It’s been a beautiful weekend, so I decided this afternoon to go out and fly a bit just to keep my hand in.
At the airport, as I went into the club’s ops room to pick up the tach book and check on our computer, I was approached by a pilot who wanted information about the club, so I talked to him for a while. And club member Al Benjamin arrived preparing for the imminent arrival of his scout troop going for their aviation badge.
But as usual, after I got the plane pre-flighted I found not enough juice in the battery to turn the prop. And that’s after I used my “winter pre-flight” where I keep the Master switch off as much as possible, and start the engine as soon as I’ve got the ATIS information on my hand-held radio. In planes with better batteries I’ll call clearance delivery before starting. This is annoying, because it seems like every time I go flying in the Lance I end up opening up that side panel and hooking up the battery charger first. In the past, there has always been an excuse – early in the year, it was extreme cold, then all summer it seemed like every time it was because the previous attempt to use the plane had ended with somebody being unable to start the plane and flattening the battery. But this time, it had been charged up in Batavia, and then flown for an hour, and then shut down on the 11th. It should have been fully charged. And it sure as hell shouldn’t have lost its charge in 19 days.
So I dragged out the toolkit and the battery charger and once again took off the all-too-familiar side panel and hooked up the battery. And while that was happening, I went and got out our spare battery and set it up. The battery comes dry, and another box contains the pre-mixed electrolyte that you have to add to the six cells. Considering you’re pouring dilute acid, the cheezy little paper funnel that it comes with doesn’t inspire confidence – you sort of expect it to dissolve or catch fire or something.
After you get the battery full of acid, you have to leave it sit for at least half an hour before you start charging it, so it was time to button up the side panel, put the charger away, and go flying.
I have a theory about flying – I think there are two kinds of enjoyment in flying: the enjoyment of doing a complicated task extremely precisely and working on doing it more and more precisely, and the joy of just going out and throwing the plane around without thinking too much about what you’re doing, knowing that you have the skill to do what you’re doing safely. I’m not an extremely precise pilot, and I should probably work on that more, but today I was there to play. I didn’t have a goal, I didn’t have a test plan, I just went out and flew. And it was glorious. I flew over the Finger Lakes, watching the boats on the lakes and the birds riding the ridge lift around the lakes. I flew over the Letchworth Canyon and watched kayaks playing in the rapids and I played in the air above them. I flew high, I flew low, and I flew fast and I flew slow. For an hour I just flew as the spirit took me.
And then it was time to come back. Of course, as soon as I thought that, the Rochester Approach/Departure frequency got extremely busy. It actually took me several minutes to get a word in edgewise. But I capped the flight off with a pretty nice landing.
And then it was time to finish setting up the battery – after sitting there for an hour, the battery had overflowed, and of course I got acid on my hands dealing with it. But now it’s on the charger and tomorrow I have to go back and install it.