I was planning to fly today already with good weather forecast and a free schedule. My plan had been to fly to Glens Falls, NY, for lunch, then to somewhere in Maine. Last night I was at a wedding and found out that my niece Arayana was in Glens Falls for her gymnastics regionals (with grandparents). So with my brother in law Niranjan we hatched a plan: I could fly to Northampton, MA and pick him up then fly to Glens Falls to meet with Arayana. If she was comfortable with taking the plane back then it would save a lot of grandparent driving and be a very cool experience.
Northampton (7B2) is a great little (narrow) strip along the side of the Connecticut River. I did my first dual and solo XCs here in the Cessna 172, N7242G. There is a very active flight training operation at the airport with a number of Light Sport Aircraft active in the pattern or going out to their typical practice area over Amherst, MA.
Unlike the last two times I landed at Northampton Runway 14 was in use (my past times were with runway 32, which is just the opposite direction). Unlike some of my prior experiences with uncontrolled fields the airport was quite active and so there was no hunting around for weather information to figure out which runway to use (Northampton does not have automated weather). I’m sure the good weather was a factor here with scattered cumulus clouds bases at 4-5k feet very good visibility and light winds.
I turned off at the “reverse high speed” exit about midway down the runway after what was probably my best landing of the day. I have a theory that my solo practice has made me quite used to landing with my weight and balance and I am still adjusting to the feel when the weight and balance is changed. The point where I turned off was at 1500 feet and I wasn’t braking excessively.
I met up with Niranjan and gave him a quick passenger briefing. Some phone calls were made to arrange for Arayana to meet us at Glens Falls while I did a postflight/preflight. Mostly just a walk around, oil check, and fuel level check. Even though I left Nashua with partially filled tanks we had over two hours of fuel left so no need to fill up before departure. I do really love the flexibility of 60 gallon tanks.
I have been doing at least a quick but full runup flow even on quick turns like this. I may develop a reduced flow for this scenario but I do like to see the engine develop some power and cycle the prop once at minimum. I have come a long way from fumbling through a runup in the 172 using the checklist as a “do-list”.
Arrival into Glens Falls was uneventful. By the time we passed over the final ridge the cumulus clouds disappeared with the Hudson River valley in excellent visibility and clear above with light chop. I am very used to right pattern entries from Nashua’s towered operations and I almost started to make a downwind turn for runway 01 before I caught myself and overflew the field for a proper left pattern. The final approach was a bit fast but with plenty of runway we just floated a bit longer than optimal.
Arayana and her grandparents had just arrived as we pulled up. Much like Northampton the FBO at Glens Falls never does any fancy marshaling you to a spot and I just picked a spot on the ramp with tie downs and parked there. I stopped inside to let them know I was there and would be going to the restaurant and that just seems to be the protocol.
We ate a late, quick lunch and chatted for a bit. I also heard from my dad who was apparently in the area near Northampton last night. So he decided to meet us at the airport when we got back to Northampton. Niranjan confirmed that Arayana was comfortable with flying and in fact she seemed pretty excited about it. How often do you get to go home from your gymnastics meet in an airplane?
As we were getting ready to go another pilot asked if the Cardinal was mine and I said yes and he complimented it and said it was a beautiful plane. It turns out he used to travel frequently to Winston-Salem, NC and was quite familiar with the route I took back north with N52667. I couldn’t see what he was flying and I didn’t think to ask but he was flying up from Stewart Airport in the lower Hudson River valley.
I gave a briefing and did the usual preflight. Still enough fuel to go all the way back to Nashua and then some. Arayana’s bags were loaded into the baggage compartment (weight judged by feel). I gave my dad a quick call to say we were heading out.
I talked the way through the taxi and runup (which I usually describe as a “pre-takeoff engine check” or something along those lines). I confirmed every was good before turning onto runway 01. With a very light crosswind from the right the takeoff was nice and smooth. Gear up . . . . . . flaps up, turning on course, and I checked in again breaking the “sterile cockpit” as we climbed through 2000 feet.
My concerns were unfounded and she was having fun. Things really do look different from the air. You never notice how many small lakes and ponds there are. Rivers bends much more in real life than ever depicted on a map. And there is a lot more farmland and green space than many people seem to think.
Especially near the ridge lines in North Adams, MA the air got a bit bumpier. Previously Arayana had expressed some concern about turbulence (she has experience with airline flight). So I kept checking in. After what was probably the most extreme bordering “moderate” turbulence was jolt that lifted us up a fair bit. She said it was fun and . Her only concern was that she was cold which was because I’d left the eyeball vent full open fearing motion sickness! So I reminded her of my briefing about the vents and she closed it and was comfortable. At cruise airspeeds the eyeball vents flow a ton of air and in fact are some of the bigger sources of noise in cruise flight.
I tried to keep the descent at a comfortable rate and soon I was back in the busy pattern environment around Northampton. I overflew the approach end of runway 14 and entered on a downwind following a Piper Warrior. On short final after passing the tree obstruction I configured with full flaps and power off.
The landing was fine. This is where I felt the weight and balance was different from what I was expecting and I underflared slightly and bounced a bit. It was still a perfectly safe landing and again I turned off at the midfield taxiway. If I had bounced again (or harder the first time) I would have done a go-around unconditionally.
My dad was beside the runway and took some pictures as I came in and taxied by. I haven’t seen them yet, so I’ll add some more photos here later or make another post if he got any good shots.
At this point I decided to go straight to the self service fueling area. At $5.66/gallon the self service 100LL at Northampton is a good $0.40/gallon cheaper than full serve at Nashua. So I could pull up to the self service area and unload people and baggage and refuel.
This was my first time using a self service fueling station. Back when I was a renter pilot I very rarely got fuel outside of Nashua and so far my fuel stops in the Cardinal have been full service. The self service avgas stations are a bit more complex than your typical automotive pay at the pump setup.
First you need to ground the aircraft (full service fueling always involves this step). This is needed because the aircraft can accumulate a static charge in flight and you do not want the fueling nozzle to be the point of discharge. So the first step is to ground things by attaching a clamp and cable from the fueling station to the exhaust pipe.
Much like an automotive pay at the pump setup you start by swiping your card. What happens next is different. The display says, “Have you grounded the aircraft?” and you have to enter Yes. Next it asks for your tail number. This will be printed on the receipt but I think they also retain this information to notify pilots if any issue is discovered with the fuel pumped from that tank.
It also asked me to enter a dollar amount. This I was confused by since obviously I didn’t know exactly how much fuel would be needed to top the tanks. So I typed in $300 as a conservative estimate and hoped this would not obligate me to purchase extra fuel! It turns out this is the amount used for the initial authorization “hold” with the credit card company. I think automotive stations usually have a fixed value here but it is nice to see the ability to select something variable for avgas pumps. A full tank fueling on some larger airplanes could be a thousand dollars or more!
The fueling itself was not difficult. The airport provides a ladder next to the fuel pump so you can get on top of the wing and the only trick was inserting the pump nozzle nice and far into the tank to avoid splash back. Once the pump is turned off the pay at the pump machine prints out a nice receipt with quantity, price and tail number. Topping off the tanks took 38.9 gallons (4.7 hours Hobbs since the last top off).
My trip back to Nashua was uneventful and quick. Since the distance is so low (barely over 50 nm) and I was in no hurry I experimented with rolling the power back to 22″ and 2300 rpm and running lean of peak. The engine seemed to run smoothly with this power setting although airspeed was reduced. I had a tailwind and was making the same groundspeeds I would be making with calm winds and higher power settings. The analog fuel flow gauge in the Cardinal is not to be trusted (it is really a poorly calibrated fuel pressure gauge) but showed around 8 gph. Some day I will install real fuel flow instrumentation – it would be a safety asset and enable more efficient operation.
Total logged time was 3.0 with 4 landings. This brings me past a milestone with more than 25 hours in the Cardinal now. It will be time for an oil change soon, yet another ownership adventure!