Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Sport Flying Page 1 of 37

Flying with friends to interesting places.

Smoke haze looking away from the sun.

Flying Early is the Answer

I managed to wake up early this morning and decided I’d try to into the air before it got really hot. The forecast high in Reno was 103.

I completed a couple of quick errands on the way to the airport, did a thorough preflight since it had been 3 weeks since my last flight and was number one for takeoff at about 8:45 am.

By that time I was already sweating. I thought I might visit one or two airports in the area but instead I just climbed up to try and find cool air.

We’ve been getting smoke from California fires burning SW of us The smoke has been messing with out air quality but hasn’t been really bad yet – only to ‘unhealth for sensitive groups’ a couple of times.

I ended up cruising around for a while at 12,000 feet in the cool, smooth air but never reached the top of the smoke layer. I have a couple of photos below. I just looked at ForeFlight and the temperature has reached 99 deg F at Stead giving a density altitude of 8500′. Not conditions for the faint of heart.

I noticed a couple of visiting aircraft on the ramp when I drove in this morning – Canadair CL-415 ‘Super Scoopers’.

Pyramid Lake - Swift Flight 7/1/2022

No Smoke Yet This Year – But a Bit of Wind

We have been lucky so far this year to have had very few fires in our area or out to our west. The prevailing winds are west to east, so brush/forest fires in Northern California tend to destroy our air quality because of the smoke blowing into the area. I’ve even watched our locally assigned air tankers going out to drop water for currency because they haven’t had any fires to attack.

Frenchman Lake - Swift Flight 7/1/2022
Frenchman Lake, NW of Stead

On the other hand, it seems that at least once a week we get winds in the 30-40 knot range because of a dry cold front passing west to east just north of our area. Sure, it’s nice to get crosswind landing practice once in a while but that’s a bit extreme. Without the cooling effect of the fronts our daytime temperatures have been in the mid/high 90s. That generates its own winds here in the high dessert – referred to as the Washoe Zephyr (it even has its own Wikipedia page). Late afternoon gusts are generally 20-23 kts.

I’ve tried to get up into the air at leas once a week just for general practice. This past week it was on Friday with a takeoff just before 8:30 am.

I gut up to cruise at around 8500′ MSL, pulled the power back, leaned the mixture and just enjoyed the ride. Flying early means you will generally have a nice smooth flight. If you go somewhere for breakfast though you will probably have plenty of bumps on the way home.

Honey Lake - Swift Flight 7/1/2022
Honey Lake in the distance – SE of Susanville, CA

As I headed home from my tour of the local area the Stead AWOS said the winds were still light. Listening to the Stead CTAF frequency I counted 4 planes in the pattern so I didn’t hurry back. I fly a fairly tight traffic pattern and have found that with more than a couple of other airplanes in the pattern with me I can’t fly as I want without screwing up everyone else’s sequencing. By the time I entered the pattern all four had either landed or departed the area. That was a good time to get a few patterns in and secure my landing currency for 90 days. I accomplished the task fairly quickly and headed for the fuel island to top off for my next flight. Hardly even scared myself…

It was a very enjoyable morning, one I hope to repeat soon.

Pyramid Lake - Swift Flight 7/1/2022
Pyramid Lake, NE of Stead – Anaho Island on the right

It was a nice idea…

Last Monday we finally had a day that was supposed to have light winds so I got up in the air for a while. My intent was to fly around locally for a bit and then go over to the Beckwourth-Nervino (O02) airport, land and get gas.

The price for 100LL at Stead was posted at $7.13/gallon while ForeFlight was showing at Beckwourth it was $5.23.

By the time I took off the winds were out of the east at less than 10 kts, just as predicted. Not so much in the air…. Just as my last flight, flying around locally just wasn’t any fun. I tried a couple of different altitudes and found light to moderate chop everywhere I went.

So, off I went to Beckwourth. It’s a nice little airport and even though it’s only 24 NM from Stead I had never landed there. Their runway is also oriented E-W so, even though the winds were a bit stronger there they were pretty much down the runway. I made a reasonable landing, taxied back to the ramp and found the fuel island – a nice modern card reader set-up with 100LL or JP4.

As I was standing there reading the instructions for purchasing gas a guy with a clipboard walked up. Apparently they had received a new tanker truck of gas over the weekend and he was there to correct the fuel price in the pump system. The price of 100LL was to be $6.99/gallon.

I had done some calculating with fuel prices and burn rates at cruise before I planned the flight and found that even with the $7.13/$5.23 price difference and with reduced power I would need to buy 25+ gallons of fuel to break even – to save more money with the price difference than the cost of the gas used to fly there and back. That’s why I rarely fly somewhere just because the destination has cheaper fuel than my home airport. If I’m going there anyway for lunch or to meet someone it is a different situation,

So, I put 10 gallons into my main tanks and bumped my way back to Stead. Amazingly I only hit my head at the top of the cockpit once on the way back.

Yes, I could have topped off all my tanks since I was already there which would have saved maybe $4 but I’ve been trying to schedule some time to complete a couple of EAA Eagle Flights and have been trying to keep the plane light. Saving $1.90/gallon would have made it worth topping off than then getting a few solo flights in to burn some of it off before taking passengers.

This week tenants are pretty much grounded since Pylon Racing School (Seminar) is going on with its associated TFR. Oh, there are 15-minute windows throughout the day for tenants to get in and out if you have to but it just adds a level of complexity that most tenants will probably try to avoid. There is also a no-prop line in effect so in order to start your engine you have to be towed out to the north side of the ramp. If all that causes an undue hardship tenants have the option to relocate to the other airport (KRNO) for the week.

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