Posted by: Chris Davis | January 7, 2010

My Frigid Date with Kaydet Kate

It has become a tradition with our EAA chapter to eat black eyed peas and fly on the 1st day of the year. This year was no different and thanks to the current global warming trend (insert sarcasm) the temperature was a balmy 28 degrees. As luck would have it, our Maule (read airplane with a heater) did not have the annual completed and not one to be left on the ground; I decided to take “Kaydet Kate” for a spin around the dance floor.

It had been nearly 2 months since we tucked Kate in for her winter slumber.   As I plugged up the oil heater and began my walk around, the lunacy of my upcoming flight began to set in. What was I thinking? Flying a Stearman with 28 degree temps? Ah, but the sky was clear and it’s a tradition. After 20 minutes of preheating and donning my eskimo outfit, it was time to open the hangar door and face the bitter cold. “C-mon old girl, let’s dance for a while and start the year off right” I said to Kate as I climbed into the cockpit.  Fuel ON, 4 shots of primer, Master ON, “Clear!” Mags on BOTH and hit the START button. 1-2-3 blades and a puff of smoke followed by the low rumble of the old girl waking from hibernation. Kate was ready to go without hesitation and my father taught me to never leave a lady waiting…there was no backing out now.

The taxi to the runway was deliberately slow to give the oil temps time to warm up.  As we held short and did our run-up the pattern traffic seemed to increase as if on cue.  As we waited I continued to get colder as Kate continued to warm up and it was finally our turn to go.  “Lebanon traffic, Stearman 409 departing runway 1”  As the airspeed increased, the air temperature seemed to decrease proportionately.  Kate seemed to love the cold weather and returned to the sky like a caged bird released into the wild once again.  As we danced around the skies over Lebanon, other chapter members joined in the fun with their New Year’s dates.  The longer we danced the less I felt cold, which I attribute to the numbness setting into my extremities.  About 20 minutes is all it took to peg my fun meter on this frigid day.  “Alright Kate, time to head back home.  I promised your dad I would have you home before dark.”

While returning to the pattern to land I realized that my feet felt like lead bricks from the cold.  This could be interesting.  Once again the pattern was busy and we found ourselves #3 on downwind.  What is this “practice your bomber pattern” day?  Don’t these guys know that there is a nut in an open cockpit up here trying to get back to a heated hangar.  We turned final at what seemed to be 2 miles out and I mentally went through the landing checklist and wiggled my toes to try and get some semblance of feeling to return.  Over the fence and across the numbers.  “Time for the big finale Kate, let’s make it look good”  Hold her off, keep her straight, and…squeak, squeak…just like old times.  Now hold her tail off till she is ready to stop flying and stay off the brakes.  Without any feeling in my feet I sure don’t want to guess with the brakes when I have plenty of runway.

As we taxied back to the hangar the cold seemed to once again disappear while we reflected on the memories of the past year and looked forward to the coming adventures of 2010.  I tucked “Kate” back into her warm hangar and once again said goodbye to the old girl.  When the warmer weather returns I will have to take her out again, but until then I will look forward to my next date with “Kaydet Kate”.

Clear skies & tailwinds!

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