KRST - More Friends                                       

11/02/2013 -

The beginning of my flying dreams can actually be traced back to my early childhood in Grand Forks, ND, where my friend David and I would watch all the planes that flew overhead as they landed or took off from the nearby Air Force Base.

Fast forward to 6th grade in Rochester, MN.  One of my close friend's mom had volunteered to teach an Aerodynamics class for anyone in our school who was interested.  If memory serves, the class met once a week for about 6 weeks.  We learned basic principals of aerodynamics (how lift is generated, the effects of drag, etc..).  We learned basic aircraft systems and control, which included my first exposure to a PC based flight simulator.  We also took a field trip out to the airport for a tour of the tower, and learn a bit about airport operations.

The friend, Evan, who's mother taught the Aerodynamics class, became one of my best friends.  In junior high I met one of his friends, Matt, who I also became good friends with.  All three of us had a lot of common interests including math, science, computers, aviation, and biking.  This worked out well for us as we all enjoyed biking to each others houses to explorer any one of our common interests or see what mischief we could get into.  One of our usual activities was to see if we could find various places in flight simulator.  Back in the late 80s / early 90s the graphics in PC based flight simulators were not like they are today.  Finding a recognizable building or landmark (aside from a runway) was few and far between.  We also had various competitions to see who could land the plane with the least (or in some cases most) bounces.  I was definitely the most novice pilot (most likely still am), but at the time we all had trouble making a good landing.  It wasn't until Matt's dad, Rob, gave us a demonstration on using pitch to control airspeed, and throttle to control altitude, that we started being able to land with any sort of normalcy.  That gave birth to new competitions of landing on carrier decks and atop large buildings.

So what does this have to do with a flying trip in the Cozy?  Well, Rob and I are part of the same EAA chapter and still keep in touch.  I also still keep in touch with Evan's mom, Johnnie Sue, in Rochester.  Rob and I thought it would be fun to take the Cozy on a day trip to Rochester to visit Johnnie Sue, and perhaps take her up in it.  So on November 2nd the weather looked good for the day, and I set off to Rochester along side the first person to try teaching me how to get a plane back down on the ground, in order to visit the first person to try teaching me how they got in the air in to begin with.

The clouds weren't as high as I would have liked, but Rob reminded me that the plane will fly BELOW 10,000 feet as well.  He was right, it's just a hard habit to kick from all the Phase 1 testing where I wanted to be as high as possible to have as much time as possible to set up for an emergency landing should one become necessary.  We leveled off about 7500 feet, where the air was smooth, and picked up VFR flight following from Minneapolis Center.  We were put 'on hold' upon our initial contact with center, and at 170KTAS I was forced to turn south to avoid the Class B before they finally got back to me a transponder code and cleared me into the bravo.  It did little good though.  It wasn't long after I had turned back on course that they began vectoring me around to the south and forcing me down to 5500 feet.  After basically skirting around the entire metro, just inside the bravo, we finally got back on course for Rochester.  It wasn't but another 10 minutes and we were handed off to Rochester approach and soon started a gentle let down for landing in Rochester.  We entered downwind for 31 and tower cleared us to land behind another aircraft, supposedly on a 4 mile final, that was demonstrating one of my biggest pet peeves in aviation...pilots that don't know where they are.  If you are acting as pilot in command of an aircraft, my basic belief is that you really should know WHERE YOU ARE at all times.  Now you might not need to know within a quarter mile when you're enroute between stops, but when you're on final, you really should know the difference between 4 miles and 12.  It would also have been helpful if the tower controller (who has terminal radar in Rochester) would have gently corrected the pilot as to his true distance from the runway.

Rob spotted the landing traffic before I did.  It took me a bit to finally pick him up, but I gave him plenty of room and turned onto what was about 4 mile final, as he was just nearing the runway.  My landing was good and we taxied up to the FBO.  We met Johnnie Sue inside, and discussed where we should go for lunch.  After a great time at lunch recounting memories of the silly things Matt, Evan, and I did as kids, we went back to the airport, and I took Johnnie Sue up for a spin in the Cozy.  We took off to the west and I joked that if we pushed the throttle up a bit we could be out to visit Evan in about 8 hours.  Instead I kept the speed down to Va (120Kts) as the air was rather choppy, and we made a big arc from the west to the southeast, setting us up for a straight in approach to 31.  Another decent landing, but I did manage to tag a pretty good sized pothole on the taxi back to the FBO.  No damage to the plane, but unsettling at the time.

I gave the FBO our fuel order and went to the plane to help with any questions about grounding etc.  Once filled, Rob and I saddled up for the long 45 minute voyage home.  We had a slight headwind on the way home and again got turned in the Minneapolis class B, so our return trip was an hour instead of 45 minutes, but we had a great time sightseeing over the metro and making some diversions for cloud clearance (still need to get that IPC done).  We got back to St. Cloud about 4pm and didn't really want to be done flying.  It was such a nice day out, and we had been having so much fun, I just really didn't want to put the plane away.  Next time we'll have to take a longer trip.

I forgot to pull the camera out of my flight bag and give it to Rob on both the flight down and back, but Rob did take some pics below of Johnnie Sue and I with the Cozy: