Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Day Number One!!!--May 30, 2010



Woke up at 7:10 A.M.  Grabbed breakfast, showered, threw on two pairs of socks, grabbed the hotel blanket, then headed towards the airport.  I stopped by the gas station/Subway, but the sub shop was not opening until 8:00 since it was Sunday...hmm.  I didn't have that time.  So I grabbed a sandwich out of the freezer, grabbed a Coke, and headed for the plane.

It was absolutely beautiful out.  Not a cloud in the sky, and the sky's blue was pristine.  I don't know how God makes that color, but it is just somethin' else.  I pre-flighted, threw the blanket inside, and off I went.  It's a good solid 75 miles to the flight plans, and it's one of the most enjoyable parts of the day.  The skies are smooth, the morning is early, the traffic is non-existent, and the scenery is quite amazing.  Plus I just LOVE flying from Point A to Point's a welcome relief to the monotony of flying lines.  So I enjoy that little 30 minutes each morning.

I got on station at 8:45 but was going too fast east-bound.  I couldn't get below 150 knots.  So I tried some north-south plans, and that's where I stayed for the rest of the day.  I was flying over what may be one of God's most magnificent creations, too.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Utah is easily my favorite state in terms of scenery.  I was seriously flying over the (Less) Grand Canyon.  The valleys, the cracks in the earth, the orange rock, the towering was paradise.  I couldn't get enough of it!  And as I flew more and more, I kept heading more south into it.  It's just perfect.  I sat there, flying in circles, realizing that I am one of the VERY few people who get to experience this.  Sure, some people come in this area and check it out.  But for the most part, it's a quick shot.  Maybe a flight over.  Maybe a scenic tour.  Maybe a passing glance on a cross-country trip.  Maybe a view from FL350.  But here I was, just dancing over the canyons.  It was sheer bliss.  A day that I'll probably never forget!

I just kept flying and flying.  I refused to look at the clock, though.  That just never helps.  I wanted to go as long as I could.  I started measuring time by the flight plans.  Ok, I'll finish two flight plans and then it's lunch time.  Well, that didn't last too long.  I stole a glance at the time, and it was ONLY 10:32 A.M.  Oh boy.  I felt like it should have been a bit past noon already!  This was not good!  But I kept going.  North, south.  North, south.  North, south.  I finished a flight plan, then moved on to the next.  I was kinda struggling, though.  The first couple of hours are pretty nice.  After that, well, it just depends on the day.  It really just starts running all together.  But I was ready to be on the ground.

I finally finished the second one...but I figured I might as well go for more!  So I did three lines on the third plan before dropping down for lunch.  And drop, I did!  I took advantage of the smooth skies and went down at 2000 feet/minute!  I hit the bumps around 9000 feet, though, so I leveled off a bit.  I dropped down into Canyonlands Airport in Moab, Utah.  Why in the world they built this airport 20 miles away from the city is beyond me.  Especially with all of the tourists that come in for the National Park.  But whatever.  I entered the left-downwind for Runway 21...which puts you right into a (very bumpy) gorgeous view of some red rock a couple hundred feet below ya while turning base!

I was so ready to be on the ground.  I grabbed my sandwich, Coke, and headed inside.  Several sky-divers were getting ready to go up.  I just walked around, trying to get some feeling back into my toes.  And I was just stiff all-around.  I couldn't sit down.  I just wanted to stand and walk.  So that's what I did as I ate my lunch!  I threw two quarts of oil in the plane, rested for about a half-hour, then headed back up.  I had already logged 4.6 hours.

The afternoon was more of the same.  It was bumpy through 9000 feet, but it smoothed out after that.  I finished a third flight plan, then moved 15 miles to the west for another.  It was a bit bumpier as it is on the edge of cliffs.  I only did a few lines on that one, then tried to do an east line.  I messed up.  Actually, this afternoon, I messed up all-around.  The third flight plan was a nightmare.  I did good on the first several lines, but I think I had to fly 6 lines probably twice as much as I needed to.  I just kept getting speed errors.  So I kept circling to try them again.  <sigh>  I was just fatigued.  I could feel it.

But I kept on going.  I actually flew a bit more than I least in the afternoon.  I kind of set a goal for hours, but I went past it.  I kind of felt "in the zone" late in the day, and I figured I might as well stay up as long as I could.  But I was getting really tired, too.  And I had been above 12,000 feet all day with no oxygen (save the couple of times where I took some "shots" of the stuff!).  It was more bumpy over these plans, so everything was just leaning towards the end of the day.  I called it.

I headed back to Grand Junction.  Now THAT was a long flight!  I was doing 166 knots, but sheesh!  I didn't feel like the scenery was moving!  I was just tired.  The winds were at 15, gusting to 22.  No problem.  I landed and quickly left the airport.  I had logged a whopping 8.6 hours.  And I'm sure it's going to be the first of several days like that.  I was eager to get back to the hotel and just relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

I came back to the hotel, did the paperwork, and then my phone rang.  I didn't recognize the number.  It turns out it was the FBO calling to say that their line guy had broken a fuel cap on the plane.  Ok, no worries, I thought.  I'll deal with it tomorrow.  But then she asked if I wanted to talk to him.  I said sure.  The consensus was that a piece had fallen into the gas tank.  And they wanted me to come out there.  <sigh>  Ok.  I just did it.  I figured it would be a quick fix.  Go out there, pull the piece out, end of story.  It was 5:30.  Well, I got out there, and there was no piece to be found.  Or seen anywhere in the tank.  I asked for tools...a claw-grabber thing and a wand mirror.  Still nothing.  We had a flashlight, a boroscope, and we STILL couldn't see anything.  Hmm.

I called my mechanic.  He said there is no easy way to find it.  You have to drain the tank.  So that I did.  I laid on my back and watched the fuel SLOWLY trickle out the small drain.  It was crazy windy, and much of it blew away from the bucket, sometimes on me, sometimes on the concrete.  It was a nightmare.  I was tired, too.  But instead of complaining, I just used that laying time as relaxation!  I was soaking up the rays, laying on the ramp!!!  What a guy will do sometimes.

The tank was almost empty, but we still couldn't find anything.  And the piece is fairly large.  Hmm.  I wondered if it could be back at the Moab airport from fueling today at lunch.  But I checked each tank to make sure I was full!  It would've been obvious if it was broken then...I didn't know.  As a last resort, I decided to take the plane up for a quick trip in the pattern...with ALL turns to the right.  That way maybe the piece would come over to the side where the fill spout was.  Who knows.

Well, that didn't work, either.  We had spent nearly two hours on it already, so I just called it.  We were having no luck, and frankly, we didn't even know if the piece was in there.  It could be laying in Moab 65 miles away.

I headed for downtown, smelling like oil and gas.  I just wanted to eat and relax.  Most of the restaurants were closed, but I found one that closed at 8:00.  It was 7:45.  I grabbed a sandwich, sat outside, and soaked up the last bit of daylight.  Then I headed to the hotel.  And I'm not goin' to lie, I don't really have much energy.  I laid on the bed for a bit, just thinking about life.  About owning an airplane, about the gas cap tomorrow, about lots.  But I was pretty tired.

I checked the winds for tomorrow, and they are looking gorgeous.  20 knots out of the west.  Which means I should be able to do the north-south plans again.  It looks like it could be another full day.  Oh boy.  All in all, today was pretty good.  I mean, there were times up there.  It's just a long day, no matter how you look at it.  8.6 hours flying, 12 hours of "work."  And another one after that.  Actually, everything looks good through at least Friday!!!  yikes!

My only saving grace is that I have 44.7 hours until my 100-hour inspection.  I figured out I have 17 days left.  Or 44.7 hours.  And I have to get this plane to Daytona Beach sometime, too...which is at least 11 hours.  So let's say I have 33 hours until my 100-hour inspection.  At this rate, that's only four days of flying!!!  I may be able to get my summer here sooner?!  Who knows.  Because I think I need to be in Daytona Beach around the 15th for training of some sort...

Hmm.  44.7 hours.  Or 17 days...which will come sooner?!

In bed at 10:30.  I am just exhausted.  Alarm is set for 7:10.  Let the routine begin.

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