Late Afternoon Flight
Sunday, November 06, 2011
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After almost a week of unflyable conditions
or conflicting activities, the opportunity to fly
developed yesterday.  Bright sunshine,
cloudless sky with winds less than ten mph
and temperatures in the mid-sixties made for
an irresistible flying combination. Some days
just were meant for flying, this was one of
them. Anticipating a two-hour, late afternoon
flight, I drove to Selby Aerodrome arriving at
4:00.

After pre-flighting my AirBike and visiting
with other fliers for thirty minutes, I suddenly
realized Saturday's change to Standard
Time meant I had only one hour to fly before
sunset at 5:25 instead of two hours. I cut
short my visit with Brent, his friends, and
Wayne then turned my attention towards
additional flight preparations.
The Rotax 503 two-stroke engine started on the first pull of the “Armstrong Starter.” After several minutes of
pre-flight and engine run-up checks I taxied around Brent, the PPC guy who was laying out his canopy.
Checking the sky for traffic, I taxied into position and held on runway 17.  I was number one on the runway and
in take-off position. I announced my intentions on local communication frequency 122.9.

Advancing the throttle to full, the AirBike's tail lifted and soon it rolled only on the mains. The tires spewed
dried shards of broken grass that quickly turned into dust. It has been a dry summer and the grass was easily
broken when flexed. The lightly loaded AirBike lifted off easily and climbed at a gentle angle until reaching
pattern altitude. Remaining in the pattern, I circled the runway several times hoping to photograph Brent taking
off.  Unfortunately, his preparations exceeded the time I wanted to orbit, so off I went to Cherokee Strip (18KS)
twenty southeast miles away.
The serpentine  Arkansas River is
constantly changing and displaying its
unique characteristics
Brent Boggs deploys his canopy in
preparation for another flight.
These are my favorite flying conditions; light
breeze, sun low on the horizon, and
temperature just above a chill. The shadows
are long, watersheds are glass smooth and
reflective, tree colors are sun-highlighted.
Dust from an occasional pickup truck
traveling a gravel road just hangs in place
like fog. I fly above it all and am amazed at
the clarity and beauty of that which lies 300
feet below.

The serpentine Arkansas River provides its
own ecological character; tan colored
inviting sandbars, a thin stream of flowing
water reflecting the blue sky, and a subtle
variety of tree color.  With two deer grazing
near a treeline, the terrain appeared as a
framed painting.
The Selby home bordered
by a pond and trees.
Two low passes at Cherokee Strip brought no response from any of the airpark houses, even Rick, who is
one of the most active fliers appeared not to be home.  A climbing banked right turn at the end of runway 17
put me on a heading directly into that wonderful navigational aid---the setting sun.

The return flight to Selby Aerodrome brought me within range of several "Kodak moments" which my camera
captured in the diminishing light.
I approached Selby Aerodrome just as official sunset closed in. Brent was off to one side of the runway
preparing for another PPC launch with a passenger.  Landing long, I taxied back and past him clearing the
area for his takeoff.  Once he was airborne and past the runway's end, I took off in pursuit.

There wasn't enough light for more photographs, so I made a pass below and off to one side of Brent before
returning for a final landing of the day (it is difficult to fly lower than a PPC). Perhaps this would give his first
time passenger a good perspective regarding the PPC's slow flight. Later, I saw him skimming the fields
barely above the crop seed heads. Getting close to the ground is the only way Brent can demonstrate that the
PPC is really moving.
Entering the pattern at 300 feet AGL on
the downwind leg I throttled back to 5500
rpm.  Banking into base leg I cut the rpm
to 5000 rpm and pushed the nose down
to maintain 50 mph; my approach speed.
 Once on final and being able to make
the runway, I pulled the throttle to idle and
approached the threshold as quietly as a
two-stroke engine can. Crossing the
gravel road and fence line, I touched
down on the mains at 35 mph.  Applying
the hand brake at touchdown kills my
speed quickly and prevents any
possibility of a bounce converting into
flight. Once the tailwheel touched the
grass, I released the brake and let the
plane roll until it had slowed enough to
make a U-turn back to the hangar.
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The setting sun highlights the trees
Soybean harvest is a dusty job
Even Oak trees look soft in the long
rays of the setting sun.
Breathtaking !