One of the things I missed as a student pilot was the experience of landing at a lot of different airports. I decided to make up for it today by flying into four airports, three of which I'd never seen before.
Chris (my elder son) met me at the airport, and after preflighting, we rolled onto runway 33 at 0933. It was already about 90 and humid, with density altitude of 2200 feet. (An hour later it was 2600 feet.) There was some haze, but not too bad. From 2000 feet we could see the ground out to about 4 or 5 miles.
We flew 36 nm north to 7W4, the Lake Anna Airport, at Bumpass VA. The runway there is 2500 feet long, but only 25 feet wide. (The narrow suburban street in front of our house is 22 feet wide.) The C-172's wingspan is 36 feet, and the main gear spans about 8.5 feet. I'd heard that this runway was tricky because its narrow width fools your eye into thinking you're higher than you are. Maybe that was it, or maybe it was the trees at both ends, or the trees close in on both sides. Whatever it was, I was fooled and had to go around. The second try was better, however, and I made an honest touch-and-go, getting down on all three wheels and rolling a while before powering up, raising the flaps, and getting off again. Okay, so I can land on that one, at least with no crosswind.
Next we flew 22 nm northwest to Orange County Airport. I'd been there several times before and knew it was a nice, easy runway, 3200 x 75 feet. This time we parked and went into the FBO for a fluid exchange (deposit some, take some in--it was really hot today). The airport has a new designation--OMH, instead of W93--and an AWOS (118.075).
Then it was a short hop to Gordonsville--GVE--8 nm to the southwest. I'd considered flying there right after getting my private certificate last summer, but had decided at the last minute to go to Orange instead--because the runway looked a little longer in the A/FD. Now I'm glad I did. The A/FD says GVE is 2300 x 40 feet. There's also a note that runway 23 has a displaced threshold--440 feet--because of trees. When you do the arithmetic, you discover that runway 23 is effectively only 1860 long. Ah. And the wind today was 220 at about 8. So it was going to be runway 23. But what the A/FD neglects to say is that the first 500 feet of the runway--more than the displaced part--goes uphill. Then it almost immediately heads downhill (although not as steeply). Whoopie! That's what I saw on turning final: trees trees trees trees white chevrons on dark asphalt chevrons chevrons going uphill add power more power... Well, okay, we touched down past the threshold and could have stopped safely. But I'd already called a touch-and-go, and that's about all I wanted to do just then.
We climbed out and turned toward Louisa County Ariport, LKU, 12 nm to the southeast. This is another good-sized runway, 4300 x 100, with plenty of open space all around. It was an easy touch-and-go, and then we headed back to FCI, Chesterfield County Airport, 43 nm to the southeast.
Okay. So now I'm a lot more comfortable about flying into short strips Chris said he was most interested in the Lake Anna landing--and that at Louisa he fell asleep on downwind and didn't wake up until the wheels touched down.
Along the way, we did a little sightseeing, too, flying low over Lake
Anna. The heat coming off the nuclear power plant pushed us up for
a while, but most of the time we were at about 800 feet above the water.
We also flew over two smaller lakes, Orange and Gordonsville, to see if
they're long enough to land a seaplane on. (Gordonsville is; Orange
may be.) Past Lake Anna I got south of the course for Orange and
for a while thought Lake Gordonsville was Lake Orange, but finally figured
it out and turned north. The haze wasn't really bad there, but was
just thick enough to make finding airports "interesting," and I was glad
to have the GPS.
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