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Friday, July 30, 2010

First time on grass

The field is 3000 feet long, but all it has going for it. One end had tall trees and wires strung across it, the other, a 500 foot hill. We wouldn't have bothered, but for the fishing.

Two hours and 45 minutes after leaving McKinney, I caught my first sight of Gaston's in North Arkansas. Sally sat in the right seat, while Things 1 and 2 occupied the back. Gaston's is a trout fishing mecca, with a hotel and restaurant attached. Oh, and an airport. (www.gastons.com)

The strip is nominally one way, although I did see a Bonanza land the wrong way. I'd practiced the landing a few times on Microsoft Flight Simulator X, so while a bit nervous, I knew how to approach it. I flew a left downwind leg on the other side of the river, and turned onto the base leg in a normal descent. The abnormal part is that means flying straight towards a large tree covered hill.

The trick is not to fly a square pattern, but to make a curved biplane-style approach. As I continued the turn, Sally asked "where's the airport?" in a concerned tone. Well, I couldn't see it..... but I knew it was there. At least in a Sundowner, you have great visibility - normally, due to the low wing. In this case the runway was hidden by tress, until the last few seconds.

Heading for a gap in the trees, we finally saw the runway threshold, and I realized I was lower than I expected. Pulling up the nose, I let the main wheels settle onto the runway - and there was my first surprise. Grass runways are BUMPY!!! And this one has a large bump about a third of the way along where it used to end before being extended. Airborne once again, we landed the second time with a "thump!"

Slowed to walking speed, I found the tied downs, and a man in a Gaston's van drove out to meet us as I shut off the engine and prepared to tie the airplane down.

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