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Wow, what an aviation-filled day - it just doesn’t get any better then this! A local flight this morning, and then this afternoon an adventure filled cross country from Muskoka.
My morning flight with my enthusiastic passenger Blair went off near perfect. We arrived at the airport shortly after 7AM, and were underway shortly afterwards.
All of my fretting about the W&B was rather moot, as it was fueled perfectly to where I needed it.
The preflight was, as usual, miserable given the cold weather. But, it paid off with an excellent flight in great conditions. We departed southwest initially and circled Blairs workplace so he could take some pictures, and then headed east. Then north. We caught a few of the sights on the way up over Scugog, tracked up towards Lindsay, and then headed west.
Blair has flown gliders before, so he was not new to the world of aviation, although this was his first time in a little (powered) aircraft, so there was some new situations for him. He took the controls for a short while and did quite well, making a 360 orbit within +/- 100 feet - evidence indeed of flying skills. He comments that he’s not able to guage his airspeed by sound alone, as the engine drowns out most of the noise, but he does great.
I took the opportunity to ask Blair if he was interested in doing a little airwork while we were up, since he wasn’t afraid of that sort of thing. He readilly accepted, so I did a HASEL, made an advisory radio call, and got underway. Nothing too big, just a few steep turns and a power off stall.
The steep turns went well - I lost 100′ on my first one (a bit of rust showing) and missed my wake, but rolled out perfectly on my heading. The second one was perfect, and I smacked firmly into my wake on the exit.
The stall was about as gentle as a stall could be, given the wind conditions and the inherent gentle stall characteristics of the ‘52. Blair seemed surprised at exactly how uneventfull the stall really was, so I gather that gliders are a little less forgiving? I’ll probably never know, as I don’t see myself getting into a glider anytime soon. Perhaps next time I’ll do a power on climbing stall, which tend to be a little more eventfull.
Anyhow, we finish up from that, and head home. It was nice to get the opportunity to do some refresher airwork, as staying fresh on the basics is important. Obviously, with a regular passenger, I don’t get the opportunity to do things like steep turns and stalls, so I look forward to flying with Blair more often!
I make a crappy landing thanks to some unexpected wind over the threshhold of 30. Safe landing, yes…gracefull landing, not so much.
Anyhow, that flight complete, I met Richard at the airport at around 10AM, and we piled into our van for the ride up to Muskoka airport.
The weather continues to be amazing, although the winds have picked up a little.
The drive up is uneventfull, and we do alot of chatting enroute. Richard trained at CFA himself, and it was interesting to hear about how similar our training was in some regards, yet different in others. The drive seemed to go incredibly fast - good conversation can make even a boring drive seem like a much shorter event.
When we arrive at the airport, Richards Lake is outside, plugged in, and all ready to go. There’s nobody around at Lake Central (the Lake dealer at the airport) so we get underway.
My wife bids us adieu and advises she will wait around in town for a bit for us to confirm that we are “good to go” before she heads back herself. I’ll text message her to confirm.
The Lake is an interesting creature indeed! This was the first opportunity I had to really get up close and personal with one, so I familiarized myself a little as Richard did the preflight and such. There’s lots of “little things” that are different versus a non-amphibious aircraft - fuel sumps are above the waterline, the door sills are very high..and of course, with the overhead mounted engine, there are no rear windows. The heating system is also unique, involving a 100LL burning combusion-style heater unit which is mounted (externally) to the roof of the cabin, and controlled by a number of switches from inside. Anyone who remembers the old Volkswagen Beetle heater systems can probably draw some associations, but the difference ends there - the one in the Lake actually works, versus the one in the old Beetles, which frequently did not.
The cockpit is interesting as well - some controls are overhead versus the more common placement locations, and the trims are all hydraulically operated, versus old fashioned cable setups.
The trim tabs on the Lake are huge I discover while looking around the exterior. With the engine mounting location, a large amount of trim authority is needed, and there’s no doubt that those monsterous trim tabs provide lots of it.
There is lots of other differences as well, obviously, but I could go on for hours. It’s just a neat aircraft!
Richards wife is unavailable when he calls to file our flight itinerary, so I offer to have my wife provide the service instead. I call her up on the cellphone and relay the necessary information. I provide an ETA for our departure and an ETA for our arrival back at Oshawa, and we pile in.
Unfortunately we then experienced some technical difficulties, and a major screwup on my behalf.
The plane has been sitting for some time, and is less then excited about starting. Despite our best efforts, it just doesn’t want to go.
At one point, we egress the plane to deal with the situation, and I get my foot caught in my headset cable on the way out. I promptly manage to not only faceplant (Surprisingly, gracefully enough that I didn’t get hurt) but I also managed to pull the wires out of the headset - both plugs.
Now I feel like a complete ass - not only have I took a spill, but I screwed up Richards headset which he was so nice as to offer me for the flight.
Anyhow, the long and the short of it is that I owe Richard a new headset. I’ll get the broken one repaired (probably not a huge deal, but repair necessary regardless) and keep it as my own, and supply Richard with a brand new replacement.
I joke that I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy myself a headset sooner then later regardless, and apparently fate is telling me that it’s now time. Unfortunately, this leaves me without a headset for the flight at hand. Oh well, my own fault.
Anyhow, with the problem out of the way and the Lake now up and running, we head down to the opposite end of Muskoka’s seemingly endless 6000 foot runway for the runup. The runway is a mess - probably 95% ice covered at the north end, with better, but still not good, conditions at the south end.
The Lake has no nosewheel steering mechanism, using only differential braking for directional control on the ground - it requires some finesse in order to accomplish this in a gracefull fashion, and it’s obvious that Richard has the “Been there, done that” T-Shirt, as he deftly gets us down the skating rink of a runway and into position for our runup.
The runup produces a miss on one cylinder on the right mag. Uh oh! Nothing in the usual repertoire of plug-clearing methods manages to solve the situation, so wisely we taxi back to the hangar to investigate. I text message my wife to hang around a little longer, just in case…and to let her know that our ETA’s will be changing.
With the helpfull assistance of the “Lake Guy” (I forget his name) we quickly sort out the problem as just an extremely fouled plug. Removed, cleaned, tested, and reinstalled, the engine purrs away quite happilly now.
Underway again! The second runup produces perfect results, and we are set for departure. I text message my wife to let her know we are indeed underway now. They text back that they are shopping. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but they are apparently having a blast I learn afterwards.
The signifigant horsepower of this plane is immediately evident to me on the takeoff roll, and it quickly pops into the sky and we are away.
The first thing I notice is that the nose-up attitude of the climb seems really low compared to the 152’s. A 1000FPM climb still produces a great view over the nose, and with the wings placed far back on the fueselage (Again, a characteristic of the overhead rear-mounted engine) the view downwards from the cockpit windows is also excellent.
It’s not long, and we are at cruise altitide. I’ve brought along my Palm based GPS system and this flight is giving me the first shot at using it for real-life cross country navigation. It performs excellent.
Richard offers me the controls. Even asking me the question is a little more challenging considering I’m headset-less..no intercom, no radios. Surprisingly, cockpit noise isnt that bad at all, regardless of the fact, but talking still requires a good loud voice.
I accept the opportunity to fly, and actually end up flying a good majority of the cruise. The Lake seems responsive, but heavier on the controls versus what I’m used to…that’s to be expected. The trim controls are between the seats, and are hydraulically operated instead of the wheel style that is more common to me. It’s straightforward, though, and the plane trims into a nice stable cruise.
Richard works the radios as I enjoy the view and fly the course. My GPS shows a groundspeed nearing 130knots at times, so the strong wind from the north is indeed pushing us along at a good clip. Other then for curiosities sake, the GPS is rather redundant - there’s so many easy to pick out landmarks that with todays visibility, VFR nav couldn’t get much easier.
With the tailwind, we make spectacular time, and before it seems like it started, we are on approach to Oshawa.
The different flying characteristics of this plane remain right down the approach, but Richard makes it look easy. I do understand exactly why Lake owners all go through signifigant type rating training, however - these planes are indeed unique machines, and short of straight-and-level, they don’t fly like your average aircraft.
We push back into the parking spot, and tie down. I text message my wife to confirm that we are down, and that she no longer needs to worry about our flight itinerary. They message back, blown away by the time that we made on the return trip.
So, that’s it. I’m now incredibly hyped to make this same trip myself, so I’ll be keeping a close eye out for anyone willing to go halfsies on the cost of a Muskoka cross country.
Any takers? :-)
And last but not least, a big thanks to Richard for graciously offering the opportunity for this experience - I know for a fact that there’s lots of other people that would love to get some time in this sort of plane, and I seem to have jumped the queue. It was fun!