Saturday, May 03, 2008

Air Show and Air Work

I had a dilemma. I really wanted to go to the Air Fest at March ARB this weekend. I haven't been to a big air show in many years, and the Thunderbirds don't come around very often. But I also wanted to fly, since I've missed the last three weekends and the next three are iffy, all due to other family obligations. Most of the club is away doing winch launching at a dry lake for the weekend, and one of the ships they took is the PW5, so if I was going to fly it would have to be with the help of remaining club members, since the Blanik and Grob take more than one person to move. Fortunately J was planning to go today (giving his wife a ride), so I planned to make flying the priority.

I did go to March Field early, watched about four aerial acts, and quickly walked the static displays, going through a few big aircraft. And I mean BIG... C-5, C-17, and a version of a B737 that is used to train navigators - a flying classroom. Then I headed down to Hemet (about 20 minutes away). I figured if everything went well, I just might make it back up to March for the Thunderbirds at 15:15. But it would be tight: washing, preflighting, his flight, my flight, putting away...

Fortunately an instructor and student were planning to fly the Blanik, so preflight was already done. Then J decided not to take his wife up, for a couple of reasons, and we decided to fly dual. We ate lunch during the student flight, got in a 1 hour and 20 minute soaring flight, and I still made it back to March by 15:20!

Our flight was actually very fun. The weather was favorable for thermals, although the NWS soaring forecast was all wacky. I forecast thermals up to 9,500' with a TI of -4. Thermals were easy to find. They actually topped out at 5,300' (consistently) but lift was strong, up to 6 knots. (Sink was stronger - 8 to 10 kt!) We split duties: I took off and did half the thermals, J did a couple too and did the landing. Flying dual is fun and educational. The copilot can take over some duties (radio, thermal analysis) and helps with the lookout. We learn from each other and make suggestions. (Upside: we split the tow fee. Downside: we can only log half as much PIC time.) I worked on steepening my banks, he worked on speed control in thermals. We were flying the "new" Blanik that the club just acquired - neither of us had flown it before.

I made it back to March nearly in time, but could not get back on base - they closed the gate, since it was nearly the end of the show. But lots of people were watching along the road outside the base, so I found a shady spot and relaxed. The Thunderbirds took off about 30 minutes after the published time, so I did not miss a thing. Six jets in formation make a BIG noise! Of course the show is not confined to the airfield; they go out about 3 miles. So I could see most of the show, and they flew over us a number of times. (I decided not to try to futz with my camera, and just to enjoy the show.)

So my soaring "sandwich" worked out perfectly! I got to see the static displays, a few aerobatic and skydiving acts, got to go soaring, and then watched the Thunderbirds. And I was probably one of the few in the audience that actually flew an aircraft that day! It was a day of contrasts:
  • Visiting some of the largest, most powerful aircraft on earth, and then flying one of the smallest, without any power at all.
  • Flying in a very quiet aircraft, and then hearing some of the noisiest on earth.
  • Watching some of the best pilots do their toughest stuff, and sharing the cockpit with a pilot for a very relaxing flight.
  • Looking up from one airport, and an hour or so later later looking down on another.

A very fun day!

1 comment:

PMSC Member said...

Thanks for the writeup of your "day of contrasts." You should send it to Soaring magazine.