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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Bumpy Post Maintenance Flight

Friday 4/19/24 I finally had all of my yearly maintenance completed and was looking forward to getting out and flying. The weather was fairly clear and reasonably warm so I thought it would be a good day to go out to Forks since I haven't been there is a while.

Carl wasn't feeling top notch, so I was on my own. I was going to go out there, though I wasn't sure if I would actually have lunch since it was getting late already.

As I was pulling the airplane out of the hangar, I saw what looked like a military helicopter to the north of the airport. I watched a while and he circled around the east side of the airport and approached the runway. Fortunately, the glider folks weren't about so there was no conflict.

There was a Blackhawk helicopter that landed and taxied to the ramp by the restaurant. He parked very close to a Cessna Cardinal that had arrived a little while earlier. I wouldn't want to be the guy that owned that Cardinal. I kept watching for it to bounce around in the rotor wash, but I didn't see any movement from my vantage point. I don't know what it takes to taxi those things, but maybe it doesn't provide quite the blast I thought it did.

Blackhawk on the parking ramp.

At this point, I was just hoping that I would get out of there before he wanted to leave. I didn't know if they dropped in for lunch or what, but the Jet A fuel truck from AFS showed up before long. It seems odd to me that they would stop at a civilian airport for a fuel stop when NAS Whidbey is close by and Ft. Lewis isn't that far away, by air.

I managed to get out before he left, so that was no problem and there was no one in the runup area when I got there, so getting out wasn't too bad.

I noticed, very shortly after takeoff, that the air was rather bumpy. The wind on the ground wasn't that stiff and the winds aloft forecast called for relatively calm winds, generally not more than 10 knots through 9,000'.

I kept thinking it would get smoother as I went higher, but it didn't. I went up to 8,500 and was still getting bounced around. It was relatively smooth between Whidbey Island and Sequim but it started getting bumpier west of there.

I went over to Crescent Lake and started up Hwy. 101, but it was pretty bumpy still. I was contemplating landing at Forks just for the practice, but as I descended below 5,000', it just got worse. I didn't feel like getting the snot beat out of me, so I headed north thinking it might be smoother over the water.

If the cause of the turbulence was thermal activity, that should have worked, but it didn't really. Also, looking down the water looked rather angry, so I figured I should call it a day and boogie back home.

I had to decide whether to go down to 7,500' or up to 9,500' for the trip home. I knew it was bumpy lower, so I tried higher. It didn't really help. There was a generally smooth patch between Pt. Angeles and Sequim, but that was about it.

I was concerned about the descent as it would likely get bumpier as I got lower. I usually descend at 22" manifold pressure and 300'-500' Feet per Minute (FPM). That keeps the airspeed up and keeps the engine from cooling too quickly. That works well in relatively smooth air, but in rougher air I slow down. In this case, I was back to about 16".

As I approached the airport, I was heartened to not hear any traffic on the radio. I thought this might just work out in my favor but, of course, as I got closer there was more traffic. There was a C172 turning crosswind as I was on the 45, and since don't I trust people behind me, I followed him.

If I had known how wide a pattern he was going to fly, I might have made a different choice, but it all worked out. Just as I was turning base my cockpit camera died. I actually heard the beeps as it turned itself off. About the same time, I heard an Army Helicopter announce that he was going to depart from A2.

I looked that way and, sure enough, there was a Blackhawk helicopter at A2. I thought it was the one I saw before I left, but that one was still there. This was obviously another one.

There was an airplane in front of the guy in front of me. The Blackhawk didn't pull out in front of either of them, but I wasn't sure if he was going to pull out in front of me or not. In light of what I had seen on some YouTube videos (like this, or this) about airplanes and helicopters, I was prepared to go around if he started to move, and to stay above him.

Fortunately, he didn't pull out in front of me but, with all the worry about him and other traffic, I kind of forgot to fly the airplane and I ended up high and fast at the point I wanted to touch down. There was plenty of runway left, but I probably should have gone around, but I didn't want to have to wait for the wake turbulence from the Blackhawk's departure to dissipate before I landed. The result was an arrival that was less than graceful but, fortunately, it looks better on the video than it did from my vantage point.

I did get to get gas with no problem, so that was nice. As I taxied south again, there were yet two more helicopters on the main ramp. One was a black one that I think used to be housed in a hangar up by my Dad. This is becoming an epidemic.

Black helicopter about to depart.

All in all, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to fly, but I would have preferred it to be a bit smoother.

The track log can be found here.

The video can be found here.

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