Monday, December 18, 2023

What's Up by Leroy Cook


What’s Up

by LeRoy Cook

18 December 23

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The week’s flying weather was pretty benign, right up until the approach of a stationary front over the weekend. Winter flying in the midwest can be either great or really nasty, depending on the proximity of a mix in weather systems, and when it stops moving, the whole region shuts down. Thus it was, warm air running up against cold, grinding us to a halt on Saturday.

Before the rain began, quite a bit of traffic came through. An RV-6 homebuilt, a Beech Bonanza V35, a CAP Cessna Skylane and a UCM Cessna Skyhawk all graced our ramp. Jim Stevens flew over from Olathe in his Cessna 182, Scott Phillips flew down from Drexel in a Cessna Skylane and Jay McClintock’s Piper Tomahawk visited from Harrisonville.

The local time-builders were out repeatedly. Les Gorden’s grandson flew the family Piper Twin Comanche, Eric Eastland made multiple sorties in his Cessna Skyhawk, and Christian Tucker repeatedly flew the Mooney M20C, rain or shine. Randy Miller got current in a Cessna 150 and I made a maintenance run to Clinton on Friday in the oldest 150, returning by winding around rain showers.

Topeka, Kansas’ historic Billard airport has a new terminal building just about to open, situated just east of the restaurant, adjacent to the stone WPA-era hangar. It’ll be a modern contrast to the 90-year old structure. Clinton, MO, ever the progressive town, has plans and grant money to erect a terminal building beside the new ramp it built last year. The dirt work is already being done. Their old prefab metal waiting room has served well, with frequent refurbishing, but it’s time to build new.

The cold mornings and afternoon warm-ups last week showed how temperature inversions work. One could start up with heavy priming fuel in the 20-degree chill, then climb out over the stagnant haze layer where it was necessary to cut the heater back as it was 10 degrees warmer aloft. As the day went on, thermal turbulence began to roil the cold air down low, mixing up the power-plant smoke and water vapor to improve visibility.

Today’s pilots are becoming addicted to the ADS-B traffic service showing other airplanes several miles away on the screen of their phone or tablet. They can’t believe we used to fly along blissfully unaware of a plane passing by unnoticed five miles away, risking a collision. In truth, it’s still a big sky up there, and the limit of an unaided eyeball’s acuity is about two miles, unless the intruder is a really big airplane. If it weren’t for the marvels of broadcast traffic warning, we wouldn’t know what we didn’t know. Always keep a watch outside, not just on your cockpit screen, particularly near airport traffic patterns. ADS-B is there to alert you, not to take the place of looking.

There were no respondents to the question from last week about the unusual aspects of a Cessna Caravan’s recent flight around the traffic pattern at Hollister, California. The big turboprop single had nobody at the controls; it was remotely piloted by a Reliable Robotics employee 50 miles away, demonstrating how uber-modern software can replace those oh-so unnecessary pilots. Okay, for next week, tell us where the first Transatlantic flight landed, in 1919. You can send your answers to [email protected].


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