But I can still fly.
I proved that to myself today on the trip from St. Augustine to Tampa for the AOPA Convention, which get’s underway Thursday. And while I’ve got a long way to go, today was hopefully my first step back on the road back to the left seat.
My fairy dust was the Aero News Cirrus SR22 3G Turbo. The same airplane I wrote about when we went to Savannah to cover the G650 rollout this summer. I was sitting in the right seat, and Aero News Editor in Chief Jim Campbell got the airplane off the ground, mostly because we used the shortest runway available at KSGJ. But once established in a cruise-climb, he said “climb on up to 4,500 and we’ll get over the top of that,” referring to the broken clouds just ahead. We quickly determined that 4,500 was not going to get us over the top, so we settled back to 2,500 and lumped our way through the bumpy convection currents under the clouds. Not ideal, but in a way, better for me.
My last time to actually fly an airplane was September 12th, 1988, so I set two goals for myself … keep your altitude to +-100 feet, and try to hold a course. I was successful on both counts.
In the years between my opportunities to fly, I’ve done lot of sailing, which I’m sure was very beneficial to my ability to hold a course. The magenta line on the Avidyne Entegra Release 9 Flight Management System helped a lot too, but it was certainly helpful to know that I could pick out a spot on the ground a few miles up the way and fly to it, rather than trying to chase the compass. Sailing a 30 foot boat in choppy seas and trying to maintain a course is not unlike flying an airplane in choppy air and trying to hold a course. Altitude, however, is a bit of a different matter.
See, if you’re +–100’ altitude in a boat … you’re in kind of big trouble.
But I impressed myself. I managed to stay MOSTLY in that 200 foot window. A couple of times I found myself outside the box, but for the most part, I nailed it.
Man, that felt good.
I had flown an SR22 simulator in August in Oshkosh, but I think I flew the actual airplane more precisely than I flew the sim, which was a pretty good feeling as well.
As we approached Tampa Executive Airport, which was our intended destination, we had a bit of a problem. We were Number 2 to land, when someone arriving forgot to put down the landing gear on their airplane, and they closed the airport. We diverted to Plant City, got a rental car, and drove back over to Tampa. Jim will go get the airplane tomorrow and bring it over here.
I’ll admit, he did a lot of things and decreased my cockpit workload. Little things like, oh, taking off and landing, power management, and working with the avionics with which I’m just not familiar. I hope in the not-too-distant future I will be, but there is still a great deal to be learned. My job today was just to fly the airplane.
I could go into a detailed description about the avionics that tell you where the traffic is, and say “traffic, same altitude, one mile” if someone gets too close … but I’ll save that for another post. For today, it was enough just to have the airplane in my hands again, and remember why I fell in love with flying in the first place all those years ago.
The good news is, it’s an affair that can be resumed, and Andie won’t even care…