It's about time.
My old friend Rex came down from Colorado to study with Paul at Planet PPG. I had a pretty full week but still managed to get down to Pine Island a couple of times to cheer him on. The first time was Wednesday and they were towing. Poor Rex. One new hip and another about to be replaced... He got up though and was making it work. I caddied the wing a couple of times and when Rex had had enough I surprised myself and asked for a sled ride. Paul hauled me up and I enjoyed my first foot launch and landing in a long time. It was only a short hop but I think I'm hooked. Foot launching is almost effortless when you don't have to worry about running it out with a motor on your back. I will definitely try it again.
Thursday morning I drove down even though the winds were predicted to be a bit on the high side. When I arrived it was blowing about 10mph. In the wind shadow of the runway it felt much lower but it was coming from the North North East across the runway. I inflated fine but wasn't able to stabilize the wing and aborted. I'm not exactly sure what all my problems were but from the way the wing was reacting I think I should have damped the surge a little better and probably moved the trike a little slower. Anyway before I could reset, Paul went up in his Falcon 38hp, he got off fine but it was clear that there was some rotor to contend with. He landed within 5 minutes and pronounced it "sporty". I choose to bag the wing.
That evening I drove back down and had dinner with everybody at Pine Island. Somehow during the course of the meal Paul suggested that I fly down from Shell Creek. My first reaction was, Hell No!....but of course I said , " Sure that would be fun".
......Well, I got to thinking about it....and it has been a couple of days since my last flight.... and there is a low front moving in which is going to nix flying for awhile....and they did offer to provide a shuttle back up to the truck... The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. Later back at the house, I fooled with FlySkyHy and managed to lay a few waypoints that would steer me around the Restricted airspace and get me over Pine Island Airport.
I wasn't convinced that I was going for it but decided to plan on a SCA flight regardless and if it felt good ... go for the cross country.
The next morning the winds were 10mph from the North East, almost a straight shot to Pine Island Airport. The launch was clean and quick. Without missing a beat I headed South West and made my way around Punta Gorda Airspace. The air was pretty smooth with occasional patches of bumps. I had to crab around the airport and even so was flying between 35 and 40 mph. After clearing PGA and hwy 75 I was able to turn directly downwind and race toward the Burnt Store hwy. Acending to 2800ft agl I encountered turbulent air and so I decended a few hundred feet until it smoothed out. Just past Burnt Store Marina I had to turn and crab the wing South East to stay onshore until I was lined up to cross over to the Island. I was thinking to continue south till I got to the causeway, cross there and work my way back to PIA but the winds were picking up and I decided it was better to go with the flow. I certainly had enough altitude to make the crossing without power so I turned South West, crossed my fingers and instantly I was "feet Wet". My biggest concern was without merit. I was worried that I would not be able to spot the small airstrip..... Nonsense, Pine Island is tiny and the airstrip stuck out like a beacon. AND.... There was Paul and Rex flying a couple hundred feet over the patch. I was still pretty high, they looked like a toy Paraglider pulling circles down there. Shortly after I spotted the guys they landed and so I over flew the patch and glided into the wind for a nice steep landing.
Rex, Paul and I fooled around the airport for a little while and then Rex and I set of to retrieve my truck at SCA. Later we stopped at Peace River Seafood for blue crab. It was a victory lunch for both of us.