A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Spurwink Maine fly-in

July 13, 2014
Emilie Phillips

The Limington EAA chapter hosts an annual pancake breakfast fundraiser the second Sunday in July at Spurwink farm airfield just south of Portland Maine.

The general forecast predicted thunderstorms in the afternoon. Two cold fronts looked like they had merged over New York and were not going to arrive until later. The aviation forecasts told a different story. Portland ME, Lebanon NH, and Providence RI predicted winds gusting to 18 or 20kts by noon. And Manchester and Boston, the two closest forecasts to home, predicted winds picking up around 9 or 10 AM. I could not figure out any geographical explanation for the variation in times. So I decided to just go practice a few landings in the RV-4, determine how rusty I was after a month of not flying it, check the winds again, and make a decision.

Unfortunately, the decision was made for me. When I performed my systems check, I found that the trim control would not work. So we pushed the RV-4 back in the hangar and all piled into the Bearhawk.

Flight plan from NH16 to Spurwink

Flight plan from NH16 to Spurwink

Tyson had a chance to fly the previous day, so this time I flew. I picked a route transiting Manchester’s air space and landing at several airports so that I could keep working on all the difficult parts of flying.

I did not do very well talking to ATC. Tyson had to notify me a couple of times that they were talking to me. The landings went reasonably considering I was flying the Bearhawk and not the RV. We stopped at Skyhaven (DAW) in Rochester, Sanford (SFM), Biddeford (B19), and then our destination. With all the airports so close together, it was tough keeping up with navigation, identifying radio frequencies and runways, checking on winds, and landing an unfamiliar airplane. I know I missed the backup fuel pump a couple times in my check list. The biggest issue I had with the landings was when turning downwind to base. I tend to do a fairly gentle turn. In the Bearhawk, a high wing, the wing then blocks the pilots view of the airport. Every time I did this, I was blown much farther away from the airport than I thought I was.

Press Herald photo of Emilie landing at Spurwink

Press Herald photo of Emilie landing at Spurwink

Our final destination, Spurwink farm, is not an official airport. The grass runway was well kept up and fairly level, but it bends significantly in the middle. My plan was to land short enough that I would be stopped or quite slow before the bend. The ground crew warned over the radio that there was significant turbulence landing over the trees. Due to a miscommunication with Tyson, I thought he was said I should come in low AND slow over the trees. So I tried my best to stay just barely fast enough to be safe in the gusts, but otherwise as slow as I could. The result was a very bumpy unstable approach. I landed and turned around well short of the bend. Discussing afterwards, it turned out Tyson meant for me to come in low over the trees but not slow. This would make more sense because it minimizes potential energy while still maintaining enough speed for good control in the gusts. The local newspaper had a photographer present and I made the first picture on the article.

We stood in line for quite a while for pancakes. Tyson and Isaac both almost starved to death. While we were in line, the Life Flight helicopter took off and hovered, showing off. A bunch of the other smaller airplanes including 3 RV-4s departed while we ate our pancakes. So, by the time we were done, there wasn’t much socializing left to do. Instead, we walked around the farm and down to the ocean. There was an old cemetery from the early settlers that had recently been restored. Isaac was brave enough to pet a donkey once and kept wanting to investigate the electric fence around the horses.

I let Tyson fly back while I napped. He said it was really bumpy and windy.