The morning was cloudy, but around 10 the wind started blowing hard. I phoned the OFP AWOS at 1 and heard "...240 at 15 peak gusts 30." OFP's runway is 16/34, so that didn't sound too hospitable. But at 2 o'clock at the airport, Greenwood said we'd give it a try.
As we were taxiing away from the ramp, someone was trying to take off on 34. The windsock looked to be pointing straight across the runway, but Greenwood said he'd try it on 16. We stopped and watched the other guy get up--and down and up and down as gusts hit him partly from the back. A couple of times his nose was so high that I thought he'd stall, especially when a gust dropped his airspeed drastically, but eventually he managed to clmb out and disappeared. Greenwood took off from an intersection, leaving about one-third of the runway behind us--but of course he had the power to get up quickly.
He turned it over to me, and I headed north to the practice area. I leveled off at 2500 and he took over to trim it up. (No trim in the front cockpit.) Amost immediately he decided it was too bumpy for any useful practice.
"We'll have to abort the mission," he said, and suggested that I just fly around a bit for the fun of it. As we got close to King's Dominion, the air seemed a bit smoother, so I suggested that we might try something. He tried a hammerhead, with me following him, but he decided again that it was too rough. He had me fly northwest to his son's house, and he circled it a few times--or tried to. The wind kept shoving us off center. Then we headed for home.
He took over when we were still well away from the pattern. He usually lets me fly it downwind and takes over just before we turn base, but today he wanted to get the feel of the wind. He also mentioned a grass field nearby that would let us land into the wind--so I knew he was a little concerned about getting down safely. On downwind we were crabbing maybe 20 degrees, flying at about 130 mph. He flew his usual tight pattern, turning base to final, but keeping a fair amount of power until we were right on the runway, crabbing at maybe 25 or 30 degrees, and I was wondering what the gear would do if he set down at that angle. at the very last moment he changed to a slip, so smoothly that i almost didn't notice--but it wasn't enough and we started sliding off to the left side of the runway. He added power and took off again.
"Power is your best friend in the air," he said into the intercom. I looked back at the runway to see that we were then more or less on the centerline, but crabbing at a good 30 degrees. On the second try, he got the nose up and set all three wheels down "firmly"--I guess that's the right word for it--then goosed the throttle and set it down firmly again and that time it stayed down.
He said later that the wind had exceeded the demonstrated crosswind
capability of the airplane. I don't know what the wind speed was
for sure. He said he'd seen that the tip of the windsock was blowing
up and said that meant more than 30 mph. Whether that's true or not,
it was blowing pretty hard.
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