This Monday I took vacation to do my BFR at Hampton. I had the whole day off, so I continued up to Maine to tag more airports.
Bill Rose at Hampton gave me my tail wheel endorsement in a Cub back before my first solo in 2011. I thought it would be fun to return and try the Cub again after 5 years flying the RV-4. The airplane was quite docile. I did slow flight and stalls and steep turns. I tried 3 times, but couldn’t land the Cub shorter than I landed my RV-4. I’m accustomed to using flaps to slow me down. The Cub has none. We landed at Sanders field — a short ultralight grass strip where I’ve landed in the Cub and my RV. I asked Bill how to determine from the air which way a wind sock is pointing. His response was if it’s that limp, it doesn’t matter. When we headed up for airwork, I noticed how slowly the 65hp Cub climbed. I almost believed Bill’s joke that it would take an hour to get to my usual 3,500′. Later, when I took off in my RV-4, I was elated to push the throttle forward and launch up to altitude.
The list of topics Bill covered during the ground review was eclectic. It sounded like his contacts at the FAA sent their pet peeve pilot mistakes. I was guilty of some of the radio work issues, though not the fish finder. I didn’t know TFRS could move. I need to make a new quick reference card in the plane. Between me memorizing all the regulations beforehand and Bill’s drill down on certain topics, I felt it was a very good review. Then I was off to Maine.
First I flew to Augusta Maine (KAUG), the capitol. There were two pilots practicing landings, and an instructor on the radio saying the landings touched nose wheel first, try again slower. The runway was so long the student took off again from where he’d stopped. I ate lunch at the Thai restaurant next door. The food was good. The diners next to me discussed their docket of legal cases and those across the way were headed out on business travel. The lady running the FBO desk suggested I visit Islesboro and Carrabassett. She had enjoyed flying there. Then I was off to Wiscassett.
Wiscassett (KIWI) is a single runway airport with scattered hangars. There was a shiny red and white Tri-Pacer and gas pumps. Otherwise it was deserted. I continued on to Brunswick Executive.
On the chart, Brunswick (KBXM) looks intimidating — two parallel 8,000′ foot long runways. That’s bigger than any other public airport in Maine. I dug for information online and found it is an old military base that the town is trying to redevelop. For now, it’s a rather quiet airport. One of the runways is abandoned. Both old towers are closed. The place is so huge I figured I’d get lost taxiing to find the FBO, so I took a quick photo in front of the bigger old tower and then took off again. Next was Auburn/Lewiston (KLEW), my potential gas stop before heading home.
Brunswick had posted their runway closure in their permanent notices. I hadn’t thought to check NOTAMs but clearly should have since I found one of the two runways at Auburn and half the taxiways closed for re-paving. On the ground, I checked my gas. I’d burned a few gallons less than estimated, leaving me with an hour in addition to what I needed to get home. So I ate my snack and flew up and away.
On the previous two legs, I noticed the sun kicking up thermals and turbulence. There was only 5kts of headwind at altitude, so I went for it, straight up to 8,500′. The air was so smooth, the RV flew hands off — a rarity. Bill’s radio tips made talking to ATC effortless. I followed my GPS, but I hardly needed to. I could see Portland, Sanford, Portsmouth, Concord, Manchester, Gunstock ski area, the Presidential Range and Mt Moosilauke covered in white, and snow still on ski areas in Vermont.
I began my descent over Manchester. From 7,000′ down I was buffeted by turbulence. After almost 4 hours of flight time, I landed back in Brookline.
I’m starting to notice some patterns after my second flight to Maine.
All these public airports are huge. Nothing like the backyard grass strips I’ve gotten used to.
The most active and friendly airports have student pilots training. So if you want to build an airport community, buy a trainer airplane and hire a couple flight instructors.
I hadn’t expected it, but just from my first flight, I learned a lot of landmarks which I referenced on my second flight. Also unexpected, I think this project is going to increase my stamina for long flights.