As usual I haven't flown since we got back from Spring Break over two weeks ago. Not good for the plane or me! Unfortunately fire season has arrived with a vengeance here in Florida and visibilities were down to less than 3/4 mile in smoke yesterday all the way out to the coast. Yesterday's afternoon sea breeze pushed it all back inshore, but it was forecasted to return today. (See: Florida Forest Service)
With some available time this morning I decided to head out to the airport to at least "see" the plane and complete a few housekeeping items. When I left the house it was beautiful clear skies; no smoke! So with my chores complete, I went flying instead. Yeah! I had no plan other than to just go fly. I thought about flying along the coast or flying to Plataka for fuel, but decided to just head west at first and then we'll see where we go.
I always try to "play" with something in the plane each time I fly to get to know her better. This time I played with the power setting tables to see if my airspeed remained unchanged with various combinations of RPM and manifold pressure to maintain 65% power. Sure enough it worked! I really shouldn't be surprised, but it was nice to confirm that the engine is working properly. So at 4500 feet I was flying at about 134 KIAS and 144 KTAS. While flying at 65% at the lower RPM of 2100 and higher manifold pressure of 24.3 in, I was burning well over a gallon per hour less. Every little bit helps so when I find myself flying a little lower, I'll have to remember to pull out the tables and use the lower RPM for desired settings.
So after heading west and with my playing complete, I came in to view of the County Line Fire located about 40 miles west of Jacksonville near the Taylor VOR in Northeast Florida. Currently there is a TFR over the area, but I stayed well above it and on the north and east sides of the fire lines. I took a few pictures and then descended to 3500 feet as I turned around an headed back for Jacksonville. I snapped a few more shots and enjoyed the flight back home. It was a great morning, and I thank all those firefighters on the front lines!