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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Search for Lunch

Friday 3/17/23 was simply too nice a day to spend at work. So I didn't.

It was the warmest day of the year so far with a high of about 60 degrees. The clouds and rain that we had all week went away and we had mostly clear skies, just a few very high clouds (above 12,000') and light winds. It was one of those days where it was a difficult decision on where to go since almost every place was in play. It was a week day, so Richland was a possibility. Destinations along the coast were clear, so those were a possibility.

We ended up opting to try the new restaurant at Bremerton (KPWT). They just opened within the last month or so after being closed since before the pandemic. The old restaurant closed because the building was condemned and had to be torn down and a new one built. Like many projects during that time period, it was put on hold and only recently completed.

We wanted to get an earlier than usual start since we feared there might be a lunch rush and we hoped to be able to get in pretty easily. I didn't get gas the last time I flew since I was in a hurry to get home, so I had to do that before I could leave. Fortunately, there was no line at the pumps and I was able to get gas quickly and easily and was at the run up area ready to leave before Carl got there.

There was beginning to be a lot of traffic inbound, so I waited for a slight gap in the action and crossed 34 to take off on 29. Carl followed right behind.

As we were nearing Paine Field, I had been noticing a large ship going north through Admiralty Inlet. It looked like an aircraft carrier, but I couldn't think what one would be doing there since there isn't one based at Naval Station Everett at the moment, I don't think. There is the shipyard at Bremerton, but I thought those were all being decommissioned. I asked Carl what he thought and he agreed, so we decided to go take a look.

Aircraft carrier heading out to the open ocean.

Passing over it, it didn't look like it was in very good shape. The paint was all faded, there was construction equipment on the flight deck, it just looked old. Many carriers go to Bremerton to be decommissioned, so I thought maybe it was one being taken out to be scrapped. But wait, she's moving under her own power. That wouldn't be possible with a derelict, it would be under tow.

From this vantage point I couldn't really see any markings, so I had no idea what vessel it was. When I got home and looked at the pictures, I was able to see a 71 on the front of the flight deck and maybe the same number on the side of the island. After a little Google-Fu it turned out to be the USS Teddy Roosevelt (CVN 71).

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

This Wikipedia article stated that she had been sent to Bremerton for a refit in July 2021 to be ready to accept F-35s. The same article mentioned that in March 2023 she left for sea trials. I didn't see that part, but Carl pointed it out. That is what we were seeing, heading out for sea trials. After the trials she will be heading back to San Diego for her home port. We can only assume that at that time they will redo the paint and all the other details to make her ready for deployment again.

One thing that made me think a moment is that from five or six miles away and 4,500' up, it sure looked awful small. I was cruising along at about 170 MPH, which can't be much faster than the landing speed of the aircraft based on her. Don't know that I would want to try that. The runway at Forks is small enough, that looks smaller.

As we headed north toward Pt. Townsend I looked down in the water and noticed that there was a sub coming back in.

Sub with tenders heading back to Bangor.

Not only was there a sub with its tenders and escort boats coming in, but there was a cargo ship headed in the same direction and a state ferry crossing behind all of them. With the carrier heading out at the same time, it was rush hour at Admiralty Inlet.

As we were first heading toward the carrier, I also saw another ship, that I thought might be a destroyer, looking like it was heading into Everett. When we got back, Carl sent me this article. Turns out, it was a destroyer and it was just coming home, so all in all, a very busy day for the Navy in Puget Sound.

After all this excitement, we headed once again for Bremerton and lunch, or so we thought. As we neared Bremerton it became clear that there was a lot more traffic than we were used to seeing there. There must have been five or six airplanes in the pattern and more (including us) heading in.

As I neared the airport there were two Cessna 172s crossing my path and heading in also. I might have been able to shoe horn myself between them, but I am very uncomfortable with someone behind me that I do not know. There are too many people that really don't look out well for other traffic, so I made a big 360 and came in behind the second 172.

I had to slow down a lot, and drop the flaps early to be able to stay behind them. As I got to about mid-field downwind I could tell that there were four or five airplanes on the ground waiting to takeoff. That, coupled with the four or five of us in the pattern made for a very busy day.

As I neared the approach end of the runway, and about where I think the 172 in front of me was going to turn base, a Skywagon on the ground asked if the 172 in front of me would extend his downwind so he could get out. The 172 did, so I had to follow suit. After the Skywagon took off, he called the 172 in front of me and said he could turn base now. Gee, what a nice guy.

By the time I got to turn base I was about 2 miles from the airport. I noticed that the 172 in front of me plopped it down right on the numbers and stood on the brakes to make the first turn off. There was no way I could do the same. I remember from a few years ago that the second turn off didn't seem like a real turn off and was very narrow, more like an access road, so I didn't really want to try for that (turned out that when they redid the runway a few years ago they made that into a real turn off [A3 I think]). With all of this running through my mind I misjudged my touch down point and basically really botched the landing and had to use a lot of braking to get off the runway. If it hadn't been so busy, I would have just rolled to the next turn off, but it was, so I didn't.

Once I got parked, after noticing that there were way more airplanes than we used to see on the ramp, we walked toward the restaurant. The gate that used to be by the restaurant, you know, the convenient one, wasn't there any more. We had to go down and use the one by the old terminal building.

As we walked up to the restaurant, there were several people standing around outside. This didn't seem like a good sign. As soon as we opened the door there were at least 10-15 people sitting waiting for tables. Carl walked up and asked what the wait was and was told 40 minutes. I looked at him and said, "I don't want to wait that long, want to go to Chehalis?"

We agreed to bail and head to Chehalis. The only concern was how long would it take us to get out of Bremerton. We headed back to the gate. The code for the gate is printed on the inside so you can see it as you leave, all you have to do is remember it. I entered the posted code and nothing happened. The gate wouldn't open. I tried it 3 times with the same result. Carl tried it a couple of times with no luck either.

We went into what had been the terminal building thinking that we would go out through there. You used to be able to do that. Not anymore. The only access to the ramp was through a conference room whose doors were locked.

It was a very good thing for us that it was a Friday and not a Saturday. We went down to the Port of Bremerton office and asked for help. Fortunately, they had a maintenance guy right there who came out with us. We faced the walk out with a little trepidation as we would have felt like a couple of old fools if the maintenance guy had simply opened the gate. Fortunately, he couldn't do it either. He did manage to get it open after futzing (technical term) with it for a few minutes. He said he would look into getting it fixed that day.

We got back to the airplanes and prepared to depart even as more airplanes arrived. We got really lucky and when we got to the end of the runway there was no one waiting to takeoff and no one in the pattern. As I headed for the runup area Carl pulled up to the runway and announced that he was taking off. He said we would explain later. I did a quick cockpit check, tightened the seat belt and should harness and took off behind him.

Turned out that he had dialed up the Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) and the wind had changed to something like 160 degrees at 6 knots. He was concerned that if we waited for a normal run up, someone would head in and want to use the other runway, stranding us a long way from the departure end. It is not like either of us to depart without a thorough pre-takeoff check and run up, but it worked in this case.

The trip down to Chehalis was otherwise uneventful, but there were a lot of airplanes around everywhere.

As we got closer, Carl said he was planning a straight in to 16, since the winds were very light at the time. As he was maybe five miles out, there was a flight of two RVs departing runway 34, so head said he would enter a downwind for 34. About that time another airplane south of the airport said he was heading to 34.

I was able to get in behind Carl and in front of the other airplane, which may have been a Piper Turbo Lance. I made another less than stellar landing, but better than the one at Bremerton.

We got to the golf course and got lunch with no problem, though much later than intended.

By the time we were ready to leave, the wind had shifted and favored 16, so we took off that way. It was getting late enough by now that we decided to head straight home instead of going out to the coast first.

As we approached Bangor we saw the sub from earlier just approaching the base.

Almost home!

So, from the time we first saw the sub up by Port Townsend, we had gone to Bremerton and all of the aforementioned rigamarole, gone to Chehalis and had lunch, and made it about halfway home, at least 2 hours and the sub had just made it from Port Townsend.

When we got back to Arlington, the traffic wasn't too bad. Carl got in easily and I only had one other airplane to contend with. As I neared island Crossing on the forty-five, I heard a garbled and unreadable transmission on the radio. I had no idea where it came from so I looked around very closely and saw a white Cub-like aircraft just turning downwind from crosswind. I announced that I was on the forty-five and saw and airplane in front of me. A minute or so later another unreadable transmission went out. I replied with something like "aircraft that just transmitted, you are totally unreadable."

So, I am following an airplane that I have no idea what he is doing. He is a couple hundred feet below pattern altitude, and I had to drop the flaps early in order to try to stay behind him. I was still gaining so I knew I would have to extend my downwind to give him enough space.

He didn't turn base and didn't climb or descend, so I still had no idea what he was doing. I announced that I was turning base (hoping he could hear, even if he couldn't transmit legibly), and waited to see if there would be a reaction from him. There wasn't, so I turned base and landed. Fortunately, this time I made a much better landing.

All in all, it was very enjoyable day.

The video can be seen here.

The first leg track log is here.

The second leg track log is here.

The homeward track log is here.

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