Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Long-Term Relationship

The trip from Connecticut to the DC area on Friday had something to offer and a price to be paid. On offer was a perfectly clear sky – not a cloud to be found – and an unusual (for the route) tailwind out of the north. The price of admission was fairly continuous light turbulence (and occasionally not so light) up to 8,000 feet.

The photo at left was taken approaching the Hudson River at Croton-on-Hudson from the east. There's a little haze, but looking past the Tappan Zee Bridge you can discern the George Washington Bridge and the upper reaches of New York Bay. That's about 40 miles distant.

Soon after that picture was snapped, after reaching the Sparta VOR (SAX) and turning south, N631S's tach time rolled to 4,245.0 hours. Not a terribly "round" number, but one that I took note of. Back on 27 September 2004 (about seven and a half years ago) when Bob Parks and I departed Keokuk Muni (KEOK) for the flight back to Connecticut, the tach read 3,245.0. That was my first flight in N631S as its ninth owner, and as of Friday last, the airplane and I have flown 1,000 hours together.

Among the owners who've had the privilege of caring for N631S, I've had the longest tenure in calendar time at 90 months (and counting). In terms of flight time I'm in second place, about 200 hours behind the pilots at Erect-a-Tube, Inc. (Shout-out here to Sam F.!) At the rate things have been progressing, I ought to catch up in a bit over a year.

After a thousand hours, you get to know an airplane. I don't recall the last time N631S surprised me. Its responses are predictable and stable. It does everything fairly well and some things brilliantly, and it never bites. I'm grateful to Dwane Wallace and his colleagues at Cessna for a wonderful bit of airplane design.

While it is always risky to indulge in prediction, I suspect – and hope – that N631S and I will be together for a long time to come.


Chris said...

Happy anniversary to you both, Frank.

Our weather has been similar this weekend - incredibly clear skies, but at the cost of some turbulent air.

Chris said...

Frank - thanks for this and the annual write-up.

I'm a local pilot getting ready to join the ranks of the VKX pilots. Gotta say the runway causes me some concern. Got any tips, other than relax and just land on the damn centerline?

Frank Van Haste said...

Hi, Chris...

Coming from BDR, where the rwys are 150 feet wide, I figured I'd need to really be on my game at VKX, at 40 feet wide. Of course, you need to respect the centerline, but it won't be as tough as you might think.

A long time ago, VKX was called Rose Valley Airport. Is really is down in a hole in the ground and as a result, the wind at runway level, below the tree line, is almost always far less enthusiastic than at, say, ADW...and often, it's calm! Makes the runway width much less of a concern.

Last Friday, for example, DCA was reporting something like 32014G20, and I was holding about a 30 deg crab angle on 1/2 mile final. As soon as I went below the tree line, the wind dropped to maybe a 5 - 7 knot crosswind...no problem!

So relax and enjoy the field...hope to see you around.


Chris said...

Thanks Frank. I was surprised at how generally calm it was on Sunday, given the winds on the drive over. Looking forward to not have a 45-50 minute drive on either end of a flight.