Ineffable! What a beautiful evening!
When I went out to preflight at 5:00, the wind was about 10 knots. By the time I started the engine, it was dead calm. Sunset was at 5:07. I took off on 33 in absolutely clear air (fo rhere, anyway) and was immediately so captivated by the view--an irridescent orange band above the western horizon, with a sharp line of the mountains 100 miles away, and the lights of the suburbs below--that I was at 1300 feet before I ever thought to turn crosswind. Went around and did a touch-and-go, after making sure that the runway lights would respond to my mike clicks. Okay, I could fly the airplane (oneI hadn't flown in almost a year). It was then 5:32. Civil twilight at 5:36. Flaps up, carb heat off, throttle to full, and let's see if I can do it in the dark.
Well, of course, it was a piece of cake--perfect visibility, perfectly calm, low humidity and cold. Lovely approach lights, lovely new PAPI, and lovely runway lights. Lovely landing light. Nice smooth approach, held it off until it eeeased onto the pavement, stopped smoothly. Flaps up, carb heat off. Do it again. Oh, but that clear dark sky and the lights in the dark ground, you know, the clusters of lights of the shopping centers, the headlights on the parkways, the bluewhite yard lights in the country to the west... Okay, I did a second stop-and-go, but that time I just had to fly west over the reservoir to enjoy the view--and the other view when heading back to the airport, with the city 10 or 12 miles to the north, lighted buildings rising up out of the pool of citylights and the dark wooded landscape. Landed for the last time, switched off the strobes, taxied to the ramp, and shut down. Got out the flashlight, tied the airplane down, and tidied up. Drove home to dinner--but I'm still seeing that dark sky, those perfect lights.
And now I'm current at night--for the first time in a year and a half.
That's good, because it the weather is okay next Friday afternoon, I'll
try a trip to Smith Mountain Lake again, but this time I won't feel compelled
to get back before dark. I was going there this afternoon,
but discovered in preflighting that that airplane's beacon and both
landing lights were burnt out. So it was grounded. I only flew
tonight out of frustration--it was the second time I'd had to postpone
the trip--but now I'm glad for how it all worked out.
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