The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I went for a flight today. The main reason was just to try out my new HALO headphones. But the other reason was that it has been a beautiful weekend, only two of the planes have been booked for a few hours each, and I didn’t get my flight to Oshkosh. The maintenance coordinator for the Lance has been his usual uncommunicative self, so I had no idea if it was back from maintenance again. I booked an Archer instead. When I got to the airport, the Lance was there, but when I attempted to change my reservation the ScheduleMaster site was throwing ASP errors. Oh, what the hell, I can fly an Archer can’t I?

While I was waiting for the fuel truck, there was a guy taking delivery of his brand new Diamond Star DA-40. What a beautiful plane! Wouldn’t mind having one of those on the flight line.

I started the plane up, and found that I wasn’t getting any sound in my right ear with the new headset, so I switched over to my old familiar Dave Clark DC10-13.4s (with the Headsets Inc ANR kit). Take off was faster than I’m used to – these Archers are lighter than the Dakota and Lance that I’ve been doing all my flying in. I didn’t have any plan, so I just headed out due west. By the time I got to Batavia, I decided I needed to get the wind farm waypoint back in my GPS, so I headed down in the right general area until I spotted it. And after I got that waypoint, I decided I needed the railway trestle in Letchworth Canyon as a waypoint as well, so I headed down that way.

I was in smooth air with the plane trimmed for level flight, so I thought I’d give the HALOs another try. I put them in, and had the same problem with them as before. But this time I remembered that they have a Mono/Stereo switch. The guy demonstrating them at Oshkosh had a stereo intercomm, but the plane doesn’t. Switching it to Mono cleared that problem up immediately. At first they didn’t seem like they were blocking out the sound very well, but the foam expands pretty slowly and after a half a minute or so they were blocking as well as the Dave Clarks, if not better. It seems like they were blocking different frequencies though. The engine sounded different.

After I got to the trestle, I flew up the Letchworth Canyon. While I was going up, I decided to have some fun and tried turning to follow all the twists and turns of the river, like you see those “low and slow” guys doing in their Cubs and float planes. Of course I was at my usual 4,000 feet. But along the way I thought about my usual ground shyness. If I was going to fly the twists, I might as well try to fly a bit lower. Not down in the canyon of course, but at a nice legal 500 feet above any people or structures. So when I turned to head down, I was down at 2,000 feet, which is probably actually more like 1,000 AGL. Hey, small victories, right? The ground rises towards the trestle, and I crept up to 2,500 feet. It was fun.

When I was in the area, I thought I’d do some touch and goes at Perry-Warsaw. There was practically nothing on the CTAF except a bunch of guys with thick Pakistani accents talking from some place near Toronto I think. I don’t know if it was the narrow runway or what, but I found myself quite high on final both time – the first time I had to slip like hell to get down. And the second time was better, but I still landed pretty hard. I quickly switched the radio over to 121.5 to make sure I hadn’t turned on the emergency beacon (ELT), and was relieved to find it wasn’t quite that hard. That was bad. After that, I decided to come home.

I wasn’t high or anything, but I still have problems with speed control on final. I rounded out, but was a bit high, so I put the nose down a tad, but almost immediately lost all lift. I bounced twice. Oh, that was ugly. Once again I checked the ELT, and it wasn’t on. Phew.

As I was tying down, the DA-40 was coming in. It’s such a nice plane, and I think the fully castering nose wheel would be really handy for ground handling.

I still want to go out in the Lance to try the HALO. Maybe next week.