At the apron in Hagerstown we were greeted by an FBO employee who marshalls us into place and lays out a red carpet. As we are a two door airplane he had to pick which side to place it, and it was on my side. Whee. He had military short blond hair and 1970s-style cop sunglasses. I guess they're in fashion for pilots, but Lite Flyer and I don't subscribe to that one. He's a little brusque, one of the first things he has to say is that the restricted airspace will expand tomorrow at ten a.m., did we know that. We assure him we'll be out of here early tomorrow morning, as soon as the fog clears. For a moment I'm willing to entertain the idea that he's some kind of security droid, masquerading as an FBO employee in order to keep a close eye on the people coming in and out of this facility, but he manages to disabuse me of this notion pretty quickly through his haste in assuring us how important he is.
He talks about the people and aircraft that may come through here tomorrow as if to imply that he knows far more than he's allowed to tell on the subject. He mentioned more than once that he knew the owners of the facility here, and was working because they needed someone. I was going to say that it wasn't any particular thing he said that really spoiled the impression, just the cumulative effect of everything he chose to say, but there's one signature phrase that stood out.
"I am an executive officer of my own company."
At another point he mentioned the presence of a number of Dash-7s on the field. It's a kind of funny airplane to have a fleet of in the States so I asked, "what do they use them for?" Captain Important makes a zipping motion of fingers on lips. One of his other jobs was as a balloon instructor, which I thought was pretty cool. I tried to engage him in conversation on that, because people are always more interesting when they are talking about their area of expertise, but he kind of skims over it, apparently it doesn't fit in with the aura of importance that he's trying to establish.
At this time he was an important person for us, as he had secured permission to use the company van to take us and a gas can to the gas station for our Mogas needs. The first gas station was closed "for technical reasons," but he found a second one a little further away. It turned out to be a Sheetz, with the food ordering touch screens right by the pumps, but the ordering screens were unserviceable. I snapped a photo of the astonishing list of regulations posted on the pumps. Note that I didn't read the regulations, there were just too many. I mentioned the list to a less important person at the FBO, who laughed and said that Maryland has the most regulations anywhere. "If someone has invented a piece of protective gear anywhere, it's required by law to use it in Maryland. I wonder if the very low flow rate on the gas pump was part of the protective mechanism. When you complain that a pump is slow to fill a five gallon can, you know it's slow.
After the second trip--we only had one five gallon can and needed ten gallons--we both thank him and Lite Flyer puts a folded bill in his hand. I don't know what she gave him, but he softened by an unexpected amount. We put the fuel in the airplane, secured it for the night and made our way to a hotel for the night. It was a fine hotel, probably the best of the trip and there were probably many fine restaurants around, but we were beat and opted for pizza delivery. Lite Flyer had the idea of calling the desk for a pizza recommendation instead of choosing randomly from the yellow pages, and it's just as well she did because twenty minutes later when the pizza company had our room number wrong the desk knew whom to call and ask, "Did you order a pizza with .. uh .. everything on it?" Lite Flyer and I have may be compatible in the cockpit, but our pizza topping preferences are incompatible so she had ordered half hers and half mine, making a strange-looking pizza. It was pretty good though and we ate as much as we needed before sleeping.
Next morning we planned our next leg over breakfast and got a ride to the airport. It looked fine, but flight services was calling our airport of departure IFR. The tower was reporting low visibilities. I couldn't really see the runway from the apron, so I'll have to believe them, and the rest of the briefing included poor visibility elsewhere. Plus, as the briefer put it, "At ten a.m. today, the President gets larger." The restricted area would expand to the full 25 nm. I guess Camp David has its own airport, buried inside that white circle.
A couple of helicopter medevac pilots who had just been going off duty when we were there last night were back on duty for the morning. They are on standby for twelve hours at a time, required to be airborne within five minutes if called. So they are essentially on a tether that keeps them within 200 metres of their aircraft at all times. They admired our little craft, easily the most interesting thing within two hundred metres of theirs, and I bored Lite Flyer by asking them lots of questions about how helicopter IFR approaches work.
Eventually, as it always does if you wait long enough, the fog cleared and we deemed ourselves good to go. I told Lite Flyer to leave the chocks in for the run up. "People are going to think we've forgotten to remove them, and they may come up and try to be helpful, so watch carefully, especially for people who come from behind and have forgotten our propeller is back there. Sure enough, she hasn't even completed the start checklist before I have to open the door to yell, "We know! We're doing a run-up!" at the helpful people who approach.
We take the time to warm everything up properly and check over the systems, then we shut down, remove the chocks, and call for taxi. The controller starts to assign us a runway then most likely takes a second look at us, because she switches us to a different one. It's a shorter runway, but it's also a shorter taxi, and directly into the light morning wind. She asks for a "tight left turn immediately after take-off," which we can see is needed for the airspace, and she can see won't be a problem for an airplane this small.
Lite Flyer does the take-off again but it is much poorer than her previous effort. I'm barking "tail up! tail up!" in between cries of "right rudder!" but she never raises the tail, just leaves it in the three point attitude until it mushes into the air.
Later she says, "I didn't know what you meant by tail down!" so possibly I don't even know what I was saying. Eventual debriefing determines that her earlier brilliant take-off was a fluke. In that instance she accidentally relaxed back stick as she set full power and then realized that she had done so, so pulled back at just the right moment to rotate. Pretty funny, but at least we've got it clear now. She brings it around to parallel the runway north. We tell tower we will follow the freeway until well clear of the restricted airspace, and they give us a flight following frequency too. Thursday is underway.