Saturday, May 21, 2005


A Brief Affair

When she was in the shop, Yellowbird shared the hangar with a recent friend. Jamie had his Skylane in for it's annual inspection, to be done by Yellowbird's mechanic. After the Danbury flyin, we had discussed possible plans for trading rides, but our schedules had yet to coincide to do so. Jamie's annual took a week longer to accomplish than the work done on Yellowbird, so I was in a good position to offer him a ride up to Turners Falls to bring his bird home. Sunday the first of May worked out for both of us, so plans were made.

Jamie pute Yellowbird through her pacesThe weather that morning was looking iffy, with scattered showers and low ceilings, but we decided to at least meet at the airport to feel things out. As it turned out, the weather decided to cooperate and we were treated to a rare day when the weather was actually better than forecasted. The ceiling lifted and the showers moved elsewhere, so we had flyable skies at least to Turners Falls and back. We fired up the Yellowbird and set forth. After departing Westfield, I let Jamie have the controls and he put Yellowbird through her paces during the brief trip.

On the ground at Turners Falls, Jamie spent some time with Bruce, his mechanic, discussing the work that had been done. I was hoping for a short trip around the pattern in the Skylane before we parted ways, but Jamie had planned out a decent cross country flight to Utica, NY, and back and he graciously invited me to join him. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Gloomy, but at least there's a horizonAt first, it seemed that our plans would finally be canceled by the weather. After departing Turners Falls, Jamie let me have the controls and we eyed the western sky. It didn't look promising. The clouds were low and dark, and we couldn't see a clear horizon between the higher terrain and the cloud base. Putting our Utica plans on hold, we headed south towards the practice area, but we kept a westward eye open just in case. Our case proved just, and we were soon rewarded with a clear view of Mt. Greylock. We turned west and resolved to go as far as the weather allowed.

Utica, inboundThe weather was apparently in a generous mood. The ceiling lilted to about 3,500 feet, and we had good VFR clearance as we passed to the north of Greylock. I still had the controls, while Jamie worked out the details of our journey on his GPS. I had never navigated by GPS, but I soon got the hang of monitoring his panel-mounted Garmin.

A tricky approachAs we proceeded westward, Jamie contacted Albany approach and received clearance through the Albany class C airspace. The clouds held, but the air was fairly turbulent, and it was with some relief that I handed the controls back to Jamie for our approach to Utica. It was an interesting approach, due to a healthy gusting crossword, but Jamie had a solid reign on his Cessna and he pulled off a perfectly respectable landing.

After the rainAn old aviation saying goes: "It's better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air, than up in the air wishing you were on the ground". On the ground at Utica, we experienced that anew. The gusty winds heralded a good sized downpour, which began soon after we parked and walked to the FBO. Inside, Jamie checked the weather radar and called Flight Services for a briefing to evaluate our chances of returning home. Fortunately, the storm was merely a local shower, and as it moved away, we had a good forecast for our return flight. After refueling, we climbed aboard and prepared for departure.

Departing to beat the weatherJamie handled most of the return flight, leaving me to watch for traffic and enjoy the view. Climbing out from Utica, we got a good view of the rain as it moved off to the northeast.

Utica, outboundWe also got a nice view of downtown Utica, except for that darn wing strut.

Shelburne FallsAlbany was in no mood to handle us on the way back, so we diverted to the north to stay clear of their airspace. Jamie let me fly for a while, and I brought us back to the GPS direct route once we were clear of Albany. The weather improved as we progressed eastwards, with the cloud layer thinning considerably, but the air was still rough. For some reason, perhaps the unfamiliar experience of flying from the right seat, perhaps compounded by the Skylane's restricted visibility compared to a Cardinal, my stomach was not finding this to be a comfortable flight.

Clearer skies at Turners FallsAgain I was glad to let Jamie take over for our arrival back at Turners Falls. And for the first time since my flying life began, I was actually glad to be back on solid ground. I was a little more comfortable in Yellowbird's familiar cockpit, but I was unprepared for her behavior. Unfortunately, I had parked her where she had a perfect view of my departure and arrival in Jamie's Skylane. She saw everything, and she surely sensed the smell of an unfamiliar yoke when I took her controls again.

She knew I had been seeing another airplane. She was not happy, and she let me know. On approach to Westfield she shed one end of her carburetor heat duct. And when I pushed her back into her tiedown spot, I noticed oil leaking again from her cowling. Neither would prove to be expensive to fix, but I suspected that it would take more than a trip back to the shop to put me back in Yellowbird's favor.


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