91 days. Thats how long it had been since my last flight. This winter has not provided me with the best flying weather one can imagine. With the polar vortex and just general IFR days you get with a change in seasons, I had watched the last three months slip by without a flight. I’m not saying that there weren’t any flyable days in those three months, but they were few and far between, and just never seemed to land on a day I could go.
It was time to get current. Watching the weather forecasts closely I finally saw an opening in the weather. The days had been cold. Really cold. With temps repeatedly reaching -25 to -45 F at night and with daytime highs rarely hitting zero it was nice to see an afternoon high of 4 F. I drove out to the airport Thursday evening and plugged in the plane with plans of monopolizing on the window of warmish air the next day. 20 hours later I leave work and head for the airport. The skies clear, next to no wind, and a balmy 6 degrees. I got to the plane and kept it plugged in as I did my preflight. Once that was complete I manually rotated the prop about 30 times in an attempt to circulate the oil inside the engine hoping to mix what was warmed by the block heater in with the rest. Then I pulled the plane over to the pumps and topped off the tanks. After a call to flight service for a weather briefing it was time to fire up the engines. The plane instantly roared to life and I made sure to keep the RPM’s below 1000 and stared down the oil pressure and temperature gauges. The needle on the oil pressure made its way up to just touching the green within a minute and I wasn’t getting any reading on the oil temp. I let the plane idle for about 10 minutes then did a little run up slowly applying power enough to see the oil pressure needle move up fully into the green. I then taxied down to the other end of the runway as it allowed the plane more time to warm up and was slightly favored in the wind department. I did my full run up and ran through the checklist. Then it was time to take off. I made a conscious effort to apply power very slowly during my takeoff and with the cold dense air was off the ground in no time. I did a couple of laps around the pattern with both my second landing so smooth I almost couldn’t tell when I touched down. Then I headed out for a quick little flight over the end of Lake Vermilion before the setting sun had me flying back to get my third landing in for the day.
It was a beautiful night with the sun setting on the horizon and very smooth dense air. As I drove home in the dusk I was thinking that on such a clear night and a near full moon, a night flight would be breathtaking with the ground covered in snow. Maybe another time.