This time of year is my time. There is nothing better than the early morning cool, listening to the birds, and feeling the cool damp of the morning while drinking coffee in the sunrise.
When I was learning to fly and during the years since, I came to love the time in the early spring and into the later spring when the flying was the very best. The only problem I discovered with this wonderful time is that you have to get up early to enjoy it. Most of the time, rising early has not been a problem for me. Later, the Navy helped reinforce early Reveille.
The most pleasant flying memories I have are of flying one of Charlie’s Cubs early on Saturday mornings. With an OAT of about 65 degrees and with dampness in the air, the airplane flew well. There was immeasurable pleasure in flying the airplane with the door open, the window latched to the bottom of the wing, and the other window slid all the way down.
When looking down through the space and open air between the airplane and the ground without any Plexiglas to interfere with your vision, the air seemed to magnify the clarity of the view. Everything becomes crystalline clear, just as sharp as a Sam Lyon’s painting.
The wind blows into the cockpit cool and refreshing. The air is incredibly clear and visibility endless. Fog typically hung around the cypress dome or on the edge of the pasture where it mingled into the woods. Cows stood placidly while their calves romped nearby.
These were the delightful things I could see from the cockpit of the J-3 on any early spring morning. Things I have never been able to see from the enclosed cockpits of Pipers and Cessnas and Beeches, or the jets I flew in the Navy.
Don’t get me wrong, all those other airplanes, especially the jets, were really fun to fly, but I don’t believe anything can compare to the pleasures found flying an underpowered pig of an airplane like a J-3 on an early morning flight. The most pleasurable thing was that it could barely get out of its way in flight and a pilot, if they desired, could fly it with only his or her hands sticking out the open door to right or out the window to the left. All you had to do was trim the airplane to level flight and to turn right, you merely stuck your right hand out in the breeze. This created enough drag on that side of the airplane to make it turn right. To recover from the turn, the pilot simply had to stick the left hand out the left side until the airplane returned to straight and level. This was great fun and very enjoyable in the early morning coolness of any spring morning.
The next best thing to flying in the early morning, was sitting around the field watching Cubs taking off and landing. The propellers would spin to 2300 rpm on takeoff capturing the moisture in the air. Then the moisture, compressed by the dynamic pressure of the spinning prop and the weight of the airplane, would spin off visibly in a spiral, traveling around the airplane’s fuselage back around the empennage. The spiral is very tight at the beginning of the takeoff roll, and then became elongated with increasing speed. It was a sight I have seen many times, but never with a camera…yet. It is something you will never see at an airport with concrete or asphalt runways.
Another thing about this time of year is sitting in the early morning writing. For some reason, sitting outside listening to nature and waiting for the sun to make its appearance is one of the most productive times of the day. The Navy taught me that when you are up and at it by 0530, four hours of solid labor is half the day’s work. By 9:30 a.m., you can be done with most of your daily obligations. It is a good feeling to finish most of your work so early. Then you have a lot of time to do other things.
The flip side to finishing early is taking it easy in the early morning and postponing your work. This is when you can sit and enjoy watching the sun break over the horizon. You can watch the fog on the lake, listen to the early morning critters, and really enjoy the first cup of coffee. Sometimes while sitting very quietly sipping your coffee, a fox, an owl, possibly a deer or two, may visit.
Maybe your only visitor might be an escapee housecat from somewhere in the neighborhood.
©2012 J. Clark
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