It’s time for another brief flight-related story.

Or rather, two stories.

The first one takes place a few days ago. There was a time when a week without going flying used to give me the withdrawal twitch (literal dreams, overkeen listening for overhead engine noises). Now that phase takes a month or two to set in, something only encountered when the plane is undergoing serious maintenance. Even two-week break doesn’t feel long any more – I can get back in the left seat, and meld with the machine right away.

So it was in this comfortable mode that I took a few hours off from house hunting and family befriending, to go pleasure flying. This time, there was no mission, no sick person in need of help, no externally suggested reason to go anywhere, but just because. This meant that there was nowhere specific to go, so I picked an area I haven’t been to lately (Peterborough), and whoosh, I was there. It was a plain visual-rules flight, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone on the radio en route, and could just goof off. I thought of one little practice maneuver (an at-altitude version of an NDB instrument approach, navigating without assistance of GPS and other on-board toys, just using the old school ADF), which I finished in a few minutes. Not too bad. On the way home, I got to dance with a few clouds, circling back again and again to look at the same little cloud change shape over a few minutes. Life was good.

On to the next story. This afternoon, I flew to Ottawa for a techie conference thing where I will be giving a talk. An attractive aspect of this event though is its relative proximity to Toronto. Since the organizers saw it fit to plop my talk at one of the last few spots on the final day, I may be able to sneak back home during the week. It’s only a wee over an hour each way.

Today’s flight was unusual in some respects. I flew alone, at an altitude which took me through some tallish summer cumulus clouds. With passengers, I’d have gotten the heck out of there due to the turbulence, but I haven’t worked at bumpy instrument flying for a while, so I took the chance. It was OK – interesting, but not that enjoyable: just plain work. After 45 minutes of that, it was time to descend into Ottawa. Two controllers made it rather entertaining: the first one told me to go as fast as I can; the second told me to go as slow as I can. The first (approach) had traffic behind me (which, since I went right into the “yellow” 200 mph+ range, I probably left behind), the second (tower) had traffic ahead of me (a big jet taking off). Slowing down the airplane from faster-than-cruise to slower-than-final-approach speed was surprisingly manageable on the big draggy bird. In about a minute, with the engine throttles closed, and with every drag-inducing opportunity taken (lowering flaps, gears, slips, S-turns), the transition was complete. 75% of our kinetic energy was dissipated. It’s neat to go so far out of one’s normal routine in order to fit in snugly at a big airport.