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Flight to Keene

I flew to Keene, New Hampshire, early this morning.

On the way, I practiced turns and steep turns to the left and right, take-off stalls and landing stalls, slow flight straight-ahead and turning, and a new turning exercise from Wally Moran. I love the sense of gentle calmness, finesse, and emotional bonding with the plane that these quiet exercises instill in me. The turning exercise was particularly fascinating: I made it into miles of continuous slow turns to twenty degrees left and right of course to practice the continuous application of rudder and pitch as the ailerons moved, trying to keep the left and right turning point pinned to the wind shield as the fuselage rotated. And Keene has such a long runway that you can choose a dramatically different aiming point for each landing to break yourself of the old “aim for the numbers” routine.

But the approach to Keene was visually spectacular. Passing Mount Monadnock, the sky was blue with that vivid morning clarity that is so New England, and the valleys among the numerous ridges rising up into the sky were still filled with the firm morning fog of a cold valley in a soon-to-be autumn morning. I love flying by Mount Monadnock. It is a common jumping off point for the greatest cross-country pilots in my glider club at Sterling. But I am a Nebraska boy, and the greatest Nebraska author was Willa Cather who did all of her writing about Nebraska in New Hampshire. I’m told she loved Mount Monadnock, home to the artistic colony she attached herself to, so much that a friend of hers buried her with her feet pointing to Monadnock and then went out to cut down trees so that she would have a good view of Monadnock from her resting place.

Coming back from Keene I was surprised to notice an unknown airport below me. I spent a long time trying to force my mind to make the northwesterly turf runway into the northerly asphalt runway at Brookline, New Hampshire, which makes absolutely no sense. I now realize it was the private Mason Airfield southwest of Brookline. The joy of this discovery shot through the top of my head when I realized that there was a DC-3 sitting to the side of the southeast end of the runway! You can even see it on Google Maps.

Back at home, the controller prepared me to extend my downwind for two departures, but instead I throttled back to fly the entire downwind at 80, the controller got out three departures, and advised me “base leg your discretion” in time for a normal pattern to landing.

Some days are just absolutely perfect. And today perfection came before 11am.

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