The winds looked good this morning. They were not forecasted to pick up until after Noon. Seemed like a great morning to go fly. I got out to New Jerusalem at about 8:00am. There was no wind, dead calm. I unpacked as usual and set up as usual. One last look at the wind sock told me it was going to be a great flight. It was hanging down, not a breath of wind.
I took off and flew south along the San Joaquin River. I circled back to overfly the confluence of the Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers. It was probably a big deal back before the rivers were dammed. Now it looks like two irrigation canals coming together. I continued on south over Highway 132 and towards a large pond just next to the river. I wasn’t too keen on flying over the acres and acres of orchards in front of me (I’m still learning to trust this engine, it didn’t skip a beat) so I turned back north. Once I got just north of Highway 132 the cart started to swing and my ground speed dropped from 28 MPH to 19 MPH!
I was about 3 miles from the airport and my ground speed kept dropping and the cart kept swinging. I might have said a prayer or two. As I came in on final approach my ground speed was down to 14 MPH. Things got a little more swingy near the ground but I managed to make a really decent landing. The cart was rolling on the ground so I killed the engine and tugged the brakes to bring the chute down. After it settled down behind me I just sat there as is my habit. I listen to the wind, the birds, the sound of the engine ticking as it cooled down. I unbuckled and immediately the wind started inflating the parachute and pulling the cart backwards. I grabbed one of the brake lines to deflate the chute. I dropped my helmet on the rear corner to keep the chute from billowing up again. If the ride back to the airport was interesting packing the chute back up was every bit as interesting. I finally got it in the bag and stowed on the cart.
I thought it was just me having a problem with the wind but then I saw a Cessna 172 on final approach and he was bucking and crabbing every bit as much as I was. I was just of the runway on the downwind side and started backing up when I saw he kept drifting towards me and looking like he was going to land on my PPC! He finally decided to go-around and passed about 30 feet above me. Yeah, so much for a full flap landing in a stiff crosswind. I got the cart back to the trailer before he tried his second approach. He made it down this time. Good for him.
So the moral to today’s story is that weather conditions can change very quickly. Stay on top of the weather, stay on top of your skills, and be ready to use those skills.
And now enjoy a short video of (most of) the flight…
And if you’re interested in where I flew today…