“ It’s sporty up there! ” he said, laconically.
Did I sense a trace of preocupation in Greg’s words when he greeted me that saturday morning? If so, it was probably rooted in unavoidable worries most instructors share when a student of theirs takes on a new solo-challenge.
Legally speaking, I wasn’t a student anymore as I’ve had my license for some decades. Technically, however, I was very much a student, as flying a taildragger will keep one in the student’s seat for most of one’s pilot life.
Anyway, it so happened that this was the day I had planned to leave the nest for the first time to go on a weekend trip all by myself.
It was also a typical New England post-frontal day: fresh, unstable air, unlimited visibility and a gusty breeze.
On the ground it didn’t feel like anything which would make me cancel, but I knew that a couple of ten feet up in the air things might present themselves differently. And as the day progresses convection would certainly add to the turbulence.
On the other hand I had practiced a lot of take-offs and landings at various airports in the area and my planned track would take me over many airports with different runway orientations so that I would at least be able to avoid major crosswind challenges should I decide to land and wait for things to calm down.
And since the home runway was facing straight into the wind I felt confident enough to give it a try.
When 4VW was loaded with my camping gear and fueled up I taxied out to runway 33.
The take-off was a brisk affair. Cool temps and a nice headwind always work wonders on take-off roll and perceived climb rate.
And the turbulence?
Being a longtime glider pilot my comfort levels for choppy air are calibrated differently than those of my power-only comrades, I guess. Nothing up there to molest, never mind scare, me. Almost the opposite: when a vigorous cumulus overhead greeted me with a healthy bump I took it as a satisfying confirmation of what I’d expected from the lively atmosphere.
Hey, this was my first cross country in my own Cessna, under a beautiful sky!
How great is that?
My destinaton was the new home of my old soaring club, “old” as in “decades-old”. Nutmeg Soaring was my home away from home every weekend during flying season while working as a post-doc at Yale. I bought my first glider from one of its members, took part in its summer-camps in beautiful Vermont and even helped move the operations from North Canaan, CT (photo at the top, with my first glider before it became “BY”) to Great Barrington, MA.
And just that Great Barrington was going to be my first stop.
It was a “sporty” approach into KGBR, alright, and just as I was about to flare a sinister gust blew me off the centerline and called for a go-around. Good practice!
My second attempt worked out fine and I parked “WhiskyBlu” next to a big sister of hers.
After enjoying coffee and cookies in the office and receiving various compliments for “that exceptional 170” I moved on as had Nutmeg Soaring several years ago: Freehold, NY (1I5) was my ultimate goal.
As soon as I had crossed the Hudson River clouds became fewer and the headwind died down almost completely. I dialled up the appropriate frequency and called in from about 10 miles.
But when I announced crossing the field and set up for a low pass to check runway conditions the radio came alive:” Blue and white Cessna calling, is that Wolf by any chance?”
Same voice, same intonation as 35 years ago – here I come, Nostalgia, NY!
After a soft touchdwon I saw two guys waving at me, guiding my “blue and white Cessna” to a parking spot in front of the hangar. The prop had hardly stopped, the belts been stored away when Mike and Marty walked up with a big grin on their face: ” Long time no see, Bavarian Yankee, welcome to the new, to you, home of Nutmeg!”
Another flashback to the eighties… I had selected BY as the contest number for my first glider, not only because every call would start with an encouraging “Bravo”, but also because BY was the two letter code for my home province, Bavaria. Mike, the one from above, with Air Force experience in Germany, had put two and two together immediately:
” Forget the “Bravo”, you are “Bavarian Yankee” he insisted, way back when.