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.
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.
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.