Saturday, June 14, 2008

Little Sioux and Crosswinds Too

My Dad flew in from OFK to EJJ to have a little father's day flight with me. Both being pilots, and more that a little bit curious to see all of the tornado damage just north of Blair, after that we were going to decide if we wanted to hit the pancake breakfast in Beatrice or head out to Dennison for a $300 hamburger.

I happily took controls of the 1956 Cessna 172, and listened in to the weather report.
"Winds from 200 at 10 knots."
Ok... My runway choices were 30 and 13. With the wind at 200 that gave me an almost 90 degree crosswind. Awesome. I love those.

I back taxied on 13 (most small airports do not have taxiways that go all the way to the end of the runway. So what you have to do is to get on the actual runway and drive down the length till the end, turn around and THEN put full throttle and take off) did my engine runup in the area at the end of the runway, announced departure and took off.

The 10 knot crosswind was not bad. I turned my nose slightly to the right to crab in to the wind and made a normal take off. I turned 180 degrees and headed to the north to take a look at the tornado damage to the Boy Scout Camp at Little Sioux.
As we passed 3000 feet I noticed that even though the nose of the airplane was poined in the direction I wanted to go, that was not the direction I was heading. Crap. I did not check the winds aloft map. We had just gone from a 10 knot wind out of 200 to about a 25 knot wind out of 200. I was pushing the airplane way off course. I gained about 2000 feet more of altitude, and things seemed to calm down a bit.

In short order we made it to Little Sioux camp.

View Larger Map

The whole place was mostly flattened. Trees were down everywhere. It was quite a sight.

After viewing the damage, dad turned on the weather at EJJ to get an idea of where we should head next. It is a universal and unshakable fact that all pilots love pancakes. That is why there are so many pancake breakfast fly-ins. Being both pilots, our love for pancakes was doubly so. So if the winds were the same we would head to Beatrice. If the winds were worse we would land back at EJJ. As I turned in a generally south westerly direction I noticed our ground speed change from 100 MPH to about 58 MPH. The radio crackled with the sound of the weather report.
"Winds from 200 at 14 knots gusting to 20."
Not good. The maximum crosswind that the manufactures at Cessna say we can take is 15 knots. With the wind still out of 200 that means that 100% of the wind would be crosswind. This was starting to get very unfun.

We decided to land back at EJJ, because the only other airports around with a westerly runway would be OMA, or OFK. Our transponder had not been checked in 10 years, so OMA was out, and I really did not want to fly to OFK, some 100 nautical miles off course.

Dad winked at me and said that it would be a fun time. We would take a 10 mile final keep 100 MPH air speed and put it right down. Easy for him to say, he was in the right seat.

Fighting the wind the whole way we eventually made it within 10 miles of EJJ. I announced my intentions lined myself up on the runway and started my landing decent.
As I passed 3000 feet the wind that had nailed us on take off nailed us again. I started to crab the airplane in to the wind to compensate for the drift. Usually your crab is about 10 degrees in to the wind... not today. I was looking at the runway out of my left door window. Crap. To add to my nervousness. Dad said:
"No flaps. We need to keep all of the speed we can."
Double crap. I had not made a no flap landing in nearly 15 years.
As we got closer to the runway, I realized that we were too high. The wind was making us float a bit. Trippe crap. I pulled the power all the way off, some 3 to 5 miles away from the landing point. I concentrated on keeping my airspeed up while dad called out helpful tips.
As we got to about a mile and a half away from the landing point, dad said that we were still too high and he was going to put in about 20 degrees of flap, so I could loose altitude with out gaining or loosing too much speed. I kept my hand on the throttle as he put two clicks of flap in.
The wind finally slacked off as we got about 500 feet off of the ground and I was able to put in a more normal crab. The wind was still way above crosswind component though.
We came past the end of the runway with about 100 to 150 feet of altitude still left to burn, I did not want to run out of airspeed, so we dropped 10 degrees of flap. Lean and fast now I worked in to my flair. I was carrying so much speed that my flair caused me to gain altitude. I forgot to fly the airplane in to the ground. I goosed the engine just a bit, as a knee jerk reaction to the altitude gain on flair, any other time that would be the right thing to do. Dad called out to pull the power off. I did immediately and worked on setting my windward (the side in to the wind) wheel on the ground. I screeched out and with a little aileron move I set my leeward wheel down. I put on the breaks and still had a third of the runway to spare!

With perhaps the toughest landing of my life behind me, dad and I congratulated each other on great teamwork to get the airplane down.

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