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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Cloudy Weekend

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Sucia Island

Friday 7/22/22 was a cloudy day, at least to start with. It was part of the normal pattern of morning clouds and afternoon sun. The only real question is when will the clouds burn off and how low will they be until they do. Since I had taken Friday off, I really wanted to go somewhere. Most places to the south were out since it was even lower in that direction. I thought we might be back to going to Skagit for lunch, but Carl suggested Orcas Island.

I hadn't even thought of the San Juans as I usually try to avoid them in the summer time. Since it was a Friday, not a holiday, and not such great weather it seemed like it might be worth a try.

The only difficulty lay in the clouds that we still had to work around. They were still pretty low. Arlington was less than 1,500', but the satellite photo looked like they ended right at the northern tip of Orcas Island, so we should be good if we could just get there.

We had to stay low and flew IFR (I Follow Roads) over I-5 to the Skagit Valley. As we turned toward the islands the clouds got even lower. I was at 1,000' to stay clear of the clouds. From there, I sure could see a lot of water. All I thought was, please engine, don't quit now.

As we were approaching from the east side of the island, there was a Kenmore Caravan heading up the interior of the island for the same airport. This created a bit of a traffic jam waiting to get into Orcas. It didn't help that the Caravan went much further north before turning base than we expected. Carl was behind him and I was behind Carl, trying to slow down.

I ended up going almost all the way to Sucia Island to turn base. I usually turn base about halfway between the shore and Sucia. To slow down some more I lowered the flaps on base, which was now about 2 miles from the airport. I ended up dragging it in with a lot of power at 80 MPH and about 250' off the water, once again hoping the engine didn't choose that moment to pack it in. It didn't seem to mind at all. I probably would have been better off waiting until I got closer to drop the flaps. Maybe just use a little to start.

After all that, I managed to botch the landing. Unfortunately, conditions weren't bad enough to use as an excuse.

There were far more airplanes on the ramp this time than the last time we were here, including a couple camping in the grass north of the ramp area. Carl took the last single parking spot facing into the wind. I could have parked next to him facing the other direction, but I really wanted to part facing into the wind. I parked in a spot the next row down that was marked "Twin". I figured that I qualified because JD is essentially a twin, there were two airplanes built at the same time and are virtually identical.

We made the walk into town, about 15-20 minutes, and noticed a lot of people in town, but not as many as might be expected on a summer weekend. We went to the place we usually eat, the Madrona Bar and Grill, but there was a sign on the door that said they were closed for lunch and maybe dinner. Didn't say why, but I guess it didn't matter.

We walked a couple hundred feet down the street and found the Whitehorse Pub. It was obviously an Irish themed pub. It was very crowded, and noisy, and we had to wait a while for a table. It was worth it though, as the food was really good.

After lunch we walked back to the airport. On the way home we flew over San Juan Island and across the Strait and home from there. It was a pretty uneventful trip back, but at least I capped it off with a good landing at home. The only real bummer was that the GoPro, once again, stopped recording for no apparent reason. It was right around Port Townsend and I still had plenty of battery power left and plenty of room of the SD card. Maddening. It's a known problem that has happened on most all of the GoPro models and they seem uninterested in doing anything to fix it.

Video here.

Saturday 7/23/22 was just about the same, weather wise, as Friday. Carl didn't make it up so I was on my own. Since the clouds were just as bad, if not a little lower, I had to figure out where to go and what to do until conditions improved a little. It has been quite a while since I had washed the airplane and it was getting really filthy, almost embarrassingly so.

I wipe the bugs off of all the leading edges and clean the wind screen after each flight, but the tops of the wings don't get a lot of attention. When they end up with a lot of dust on them you have to be careful cleaning them or all that dust can scratch the finish. I don't usually use a wash rack and don't like to wash an airplane like a car. Usually, I just roll it outside while it is raining and let the rain wash the dust off. I let it soak for a while then wipe it with a clean, soft cloth to get the dust and dirt off then leave it to rinse for a while longer then roll it in and dry it off. Using a hose in a wash rack usually has too much water pressure and get water in places I would really rather not have it.

Since I had the time, I taxied it down to the wash rack hoping to find a nozzle with a setting that would mimic rain. The hose and nozzle that are there are pretty crappy, though it is nice that there is one at all. If I do this again I will bring my own hose and nozzle.

No, I didn't wash it with the canopy open.

I didn't feel too bad about doing it this way as I was planning to fly it when finished anyway. By the time I got home I was sure it would be dry. I have to admit, it sure looks a lot better without all the dirt on it.

I decided to try to get to Forks for lunch. It was still about 1,900 overcast at Arlington and didn't look much better until I got past Port Townsend or so. Thanks to ForeFlight, I could tell that it was clear over Port Angeles and over Forks. I took off and headed west at just over 1,500'. As I got west of Whidbey Island I could see some breaks in the clouds, but there wasn't anything really visible above them. Somewhere up there was another cloud layer. Near Port Townsend I could see a clearly distinct lower layer, though I couldn't see anything clearly defined above that. I was hoping that I could get above the lower layer.

I started a gradual climb. As I neared Port Townsend, all of the sudden, the world began to disappear. Uh-oh, I'm entering a cloud. I dropped the nose to get back below it and continued on my way. It was very frustrating as I could see blue sky through the clouds above me. I was sorely tempted to just pull back on the stick and punch through to the top. Fortunately, as I passed Protection Island, I hit the edge of the clouds and was able to climb.

From there it was a pretty easy trip and even though there was pretty obviously not much wind, it was still pretty bumpy as I descended west of Crescent Lake and approached Forks. I overflew the airport to check the wind sock, and to check for elk. There was very little wind, but what there was favored 22, and there were no elk, so I headed in to land.

All these little clouds were just sitting there.

Once again I managed to botch the landing, but at least there was no one around to see it.

After a nice lunch I headed back to the airport to head home. The wind had picked up, but it was right down the runway and felt good. I took this time to update the picture that I had in front of the logging museum. It was very bumpy getting out of Forks though.

I headed out to Quillayute and then turned for home climbing to 7,500' looking for smooth, cool air. It was smooth and most of the trip back went pretty smoothly. There were still a lot of clouds from about Port Townsend east and south, but they were higher now. Arlington was calling it 3,300 Overcast, so no problem there. There was a good bit of traffic at AWO, but not as much as you might find on a summer Saturday.

When I first dialed up the AWOS about 15 miles out they were calling the wind 130 @ 6. I was planning to use 16, as were most people at the time. When I was about 10 miles out there was a call from ATC (Arlington Traffic Control) aka the Glider Club ground operations, telling everybody to stop using 16 since they were set up to the north. They pointed out that the preferred no wind runway at AWO is 34, which is true. The thing of it is that the wind was highly variable going from next to nothing to about 6 knots, all from the south.

Someone called in and mentioned that the wind favored 16. The Glider Club ground operations guy called back that less that 6 knots should use 34. Before I even knew that I had keyed the mic I responded, "it's actually 5, but who's counting". I know better than to try to argue over the radio, it just doesn't do any good. I usually don't, but surprised myself this time.

I set up to enter the pattern knowing that I would have some factor of a tail wind. It wasn't enough to pose a real threat, but I had to remind myself that my speed will appear higher than usual and I have to make sure I don't let myself get too slow. With all of that running through my head I made just a really awesome wheel landing. On purpose even.

All things considered, it was a very nice and productive day. Now that the airplane is clean, it will be good until the next time they cut the grass and blow all the debris under the door.

Video here.

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