Il Volo (the flight)
Sunday, May 27th, 2012
Paolo, my friend the orthodontist, is partners in small plane – and I do mean small. If it were any smaller it would not be able to accommodate two people. Let’s just say that you should both take a shower before taking off. Getting into the plane is something of a contortionist endeavor. First grasp the door opening with your right hand (if passenger), then insert your left foot (you have to clear the stick in the middle, then you insert your head and lift yourself into the seat and finally bring the other leg in. You reverse the process getting out. I had a fair amount of practice since we stopped at three other little airports during the flight.
As you can see, there is a very interesting arrangement in the hanger. Paolo’s plane is on a lift. So first he pulls it out just a little bit to clear the wing of another plane, the lowers it to clear the opening of the hanger. Then he pulls it all of the way out. Next the cover is removed and stowed somewhere and finally it is lowered to the ground and the plane is pulled off. Of course being a prudent pilot, he checks a variety of things, the oil, the control system, etc, etc. Finally we got in and he taxied to the gas pumps where he filled the plane and we took off.
I kept an eye on the altimeter and we were never more at an altitude of more than 1600 meters which, as you can see from the photos, is not very high. Also we were never going faster than160 km per hour, about 100 miles per hour. Within a few minutes of the flight, Paolo said that the oil temperature was too high so we landed at a small airport perhaps 30-40 km away from the home base. There are a couple of straps around the oil cooler which are good for winter but not so good on a warm day so Paolo removed one of them. By the way, all of the 3 other airports where we stopped had grass runways rather than asphalt.
The scenery was, frankly, pretty boring. The Po Valley is prime farmland, similar perhaps to the central valley in California. Very flat and almost nothing but farms. There is the Po River, which is the longest river in Italy – I saw the same river (smaller of course) in Torino. There are also a lot of canals that are used both for drinking water and irrigation.
At the second airport somewhere somewhat northeast of Ferrara, we stopped and went to lunch with some friends of Paolo. We stopped at a place that they knew which is on houseboats in the river. They said that they’ve never changed even a letter of the menu in 40 years and that we would eat really well and pay little. Unfortunately it was not to be since there were a couple of tour buses in the parking lot and the place was packed – probably Italians and/or Germans. So we went to a buffet that was chinese run. The price was modest and so was the food – often the chinese way unfortunately.
Back in the air we followed his friends to another small airport. During the lunch and the stop at the second airport I listed to a lot of talk about flight, flying, planes, airports, places to visit in Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Germany, Austria – well you get the picture. It was good for my Italian but I was hard pressed to enter into the conversation.
Still it was a really fun day. Perhaps I’ll get to do it again someday and go somewhere a bit more interesting.