An Arresting Flight - N8234F                     [KWRB - KWRB  1.9 hrs/108.4] TT] The FAA requires all pilots to have a Flight Review with a Flight Instructor once every two years.  We call this the Biennial Flight Review, or BFR.   A BRF consists of ground and in-flight training of at least an hour each.  As a risk reduction measure, the aero club I fly from requires the same review annually.  My flight review is due shortly.  Since I have not been flying much this winter, some practice is in order.  The weather was exceptional - warm and clear.  Winds were 340@8 kts.  Good day to fly!

We headed to the aero club, dispatched the airplane, filed the flight plan with base operations, and performed the pre-flight.  After start up, we contacted Ground Control for taxi and departure clearances.   We cleared up a paperwork mix up with base operations (they had us dispatched in a different aircraft), we taxied to runway 33 at taxiway Bravo.   As part of my Departure clearance, we were told there was a maintenance crew working on the aircraft arresting system, and when I returned to the base, please give the tower a ten minute heads-up so they could get the maintenance crew off the runway before our arrival.  No problem.

Unlike civilian airports, many military airfields have cables across the runway to stop an aircraft in the event of brake failure upon landing.  At Robins, there is a steel cable at each end of the runway.  This cable lowers into a groove across the runway.  If needed in an emergency, the cable can be raised 2-4 inches above the runway.  As an aircraft crosses the cable, the aircraft is arrested by "catching" the cable with a lowered arresting hook.  Apparently one of our cables needed maintenance today.

After the run-up and "before takeoff" checks were complete, I contacted Tower - "N8234F ready for take-off".  Tower responded with "Continue to hold short - runway 33.  We have to get the maintenance crew off the runway."  This took several minutes.  I did not time it.  Seemed like a long time, but was probably 5-6 minutes.  Tower knew I was taxiing for departure, right?  Oh well. 

Taxiway Bravo is a midfield intersection - just about mid-runway.  From our position we could see the maintenance crew at the approach end of runway 33, about a mile away.  We were going the other direction so they were really no factor for our take-off.  I assume Tower wanted them off the field in the event I had a problem and had to return to the field.  In that instance, I would be landing directly over them.  Regardless we waited a long time, but were eventually cleared for take-off.

As soon as I was established in the practice area, I put the airplane into slow flight.  There was a good bit of light turbulence and thermal activity today, making slow flight a challenge.  It was similar to the day I took my flight review last year.  Although challenging, it was good practice just keeping the wings level at 55 knots. 

After transitioning back to normal flight, I performed turns-around-a-point, then steep turns.  My wife was riding along with me today and this was her introduction to steep turns.  She tolerated it well.  I did not perform any stalls as stalls would probably exceed my wife's tolerance for maneuvering flight. 

Heading toward Hawkinsville, Ga, we saw this farm with irregular shaped fields.  This is flat land - why don't they just make the fields square?
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We headed to Perry-Houston County (KPXE) and performed a single touch-and-go landing.  There was more air traffic at PXE than I have ever seen.  There was an event of some kind on the field.  The ramp was full of planes, the pattern was full of planes, and the field bordering the taxiway was full of campers.  I later discovered the event was "Pigs and Wings" - bar-b-cue and airplanes.   Who knew?

I departed PXE as quickly as I could, turned south and again flew in slow flight all the way to Unidilla, Ga - about 15 miles.  Turning back toward Robins, two more steep turns one right, one left, then called Robins with the 10 minute "heads-up".  Tower responded with "N8234F, Roger, we will clear the maintenance crew from the runway".  We contacted Atlanta Approach for clearance into the Macon TRSA, and were in turn handed off to the Robins tower for landing.

Landing runway 33, ATIS was reporting winds 020@5, then Tower reported  ATIS was had been updated since I reported in - winds now Variable at 5.  Upon receiving clearance to land, Tower reported winds 110@8knots.   Coming down final the wind sock was straight across the runway and confirmed by a right crab to stay aligned with runway 33.  I came out of the crab at about 100 ft and held the center line nicely.  Then, seconds before the wheels would have touched, the airplane "ballooned" about 10 feet back into the air, just as I heard the stall horn chirp.  Sometimes pilots cause the aircraft to balloon with control inputs the are  too much, or too rapid or both.  As I was already full into the flare and had the yoke well back, I suspect the wind changed direction adding some unexpected lift.  We were nearly on the ground, and all of a sudden we were 10 feet up and running out of airspeed quickly.  As the stall horn chirped, I bumped the throttle which tends to pull the nose back down, while at the same time releasing a little pressure on the yoke, then throttle to idle and flare again.  In a matter of a second or two we were on the ground gently, albeit it a pretty flat landing.  Saved none-the-less from what would have been a rather hard prang to the runway.

Upon our return to Robins, we never did see the arresting cable maintenance crew.
 
 
Peach State Hamburger Run N817AC              [GA2- KWRB  0.8 hrs/106.5 TT]
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Two pilots from the Aero Club invited me to fly to lunch with them Saturday.  Having not flown since December 23, 2010, I jumped at the offer. 

The plan was to fly to Peach State Airport (GA2) near Williamson, Georgia.  I had never been to Peach State, but had heard a lot about it.  Just outside of Atlanta, under the veil of Atlanta’s Class Bravo Airspace, sits the little throw back in time, Candler Field.  This is a 2400 foot grass strip, with trees at each end, and a hump in the middle.  Our planned flight was direct KWRB to GA2.  The blue line on the sectional above is our planned course.

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John is a 70+ year young student pilot.  Lewayne is his flight instructor (as he was mine).  The plan was for John to do the flying.  I was just along for the ride, but John offered to fly out and let me fly back.  I did not want to butt myself into the middle of John’s lesson, but Lewayne assured me this was a lunch run and some air time, not a lesson – so I accepted the offer and flew the return leg.

On the ride out, I rode in the rear seat (could have sold tickets to see me getting in there).  John did a nice job, needles centered, altitude solid as a rock.  I had some time to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures.  Also, the last couple of times I flew with my handheld GPS, it locked up on me during the flight.  Not a real issue as far a flying goes because I fly with the sectional, navigation log, and my watch.  I use the GPS for situational awareness.  Over the past month I had researched the problem and performed the recommended fix.  Since I was not flying, the trip out was a good time for an operational check.

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Our route passed about 20 miles west of Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer on Lake Juliette, Ga.  Plant Scherer is the fifth largest electric power generating facility in the United States.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_Scherer).

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Soon we were descending into Peach State.  There were already several planes within 10 miles of the airport making their inbound calls on the radio.  This is a busy place on Saturday and Sunday as the on field restaurant is well known to locals and pilots alike.  Upon first site of the airfield, my thoughts were “my, that is short!” 

Above, entering the upwind leg for runway 31.  Note the trees and road at the near end of the runway.  Also seen are the “hump” and the downhill run to the far end of the runway.

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Above, left cross-wind for Runway 31 (looking up-hill, note the road and trees across the far end, and yes that is a fence across the near end of the runway).

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It was interesting to watch as pilots negotiated the descent over the trees to get down on the flat before the hump, and definitely before the down hill run.  You see, after passing the hump in the field, the runway falls away from you as you are trying to get the aircraft to settle onto the runway.  You risk running out of airspeed too high above the ground which is never a pretty landing.

Some aircraft (like us) approached high and dropped to the runway as we cleared the trees and road.

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There were a few, like this Decathalon, whose pilots coaxed the aircraft into a forward slip as they crossed the trees, allowing them to use nearly all of the runway.  That little plane was descending like an anvil, but flared into a nice three-point landing.

I counted about 15 aircraft landing in the 1.5 hours we were there, including a T6-Texan and a Twin Beech Barron.
When it came time to leave, I climbed in the left seat and began to analyze the situation.  I have not flown in 6 weeks.  Here I am on an unfamiliar grass strip, 8 knot cross-wind, sloping runway, and an aircraft within 100 lbs of gross weight.  No pressure.  My instructor always told me (and repeated today) “Know your equipment, then trust your equipment”.  I have practiced Soft Field take-offs (even from turf), and I have practiced Short-Field take-offs, but I have never done a Short-Soft-Field take-off with a very real obstacle 2400 feet away.   But that is what we did, a Soft-Field roll, followed by a Short-field climb-out.  From the aircraft performance charts I knew I could clear a 50 tree in 1650 feet.   I had 2400 feet to clear a fence, then some trees.  So I had about 800 feet of “cushion”.   I used every bit of 1000 feet to get airborne, but I waited for the airspeed to build, keeping the nose light, and the up-wind wing down.  At 55 knots N817AC took wing and clawed its way into the air.  We used about 2/3 of the runway before we had the trees cleared, but we easily cleared the fence and trees at the departure end, although those tree tops sure looked close.

The flight home was short thanks to a 20 knot tailwind.  We contacted Atlanta Approach about 25 miles north of Robins and were cleared into the Macon Terminal Radar Service Area (TRSA).  We over flew Middle Georgia Regional Airport (KMCN) at 3500 feet and began a fairly rapid descent into the left downwind leg for Robins runway 33.  With the tailwind and the descent, I saw a GPS ground speed of 136 knots.  I believe the fastest I have experienced to date in a Warrior.

It was a beautiful day to be flying.  It sure felt good to be back in the air.