As a flight instructor, I’ve always pushed the idea of establishing personal weather minimums. Crosswind limits, ceiling/visibility limits, etc. And as a “regular” pilot out doing my own thing, I try to live by those rules just the same.
So it should come as no surprise that when the world started stacking the deck against me on our last attempt to fly, it was an easy decision: not today!
I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that the Pacer hasn’t flown since November 30, 2015. That’s very unusual for our airplane as we generally try to keep it flying at least every two weeks. In the summer months, this isn’t hard unless schedules fill up, but in the winter, it’s almost always a function of the wintery months here in Iowa.
On this day, the goal was to simply go get the airplane out and warmed up. A short hour flight is usually sufficient to keep the engine oiled up and get the oil temperature up as well. All good things, and seemingly a simple goal.
The Deck is Stacked
After digging the airplane out and putting a touch of air in the tires, we carefully pushed the Pacer out into the sunlight. The ramp was fairly icy, but not horrible, especially once out on the main ramp and the runway itself. Icy ramp? Strike one.
We loaded up in the airplane and I proceeded down the engine start checklist. One problem: no aircraft keys. They were sitting safely in the hangar. So, we unbuckled, unload and start over. If you’ve ever done this dance in a small airplane, you know it’s a setback. Strike two.
Our hangar is fairly protected from the winds because it’s in a row and it can be hard to get a good sense of what the wind is doing. The main issue on this particular day was a crosswind of greater than 10 knots which is my personal limit with this airplane.
I had a sense (obviously we checked weather before driving to the airport) that the wind were picking up, but by the time we taxied out to the ramp, I could tell it was going to be more of a battle than we needed. It was taking everything I had to taxi safely and keep the little Pacer straight. Strike three.
One of my first flight instructors told me it’s usually best to quit on the first strike. By the time the third strike rolls around, it may be too many things piled on top of each other. Needless to say, we pulled the plug on this flight and taxied safely back to our hangar.
It’s not a great feeling to give up after so much work to preflight, load up, and prepare for the flight. It’s also not great to start the engine and just taxi around a bit. But, it is great to know that the airplane is in one piece and so are we. That’s worth quite a bit, right?