am sure the weather made quite a few pilots stay away but in either case it was a nice way to start our day.
After visiting for a while it was time to head home. Before departure I was watching a Cessna take off and commented to a flight instructor standing next to me that “he shouldn’t rotate until the airplane is ready to fly” that was based on my observation of the plane settling back down right after takeoff. Boy I should just shut up some times! Now it was our turn. As mentioned before, the surface winds at New Garden weren’t that bad but once you got above the swaying trees it was a different story (strong crosswind from the right).
I checked base and final.. Clear.. Made my departure call.. I got back “Piper still on the runway” (I couldn’t see the entire runway from my position). A minute later I got the “all clear” from the Piper but at this point there was another plane on base. The plane on base called me and let me know that I had plenty of time and that I could go before him. I was starting to feel a little rushed but figured I should get going. I acknowledged and made my departure call on the roll to the numbers. As I spun the plane around at the end of the runway I completed my “T” flow check (covers everything from the fuel selector up) makes a T pattern across the lower panel. Flaps set 10 full power, RPM good, gauges in the green, airspeed alive, and we are ready. There was a small hump in the runway (same hump blocking my view of the runway before) I figured I might get an early bump into ground effect when passing over it. To my surprise I was airborne before reaching it (first clue that something was a little off). It must have been a wind gust because a second later I was back down on the runway (so much for my GQ I am the best pilot comment to the instructor about not rotating until the plane is ready to fly). As it turned out it must have been either a downdraft or wind-shear at that spot on the runway. To me, it felt worse than it was. I have a brief video of the takeoff (shot by Ed’s niece in the back of the plane) check it out and let me know your thoughts.
Landing at Morristown KMMU:
With the kiddies fast asleep in the back of the plane all I had to do was concentrate on landing the airplane in the gusty crosswind. We were cleared for the strait in runway 5. Winds 310 at 17 gust 24. The approach looked good but about a mile out from the runway we were slammed by some wicked wind-shear that caused my right wing drop suddenly. It might have been a wing stall even though we were flying at 75 knots just prior to the event but I can’t say that for sure. After that, I did some self talk (in my own head) I think it went something like this “fly the airplane YOU are in-charge, not the other way around”. It sounds funny but it works really well sometimes. Just don’t say it out loud or your passengers will never fly with you again. At the runway threshold I moved from my crab method to the wing low method for the landing (I have discovered that this works really well for me as opposed to waiting until I was over the runway to make the change). As I neared the runway my left gear touched down (little firm but ok). Then we were back up (about a foot) we were still a little fast and the SP will do that if your speed isn’t right. I added a little power to give me that all important cushion effect and again did a little self talk “Your better than that! Let’s make this landing nice and smooth” well the self talk thing really works. We touched down nice and smooth on the left main gear followed by the right and then the nose. As soon as I stopped I felt really good about my performance. The wind was really gusting during that landing I didn’t realize how much until the plane stopped and we were being pushed around on the taxiway.
I asked the kids how they liked there ride and apologized about the bumps (not that it was my fault). They both reassured me that it was a good flight and that they even slept for the entire flight home and woke up just before “the bump” (that would be the wing drop).
(UPDATED 4/1/2010) Just the thought of warmer weather is making me feel good!
Below is some detail on the event.
(Source: EAA Chapter 240′s Website http://www.eaa240.org/?p=1489)
EAA Chapter 240 is sponsoring an RV Fly-In Event, Saturday May 15th 2010, when we will welcome RV’s from all across the region. To welcome our RV brethren we’re holding our first Pancake Breakfast on the same morning, commencing 8am. Members RV’s will be on the field, and flying – and we have many, with displays of EAA240 members RV’s under construction too.
EAA240 will also offer Free Flights For Kids – EAA’s Young Eagles flights for qualifying youngsters (click here for more details). We hope this EAA240 fund-raiser will attract aviation fans of all ages and will promote general aviation in the region.
Click here for a RV Fly-In Poster 2010 (41), and click here for a EAA240 Events Poster 2010 (41) of the activities planned so far for the EAA240 2010 season!
One seat open in our plane (unless my wife comes along) Click here to RSVP on my site (if you would like to join our group)