Scott left me for two days and flew 10+ hours to help ferry the RV-1 to Alabama and return Roy to Hicks. He even managed to get some actual IFR time. None of that is even remotely fair, so Sunday was my day. It was looking to be a good day to practice two skills - an actual IMC IFR approach and crosswind landings.
We headed to the airport with winds 12 gusting to 18 right down the primary runway and a 1300 foot ceiling, thinking it would be a quiet morning for the tower. After filling up the tank since the last fuel load came from Louisiana, we waited several minutes at the hold short line for a Cherokee that had the same IFR practice plan that we did. We asked for the west initial approach point on the t-section, and were given the appropriate frequency. We were given takeoff clearance with an easterly heading - OK, no problem - other side of the t-section. As we rolled onto the runway, we were given a different departure frequency. Ah, hey guys, a bad time for that!
OK, we're off and in the clouds when we get "Two Two Charlie, please slow down to 150." There were two very confused pilots in the cockpit looking at each other with bewilderment. "Austin departure, Two Two Charlie is doing 135." A minute later, it finally dawns on us, the controller meant GROUND SPEED. So, we clarified with approach they meant ground speed, and I pulled the power back to put the ground speed around 150, but we had apparently closed the gap on the Cherokee too close for the controller's comfort. A few more vectors, and we were back on track and shortly on the runway. Pretty sure we had a green controller today.
Ground Speed - 174, with a 40 knot tailwind
Scott confirmed our IFR was cancelled and the tower confirmed we were squawking 1200. Check and check. Actual IMC accomplished, now let's attack some crosswind landings. The winds had increased winds 14 gusting to 20 from 160, so we asked the tower for laps on runway 11. By now, the tower is used to oddball requests coming out of our cockpit so they didn't miss a beat. It just isn't any fun to always use the runway most aligned with the skills. That is also a recipe for skills to atrophy. Neither of which is allowed in our household.
The tower had a pretty steady stream of traffic coming in on the GPS approach we had just completed, so they kept us on the south side of runway 11. That worked great for us as we had a 30 knot tailwind on base, causing a lot of work to not overshoot the runway and a few discussions on stall spins on the base to final leg. They swung us around to the north side just once to put us over the top of an IFR flyer that was terminating with a low approach. They managed us crazy fools quite well.
If we had been in west Texas, I'm sure there would have been tumbleweeds cruising across the runway at 60 knots. It was certainly time to snug down the seatbelts, or the tops of our heads might have gotten very cozy with the canopy on several occassions. The runway is also lined with trees not nearly far enough away. Each time we'd hit the boundary from the tree layer to ground effect, it was common to see airspeed go up to 80 knots and then drop to 65 in no more than a second. Too bad we didn't have some wind tunnel fog - I bet we would have seen some impressive rotors coming off those trees.
As we continued to go in circles and trade landings, the tower got in on the fun and began reporting wind speeds on the ground and at the top of the tower. The tower cab is about 80 feet up and had winds regulary blowing 30 knots. I think they were having a good time, too. Scott is still much better at this, although his landings weren't the usual squeakers. I was pretty pleased I managed to get wheels down twice and no metal bent at any point. It's good to keep improving the skills and know I can get the plane down in sporty conditions even if the go-around button is utilized a couple times in the process. We managed 11 laps on runway 11. Certainly wasn't planned, but it's pretty amusing in hind sight. Skill check 2 - complete.
11 on 11
1.2 on the Hobbs felt like 3+. It was quite a workout. As we taxied back to the hangar, the controller asked us if we had pegged the fun meter. Yep - you betcha!