TEXAS...HERE I COME
BY ALDEN P SOUTHWICK
It was a Saturday when I took a commercial flight to Texas set to arrive about noon. The flight went well and my long-lost friend Randy met me in Houston. We drove to his place about an hour away and had a great time reconnecting after 40 years. My plan was to spend the rest of the afternoon getting acquainted with my airplane.
We went to his house, had lunch, and then headed over to the airport. The problem was: it was raining. This really messed up my plan to fly it all afternoon so I could get a good feel for how it would fly. It would be a long trip back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I wanted to be really comfortable with it. Knowing that this trip could take two days, I took Monday off from work to allow for that possibility.
In the rain we checked the things that we could. I started the engine to get a feel for the instruments and the radios as they became active. Most newer 172's have a larger 160-180 hp 4 cylinder Lycoming engine but this 1966 172G came with a 145 hp 6 cylinder Continental engine. Therefore, it had slightly different characteristics that I needed to acquaint myself with. It was fun exploring my new airplane but I wanted to fly it. That would have to wait until Sunday, if the weather would let up.
Sunday morning the clouds began to lift a little. This gave us an opportunity to try a few takeoffs and landings...an important aspect of getting familiar with its flight characteristics. They proved to be a little different than I was used to, so I was thankful for the opportunity to fly it, even though the weather was barely VFR. Randy was a great instructor and didn't hesitate to point out and smooth over some of my rusty piloting skills.
It was just what I needed. It helped me to prepare for my longest flight ever as pilot-in-command of a small single engine airplane. Monday arrived along with better weather so my flight was on. The weather was moving northeast ahead of me, leaving me with a wonderful tailwind. This would prove to be valuable in reaching my destination before dark. At dawn it was time to leave for the first leg of the trip to M72 New Albany-Union County Airport in Mississippi.
After my pre-trip inspection and engine start I said goodbye to Randy. On the runway I pushed the throttle forward and my plane roared to life, lifting me up over the countryside of Texas. I rocked my wings as I said goodbye to a good friend who was also saying goodbye to a wonderful airplane that served him well for many years. This was my first solo in my new plane and it took me back to that unforgettable feeling of my first solo as a student pilot.
12-14-15 Alden ready to taxi for Texas departure.