We flew out to New York in the Bearhawk so I could practice flying it and land at some easy grass airstrips. Tyson had hoped we could go to Bar Harbor to enjoy the ocean breeze. He had a whole list of interesting airports picked out along the way, but just getting there would have taken all day. Instead we flew to Rutland VT to hike the Long Trail. I have not flown the Bearhawk in many months, so Tyson hovered over the controls for every landing, ready to save his airplane.
It was a nice sunny calm day. Our first grass strip was Chapin (1B8). The tablet showed reported winds across the region varying substantially in direction, but all were light. Based on what I saw on the tablet, I had fixed in my mind that I should land to the south. When we listened to the nearest radio reported weather, it said winds were from 010-020 degrees. I took a while to figure out that was the opposite direction from what I was expecting. When we arrived at Chapin, the windsock clearly showed wind blowing from the south/south-west. So I circled around an extra time and oriented for runway 25. As for the landing itself, I failed to anticipate how much drag the Bearhawk has and how quickly it looses energy. So Tyson spent much of the approach saying “Power!” Once on the ground I had no problems keeping it straight. This airport has many hangars, most of them open, with a good collection of planes. There did not seem to be anyone around, so we took off again.
The next grass strip was Garnsey’s (B04). This airport has a seaplane runway on the Hudson river and a grass runway. On this landing I handled the power management better. Both the RV and the Bearhawk have electrically controlled flaps. I seem to have memorized how long it takes to put the RV flaps down because I consistently stopped short of the full range of the Bearhawk flaps by about the same amount. Once landed we taxied over to say hi to the folks out and about. There were not many airplanes based at Garnsey’s. It sounds like it was an airport in the family for several generations that they generously keep open to the public. The grandfather had bought a Cessna 172 in the early 1960’s and they have put 600 hours on it since then. That is not much. We learned that Chapin had a balloon festival just the previous day. It was amusing to see the Hudson river as a small pastoral river. Fourteen miles upriver is the limit of navigable water for the barges.
From there we headed north to August Field, otherwise known as Island Bob’s (vs Mountain Bob’s strip also in the area). That grass strip is private. Tyson had met Island Bob once before during a Super Cub fly out and he seemed receptive to visitors, so we thought we would stop and say hi. Unfortunately when we arrived, there was no one out besides the groundskeepers. We turned around and headed back out. Speaking of turning around, Tyson had plenty to say about my soft field taxiing technique. Ideally you keep the airplane moving at all times so it doesn’t get stuck in the dirt. I, on the other hand kept stopping during the turns and then having to apply lots of power to free the airplane.
From there we headed to Argyle (1C3). These airports are all within 10nm of each other, so the winds were consistently from the south. I still checked every wind sock. All the airports have north-south runways, so there had been minimal crosswinds to make directional control hard. However, Tyson kept pointing out that I was landing the airplane a little bit crooked. In my RV, I sit on the centerline with the passenger behind me. In the Bearhawk, the pilot sits in the left seat with a passenger in the right. So the visual alignment cues are not the same. Since I had improved my power management, I decided to focus on alignment at Argyle. It did not go so well. On final, I could not figure out how to get the airplane aligned and coordinated. The Bearhawk has a lot more inertia, so I tend to overshoot with the controls. While I was getting frustrated with the heading, I stopped paying enough attention to power, so we landed with a thump and a little bit crooked. I straightened it out and came to a stop without issue. This airport might have been the largest grass strip we visited. There was an office building, parking, and lots of enclosed hangars. No one around to talk to, so off we went. Discussing with Tyson, most likely what happened is I had a cross wind and I should have just let the airplane crab until right before touch down. Only then should I have worried about orientation. In my RV, I have no troubles with these things, but in the Bearhawk, I had difficulties distinguishing outside influences from the characteristics of the unfamiliar airplane.
The last grass strip was Harris (83K). On final for this airport, I realized the first couple hundred feet of the runway went steeply uphill. I managed it fine and landed well. Taxiing back to take off I did not get stuck once despite the side hill. There was not much of anything at this airport, so we just turned around and left.
Finally, we headed over to Rutland, VT, our nominal destination to hike the Long Trail. The automated weather report said winds from the south at Rutland, consistent with what we had experienced so far. Tyson heard on the radio two other pilots intending to land at Rutland. I could not make out what they were saying. Apparently the Bearhawk has a better and worse radio. I switched over to the better radio and could finally understand the conversation. The airplane closer to landing, a Bonanza, was landing to the north with a tailwind. The other airplane, a King Air, had originally planned to land to the south, but was now following the Bonanza’s lead. I do not know why the other two decided to land with a tailwind, but the winds were light enough and the runway long enough that I expected I could also. I joined the traffic pattern between the other two, made sure to maintain speed for as long as possible so the King Air did not catch up, landed and pulled off onto the taxiway in plenty of time.
That ended the flying portion of the trip. We still had our hike to do.