On this date, 41 years ago, Dick Fraser was at the controls of a Beech H-18 airplane during final approach into Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin. The weather was harsh, but that was not news. The forecast he received before departing Cleveland called for freezing temps and mixed precipitation, but the boss had an important engagement that evening, and Dick was going to do his level best to get him there. Tragically, the forecast came true and got the best of the plane and pilot, which crashed into Lake Monona and killing all aboard except for one. Dick Fraser was my father, and he was one of the fatalities. The crash also changed the course of music history
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with master story teller P.W. Fenton, and I'm quite proud of the result. You can listen to my story as an episode of his podcast Digital Flotsam
Over the years I've found ways to commemorate my father's memory, but today was the first time I had the chance to actually complete the flight by landing at Dane County Regional Airport - Truax Field. The weather was perfect and there was the added training benefit of flying and landing at a Class C airspace facility. The funny thing was that as a pilot maneuvering in controlled airspace, you're too focused on the task at hand to think about why it was you were flying in the first place. But as I completed my landing and takeoff and was climbing out, I looked over to Lake Monona off to my front right and gave a wave.
Labels: class c, digital flotsam, fenton, kmsn, kryv, madison, redding
KRYV 181900Z AUTO 28006KT 10SM CLR M10/M16 A2976 RMK AO2
It was back in November when I had my last flight. Money has become exceptionally tight in the household, and flight time is more of a luxury than ever. My 2 year anniversary of my checkride is this week, so this is going to be my last flight for the near future. So I needed to get up one more time before I fell out of currency requirements, if not to reaffirm some confidence in my skills.
The plan for today was simple. Jot up to Juneau for a couple of touch and goes and then back to Watertown for a couple more. Basic stuff. It's nice to have another field close to home to allow for airport approaches and pattern entry. It's one thing to just take a few trips around the patch, but there's no real planning that has to go into that. Going to another airport forces you to plan. Runway selection, pattern entry, and all the different sight pictures are reinforcing more skills than just takeoffs and landings. It's the next best thing to an official cross country. The only things missing are the in depth weather planning, fuel management, and navigation. An these days, navigation is a snap with the GPS unit.
Besides being bitterly cold this morning (or downright tropical compared to earlier this week, it's all relative), conditions were perfect. A slight breeze with a tiny cross wind component both here and at Juneau. The longer I go between flights the more apprehensive I am climbing into the plane. Have I lost my skills? Is my head properly in the game? Today my head was in the game. I was more focused than I had been on the previous two or three flights. I made sure I verbalized my preflight briefing to myself. Besides, there's nothing better to do while you're waiting for the engine to reach temperature.
Any lingering apprehension vanished when the wheels lifted off the pavement. You just don't have time to think because of the focus you need in the first two minutes. Not until I'm at a safe altitude can I relax and start enjoying things. Approach to Juneau was routine. First landing may have been a couple of knots fast, but aligned nicely and slightly left. Second landing I flared a little earlier, but I drifted a little left and slightly misaligned. The right wheel might have been on the centerline. The two landings in Watertown were about the same. Slightly left but aligned with a nice flare.
So my next flight will be part of my biennial flight review. The review is mandated to ensure minimum pilot proficiency. I still haven't talked to an instructor about it, but I have an idea of some things I want to make sure are covered. It's probably wise to do some training on emergency situations, as well as a full series of stall sequences. Since that near disaster the last time I tried a power on stall, I'm a little gun shy about doing one without a safety on board. Plus my landing techniques probably need a little tweaking to stop that left drift I keep getting. A cross country up to Appleton or Oshkosh, with lunch in the middle and training each way should suffice. I reckon an hour on the ground and two in the air. We'll see what the instructor recommends. I feel like I've done well to keep the knowledge high.
In the end, it gets back around to money. I fear that this might be six months or more before I get it done. The very real possibility of going inactive cannot be discounted. How I would love to buy one of the nicer light sports and take nice, leisurely cross countries around the region. That dream is at least 10 years away. But I dream. I am never more at peace than when it's me, a magic anti-gravity machine, and the limitless sky. There just ain't nothing like it.
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