I’m really an instrument flying kind of guy. Looking out the window is useful for seeing the airport for a visual approach, or searching for traffic, or enjoying the scenery, but the essential information to control the airplane is right there in front of you on the instrument panel.
You would be accurate to say that I do my best to fly by the numbers. There is a procedure for every phase of flight, and to fly that procedure with precision you will do best by knowing the proper airspeed, power settings and so on. I even have a CFI-I rating, but not a basic CFI. So the FAA thinks I can teach you to fly instruments, but not how to fly looking out the window.
But knowing the target numbers is one thing. Having had the recent practice to know how to hit those numbers is another. And that recent practice is what I was missing last week.
The mission was to fly EAA’s elderly Cessna 210 from Oshkosh to a sod field at Iola, Wisconsin. The airport is named Central County, even though it’s located in Waupaca County. Nobody I talked to was sure why the old potato field converted to an airport in 1946 is called Central County, but the name has stuck.
But one thing is very clear and that is why the airport—identifier 68C—was built. It says so in big letters right up on the main hangar—Built for the love of flying.
While many airports host fly-in pancake breakfasts, the Central County Flyers Association turns out an unbelievable Friday lunch. The enormous spread is served every Friday of the year, except when a major holiday falls nearby on the calendar. But even that rule doesn’t seem to hold on New Year’s Day.
To enjoy the feast you need to join the Central County Flyers Association. Ten bucks pays you and your family up for life. I know what you imagine a lunch menu at a little airport might be, but you would be wrong. On the day of our visit the menu was a full blown Thanksgiving spread with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and more. The one Thanksgiving oddity was wonderful sweet corn on the cob. After all, it was the height of sweet corn season.
The menu this week is popcorn chicken. The week before turkey day it was pork roast. Sirloin steaks, ribs, pork chops and beef stew all show up on the Flyers’ menu history on the website. Just Google 68c and it will pop up.
The longest runway at Central County is 2,600 feet, enough for a Cessna 210. But there are trees on the approach end so it was time to pay attention. I have flown the 210 several times over the past few months but almost always to use it as a camera ship on photo missions and always using normal size airports, not grass strips with trees.
I looked in the Cessna owner’s manual—the airplane was built in 1969 before the industry standardized on pilot operating handbooks (POH). The book advice was to approach at 80 mph—before knots—and expect to use about 1,500 feet to touchdown and stop using maximum braking after approaching over a 50-foot obstacle. The notes said to add 20 percent to that distance for a dry sod runway landing. That gave me a book required runway of about 1,800 feet, and that was at maximum weight. I would be several hundred pounds below that weight so the 2,600 foot long Runway 22 at Central County would be long enough.
The Central County lunch is so popular that the traffic pattern was busy with everything from LSA to T-6 warbirds. The Flyers put a chalk line across the runway for everyone to aim at for a spot landing contest. Closest to the line, but not short of, saves the lucky pilot the $7.99 tab for lunch.
Flying at 80 mph is something I haven’t done a lot of lately, but no worries, I’d just slow to that airspeed on short final. Flying at 100 mph seemed plenty slow as I approached but when I pulled the power back, all the way back, to slow to the final Vref of 80 mph, the airspeed stayed about the same at 100. I’m used to the drag of bigger flaps, higher wing loadings and a second propeller creating drag, but it wasn’t there on the 210 and my airspeed over the trees was closer to 100 than the 80 mph target.
I sailed over the chalk line indicating more than 80 mph. As usual, I was flying by the numbers but I was looking at the wrong number on the airspeed indicator and there was nothing to do but go around.
Next time around I got the airspeed down to 80 mph a long way out and held it there with power and everything worked out fine, though I didn’t win the spot contest. Rod Hightower couldn’t resist the opportunity to razz me about not being able to get the right speed on final, and, of course, I would have done the same to him if he hadn’t gotten his T-6 on the runway first time around. Flying by the numbers worked, even when the number I saw on the dial told me I had screwed up and the number told me there was nothing to do but try again.
If you are ever anywhere near Central Wisconsin at lunch time on a Friday be sure to drop in. Get there early and critique other’s landings, and also get in line early for chow. It is a very popular spot and lives up to its motto—Built for the love of flying.