It’s fitting to end the Baguio series with this departure story. It could have been our last flight at Baguio — “the departed”.
It turns out Carlo shot a video. The “scary video” I’ve promised here. After I saw it , I became a believer — there is no lift at Loakan.
Flying yourself from Baguio has three problems. In order of severity, they are
1. The airport closes at 3:30pm
2. The airport closes at 3:30pm
3. The airport closes at 3:30pm
Flying to Baguio really should be a RON mission: Remain Overnight.
Fly up in the morning, laze over lunch, then go silversmithing on Session, boating at Burnham or revisiting other childhood haunts to push time back to the good old days.
A nice dinner, then chill over highland coffee.
In December it gets cool enough to pretend it’s the Alps. Sort of.
Our sentimental favorite restaurant is Mario’s, on South Drive. Lunch al fresco with salpicao and gambas, or dine indoors on lentejas, lengua and a flambe.
It features red mountain rice and Cordillera fare.
Pinikpikan is a peculiar favorite — chicken beaten to death with sticks to bruise the flesh and bring blood to the surface for a more intense flavor.
Curiously, this is a violation of the Philippine Animal Welfare Act. And beating a bird to death has got to be bad karma for a pilot!
If you don’t RON, you hurry through lunch and hustle to the airport with your walis and Good Shepherd strawberry jam.
And you keep one eye on the sky.
Last December we were loafing at Mario’s when I noticed cumulo-nimbus racing across the sky.
We grabbed a cab and sped to the airport.
As we filed our flight plan at the control tower, rainclouds rolled in. I don’t mean across the sky. I mean rainclouds surged across the ground like a juggernaut, just 300 meters away, closing fast.
Clouds rolled upslope on Mt. Santo Tomas and climbed toward runway 27’s threshold. Carlo ran during on his pre-flight inspection. He ran.
Runway 09 was still clear. We had a chance to get out if we moved fast. Otherwise we would have to find a hotel room or sleep in the airplane.
As we did an engine run up on the runway, the clouds were surging across the threshold behind us toward the airplane. Like that Steve McQueen horror, The Blob.
We took off as the runway behind us sank into the murk.
Ahead, the way out along the Agno river valley was clear — just. The overcast was socking the region in.
We were VFR, but the space between the clouds and the peaks was shrinking. We scurried under the one and hopped over the other.
That’s when I noticed San Roque dam off to starboard, 3 miles away. Like ill-fated PR206 in 1987, we had followed the wrong river.
But we were outbound. No Mt. Ugo, no dead end, ahead of us. We got home.
We didn’t bust Visual Flight Rules on this one. But that departure was rookie-dumb. Why? I’ll leave that for readers to guess for now. Hint below.
The airport closes at 3:30pm.
Then kids, kite-flyers, bikers and lovers swarm the runway. Drag racers have gone over the edge of the runway into the ravine. Even during airport hours, people and cars can cross, controlled by traffic lights, gates and a siren to clear the runway.
The tower controller clears us for engine start. She hits the siren and red lights. The gates close. We do our pre-takeoff checks, feeling like a heel for making people wait. On the runway, we lean for max power, looking for the perfect stoichiometric fuel-air mixture that turns every gram of fuel into energy.
And the people wait, and the cars back up.
We have a final “Killer Items” checklist:
- Fuel on
- Flaps zero (at Baguio)
- Mixture as desired (lean to peak RPM at Baguio)
- Carb heat cold
- Primer locked
Full throttle. “Let’s go flying!”
Rolling uphill on runway 09.
Look for 2300 rpm or better, or we abort.
Rotate at 55 knots, pitch for best angle of climb. Reach for altitude — as high as possible before your engine dies, as it will, one day.
(There’s a clue there for the puzzle above.)
On this day, just after Carlo’s birthday, it’s different. The airplane rolls for a long time before we get to 55 knots. I pull on the yoke and the airplane lifts off reluctantly, loafing above the runway. The stall horn blares.
“Stall warning.” Carlo is calm.
I note that we have enough runway ahead to land and stop. The airplane sinks. We almost touch down again.
I hold it low in ground effect and gain speed. Yoke back again.
We are barely climbing. No more runway. We cross the threshold, a few feet over power lines.
Then we are over the chasm at the end of the runway, and are suddenly 1,000 feet above terrain. I put the nose down again, gain speed, and finally start a healthy climb.
That’s when I notice that carb heat is on. Not “cold”.
Killer items checklist! What th . . . ?
In the video, watch the tree go by above the airplane, at 0:55.
Posted from Singapore, Sep 27, 2008
Next: Hot and High