Grass!


Robinson Airport

Robinson airport (MD14) is a small private, grass airport along the Patuxent River, but  inside the SFRA. There are two grass runways : R9/R27 and R18/R36. They are difficult to identify if you are not familiar with the airspace. Huge smokestacks to the left of them along the river give an indication of where to look. R9/R27 almost looks like a grass field and not really a runway. If you didn’t know it existed, you likely wouldn’t have thought it was one!

grass2R9/R27 is the larger runway at 2,600ftx70ft, bumpy and running a little uphill, when landing on R9; while trees line the end of R27, requiring a higher than normal approach, and a more precise landing.

R18/R36 is the smaller runway at 2100ftx60ft. The runway is better marked out, making it easier to recognize from the air. Trees on the end of R36, necessitate an oblique approach and last minute correction to align with the runway. Both runways require precision airspeed control for a good landing!

Grass4Although, I have taken rides in airplanes such as Taylorcraft and flew with the owner from a grass strip, so far I have never logged a grass landing. A couple of years ago, I had signed up for the annual Kentmore flyout, my flight school organized but had to cancel due to personal reasons. None of my flight schools, permitted grass landings. When I mentioned this to my instructor, she immediately said, “We have to go to Robinson then and do some practice landings!”

Low clouds and visibility prevented us from heading out to Robinson immediately we departed Potomac Airfield. So we proceeded to our usual haunting ground, Maryland airport for some three-point landing practice. As the coastline started to clear, we headed out to Robinson.

grass1

Enormous smoke stacks, identify the general area where Robinson airport lies geographically. Once arriving there, we were almost downwind for R9. We followed over the river, turning base and final, following the pier, for  a landing. Feels a little weird since the runway looked like a field, with bumps and uphill climbs ending at the line of trees!

Before I knew it, at full throttle we were out of ground effect, and climbing at 60 knots, to clear the trees, before turning around and returning for a landing! This was way too much fun! The setting was picturesque too… the river, the green trees with the barest hint of yellow starting to creep in, the enormous smokestacks and blue skies, all rendered a beautiful setting.

grass3With no one around, we could take-off and land any which way. Sometimes on R9, sometimes on R27 and finally we switched around and tried some landings on R36.

I am finally getting more comfortable with the three-point landings in a Citabria. It was a perfect end of summer weekend: 6 VA airport stamps and grass landings 🙂

 See Also:

Gone Flying Part 1

Gone Flying Part 2: Joy of Tailwheel Flying

Aerobatics 1: Spins, Hammerheads and Rolls

 

Rock Your Wings


“High wing, 1/2 mile SW from Fisk, rock your wings”
“Good rock, Sir.
“Reaching Fisk, turn right heading 090, enter  left base to Runway 36L.”
“High wing approaching Fisk be ready to turn now and monitor tower on 126.6, Good Morning. Welcome to the show”

The moment had arrived.

Did you notice the Sir? Ladies we need to change that!

The last few weeks I have been watching Airventure arrival videos, the EAA Webinar on arrivals  into Oshkosh during Airventure, and poring over the NOTAM.

Intimidating, it was!
Nerve-racking?  Absolutely!
Did I want to do it? You betcha!

The Airventure website has a wealth of information on planning an Oshkosh arrival. The Webinar provides excellent information on what to expect, what to review and how to prepare for your flight into Oshkosh during Airventure. There are even a set of videos to demonstrate the Fisk Arrival procedure from Ripon to each destination runway. The one thing that always brought a smile on my face was hearing the controller say “Rock your Wings”. There was almost a sexy lilt to it 🙂

The bible for this trip was the 32-page NOTAM published well in advance, that can be reviewed and memorized. The Fisk arrival is the most applicable if you are a single engine aircraft, can maintain 90 knots and fly at 1,800 ft.

osh3

Linda and I had hoped to practice some slow flight, spot landings and holdings in preparation of the flight the weekend before, but unfortunately weather spoke otherwise. So here we were 30 miles from OSH, having flown GYY direct RIPON, north past the pristine Lake Michigan, Lake Shore Drive, Downtown Chicago and beyond:

Step 1: Listen to ATIS on 125.9, 15 miles from Ripon (fortunately no holding was in practice)
Step 2: Turn on all lights
Step 3: Set Transponder to Standby and go dark
Step 4: Breathe… and reduce speed to 90kts and plan to be at 1800 ft at Ripon
Step 5: Continue breathing… while maintaining 90 kts and 1,800 ft, following the railroad tracks directly overhead towards Fisk, in-trail 1/2 mile behind an aircraft you are following
Step 6: Continue what you are doing beautifully and monitor Fisk Approach at 120.7.
Step 7: Expect to hear from Fisk Approach only after crossing the town of Pickett, 6miles from Ripon. Don’t forget to breathe.
Step 8: Know how to rock your wings briskly and quickly  when asked.
Step 9: Most importantly, Aviate, Navigate and maintain silence.

Unsurprisingly, I felt calm, relaxed and excited to be achieving one of my bucklist items. Almost. Who knew I would do this just a year after I published my Airventure Bucket List. Who knew, that I would even be thinking about it so soon? Does it count that I did not own the aircraft I landed on?

“High wing on left base, cleared to land on runway 36L on the purple dot, traffic on short final”

Down below, on the taxiway were a slew of aircraft waiting to depart. As we descended, we spotted the straight in arrival. On the runway, lined up were two aircraft on the left and right of the center line waiting to depart. “Am I landing over these two aircraft, ” I asked Linda. “Yes,” she responded, “Over them on the purple dot”

A few minutes later… “I am going to have to go around,” I thought. As I saw the aircraft on the right start to roll. Meanwhile, the controller continued to talk to another aircraft. I waited for him to stop, so I could ask him if he wanted me to abort landing. When:

“Cessna, put it on the numbers.. aircraft departing… they are rolling now. Put in on the numbers”
One click, and I dipped the nose down right behind the rolling duo of aircraft in formation.
“Good job Cessna, nice job, turn left onto the grass. Follow flagmen. Welcome to Oshkosh. Appreciate the help”

Linda had already placed our printed tag: GAC on the windshield as we turned left and waited for the ground personnel to steer us to North 40.

Osh1

Half an hour later,  as we waited to register at the North 40 registration desk, a couple of volunteering ladies walked into the registration booth and seeing us said: ” We saw you land. Very well done.” Wow!

If you happen to see someone with a wide, silly grin on their face for no known reason, a little out of this world, floating on clouds, it just might be me 🙂

Osh2

Landing at Oshkosh during Airventure in any aircraft is to die for, if you are plane crazy. Still, there is time yet. I might keep that bucklist item on for a little while longer.

Resources for flying into OSH during Airventure:
Airventure Website
2013 Webinar
2013 NOTAM
2013 Videos

Continue reading the climax of the saga here… An Oshkosh Morning

Tangier Again


Hotel booked. Passport in hand. We were all excited about our upcoming fall trip to Niagara Falls. We had strategically planned this for the 3rd weekend in October to see the full splendor of fall colors as we journeyed north to fly over one of the natural wonders of the world and then visit them up close and personal both from the US and Canadian side.

Seven days prior to our flight the forecast called for clear skies and 50’s at Niagara Falls. Slightly warmer but ditto in the mid-Atlantic region. Exciting! Maybe this year we would get lucky and actually make this trip.

Three days prior to the flight the forecast called for partly cloudy and 20% chance of rain and still 50’s at Niagara Falls. Not so exciting but still things could change. There were still 3 days to go.

Two days prior to the flight the forecast was still the same but chance of rain was up another notch at 30%. This was not looking good. Hotel reservation cancelled. Maybe best to put the passport away.

One day prior to the flight forecast was 40% chance of rain, windy and still 50’s. Then by the hour chance of rain dramatically kept increasing: 50%, then 60%, 70% and on the day 80%. The low temperatures also meant freezing levels were going to be low. The winds meant moderate turbulence. So both Airmet Sierra and Tango would be in place.

In the mid-Atlantic though it was going to be a glorious fall day: 60’s and sunny. Tangier called for 70’s and abundant sunshine. Niagara will have to be another time. Tangier here we come for some crab cakes and veg cakes!

Four aircraft set off from four different airports and converged on Tangier. It was a little hazy but a picture perfect day to be up in the air. Nary a bump. Not a TFR in place along the route of flight as Linda and I flew blissfully south VOR to VOR, an hour later than planned (I don’t think I remember a time when I took off on schedule!). This time the aircraft was just back from 100 hour inspection and the GPS was being checked and updated.

The runway at Tangier can be intimidating: 2427 ft x 75 ft. I remembered my previous flights there when I had to do a go -around the first time before landing safely during my second attempt. This time I was well prepared, slowing the aircraft down and giving myself enough room to execute a stabilized approach on final. For good measure Linda reminded me that the TPA (traffic pattern altitude) was only 600ft at TGI. I touched down softly with plenty of room and gently applied the breaks.

Whoa!

The nose wheel shimmied and continued to shimmy excessively. Luckily having experienced this before I knew I had to pull the yoke back. But it continued to shimmy and the plane kept moving forward. We were going to run out of runway here soon. Finally it required both both Linda and me yanking the yoke full back to get the shimmying to stop.

Turns out most of Tangier shuts down in October in preparation for the upcoming winter and only Lorraine’s is open for business all year round. So it wasn’t hard for Linda and I to track down the others. Maryland is famous for it’s seafood,  especially crab. So it wasn’t surprising that everyone ordered crab cakes except Linda and me. Linda was not a big fan of crab meat and I of course ordered the only vegetarian item on the menu: Fresh garden  salad with a side of the potato wedges.

After lunch, we took the traditional leisurely tour of the island on a golf cart.  Our tour guide rattled off  historical  anecdotes and antidotes (as Debi calls them). It was fun and informative.  With a population of only 500 people, with one police officer, mainland a stone’s throw away by boat or aircraft, with few visitors this time of the year, Tangier is an idyllic getaway.  One where you could disappear without being found, all of us agreed.

The return was uneventful. Except for the periodic beeping on 121.5 and one or two broadcasts. And the final shimmy of the nose wheel on landing on return. This time Linda and I were better prepared.

Why does a nose wheel shimmy?

Turns out nose wheel shimmy is quite common on single engine Cessna. It can happen either with a problem with the nose strut assembly, the tire, the shimmy dampener or a combination of the three.  The best way to reduce or eliminate nose wheel shimmy is to keep the nose wheel in the air as long as possible when landing. Ultimately best to spend the extra $$$ to get it fixed to have a piece of mind when you ace your next landing!

See Also:
An Evening in Tangier
Planes, Trains, Automobiles

Hanger Walk Anyone?


Revisiting Old Stomping Grounds…

The Spirit of San Luis was as it always was. Sitting on the outside deck it could have been business as usual: a normal SLO99s meeting or a gathering before the traditional Cookies to the Tower or a Hanger Party of some extraordinary Aviatrix in the Central Coast planning the next big event.

Continue reading

To land or not to land?


That is the question that comes to mind, when on final, high and fast. Often one is faced with myriads of questions. Can I get down in time? Should I use forward slip? Which way is the wind blowing? Can I put this baby down safely?