Those were the days
Now that we’re into November and making the annual reversion to “God’s Time,” the flying scene has taken on a decidedly winter look. Shorter days and early nightfalls require a dawn launch to take full advantage of daylight flying hours. Already this past week, some of our after-work flights required landing in full darkness, using the Electric City’s welcoming runway lights. It’s easy to lose track of the approach of darkness when up at 3000 feet above the ground, sitting there in sunlight as the sun has yet to set at altitude. But due to the curve of the earth, one can observe car lights on the highways below because it’s already dark on the ground. By the time you spend 10 minutes descending into the blackness and making a traffic pattern, the twilight is long gone.
Which leads us to the convoluted regulations regarding night flight. For aircraft lighting requirements, position lights must be turned on at sunset. But you can’t log it as night flying until the end of Civil twilight, roughly 30 minutes after sundown. However, the rule requiring three full-stop night landings within the last 90 days to be legal to haul passengers at night doesn’t take effect until one hour after sunset. Staying legal takes some knowledge of the applicable rules.
Among the local aviators taking wing this week were Roy Conley in his Tr2 Grumman, Jeremie Platt in his Grumman Tiger, and Nathan Schrock in a Cessna 150. Many transient comings and goings took place; multiple Piper Archers shot landings, a Cirrus SR22 Gen 2 took on fuel, and Jay McClintock was in from Harrisonville with his student’s Beech Sundowner. Also in were a Cessna Skylane and a Pitts biplane.
Once upon a time, nigh onto 50 years ago, the American aircraft manufacturers were building thousands of new airplanes every year, not the paltry hundreds of today. At Cessna’s Pawnee factory in Wichita, dealers were given three days to come and get their completed airplane, or else they would have to pay a storage fee; the Cessna Field could only hold a limited number of tied-down planes. Butler was a common stop for new Wichita airplanes bound to the Eastern states. Pilots would need a break about the time they crossed the Kansas state line. Many of them had no radios installed, so they couldn’t stop at tower-controlled airports. Dealers ordered the planes without stock Cessna radios, preferring to put in their own choice of radios once they got them to their home shop. Those were interesting times.
Our week’s question was “who was the last man to walk on the surface of the Moon?” The answer was Commander Gene Cernan, who climbed back into the Apollo 17 lunar lander vehicle after his partner, having driven around on the lunar plain with the “Moon Buggy” cart that was carried by the later Apollo missions. Now, for this week’s puzzler, harken back to Piper Aircraft’s use of Native American tribal names to designate their airplane types. What was the first Piper to carry an Indian name? You can send your answers to email@example.com.