By lex, on April 2nd, 2010
So, after work yesterday it was off to Catalina in the Cardinal for to pick up a charming couple of a certain age, their three dogs and accoutrements de vacances. Themselves having a condo in Avalon, and three dogs being one too many for two people to bring aboard the ferry from Long Beach. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, a cold front having moved through the morning previously leaving behind it just a little bit of unstable air over Southern California.
There’s a maybe 20 mile stretch between the island and the coastline where you’re out of plausible gliding range to land from a moderate altitude, and such realities in a single engine aircraft keep you sharply focused on the running of the Lycoming IO-360 thrashing out 200 horses under the cowl, not to mention the hydraulically actuated McCauley two-blade, constant speed propeller that turns those horses into thrust. Before too long however, I was in my descent towards the airstrip set implausibly atop a hilltop ridge in pretty much the only place that it would fit. Cowl flaps closed to keep the heat under the cowl as I incrementally brought the manifold pressure back. Landing gear down to help keep airspeed under control. A Twin Cessna checked in at Twin Harbors to the north of the field just after I checked in over the village of Avalon – a potential conflict, but he was closer to the airport than I, so I was not overly concerned.
The automated weather service at the airstrip was down, so the airport agent helpfully provided me with winds (250/8) and altimeter setting (3000) before advising me to enter a right downwind for Runway 22. I acknowledged his instructions.
“Cardinal 217 Alpha Foxtrot, say again?” the Twin Cessna operator demanded imperiously.
“I was acknowledging the winds and altimeter,” I replied.
“Yeah, OK. Winds are 250 at 8, altimeter 3000″ he replied.
He was already on final as I crossed over the top of the field, starting an easy right turn to join downwind, no other traffic in sight. Taxiing back on the parallel taxiway as I started my turn to final, calling “Catalina Traffic, Cardinal 217AF turning final, full stop, Catalina.”
“Don’t forget about the downdrafts on the approach end,” the Twin Cessna pilot warned me forcefully, needlessly.
“Thank you,” I once again replied. Biting back the temptation to ask him to operate his aircraft, and have the minimal courtesy to allow me to operate mine. What kind of man, I wondered, took it upon himself to inform the whole world of things that they ought already to know under the assumption that they did not?
Just trying to be helpful, probably.
I taxied to the base of the tower after a thoroughly non-eventful landing. Shut the Cardinal down, chocked her and wandered over to meet my passengers. Saw Mr. Officiousness bundle out of his time-worn twin. Burly to the point of CG interference, busily fussing at nothing in particular. Met Brian, Joanne and their dogs – three beautiful border collie females, the alpha of which, “Zippy“, had startlingly blue eyes and was deeply mistrustful of my attempt to shake hands with her mistress. I snatched my proffered hand back in lieu of losing it, believing that both hands might well be necessary for the return trip. I bent down to make friends, only to have to leap back again. I had forgotten how territorial and protective border collies could be.
Zippy had not.
Hit the head before wandering up to the agents office to pay my landing fee. On the way back down the stairway, I met Mrs. Officiousness. Her face bore the lines of strain beyond her years, she was that worn. Haggard almost to defeat. Thought to myself, here am I with not more than a dozen words between myself and her man ready to poke him in the eye at one more unintentional provocation, and there she is with heaven knows how many years of well-intentioned, needless advice at every turn. There on vacation.
I felt for her, you know. I really did.
And then I flew away.
It was such a beautiful day.