Easter. Hot, blistering day. The kind of scorching Luzon summer day where the air shimmers incandescently over parched brown fields. It’s so hot that the shade in the tree line feels like airconditioning.
Baguio, 5,000 feet up in the Cordilleras, is an hour away by Cessna 152. Too hot to plan or pack for that. Still, staying indoors in frigid airconditioning misses the entire point of summer.
So I decide on the laziest path to outdoor, natural cooling.
The airplane reads my mind and is eager for the mission. She and I hurriedly exit the pattern and say goodbye to Clark Tower on 118.70.
Mike Oscar, the Tower Chief, recognizes my voice.
“Holiday na holiday, lipad ka ng lipad. Magpahinga ka naman sir.”
“MO! Ito na ang pinakapahinga ko, sir.”
“Roger that, ingat ka sir.”
I fool around Pangasinan, and find the spanking new airport at Binalonan. I must write about it some time.
But it’s too hot to even think about writing.
On with my program. Full throttle, point the nose at the remotest corner of the plain, trim for best rate of climb.
Up we go, 800 feet per minute at 75 knots. We slip past the haze layer at 2,000 feet, and at once the air is cooler.
Continue climb, leaning by feel. The gauges vindicate my ears– exhaust gas temperature is 30 degrees below peak. Cylinder head temp is below 400*C and the oil temp needle is in its normal spot.
Past 3,000 feet now. Re-trim for 75 knots.
I sneak peeks at the outside air temperature gauge.
Up past 5,000. Abeam the mysterious lake at Cuyapo. CHT below 380*C, EGT trending lower. Lean some more in thinning air, looking for pure stoichiometric burn.
We slip past 7,000 feet. The airplane is solid, stable and enjoying the climb.
Past 8,000, then 9,000 feet. I’ve never been beaten 10,000 in my airplane, and I think I’ll break that record today. Just 15 gallons of fuel now. light enought to go for it!
We reach 10,000 feet.
Trim again for 75 knots, lean to peak EGT, the Lycoming engine barely sipping fuel now, cool and easy.
The view is spectacular.
CHT under 360*C, peak EGT.
OAT is now a really nice 8*C, same as Paris — looked it up that morning 🙂
We pass 11,000 feet. The Garmin 296 concurs. The airplane feels a bit awkward, like a lover after a tiff. Wings seeking a better grip in thinning air.
At 11,200 feet I nudge the trim down, holding 2300 rpm against shock cooling. The nose inches down to level flight. I gingerly try a few turns. Still the same dependable lover.
I snap a few pictures, like a climber at the summit of Everest. Then, throttle back a tad, check CHT stays above 330*C. The altimeter unwinds. I take pictures of the Philippine Army training base at Fort Magsaysay, 8 miles south and over 2 miles down. The Army skydiving team practices at the airfield here.
To the east is Laur, Nueva Ecija, Ninoy Aquino’s prison for years. Ahead is the former WW II prison camp at Cabanatuan.
I stretch the descent to an hour, loathe to give up the free airconditioning.
I reluctantly call Clark Tower, and they clear me through Charlie 1 and 2 training areas for Omni.
Then a familiar voice comes on the radio.
“1513, Clark Tower.”
It’s Mike Oscar again.
“1513, go ahead Tower.”
“Sir, ikaw ba yung nasa Flight Level one-one-zero sir?”
“Affirm that, may tini-testing lang ako, sir.” [Well, I was testing the wings… .]
“Ikaw talaga sir, akala namin sira ang transponder Mode Charlie mo.”
“Squawking one-two-zero-zero, sir.”
“Copy. Na-monitor ka namin sa radar. Sa may Cabanatuan, ‘di ba sir?”
“Roger that, sorry sir.”
“Ok lang, sir.”
I had dinner with him that night and talked about his career as an air traffic controller. And he slipped in another reminder about talking to Approach Control. Like I always said, I have never been disappointed by ATC services at Clark. If only I could pay my taxes directly to these guys.
The view from 1513 in orbit
The next day, Easter Sunday, I flew to Hong Kong on business.
Cathay Pacific B747 with the new private seats in business class.
The window is behind the seat in this configuration.
While fooling around with the video screen, phone and laptop connections, I happened to look back and out. There, right below, was Binalonan airfield. We were climbing past 24,000 feet then, so you have to strain to see it dead center in the picture.
This being a pressurized aluminum tube, the cabin atmosphere was a mere 8,000 feet, much lower than I had been the day before. Airliners are for wimps– real men fly higher! 😀
I should have told Clark Approach of my intentions, of course. I was VFR, own navigation, but in controlled airspace. The floor of the Terminal Maneuvering Area is 2,000 feet, and the TMA goes to 11,000. Should have established comms with Clark Approach.
Also, Cabanatuan VOR was less than 15 miles away, and Manila ARTCC or Manila Approach descends Manila-bound airliners at CAB.
Mike Oscar told me the aluminum tubes generally overfly the VOR at FL140, but it’s always good to play it safe and let ATC know I was nearing the Flight Levels. Dang airliners, keep getting in the way.
License to learn.
Posted from Krabi, Thailand, May 31, 2008.