October 9, 2005

Scenic Fall Flying

ephraim_airport_3d2.jpgI just returned from enjoying a beautiful fall weekend in Northern Wisconsin. While there, I rented a Cessna 172 from Orion Flight Service at the the Sturgeon Bay Cherryland Airport. Since I had not rented with Orion since the Fourth of July weekend, I flew with one of their instructors so I could be cleared to rent with them for the next few months.

I met an Rob at 8 o'clock on a chilly Saturday morning. I think the temperature was about 40 degrees when I arrived at the airport, the winds were calm and the skies were overcast at 3,500 feet. I took off on runway 02 and quickly turned north towards the Ephraim Airport in the northern portion of the Door Peninsula. Although there were overcast skies the visibility was excellent underneath the clouds. Shortly after taking off and climbing to 2,500 feet I could see clear across Lake Michigan to the Sleeping Bear Dunes of Michigan which meant we had at least 75 miles of visibility.

The view below was beautiful as well as fall has taken effect in Wisconsin and there was a nice range of yellow, orange and red leaves on the trees below. The flight to Ephraim is a short 20 minute flight. Ephraim is a small airport that has two runways, a grass runway and an asphalt runway. The City of Ephraim and their airport were featured in the Summer 2004 issue of Pilot Getaways. I was anxious to make my first landing there. Even better was the winds were favoring the turf runway so I entered the pattern for my first turf landing in over a year.

Soft-field runways require a slower than normal touchdown speed. Additionally, you need to keep pressure off the nose wheel during the landing by using continuous back pressure on the yoke. I executed a nice pattern and followed that up with a great soft landing on the turf at Ephraim. I then back taxied to prepare for the departure. Departing from a soft-field you try to again minimize pressure on the front wheel and apply back pressure to get the plane off the ground into ground effect quickly. Once in ground effect you fly a few feet above the ground and let the airplane build up airspeed before beginning your climb. Departing from this Turf runway you climb over a forest of trees followed by a beautiful view of the bay and the city of Ephraim. After such a great experience on the turf I decided to next practice a crosswind landing and entered the downwind leg for the asphalt runway. In a crosswind landing you spend a much of the time on final approach making small adjustments to the rudders and the ailerons to adjust for the wind and then land the rear wheel on the side of the wind first befor bringing down the other rear wheel then finally the nose gear. I made another great landing and was feeling pretty good about how well I was flying.

From there Rob and I flew back towards the Cherryland Airport. Rob was nice to point out some great sites along the shore including tone of the most photographed lighthouses in Wisconsin, the Cana Island Lighthouse. We also flew over the City of Glasgow shipwreck. I really enjoyed flying with Rob, we had a great time talking aviation while enjoying a fun flight.

When we returned to the Cherryland Airport the AWOS stated the winds were coming directly down runway 02. I knew it would allow me to make a perfect landing to finish the day. Sure enough I made a nice smooth landing completing a great flight.

This was my first flight in a few months outside of the busy airspace of Midway Airport in Chicago. When flying in Midway you don't always get the benefit of flying a standard pattern and instead commonly fly a straight in landing approach. I have found that makes it harder to consistently make great landings since most training for landings is within a standard left traffic pattern. Getting back into an environment where I could perform the standard pattern I felt much more comfortable and confident and it showed in my landings. I think I may continue to look at airports in the Chicago area and see if I can find one that has that small airport feel I had in Cincinnati and I enjoy when I am in Door County.

Posted by at October 9, 2005 10:33 PM