As a rule pilots are always looking for an excuse to go flying. If they could take a plane to the grocery store when they’re out of milk they would. So when my wife informed me that my presence would be required in northern Michigan this weekend to help her family cut firewood. I saw an opportunity for a little cross country flight with number one son (NOS). The questionable economics of renting a plane to fly up and help cut wood so her aging parents could save a little money to help make it through the long winter nights was not lost on me, but the main reason for the weekend was to get the family together and see if my brother in law could cut his arm off with a chainsaw.
The only airport close enough to be practical is Prickett-Grooms, a quiet little airfield with a short 2,600 grass strip surrounded by tall pine trees. The runway being a little short for the Queen Air I opted for the mighty Cessna 150 instead. I wasn’t too unhappy about having to fly the 150 because I’ve started teaching NOS to fly in it and the long cross country would be great experience for him. The flight up on Saturday was great. With NOS in the left seat and Koda the wonder dog (KTWD) in the back we flew under a Blue Bird sky and over the beautiful fall colors. A nice tailwind kicked us along at almost 94 knots! WOW! ZOOM! NOS did a great job of flying and we spent most of the trip using pilotage to navigate over the north woods, picking out small towns, rivers and lakes to lead us to the airport.
With a big passel of cousins helping the adults play lumberjack we were able to cut and split and stack three loads of firewood, enough for a really cold winter or two. It was a great day in the woods capped off with a great dinner of steak and venison followed by a few beers and smart talk in the traditional Finnish sauna. The next morning my wife drove NOS, KTWD, and I back to Prickett-Grooms for our flight home. I walked out to the middle of the runway and pondered my options. The rough grass runway has trees guarding both ends. The trees on the west end are taller and closer to the end of the runway than the east end but there was a 5 knot wind favoring the west. Even though the pilots operating hand book claimed it was possible I was still a little concerned about the underpowered 150 getting us out of there so I spent more than a few minutes weighing my options. We had two adults, not too fat but still 165 lbs. each, a big dog in the back and half full tanks. Not a really light load but I decided that it was light enough to get out of there into the wind and over the trees. After we taxied down to the far end and lined up for takeoff I looked at the trees we would have to clear and thought “Boy, those trees are tall and close. I wish I was in my 206.” I told myself that if we weren’t airborne by midfield I would have NOS abort the takeoff. When NOS pushed the throttle in I was truly unimpressed. When we lifted off well short of midfield I still wasn’t happy. Climbing, if you could call it that, at a snails pace I milked the flaps up as the trees got closer and closer and was genuinely relived when we cleared the trees and continued to climb. With the scary takeoff behind us we put out nose into the twenty knot headwind and tried not to look at the sixty five knot ground speed reading on the GPS or the cars passing us on the freeway. It was a long and bumpy ride home but NOS did a excellent job holding his heading and altitude despite being bounced around. That boy really has a feel for flying and I couldn’t be prouder, he’s going to make a great pilot. All in all it was a good weekend of flying with the boys all around.