Until yesterday, the last time I flew a glow plane was November 26, 2009. 112 days later, it was finally nice enough to head outside and fire up a glow engine on March 17, 2010.
I know I'm just being a bit of a wussie. My club hosts a "First Fly of the Year" event every January 1st, and a "Winter Festival" on the Saturday before Valentine's Day every February. I chose to keep my planes home for both events, although I did shoot a little bit of video for the Winter Festival:
I just don't enjoy going outside and flying when the mercury dips below 50F or so.
It's not like I didn't fly at all. I took my Slow Stick to the indoor soccer center a few times and enjoyed some electric indoor flying. I bought a Thunder Tiger Mini Titan E325 electric helicopter last fall, and I've got a chance to fly that a bit indoors this winter as well. I even made the jump from Real Flight G3.5 to Real Flight G5 upgrade this winter. I've been flying planes and helicopters all through the harsh Nebraska winter.
I have fun flying electric aircraft, but to me they'll always be a consolation for when flying my glow planes just isn't practical. I love the noise and the mess of a good glow engine. I can understand all the folks who prefer electric aircraft, it seems perfectly logical to me as well. My love of glow engines isn't rational. Somehow the extra noise and the fuss all just adds to fun.
I didn't make a big fuss out of getting out last night, even though it was an almost perfect evening for March flying. It was about 55F and sunny late yesterday afternoon, and the wind was limited to the occassional 5 mph gust. I packed my Great Planes Rapture 40 in the car along with my field equipment. I figured if I just got my field box and equipment charged up that I'd be happy; any actual flights would be a bonus.
I got my field box battery and glow ignitor charged up. I got my transmitter and receiver batteries topped up. I got a chance to hang out and chat with a few of the guys and talk their ears off about all of the fun club flying events we have planned for the coming months.
After plenty of hanging out and charging up my batteries, I decided to take the Rapture up. The Enya 45CX fired up after just a bit of persuasion from my electric starter. The low end was just a tad rich for the evening's weather conditions, but otherwise the engine seemed like it was ready to go.
I was surprised at how nervous I was before taking off. I've been flying for five years now, and I'd been keeping my fingers working all winter on the simulator and my electric aircraft. The Rapture was an easy choice for my first flight of spring because it's such a stable and predictable flyer with no bad habits. None the less, my heart was pounding as I fired up the plane and readied it for take off.
The Rapture 40 didn't share any of my apprehensions regarding this first flight of spring. I was surprised at how quickly the tail lifted up and the whole plane started to lift off the runway even before I expected it to take to the air. I must have left a little too much "up elevator" in the trim tab last fall. Once it was in the air, however, the positive elevator trim seemed to smooth out. The plane would tend to climb at wide open throttle, but seemed to fly level as expected at 1/2 throttle.
I buzzed around the airfield for about seven or ten minutes in a typical circuit pattern. I mixed in my usual assortment of loops and rolls pretty regularly, while tossing in the occassional knife edge pass or half reverse Cuban eight just to keep things interesting. I did a couple of inverted circuits, and I was pleasantly reminded of how comfortable and stable the Rapture 40 is when it's upside down.
I decided it was about time to wrap up my flight, when a new wave of nervous tension washed over me. I was going to have to actually LAND this thing, too!
The Rapture has always been a pleasure to land, but I hadn't put a plane down on asphalt in almost four months. Since the engine had seemed a tad rich on the low end, I'd bumped the idle speed up ever so slightly before taking off. Now, while making my final approach, the airplane seemed to be coming in blazingly fast.
"There's no way I can set it down and stop it at this..." I thought to myself. The wheels touched down on the asphalt right in the center of the runway and the plane slowed itself down as expected. "...rate of speed." I was still sure the landing was going to end in disaster even as I watched myself put the airplane down smoothly and hit the throttle cut to end my taxi run. "Wow!" I couldn't help but chuckle to myself, "Maybe I haven't forgetten everything over the last few months."
A couple of the guys congratulated me on greasing in such a nice, smooth landing. I hung out and watched a couple of the other guys enjoy some flying time. One of the new club members, Chris, had brought his young son, Ryan, out with him while he flew. Ryan was bouncing all over the flying field and talking to all of the pilots about their planes and asked about a thousand questions. Ryans enthusiasm was infectious, and we all smiled as we took turns being grilled by our pint-sized inquisitor.
As the evening started to grow long, I went up for another flight. I was more relaxed this time, and I enjoyed wringing out the plane a bit more than during my first flight of the evening. After I flew for a second time, Ryan's dad and I finally talked Ryan into trying to take his Hobbyzone Mini Super Cub up for a flight. We had a good time helping Ryan taxi his airplane around, and Chris finally took Ryan's controller and got the little Super Cub airborne for a short but successful flight. It was a fun way to end an evening's worth of flying.
I drove home from the field after shutting and locking the gate behind me. I was grinning from ear to ear as I realized that that evening was the most fun I'd had in about 112 days or so. My hands smelled like glow exhaust for the first time in a long time, and I almost hated to wash them once I got home.
Nothing beats a great evening of flying glow planes out in the sunshine. I don't know if our next snow storm here in Nebraska is eight hours away or eight months away. All I know is I want to have a lot more evenings like last evening before I have shovel my car out of its parking space again!