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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Winter Weather Change

Saturday 1/28/23 was a transition day, weather wise. It had been cloudy and rainy all week, how unusual, but was going to clear up for the weekend, but it was cold air off the Fraser Valley that brought the clearing. It brought in drier air, but it was much colder. Fortunately, without moisture there was no risk of snow and/or ice.

The morning started off cloudy and foggy. When I got to the airport about 9:30 I couldn't see my hangar from the road (about 1/4 mile). The sky was clearing from the north and there was blue sky visible in that direction, but the lower clouds were still hanging around and were even thicker to the south. There was a lot of wind at the coast, so Forks was basically out, the clouds to the south put Chehalis out of the question, so about the only hope was to go to Skagit for lunch and then maybe fly around the islands a bit to warm up the oil.

View from my hangar north. The wispy clouds around the snow topped hills are kind of pretty.
What it looked like about an hour later.

It was a bit late clearing, so we didn't take off until about 1:00. There were somewhat conflicting forecasts with some talking about a lot of wind and others not mentioning wind. They all agreed it would be cold though. We were a little bit cautious since the last time we went to Skagit was a windy day and we had to really work at the landing. It was, perhaps, a little more exciting than we had planned for. This time, however, the winds were much more amenable, at least at the airports we visited.

We took off and headed north without any drama. The trip to Skagit was quick and enjoyable, with only a few bumps. The wind at Skagit was out of the north(ish). It was rather highly variable between northwest to northeast, but not much more than about 5-7 knots. As we approached, there was a Cherokee shooting landings to a full stop on 22, but the wind really favored 29. The Cherokee was landing with pretty much a direct tailwind / quartering tail wind. Perhaps he wanted practice in those conditions, who knows.

Carl was a few minutes ahead of me, so he got there first and entered an upwind north of 29. We were both aware of the Cherokee and Carl called as he turned cross wind that he would watch out for the Cherokee. He was close enough to be able to go under and inside of him and land with no conflict. I was far enough out that I couldn't really do the same thing, so I wanted to give him plenty of room. Since he was doing full stop landings, I thought it may have been a student and didn't want to crowd the guy.

As I was turning down wind, the guy said he was flying down wind (for runway 22) at 1,400'. Pattern altitude is 1,145', which I usually round up to 1,200', but I couldn't understand why he was at 1,400', but then, I couldn't understand why he was using the runway he was. No matter. I went wide to give him plenty of space, in fact, I went a lot wider than I really had to, but it was no real problem.

As he turned final and cleared the threshold of 29, I was still about a mile out and having to add a lot of power to get to the runway. Unfortunately, I didn't manage my energy very well and was late in pulling the extra power off, so I ended up a little high and fast over the fence. The landing wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I was going too fast to make the turn off I wanted, without using considerable braking, ( I probably could have turned around and back taxied the couple of hundred feet I missed by, there was nobody behind me), but I just kept rolling to the next turn off.

After getting a table at the restaurant, there was a 172 that pulled up and parked next to me. Carl thought it might have been Ron with the AFS 172 and, sure enough, it was. He was flying with a guy from Florida who flew all the up here to fly with Ron. Ron is an old friend of Carl's and the instructor I have taken my last few flight reviews with. The guy from Florida has one of the few diesel Sportsmans and has been unable to fly it until he gets some specific training. I don't quite know how flying a 172 gets one ready to fly a Sportsman, and I didn't ask. They came in and sat down by us, so we talked for a bit.

About 3:00 we headed out to go fly around the islands and see what there was to see. As we loaded up, we noted the wind seemed to have stiffened a bit and was swinging around a good bit. At the time we were looking, it appeared to favor11, but it is a really long taxi to get down there. At that moment, I noticed an airplane that appeared to be on down wind for 11. What made that really interesting is that at the same time, there was an airplane landing on 29. Carl pointed out that the first airplane I saw still had his gear up and was likely heading to 29. Turns out, he entered the pattern the same way we did.

We fired up and headed to the run up area and in due course were ready to take off. At that time there was an airplane that had just turned base, so we waited for him. Due to the unpredictable winds, we decided to forgo the section take off. As I started my take off roll I noticed the airplane veering to the right. It took me some time to figure this out. Usually, I take off with either little to no wind or a cross wind from the left. As I move the throttle forward, my right foot moves of it's own accord to a predetermined position that usually works to keep me tracking straight down the center line. That is, except for a cross wind form the right. It took me longer than I care for to figure that out. Fortunately, RVs take off so quickly and have such a short ground roll that these things are easily remedied.

As we headed out over the islands, the water looked really angry. There were small waves all over. It wasn't that windy at the airport and the airport is only a mile or two from the water. That pattern held throughout the islands.

We decided to cross the Strait and go west. The water in the Strait, though active, didn't seem to be as much so as that in the islands. The wind was coming out of the northeast and since we were headed south west, we had really good ground speeds.

There were some interesting cloud formations around the Olympics, but I didn't move in closer to get some good photos.

We headed west to about Sekiu, then turned around and headed home. That nice tail wind we had turned into a head wind. Ground speed dropped off, but not too terribly. While it was a bit bumpy through out the whole trip, it wasn't too bad. Not as bad as I expected it to be.

Getting back into Arlington wasn't bad at all. It was relatively quiet and I didn't have to dodge anyone. 10 miles out the AWOS was calling the wind 360 at 8 (I think). I was planning for a little bit of a cross wind from the right and determined to get it right this time. The wind was very noticeable on base, it didn't seem like I was moving at all and took a long time to get to the airport. When I got down to the ground though, it didn't feel like there was any wind at all, or what there was was right down the runway so I managed to pull off a pretty good landing.

For a day that we weren't sure if we would be able to fly to not, it turned into a pretty good day.

There was a little bit of a scare earlier in the week in that AFS was out of gas and not expecting any until Saturday (today). I saw a fuel truck there when I got to the airport in the morning, so we didn't have to deal with not being able to get gas or having to go somewhere else to get it.

Video here.

Outbound track log here.

Return track log here.

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