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I hoped to go flying this morning, but wasn’t sure whether the weather at Smiths Falls was suitable. Smiths Falls airport doesn’t have a weather report, and conditions there are sometimes quite different than at Ottawa, the closest airport that reports weather. There were snow flurries in the Ottawa area this morning, but the radar and the Smiths Falls Airport Weather Cam suggested that conditions were much better at Smiths Falls. The winds at Ottawa suggested the wind at Smiths Falls would be perhaps 45 degrees off the runway axis, but that wasn’t conclusive. So, somewhat hopeful, I climbed in the car for the 35 minute trip to the airport.

The skies cleared out as I approached Smiths Falls, and it looked great to the west. But I was quite dismayed to see the windsock pointing straight across the runway, with about 10 - 12 kt of wind. Normally 10 kt of crosswind wouldn’t be a concern at all, but the runway was about 50% covered with huge patches of ice, and the ice was very slippery. Taxiing and the take-off would be OK, but the landing was a worry. There was more than enough crosswind to cause the aircraft slide sideways when it was on the large ice patches, and then the wheels would grab when they hit a spot of clear pavement. I wouldn’t have been too concerned if the aircraft had tricycle landing gear, as the main wheels would be behind the centre of gravity, and the side force on the wheels when the aircraft came sliding off the ice onto the clear spots would tend to turn the aircraft so it was pointing in the direction that it was sliding. But, with an aircraft with classical landing gear (also known as a “tail dragger”), the main landing gear is in front of the CG, and the side force when the aircraft hits the clear spots would tend to increase the skid. It would take some luck or a huge amount of skill to avoid a ground loop. I couldn’t count on the good luck arriving when needed, and wasn’t 100% convinced that my skills would be up to the task, especially if the wind speed increased a bit.

This is the first time in over two years of flying that I’ve cancelled a flight that I would have done if I had an aircraft with tricycle landing gear.

While I was at Smiths Falls, I ran into the president of the Flying Club. I suggested that we should acquire some sort of anemometer and wind vane, connected to a web server. Wind data would be very useful when making a decision whether to drive to the airport to go flying or not. He agreed to consider it, once I can provide some data on options.

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