aero camping

aero camping

Visibility: more of a vision, really
Temperature: 26°C
Location: the local outdoor store
Equipment: the battered VISA card

I like outdoor stores. I can spend a lot of time looking at the sophisticated solutions for the simplest form of traveling, dreaming of the great outdoors. I am at the local outdoor-hipster meeting point on my quest for a sleeping bag and an air martess.

The wood-chuck-on-staff recides hight tech materials, qualities and degrees below freezing that the individual models will safe me from. I am actually only interested in packing size. The wood-chuck has a difficult time accepting that I decide against the model that would enable me to go hiking in Barrow, Alaska in January.

The last item on my list is a number of earth anchors. He shows me a few tent pegs of different sizes. I ask for something bigger and he brings a larger version, still not what I had in mind. I ask for something more serious. That seems to grab the wood-chucks’ professional attention. “What do you plan to fasten down?” he wants to know. “an aircraft” I answer with a smile.

Friday evening rush hour

6 p.m. on Friday evening. The weather is gorgeous and the airport is busy. We are number 3 for take-off on runway 05. The small baggage compartment behind the seats is stuffed with a tent, sleeping bags and other camping gear.

The air is smooth as silk. The lowest clouds are in airliner territory, there is no wind. Flying is a dream.

A good friend has invited us to a BBQ party. He lives 10 minutes away from a small, private airfield. The owner will be at the party as well. So the idea came up to fly to the party and camp out for the night. What started as a random idea turned out to be quite feasible and a great adventure.

The flight school lets us have the aircraft over night (“sure, no problem, nice idea!”),
we can camp on the airfield (“people have done that before”),
and we made all of our gear fit into the ultra light two seater (easy!).

Big fish in a small pond

We got “Charly Oskar” for the evening, the new Rider with the 100 hp engine. The trip up north is about 45 minutes. Navigation to the small town is easy. The tricky part will be to find the barely marked grass strip in the middle of other fields. We navigate by roads and ponds and before long, we have the runway in sight. It has a few cars parked on the side and a trailer as the only building.

I call on the unicom frequency but only get a broken up answer. Never mind, I have called before. They know that I am coming. In order to get a feeling for the traffic pattern and to make double sure that other traffic knows that we are coming, I start the approach with a low pass. The pattern is tight and the runway short. This will be fun.

On the second round I set flaps and approach the runway in order to land. I am a bit low and need some gas. So I am not as slow as I would have liked to be on short final. The threshold is coming closer and I begin to flare. Charlie Oskar floats for a long time and just as I start to get nervous, we make contract with the high grass that is the runway.

Two motor glider pilots are on the ground to greet us. We talk aircraft and they are all excited about our ride. I am more used to being the flying scum at other airports…

The party is warm and full of friendly folks. We walk back under the stars and crawl into the tent. What a spectacular day.

Back at 9

The next moring we pack our gear and I walk down the runway before we go. There is quite a depression after the threshold. This is why we were coasting so long last night. The runway is bumpy, in bad condition and in desperate need of mowing. I hope we make it out of here without damage.

We perform a short field take-off. I set flaps, pull on the break and give full gas. When the engine is at max RPM, I release the break and we shoot off. I pull Charlie Oskar up as quickly as I can and after a final hop, we are airborne. I’m glad we have the stronger engine!

As a morning salute, we fly low over our friends house. We see someone waiving, I hope it is not a fist shaking.

The trip back is as smooth as yesterday and as we approach EDAY, I am sad that our little trip is over already. But there is no dawdling, Charlie Oscar has to be back before 9 for a long day of flying lessons. To teach new students, who hopefully will take her aero camping some day.

To be continued…


(originally posted on August 19, 2012 by tilbo at

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