Friday, March 14, 2008

Windy Evening

When I got home and my wife asked how it had been, I replied "Awesome!"  

Hearing the wind rumbling through the trees in our yard after dinner, it occurred to me that I was no longer night current in singles, and that this would be a great night to fix that.  Here were the METARs:

KPIH 140353Z 23020G28KT 10SM CLR 02/M03 A2978 RMK AO2 PK WND 23030/0300 SLP096 T00221028
KPIH 140253Z 23019G25KT 10SM CLR 02/M03 A2977 RMK AO2 SLP094 T00221028 55000
KPIH 140153Z 24016KT 10SM FEW025 SCT070 03/M02 A2977 RMK AO2 SLP093 T00281017

As you can see (that is, if you are a pilot), it was windy and gusty.  The peak gust was 30 knots, at 0300Z, and it was gusting to 25 most of the time.

[By the way, I was chatting with a couple of Canadian DND pilots this morning, and they  pronounce METAR more like "meter".]

It was a beautiful postfrontal evening, with light years' of visibility.  An hour and a half after sunset there was some glow to the west, but Orion and Sirius were very bright, and Aldebaran was clearly visible, although I could not pick out the Pleiades.  To the north, the big dipper was standing straight up.

I could hear and the feel the Archer's prop reacting to the gusts as I taxied downwind, and as soon as I broke ground I knew that I had made the right choice for an evening's entertainment.  There was a shear layer about 200 feet above the airport, marked by a sharp bump and a 5 knot airspeed rise on the way up (and a loss of 5 on the way down), and I was watching the lights on the ground slide by, alternately from left-to-right and from right-to-left.  The wind correction angles were crazy on crosswind and base, but kept changing on final.  

I flew a few patterns of right traffic, and then crossed the airport sideways at midfield for a little left traffic.  Crossing at midfield meant that by the time I had turned downwind it was time to turn base.

Some glider pilots think that power flying doesn't do much to improve glider flying, but I think a night like this proves them wrong.  Judging where you are in the pattern, and, more importantly, judging where you are going to be in 5 or 10 seconds, is an important skill.  You might react to these judgments differently depending on the airplane, but that is also part of the fun.  

In any case, fly the airplane you are in.  But take what you have learned into every aircraft you fly.

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