Lesson 105
10 April 1999
2.1 hours
To "the Peanut Capitol of the World"

Today's flight was to Franklin Muni (FKN), about 52 nm southeast, and then to Wakefield (AKQ), "the peanut capitol of the world," and back to FCI.

Son Chris met me at the airport and we found N73852, got it fueled and preflighted, and took off.  AWOS reported "variable" wind, and that was so--but it was anything but calm.  It was about 10 or 12 knots, mostly right across the runway, but kept swinging all around.  I did a touch and go, mainly just to get the feel of the airplane, which I hadn't flown in several months.  Then we headed southeast for Franklin.

The sky was generally clear, but there was some turbulence and there were a lot of little clouds at about 5000 feet with drafts under them.

As we approached Franklin I got the AWOS, which said the wind was from 010 at 11.  I didn't like that at all because it favored that airport's least inviting runway, 4.  It's 3600 feet long--not terribly short--but the A/FD says it's in "poor" condition.  Also, the approach is close to a cement plant, over a road, and around some trees, so I wasn't looking forward to using it.  So I called UNICOM to see what was what on the field, and unfortunately the "what" was runway 4.  Okay, so I flew around a little and got into the pattern and did a touch-and-go.  It was one of those "interesting" landings because the wind was blowing everywhichway.

Then we flew to Wakefield.  Or, rather, we flew to the vicinity of Wakefield.  There we flew around in circles trying to find the airport.  It's easy enough to see the runway when passing by to the north--I've done that several times--because it's 2/20 and you're seeing it end-on.  But we found that as soon as you get off to one side or the other, the trees just gobble it up.  You simply can't see it at pattern altitude if you're more than half a mile away.  We found that the trick is to spot a white water tank that's a few hundred yards off in the woods, west of the runway, and fly your pattern over it.  The wind favored the 2 end, so we flew over the water tank, crossed the road, turned base, and then could see the runway.  After that it was easy.  I announced back taxiing to to the terminal, and all of a sudden there's someone turning final, pointed right at us.  I started looking for smooth spots in the grass, but we got clear of the runway in plenty of time for him.  As it turned out, he was way too high, having turned base too soon, and he went around anyway.  That was the only real excitement of the day.

The terminal wasn't attended--good thing we didn't need gas!--and there were no tiedowns or  markings on the ramp, so we parked the airplane beside the terminal.  The guy who had gone around landed and seemed just as confused as we'd been.  He back-taxiied and turned off on the other side of the runway, but then eventually came across to where we were and parked beside us.

It was a beautiful afternoon, so we walked the mile into town to the Virginia Diner, where we had peanut soup and milkshakes that tasted like they might have been made with real ice cream.  Pretty good.  Hiked back to the airport, enjoying the green grass and the late afternoon sun, despite the cars and trucks blowing by on the highway.

As I was getting ready to start the engine, a cropduster landed, a bright yellow low wing monoplane with a turbine engine.  It taxied up beside the airplane that had gone around and, with the engine still running, began filling up with something brown and granular, maybe fertilizer, using a boom mounted on a red truck.  (Good thing I hadn't parked there.)

The wind had dropped to dead calm by that time.  We taxied onto the runway and flew back to FCI without feeling so much as a ripple in the air, looking north at loops in the James, feeling good.  (Well, I was, anyway.  Can't speak for Chris.)

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