‘Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street’ – Unknown
Surface: asphalt/L RY 18/36 NUMEROUS LARGE CRACKS & VEGETATION GROWING THROUGH PAVEMENT ENTIRE LENGTH.
It’s a few weeks after I got my license to fly and we’ve decided to head out for dinner. According to the FAA I can fly at night, but that’s pretty unusual. Most countries require either a special night endorsement or an instrument rating. This makes good sense. Flying at night can be a lot like flying in instrument conditions. It can be easy to lose perspective of the horizon when stars and streetlights start to blend together in the distance. Add to that a bit of turbulence and a pilot whose experience in recovering an aircraft from an unusual attitude is limited to a few practice sessions and a date with the FAA to take a test and it’s easy to see why the recommendation is to not fly at night without getting an instrument rating.
With that in mind, our list of possible destinations is considerably narrowed to those that won’t require a return flight after dark.
We could fly ten minutes to Pilot Pete’s, but it would only take us eight minutes to drive there.
We could fly an hour to Madison, but that’s a busy airport and not something I’m quite ready to take on this afternoon.
We could fly to Lake Lawn. The airport is across the street from a nice little resort that says they will pick you up and drop you off. It’s less than 30 minutes by air and the food is supposed to be quite tasty. So we make our choice and do a quick flight plan. Using pilotage, known to the layman as looking at the ground and figuring out where you are, we’ll keep and eye out for I90, Algonquin, Woodstock, Harvard and Lake Geneva.
It’s a very nice afternoon to fly. The skies are clear and the warm September sun shining at my 270 is second only to the good company at my 90. This is Beth’s first flight with me as a pilot in command. A title I’ve only been able to claim for a couple weeks. And we’re in the trainer, so none of the distractions of GPS and autopilot to reduce the purity of the flight. It’s a Friday afternoon and you can almost feel the stress of the workweek radiating off Chicagoland as everyone decompresses and enjoys the end of summer.
Beth is calling out the landmarks every few minutes.
Algonquin? Yup, I see the airport next to it.
And Lake Geneva, and I also see Lake Lawn
Ok, Lake Lawn is our primary, so it’s time to start looking for the airport on the north side of the lake. Lots of people still out boating, I guess the water temps haven’t gone down that much yet.
Hmm, still no airport and we’re right over Lake Lawn…
Ah, there it is. The asphalt isn’t very dark. That’s expected, it has a reputation for not being very well kept up. But one of the guys from the club was just here and vouches for it being usable. I think I’ll get down to pattern early so I can get a look at the surface and the windsock. This airport only gets about 50 operations a week, so there is no weather information, much less a control tower. This approach will be done by making calls on the radio in case anyone is listening.
Wind is from the south east, that will be fine. We’ll land on runway 18 and will only have to taxi a few feet to the ramp.
Man, that’s a green shade of asphalt though. I remember from preflight planning the admonishment that this runway has numerous large cracks the entire length and that grass is growing in them. I guess this must be one of those few asphalt runways that has to be mowed every so often.
We’re now on short final and it’s becoming almost comical how grassy the runway looks. I briefly even consider aborting the landing and flying the length of the runway, just to get a better look before setting down. Instead I see that the grass is indeed mowed on the runway, and there are a couple planes on the ramp that have just landed. So the preponderance of the evidence is that we’ll be fine.
We’re about 50 feet up as we cross the threshold and now my angle shows that the runway is more asphalt than grass, so the final decision is made to set down. As we get closer and closer I start to wonder how bumpy things will be. This little Cessna doesn’t have shock absorbers like a car might. Just the flexible struts to which the wheels are attached.
The roll-out isn’t bad at all. The runway certainly looks a lot worse than it actually is.
Mission accomplished. Time to walk across the street and get some dinner!