January Thaw
01-29-2011
   With "honey-do's" for the day completed and my Tiger Moth project being on hold while waiting for
a mid-construction technical inspection, I headed for the Selby Aerodrome (35KS) to do some flying!
After removing the wing and fuselage covers from my AirBike and doing a pre-flight inspection,
pushed it out of the hangar. Wheel chocked, switch on, mags on; I pulled the Armstrong starter. She
fired off on the first pull---only to die twenty seconds later.  A second pull resulted in a "four-cycling"
engine which soon settled down to the staccato noise typical of my Rotax 503.
 
Completing  the pre-flight engine check, I saluted good-bye to Don Forse who also came out to fly and
then taxied to runway one-seven.  It was a beautiful day, bright sun,  blue sky and a direct crosswind of
five to ten mph.  Aileron into the wind,  throttle fully advanced, my takeoff roll quickly resulted in liftoff, I
separated from my shadow. Adjusting for windage, I crabbed while climbing to 300 feet AGL
anticipating a pleasant hour of flying and visiting.  
 
First stop following a fifteen minute flight, (at seventy-five mph---nice tailwind) was to Udal's Cherokee
Strip (18KS) where I visited Rick Girard while working on his Kolb.  En-route I took a couple of photos
while passing  over the Arkansas River. This is always a pretty flight, even in winter when everything is
a dull brown and there is no snow cover. There was no ice on the river, the water was low and the sand
bars were huge at each of the river's bends. 
It happens every year.
   Sometime during January in Kansas, we have several days of warm weather and very little wind which
breaks us out of this usually cold and windy month.  The "thaw" this  year peaked on the 28th and 29th,
achieving high temperatures of seventy-two degrees one day and seventy degrees the next. This broke
an old record and tied another. Having not flown for two weeks (my last flight was only fifteen minutes in
thirty-three degree temps), this nice weather's temptation was to great to ignore.
 
Snug in its community hangar under protective wing and fuselage dust covers,
my AirBike waits for an opportunity to go flying.
The overall flight path view from three hundred feet AGL.
Even in winter, it is a pretty sight displaying the
Arkansas River and several of its backwater ponds.
  Because Kansas is quite flat, no
rivers run straight, they all meander.
Sometimes they form huge loops
eventually creating islands where the
river breaks through the narrow land
bridges. Once the land bridge is
breached, the river never returns to
that loop. The water surrounding the
island gradually silts in and dries up.
The land eventually is returned to
cultivation.
 
Flying low over the sand bars, one
can see ample evidence of winter
life: Deer and dog tracks, tire marks
from ATVs, and occasionally, human
footprints. Once in awhile there are
two wheel tire tracks having no
obvious start or end. Could they be
from a really daring ultralight pilot
doing touch-'n-go's on a sand bar?
Or perhaps from a UFO landing
there while trying to steal our women?
  Leaving Rick's place at
Cherokee Strip, I took off in the
opposite direction I landed. With
the crosswind at his runway same
as mine, flight direction didn't
matter. This also shortened the
travel time to my next destination,
Pilot Pointe (pvt) ten minutes away.
My low pass over that runway let
folks know that AirBike Ace was out
securing the territory and protecting
women and children.
 
Next fly-by was Alley Field in
Douglass, better know as the
"Alaskan Bush Country" runway
because it  is on a steep hill.  Its
grade is much more than an
"incline." I made two passes and
observed that "the lights were on
but no one was home."  Time for
me to go home.
The slow-moving serpentine Arkansas River deposits sand
on the inside curves of its bends as it winds its way across
the plain.
Recreational ponds for swimming, fishing and boating
Squinting into the sun, I fly home.
 
The setting sun shone directly into my eyes making looking into it not only difficult but painful.  Casting
my gaze sideways and down, I noted familiar terrain while flying in the direction of Selby Aerodrome. At
5800 RPM my ground speed was fifty-six MPH into that previously useful tailwind, now an obstinate
headwind.  In twenty minutes I entered Selby's pattern. One hour and three practice landings later I had
filled my fun-quotient for the day and taxied to the hangar after the final landing.
The low slanting sun's rays highlighted the slight twinge
of green created by last fall's planted winter wheat.
A definite clue of winter's waning.
One of the resident hangar
landing judges, Bill Bailey (a.k.a.
"Avenger"), was sitting at the picnic
table when I stopped at the hangar
door's concrete apron. With the
engine shut off, I could hear him
say: "Two out of three Paul, not bad
but I had expected better from you."
Bill can be quite critical at times,
hell, nothing broke or fell off the
plane during landing. Wasn't that
good enough?
 

Paul D. Fiebich
a.k.a. AirBike Ace

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