We’ve known Thor for ages through AMC ski trips. This Saturday, for the first time, he flew out to meet us for lunch.
Thor earned his pilots license before we met him, but he let his biennial review lapse. On the ride to Mt Mansfield Saturday, we chatted a little about planes as usual, and learned that he is actively flying again. He joined the Concord flying club and regularly flies their Cessna 172 on trips. He even had it booked for Sunday. Eager to actually fly together, I suggested we fly to lunch on Sunday. We discussed various airport diners. Hampton seemed nice since it’s a modest flight from both our home bases and has a tasty restaurant. The only problem was Hampton’s runway is significantly shorter than his home base and a bit shorter than any other airports where he has landed. I’m so used to short runways that I didn’t even think about it, but Tyson pointed out I’d possibly talked Thor into something shorter than he would be comfortable with.
Our local friends, Diane and Ian were interested, so we invited them too.
I flew out ahead of Tyson. This time I had reviewed the charts in advance and navigated using static charts, compass, and features on the ground. My flight path probably had a couple zig zags in it as I realized I’d wandered a little too far left or right, but no big deal. My only mistake with ATC was I transmitted on top of someone else once.
My landing at Hampton wasn’t great. I need to work on my glide slope. I keep alternating between thinking I’m too high or too low. Thor called in while I was in the pattern, so I let him know which way folks were landing. Tyson called in while I taxied over to the gas pumps. I ran in to the restaurant to reserve a table and then fueled up. Thor’s landing was good. He had no problems turning off by the taxiway mid way down. By the time I finished fueling up, I was completely boxed in by airplanes. Everyone was trying to avoid taxiing on the muddy grass and patches of snow. Thor pulled up nearby, a couple Husky/Super Cub types parked inches onto the grass next to paved fuel pump pad, and another RV-4 pulled right in front of me. The pile of airplanes crowded around the fuel pump was a tangled mess, and there were more airplanes in the pattern. I saw Tyson had taxied off the pavement without leaving great ruts. So I snuck out under Thor’s wing and I found the thinnest patch of snow. After almost nosing over last week, I taxied as slowly as I could maintain without stopping. I made sure not to use the brakes. It worked. The RV-4 kept all wheels on the ground. After seeing my success, Thor too gingerly taxied onto the grass.
After all the airplane rearranging, I worried the other group would get our table, so I wasn’t as social as I should have been. The other RV-4 pilot came over to chitchat. He was based out of Nashua (?), so I probably should have networked. Oh well. We ate lunch. Thor told us he had practiced several short landings at Concord before flying to Hampton. Thankfully my worries about his judgment were unfounded. By the end of lunch, Hampton’s private snow shower finally moved off. Tyson took Thor up for a ride in the Bearhawk. Thor flew the Bearhawk quite well despite never having flown anything else like it.
After lunch, Tyson had to fly home to prepare for a work trip. I still wanted to fly some more, so I tagged along with Thor to Skyhaven (KDAW). I am used to being the least experienced pilot tagging along with some really good pilots — the Brookline crew, and Tyson’s Super Cub friends. So it was quite something to be the more confident pilot of the group. I preflighted my airplane (discovered I’d misplaced the fuel tester in the earlier traffic jam at the fuel pump. Retrieved it from lost and found), taxied the long way off the grass and snow to make sure I didn’t nose over, did my run up, caught up with Thor, and expected him to be ready ages ago. Instead, he was still going through his checklist and hadn’t even done his run up yet. Wow! I guess I have come a long way in my 200 hours of flying. He had pulled too far down the taxiway to where you can’t see landing traffic through the trees. I planned to relay any traffic sightings to him. Luckily the next airplane was chatty on the radio.
From there, we flew around Portsmouth’s class D airspace. I had not annotated my charts for this flight, so I flew using the GPS. Thor had only visual references. After takeoff, I caught up to Thor and settled into the default Brookline/SuperCub loose formation. Then I realized Thor probably isn’t used to flying formation, so I pulled away. Right before we left Hampton, I had glanced at the airport information and weather for Skyhaven. Thor is familiar with Skyhaven, so in the air he gave me the summary of the airport. I was impressed that I had gleaned everything he described during my quick scan of the airport information. As we approached Skyhaven, Thor listened to the ASOS on his second radio and relayed the summary. This is totally different than flying with the Brookline and SuperCub.org crew. There, every pilot is expected to be self-sufficient, and efficient since they hardly pause their inter-plane coordination for long. Therefore, I had actually listened to the ASOS before Thor relayed his interpretation.
The sum of all this, is that normally when flying, I feel just a little overloaded. Flying with Thor was so much more laid back. It was fun. He even asked my advice about which way to land at Skyhaven. I knew from the online weather report that the winds were variable. So the tailwind on the wind tetrahedron was likely to be temporary. Sure enough, after we had turned downwind, it shifted back around.
After Skyhaven, I flew along with Thor a little bit more and then departed to the south. Back to my own demanding standards for flight: need to hold altitude better; need to maintain a constant climb rate when climbing to cruise altitude; need to spot traffic reported by ATC. And I still didn’t get my glide slope right for the landing at Brookline. In this case, I believe I crossed a wind shear given how suddenly I went from just-right to really-high.