By lex, on February 8th, 2009
So, I had the weekend off from my usual gig. Thought I might profitably expand my horizons, like. Had scheduled a flight Friday way down at Brown Field with a local instructor for some tailwheel time in a Bellanca Champ. ** Just for the novelty that was in it. Of course, it thundered hammers and bells through the weekend, the sky weeping when it wasn’t bawling and what with the winds gusting 90 degrees off the active runway at 15-30 knots discretion was indeed the better part of valor. It was not a good day to fly.
It’d all be OK though, because I joined a local aero club on Tuesday, paying my dues both monetary and psychological, having to listen to an elderly gent explain in a quavering voice how he’d gotten bounced out of the Navy flight training program in T-28′s after a blown four-ship formation rendezvous. After further hearing his tale of ground looping his own first tail dragger flight on the way out of the chocks, your correspondent quietly crossed hizzoner off the list of potential flight instructors for the new aircraft check out.
You see, I have this wild, impetuous notion of taking the Biscuit on a west coast tour of universities she’s been accepted to via airplane, rather than flogging up and down the freeways while pounding my forearm on the dashboard. The time spent together speaking on the intercom and watching the Golden State unfold behind us would be a bonus.
I’d had a mad idea of checking out in the Liberty XL2 **the club maintains, on account of the lovely cockpit layout **, moderately high cruise airspeed (for a piston single) and FADEC engine controls. Finger brakes notwithstanding. Balked when I learned that the useful load after fueling was such that a corn-fed American male, his daughter and baggage put the airplane out of limits unless fuel had been off-loaded.
And what would be the point of that?
Which anyway the plane was down for maintenance.
The Cessna 177RG ** Cardinal seemed a good fallback machine. Retractable gear, a two-blade variable pitch propeller and a full IFR suite made a cruise airspeed of 140 kts indicated well within the range of the possible, while offering options should the weather be a factor. For two people, the economics almost made sense. Or near as they needed to, given that duties involving actual control of aircraft were factored into the equation. Turned a four hour drive to Monterey into a two hour flight.
Found a flight instructor, set a date, made my way down the the aerodrome (after having brushed up on the biennial flight review gouge, one has to make a good impression). Spoke frankly about my goals: Airplane familiarization, instrument refresher, cross-country flying. Bearing in mind that most of my time flying cross-country had been spent up in the flight levels on IFR flight plans, during which such arcana as navigating through Class B airspace on a VFR flight plan at 6000 feet played no part.
Yer man spent a fair amount of time briefing the machine itself, which was all to the good, with next to no discussion as to where we would actually go, and what we would actually do, which was not. He briefed the maintenance logs, while failing to notice that the pitot-static system inspection had apparently lapsed nine months past. It was no huge deal – the inspection is required for IFR flight rather than VFR bumbling around. But my antennae started to hum a bit.
Did an actual weight and balance computation (“weight x arm = moment”). Learned to our dismay that two full-sized males up front with nobbut in the back and a full load of fuel put us out of the forward CG limits.
Light loaded the machine to put us back in CG, spent an agonizing 30 minutes preflighting an objectively simple aircraft before himself decided that the gray matter weeping aft of the underwing seam hard by the wing roots was suspicious. There’s nothing but fuel in the wings ordinarily, and maybe a little bit of lubricant for the flap drive motor. Maybe some sealant. It certainly wasn’t fuel, and the flaps are basically optional. A pilot who wanted to go flying would have said to himself, “Huh,” and then strapped in for to break the surly bonds.
But not yer man. Suspicious he was.
We called the maintenance tech, who explained that what with all the raw weather we’d been having, accumulated dirt and crud had probably been seeped through and stained the wing panel. It made perfect sense to your correspondent, who was ever the kind of pilot who looked for ways to go flying, rather than reasons to down a machine.
Not being the pilot-in-command however, I was forced to feign a kind of equanimity when my instructor decided that, no. It would never do.
I’m not that good at that sort of thing.
And yeah. I’m in a bit of a snit.
** 08-31-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.