A Great Day to Burn Jet A

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About the only good thing that you can say about these times of angst and social distancing is that flying a single-seat airplane puts you about as far away from anyone else as you can get—especially if you live with your airplane and don’t have to leave your property to get things ready to go. I guess one other good thing is that the price of dead dinosaurs* is about as cheap as I have seen in decades, and thanks to the unfair economics of aviation fuel in general, Jet A (specifically) is down about where auto gas was two months ago. That makes the economics of taking the little jet for a spin once a week very inviting—not that I don’t do the same when the world is healthy and fuel is expensive.

It was a beautiful morning out here at the base of the Sierra Nevada, so I thought I’d go check out all that snow we aren’t enjoying because the ski areas are closed. The good (?) news is that this would have been a spectacular spring season—there’s lots of the white stuff that has only a few tracks made by hardcore skiers who slogged all the way UP the mountain before getting that one virgin run down. However, with solitude and splendor comes risk. Looking down at the Kirkwood ski area, it is obvious to my eye that the lack of morning avalanche patrols leads to some natural cornices that could ruin anyone’s day of they decided to break loose—a truism in the back country at any time, and now the regular ski areas have to be considered back country.

But, the air was smooth and visibility was to the geometric horizon – I could see Mount Shasta way off in northern California from 14,000’ from the cockpit, and that is how I consider a day fabulous. It was smooth enough that I pushed the throttle up in level flight up there to see what Loki can do when I let him stretch it out, and saw 210 KTAS on the EFIS in level flight – not bad at all, but I don’t do that very often due to the 25 gph fuel flow. But when you’re fat on fuel and the airport is nearby, why not?

Flying is not realistic, possible, or even smart for everyone right now, depending on where you’re located. By all means, follow the directions of your local authorities when it comes to this COVID-19 thing, but if personal flying is allowed (as it is here in Nevada, where population density is pretty low), getting out for a little exercise – while completely avoiding other people – is good for the soul.

* Yes, I know –  my geology professor wife reminds me that in actuality, petroleum comes mostly from ancient plankton, not actual dinosaurs.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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