Thursday, November 8, 2012

Afternoon Flight to Williamson-Sodus

Election day. After a cup of tea and visit to the polling station, I head over to Marcellus Airport for some flying. At first I wasn't sure where I wanted to go but decided on Williamson-Sodus. It would be after 3:00 by the time I was in the air and last weekend we set the clocks back. Dark comes surprisingly early now.

Williamson-Sodus was only 36 miles to the NW and there should be plenty of time for this flight.

Climbing out I started to level at 4,500', but by the time I had fine tuned the trim and throttle I had drifted up to 5,000' in this eager to climb ship. Cruising along at 5,000 rpm and low 60's mph, it quite cool in the plane and I was really happy I didn't give in to my desire to take the doors off for photography. While not bad in the afternoon sun and calm winds on the ground at 40 degrees, at altitude it was likely in the low 20's!

The atmosphere was quite hazy below me, but the air was very smooth. I relaxed and simply enjoyed the view along the way.

West of Weedsport, NY the sun reflects off the Barge Canal

Ten minutes out for Williamson-Sodus I began my descent. This worked out great as just ahead there was an increasing cover of clouds at about 4,000'.

Descending through cloud height

Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario

I wanted to do some photography along the shoreline but decided to wait until after a short stop. I would stay lower after departure and fly east along the lakeshore. Besides, I had my descent roughly timed to put me at the 500' pattern altitude that seems to work best in slow aircraft like this.

Turning final for rwy 10

It was about 4:00 when I landed. As you can see from the shadows a few moments earlier while on final, the sun was already quite low. A quick visit to the office and a shot of my plane which is already taking on the flattering, but in this case uncomfortable glow of sunset, I am back in the air.

After a circle of the airport for a photo it is obvious there isn't going to be time to fly along the lake. As I turn on course with an indicated airspeed of 62 mph (55kts) see my ground speed is only 48 kts! Yes, that's only a 7 kt headwind but seeing such a slow speed is unsettling. Normally I'm quite happy to sit and watch the Earth slowly move below. One of my favorite sayings is "The sky is where I want to be and when I arrive at my destination the fun is over".

The sun is now quite low in the sky. My Garmin Pilot app indicates about 45 minutes to Marcellus. That would be after 5:00. When does it get dark? Yesterday it was about 5:20 and it was dark, but it was cloudy too.

I up the rpm to 5,500 and get near 70 (mph) There is always an opportunity to land at Weedsport. That is only about 9 minutes from my destination so if I make it that far then only if it is almost pitch black would it make sense to stop there.

I watch shadows grow, valleys fade into shadow and finally the glacial drumlin hills are no longer in the sunlight. 

Cross Lake and the Belt of Venus rising in the sky.

Final glide into the pattern at Marcellus. Car lights along Rt 5 and the city of Syracuse in the distance

I can now see I will make my destination. There won't be much time to spare but there will be plenty of light to see. I turn on my strobes and lower the nose.

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