Oliver was on spring break this week so he had no school, so his mom dropped him off Thursday night and I took a day of PTO today for some Father & Son time. We planned breakfast (pancakes, of course -- at Peter's Cafe down in Millbrae). afuna joined us for that then she hopped on the BART and headed off to work while the kid and I went south to San Carlos Airport.
We had a mission -- my airplane, N171MA, needed a bulb replaced. I also wanted to do some administrivia that I'd not done when we got back from our trip to Baltimore. The aviation data (charts, obstacles, and navigation data) needed updating and I wanted to pull down the latest flight and engine data logs to do some analysis. Also, I wanted to wash the plane and make it nice and shiny!
We took care of a few of the things and then we hopped aboard and started up. I requested permission from Ground Control to taxi across the runway to the wash rack on the other side and we got stuck about 10 minutes waiting for a clear time to cross. (They can't have airplanes crossing active runways and the weather was beautiful: there were a lot of airplanes coming and going.)
Eventually we made it across the runway and I vaguely knew where we were going but had never actually been to the wash rack before. I ended up going down the wrong aisle into a dead end. One of the things about airplanes is that virtually none of them can go backwards. They only go forwards. If you end up going down an aisle that doesn't have an exit like I did today, you have to shut everything down and disembark, fetch the hand tug, and then reorient the bird yourself. It's slightly annoying, particularly when you get turned around (unf! heavy!) and then have to ask Ground Control for permission to taxi because you "missed". Whoops.
We finally got around to the wash rack which was more complicated than I expected and I ended up parking in front of what I thought was the rightmost of two washing spots. I realized halfway through that you were intended to park in the middle of the two hose reels -- the one on the left was attached to a 55 gallon drum of soap and the one on the right was for rinsing. I didn't feel like repositioning by hand for a second time in one day so I just used the plain water and did the best we could.
When we were done Oliver asked if we were going to take off now. I had not planned on flying anywhere and was only there to do incidentals related to aircraft maintenance, but it wasn't like I had better plans... I asked him if he wanted lunch and if he wanted to fly somewhere to get lunch and he seemed keen on the idea. It's important to note that this would be his third flight ever and his previous two were short flights and we didn't go anywhere really -- plus afuna was on those flights to help if anything went south. This would be a real flight: ~30 minutes to Petaluma, lunch, ~30 minutes home -- and no backup.
He was keen on the idea and I got excited so we got ready to go and then departed. Blasting off into the brilliant blue sky -- I love my airplane. It's an amazing machine and flying is the most wonderful feeling and there I was, my son next to me with his red headset on. I had the stupidest grin on my face. As soon as we launched, Oliver piped up on the intercom: "Dad. Don't turn us upside down." I assured him I would definitely not turn us upside down.
We were cleared through the SFO Bravo airspace and it got a little bumpy. Unfortunately because of the large amount of air traffic in the area (particularly going north from San Carlos!), I was pretty constrained in where I could fly and I couldn't really alleviate the turbulence but it turned out that he didn't seem to mind -- it was a little bumpy but at least once he said it was fun. (I had quietly grabbed the sick sack and prepared it just in case...)
At some point near SFO we were cruising along and out of nowhere Oliver said, "Dad, I'll help!" and leaned forward, grabbed the control stick, and pulled back. This immediately caused the airplane to pitch up and startled the poor kid. I basically always fly with my hand on the stick so I gently brought us back to level but I think he cured himself of wanting to grab the stick!
We made it up to Petaluma and landed without incident and took a selfie. He wanted to hop up on the wing, so that's why he's standing up here:
We went to the Two Niner Diner (a lovely place!) and he wanted grilled cheese, french fries, ketchup, and a strawberry milkshake. They make 'em right, too: brought him the shake and a tin with some extra. His little mind exploded "I get two milkshakes?!?!" and he was in nirvana. The staff was super taken by him and by the end of the meal he gave the proprietor a sudden hug and she got a little startled and said "That made my day -- you have no idea, you really made my day."
The flight home was pretty uneventful. Oliver fell asleep halfway back and I debated flying circles just to make the moment last longer but ended up just heading back and landing. I made what is probably my smoothest, shortest landing yet in the plane and managed to taxi off at the Foxtrot exit from 30. (I know that won't mean much to anybody but it feels good.)
When we got home later, Oliver gave me a hug and said, "I love you Dad. This is the best day ever."
I'll be over here in a puddle of warm fuzzy feelings and goo.