Today was a really beautiful day for flying – clear, cool and light winds. I figured that I ought to take advantage of the nice day while I could. When I got the the airport the temperature was 28 degrees(F) and there were already a couple of planes in the pattern. There was also a balloon inflating out to the northeast of the runway. I stopped at the hangar and plugged in my home-made engine preheater, closed the hangar door and drove to a local Starbucks for some coffee while I sat there and read a magazine. I got back the hangar about an hour later to find the cowling feeling toasty warm.
The hangar across from me was open and my friend Paul was there and about to pull his 182 out to fly to breakfast. He had a friend with him who I had met before and they both asked if I was interested in coming along. Sure – they were going to South Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL) to meet more friends. We did a quick briefing on our plan for the flight and headed out to the runway. It was a nice flight to the lake and then a jog to fly down the eastern shoreline to the airport on the south end of the lake.
Lake Tahoe is 22 miles north-south and 12 miles east-west with an average water surface level at 6200 MSL. There are five major peaks around the lake with elevations from 9700 MSL to 10,900 MSL. Today the water was glass smooth with hardly a boater in sight. At breakfast we had a short discussion about the hazards associated with flying down the center of the lake – following the imaginary CA-NV state line. The glide ratio of the aircraft has to be a major factor in the decision as well as the cruising altitude. The Swift has a glide ratio about the same as a crowbar – so venturing very far from shore at our 9000′ cruising altitude wasn’t advisable. The water temperature at Tahoe today was somewhere between 45 and 50 degrees (F). That means you would have 30-60 minutes of treading water before you were either exhausted or lost consciousness and 1-3 hours until death if you could stay afloat. Drop the water temperature below 40 degrees and you cut those times in half. Minimize Risk – fly the shoreline.
We had a nice breakfast at The Flight Deck Restaurant on the airport. We had a group of 9 people. Some were vacationing at the lake and others had flown in from a fly-in community near Carson City, NV. They were in a beautifully restored Cherokee 180.
It was a very nice meal with good friends and new acquaintances. Of course the conversation was centered mainly around flying. One of the other pilots currently flies a Cessna Citation for a company in Carson City. Really nice guy who knows just how good a job he has. Yeah, I’m envious.
After our meal we all adjourned the the ramp to look over the planes. The Swift always seems to draw a crowd when it is on the ramp. At most airports it is an unusual aircraft and the polish tends to draw people to “the shiny plane.”
It was a fun day with friends. What flying is all about.