Cheat Code

Posted November 2014

Bad weather and a bad cold kept me from flying for almost a month.  Both started clearing up this weekend.  Yesterday was beautiful, but with high winds.  Today came bright and clear.

A bit of a change in temperature, in a month, though.  Last I'd flown, it had been in the upper 50s.  When I got up today, it was 32 degrees. By the time I'd reached the airport, it had worked its way up to 45.

(Yeah, I know.  LOTS of sympathy from the Midwesterners out there....)

Anyway, for the first time since last spring, I had to dress for warmth.   Turtleneck shirt under a flannel one, RAF scarf, leather jacket, hefty gloves.

Encountered, once again, Temperfoam's freezing habits.  Due to my knee issues, I had cut an aggressive shape for the seat-bottom foam...and of course, with temperatures in the 40s, none of it "gave" when I got into the airplane.  Tightened the harness as well I could, then had to keep jacking it tighter as the foam warmed under my heinie.

Anyway, though, beautiful day to fly...great performance, air a bit hazy, but dead smooth.  Got off the ground, elbowed my way through the traffic (first decent day in ~3 weeks), and zipped out for some sightseeing.  Then it was back home for some touch-and-goes.

People who play video games are aware of "Cheat Codes," that give them invulnerability, or immortality, or massive weapons in their games. Those who play the video, audio, and Sensurround game called "Fly Baby" have a cheat code as well:  A low winter sun, behind and to the side of them as they land.

Realized it on my first touch-and-go.  Coming close to the ground, I could see the blobbish shadow easing down toward me.  Simplicity itself to judge height; when the shadow's wheels were nearing mine, it was time to ease back on the stick.  Makes smooth landings waaaay easier.

Beyond that, it got interesting at a couple of points.  It's waterfowl migration season, and there appears to be a flyway for Canada Geese right cross the middle of the airport.  I had to dodge birds a couple of times.

Metal birds brought their own issues.  Fixed-wing planes came and went, with some staying in the pattern along with a flight-school helicopter.   On one approach, I called that I was on final, only to hear the helicopter call "base to final" at the same time.  I looked to my left, and saw it pointing right at me, about a thousand feet off.  They hadn't seen me, and hadn't projected where I was at.  I broke away and went around.

Next time around was even more fun.  As I got abeam of the numbers on downwind, another plane was just landing but the pattern was clear.  I could easily have made a near-immediate base turn for the kind of tight pattern I prefer (and hadn't been able to do because of other planes in the pattern).

But...there were planes on the ground, stacked up to leave.  I announced an extended downwind to let the waiting planes go, and lofted contentedly in a longer pattern, turning final about 3/4 mile out.  Once Cessna yet to go, so I kept the throttle midway and floated towards the runway.  Once the last plane was clear, I called "Auburn traffic, Fly Baby on short final for touch-and-go."

Power back all the way, shove over into a slip to shed the extra altitude.  Watch the cheat code show up, and ease 'Raker down to another smooth landing.

Slide the throttle forward for the "go" portion....


Back, forward again.

Still nothing. It felt like trying to use a hand pump on buttermilk.

I realized it almost immediately.  In all the excitement and distraction, I'd forgotten to turn the carb heat on.  The Continental had stayed true to its nature, forming a big chunk of ice in the venturi at the drop of a flying helmet.

I pulled on the heat, and for a split second debated working the engine to get it running good enough to continue the touch-and-go.

Then I realized how utterly stupid an idea that was.  Touch the brakes, turn off at the taxiway, go to the runup area, and be DARN SURE THE ICE WAS GONE before attempting takeoff.

It's ironic, really.  My pre-landing checklist basically consists of one item:  "TURN CARB HEAT ON."  And I'd missed that.  My long-ingrained habit of coming in high and slipping down at the last minute saved my bacon. question, I was lucky.  Didn't have to go-around. Didn't have to pour power on to miss a Vee of geese.  And it was one of the times my eye was in; where I didn't misjudge my approach and come in low.

Good gosh.

That's the problem with Cheat Codes.  The same code doesn't work on other games, or even other portions of the same game.  And they may make you think you're *really* good, when you should be staying attention to other things as well.

Plane tucked quietly in a hangar, plane in chunks on the approach path.   It's sometimes a narrow path between the two, and even a simple ol' Fly Baby has to be treated right.

Ron Wanttaja

Return to the Stories Page