Monday, February 13, 2023

What's Up by LeRoy Cook


Nothing lasts forever

The past week had some flyable periods, allowing quite a bit of air traffic. Coming through was a Piper Arrow, a Cessna Skylane, a Mooney M20 and various Piper Archer trainers. Randy Shannon flew over from Drexel in his Zenith homebuilt, Rick Blumholtz brought his Piper TriPacer in from Paola and Jacob Mosher was up from El Dorado Springs in his Bellanca Citabria. Local flyers were Les Gorden in his Beech Bonanza F35, Jon Laughlin in his Piper Cherokee 180C, and Eric Eastland ferrying his Cessna 150 while I flew on his wing. 

Much buzz is being heard about the report of an announcement on Facebook in SkyDive KC’s account that the skydive center is shutting down operations. The jump season ended in October and everyone expected that local parachuting would resume in late March, but it’s not going to happen. We were told that the big King Air jump plane has been sold; a buyer is being sought for the business, and all facilities at the airport will be maintained in ready status. 

SkyDive KC has been a fixture at Butler for 25 years, filling the skies with nylon canopies on nice weekends throughout the summer. However, it’s only a part-time operation and there comes a time when it’s time to move on. Hopefully, a buyer can be found. Evidently, the proposed wind farm near the airport, discussed in last week’s paper, was not a factor in their decision.

The furor over the Chinese balloons drifting over the U.S. last week has caused a lot of confusion about what they are and how they got here. They are not “hot air balloons” as commonly termed; those must be continually heated by propane burners, so these high-altitude balloons are a sealed envelope filled with a lighter-than air gas like hydrogen, expanding to giant proportions as ambient air pressure decreases. Normally, they travel with the jet stream winds in the upper atmosphere, moving west to east sinsuoidly in the Norhern Hemisphere. Such aerostats, as they’re termed, can rise to 100,000 feet or more before rupturing, so the above-60,000 foot flight of the first one was far above normal aircraft. 

Another close-call incident between airliners took place in fogged-in Austin, Texas last week, when an alert Federal Express crew took charge of a situation unknowingly set up by the tower controller, who thought there was time to clear a Southwest 737 for takeoff on the same runway as the approaching FedEx. Without visibility, the actual spacing was hard to determine, but the FedEx 767 pilots were prepared and did what had to be done, going around on their own. We all work together, pilots and controllers, to make the system safe.

Our question last week was “what’s a ‘piball’?” It’s a pilot balloon, a relatively small balloon released to be visually observed as a way to gauge wind speed and direction. For next time, where is the only established ice runway located? Send your answers to

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