It doesn’t look good for me to go flying today. Nothing but rain clouds for a hundred miles in any direction. But we’ll see. Maybe I’ll at least get the briefing done so next time I can just go fly.
Friday, on the other hand, was a wonderful flight. It started off looking like we might not be able to do everything we wanted because of a broken cloud layer around 5,500 ft. There were reports of lowering clouds, decreasing visibility, and a squall line north of the field. But after careful analysis of the weather situation, my instructor decided to launch. Montgomery was reporting clear skies, so we would head north.
He called it right. Once we punched through the squall line, the visibility got better. We found a hole in the cloud deck and headed for it. On the first attempt, we were about 400 feet of altitude shy of making the hole, so I did a level 360-degree turn to accelerate. On the second try, we were charging toward the base of the cloud hole at over 150 knots, and we vaulted through into the bright sunlight on top of the clouds. Our working altitude put us only a thousand feet or so above the tops of most of them, but we had to turn frequently to avoid some of the taller ones.
On a clear day, it sometimes seems like we’re just hovering up there. But with all the clouds close to us, there was a definite sensation of speed. “Cloud surfing” is one of the great pleasures of flying.
When our “high work” was done, it was time to head down. The presecribed method of descent for this flight was my introduction to the “spin.” A spin is basically just an aggravated stall that results in autorotation of the airplane at about 150 degrees per second and a descent rate of 12,000 feet per minute. I’d been dreading it, but I was feeling good on the airsickness meds the doc had given me, and it was time to face the music.
The hole we’d come up through was now about three miles wide. We set ourselves up over it at 9,500 feet. Power off, 30 degrees nose up, rudder at the shakers, full rudder at the stall… The airplane flopped over on its back to the right and settled about 45 degrees nose down with the whole world spinning around us. After a few turns, my instructor put in full left rudder, and in a few more turns the airplane stopped spinning. It took at least five more turns for my head to stop spinning, but I’d survived, and I felt fine. Now, suddenly, we were only at 6,500 feet.
The clear skies over Montgomery had by this time worked their way south into our practice area. Our northernmost outlying field was totally clear and beautiful. After about 7 laps around the bounce pattern, we headed home, back into the goo. By the time I left the base, though, the skies were clear all the way down to Pensacola, and we enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather this weekend. Life is good!