Monday, February 6, 2017

Day and Night

KFAM 051756Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM CLR 12/01 A3011
KFAM 060056Z AUTO 09003KT 10SM CLR 10/01 A3009

I flew twice on February 5th. A day flight means that I can do an easier preflight and refueling at the self-service pump (the only way one can get avgas at KFAM).

There seems to be a lot more pollution in the air these days:

I wonder if that's because wood pellet stoves seem to be gaining in popularity. So apparently is heating with wood itself. When I am out and about in the winter, I smell a lot more wood smoke than I once did.

Anyway, after a gap of several hours, it was back to the airport for a night flight.

My airplane sits in a shade-hangar. Each two-airplane bay is lit by a single overhead light (with a switch, so they're not on all the time). This is the bay where my airplane sits, after I had pulled it out to start it up:

That single bulb may not look like much, but anyone who has done a nighttime preflight with a flashlight and maybe the headlights from a car will appreciate the convenience that is afforded by that single bulb. Oh, I still have to use a flashlight, but being able to walk around and give the airplane a once-over without having to play the beam of a flashlight about is heavenly.

This is also the first airport that I've been based at where I had the airplane in a shade hangar. At all the others, it was on a tiedown. An airplane in a shade hangar is exposed to the wind and the cold, as well as the sun for a couple of hours in the day. But it's not rained on or snowed on and it isn't baked by the sun all day long. I've noticed that over time, there has been a dropoff in the niggling problems that would arise when it was tied down.

The other thing that's nice is that there are electrical outlets. My airplane, like a lot of others at the field, has a battery conditioner on it. The ease in starting has been dramatic. The owners who fly a lot in cold weather also have electric engine heaters, which I've not bothered with. As I have aged, I have found that flying in cold weather isn't all that much fun.

I've done more night flying this season than over the past several years. There have been enough warmish days (40degF or warmer) to accommodate that. I like flying at night, but for me, it's all solo work. If the engine quits at night, the chances of getting seriously injured or killed in a forced landing are significant; I don't feel comfortable sharing that risk.

Night flying season will soon end for me. Sunset now is at 1730 local. A month from now, it will be 1800 and then it will jump to after 1900 when Daylight Savings Time comes into effect on March 12th. Night landings (and takeoffs) only count for currency purposes when they're done no earlier than an hour after sunset. When I was much younger, I had no problem with launching around 9PM for an evening flight.

Those days are gone.