Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prairie Airport

The 22G30 at the military airport turns out to be a crosswind at the municipal. I can't say precisely how strong it was, as a windsock straight out registers 15 knots, and any wind strength above that looks the same until the windsock starts to tear (around 50-60 kts, if the wind is gusting) or the pole blows down (I've seen it once at 70 kts).

With approach flaps set, I'm crabbing significantly on downwind to to maintain my track parallel to the runway. That has my nose pointed very much at the runway. I'm looking at the windsock to make sure I don't have a tailwind component for the landing. It's as close to straight across the runway as it could be. I crosscheck with the GPS. My groundspeed is about 5% higher than my indicated airspeed, exactly what I'd estimate my true airspeed to be at this altitude. I will have no headwind and no tailwind, just crosswind. Gear down. As I turn base, a little thrill of "can I do this?" runs through me, a feeling I don't remember having in an airplane for a long time. Wondering if I can go another five hours without a pee break does not count.

This is the airport where I'm supposed to land (yes, definitely), but I do have the fuel required to divert to Regina, which has two runways, so can give me a more into wind landing. I also have enough fuel to attempt this landing first, even if I don't carry it through. I put down the next notch of flaps. In some crosswind situations I would consider using reduced flaps, but this runway is short, and the wind will give me no help in reducing approach speed for ease in stopping. The gear shows three green. I turn final. That makes me giggle inside because instead of a ninety degree turn from base to final, it's not even sixty degrees before I have turned enough to be crabbing correctly for final. I put down the last notch of flaps. Props are forward, prelanding checklist complete. I now roll towards the wind, while using my downwind rudder pedal to align the body of the airplane with the runway. The fact that I have the rudder authority to do this bodes well, because now I'm looking down the middle of this narrow runway. And I'm straight.

The runway doesn't look as short as I know it is, because it's narrow, but I anticipate the illusion and pull the power right back to flare before I reach the beginning of the runway. There are no obstacles to worry about. And I flare ... still straight ... and the main wheels are on the beginning of the pavement. Not perfectly centred, but straight. I turn the alierons further into the wind as I put down the nosewheel. I don't have to brake aggressively, just gently, and I roll out to the end before turning around. Whee, I love crosswinds. Flight time was four hours, seven minutes. It would have been at least five without that wind.

I call clear of the runway as I pull onto the apron, gingerly taxiing. Taxiing can be harder than landing and taking off in winds like this. A voice on the frequency tells me to pull right up in front of the hangar. I've actually got myself into a corner hemmed in by crop planes where it will be difficult to turn around, and there's an unpaved area of gravel between me and the hangar. The voice on the radio tells me it's okay to just shut down there. It's a quick walk to the hangar.

It's a waiting day again for me. At one point I'm sitting on the ramp under an airplane, looking out at a two men in hunting camos who are checking over Grumman parked near the runway. There are geese flying by, the beginning of a prairie sunset, wheatfields a little overdue for harvest, Canadian flag, crop sprayers, a Ford tractor older than anyone reading this, and the still horizontal windsock. I think of getting my camera to capture this perfect slice of a prairie airport, but I'd never get it all in the shot, so I just look and enjoy, and try to remember it all so I can tell you about it. My duty day is over and the customer isn't ready to go yet, so we'll spend the night.


Head in the Clouds said...

Thanks for the great picture you painted! BTW-- whatever happened with the two incidents you mentioned?

Anonymous said...

I feel like I was there... Great writing, as always.

Aviatrix said...

Whatever happened with the two incidents you mentioned?

For the protection of my company I have elided them from the narrative. They don't represent errors, unsafe practices or illegal actions. The filed reports will drop into the great bin of bureaucracy, never to be seen again.

jinksto said...

Great post... one of the best. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

My favorite bit was
As I turn base, a little thrill of "can I do this?" runs through me

You mean that feeling goes away eventually? Good to know. Well... maybe for you it did. I still get a tinge of it every time I get in an airplane,

Nice story. I am glad the feeling and appreciation of a "Kodak moment" at then end has not gone away. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Sue said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your writing is so vivid and compelling.

Paul said...

As I turn base, a little thrill of "can I do this?" runs through me

You mean that feeling goes away eventually?

We best hope not, huh?


Callsign Echo said...

Ah, don't we all live for that feeling? Or maybe its complement: the I can't believe I pulled that off feeling. :D

PlasticPilot said...

I always try not to be a jealous guy, but this is too much. Not only you fly outstanding landins in crosswind, but you can also write about them is such a good way...

Both the pilot and blogger in me are jealous. Great post, thumb up in stumbleupon.

Sarah said...

Paul said...
You mean that feeling goes away eventually?

We best hope not, huh?

I agree, if you mean what I think you do. The feeling of self-doubt perhaps shouldn't be constant, but I think it's very healthy to have an awareness of the risks involved in committing aviation, both for you and your passengers. Juuuuust a tinge of fear keeps one sharp.

LemonJelly said...

"As I turn base, a little thrill of "can I do this?" runs through me"

Had the exact same thoughts while doing a crosswind landing in Saskatoon on Saturday morning. Wind gusts had working the rudders rapidly on touchdown that morning.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Here's a nice little crosswind landing: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=cb4_1172351204

Bet the pilot was saying the same thing as Aviatrix!


Anonymous said...

And a little something Aviatrix hopes she never has to do with clients onboard... :)