Day 9: Eastbound to Idaho

7CF Trip continues Eastbound to Idaho.

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

The Snake River, along the Oregon (on the left) and Idaho (on the right) border The Snake River, along the Oregon (on the left) and Idaho (on the right) border

Today’s flight isn’t long (375 nm and 2.5 hours — we’ve recalibrated our definition of “long flight in the Mooney”), but it’s a turning point in the trip:  our first eastbound leg of the journey!  We’re leaving the west coast behind and heading to Boise, Idaho (KBOI), where we’ll spend the night with our friends Max and Maria.

The weather was “classic Seattle”, with overcast skies at 800 feet, so this is also the first leg of the trip that we’ll actually need that expensive instrument rating.  The off-route obstruction clearance altitude is 16,800 feet around Mount Rainier, so going direct isn’t exactly Plan A. Instead, we file an airways route to Boise that keeps us over “lower” terrain — but the minimum enroute altitude for the airway is still 9,000 feet, so…

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Day 8: on the ground in Seattle(ish)

Catching up with news…follow this amazing trip (they are actually back home)

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

The Future of Flight Aviation Center, the start of the Boeing-Everett tour The Future of Flight Aviation Center, the start of the Boeing-Everett tour

After a week away from home, we decided to play it safe in Seattle, spending our rest day relaxing and avoiding the temptation to go to Seattle-proper and do too much.  The line crew at Castle & Cooke picked us up from our hotel, and took us to the rental car office — the service was better than yesterday’s “sorry, we just closed”, but not by much!

The main event for the day was a tour of Boeing’s widebody factory in Everett, which starts from the Future of Flight Aviation Center.  No cameras (or even phones) are allowed, so we knew it was going to be a real tour of the production line.  The tour guide was fantastic and showed our group a great time.  After the tour, we explored the museum, which is small but nicely done, and…

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Day 7, Leg 2: Along the Cascades to Seattle

Northwestern adventures continue…

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

Mount Saint Helens Mount Saint Helens

After lunch in Medford, we hung out for a bit at the FBO — mostly so we could let all of our electronics charge! Keeping an eye on the weather, we saw the beginnings of afternoon thunderstorms forming over the Cascades, so we modified our route a bit:  first, to nearby Crater Lake, then to Eugene and up the Willamette Valley (west of the mountains and the isolated storms) to Portland, followed by Seattle.  Jean-Baptiste was still our pilot in command, so we could even out our time in the left seat, and we took off and turned northeast, back into the mountains.

We leveled off at 9,500 feet, just below the cloud bases, and Crater Lake put on a gorgeous show: unbelievably blue water contrasting with scattered low clouds and snow-covered peaks.  The lake, formed when a volcano erupted over 7,000 years ago, is the deepest in…

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Day 7, Leg 1: up the Sacramento Valley to Oregon

The epic journey continues…onward north up the west coast.

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

Wind turbines northeast of Livermore, California Wind turbines northeast of Livermore, California

We had an early start today: up at 5:20 am, to catch an early commuter train to Palo Alto — thankfully, an express train that flew past most of the stations along the way.  Alberto, our mechanic at Palo Alto, wanted to meet with us before he had to head out at 8 am.  We made the trip easy: a cab was waiting for us at Roland’s house at 5:30, and once we were in Palo Alto, it was another quick cab ride to the airport.

We met with Alberto around 7:30, and chatted about our trip and 7CF’s old vacuum pump, which seized internally.  After handing us the logbook entry and the new pump’s airworthiness certificate, Alberto shows us that he wasn’t joking about “heading out” at 8 am:  he hops into a Piaggio Avanti and blasts off (by himself!), headed to Los Angeles for the day.  Not a…

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Day 6: on the ground in San Francisco

A beautiful city with lots to see and do.

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

DSC_0051 The Golden Gate from Vista Point

After our adventures on the Caltrain last night, we’re looking forward to a day on the ground!  Jim sleeps off all the left-seat flying while Jean-Baptiste and our host Roland go for a delicious French brunch at Chez Maman.  Roland shows us around San Francisco in a slick electric BMW: a great view from the twin peaks, the golden gate — still fogged in — and head then back downtown to keep playing tourist. The day ends with Ben, Kat and Yao, a few more of Jean-Baptiste’s friends , joining us for dinner at the Local Mission Eatery. A great day visiting San Francisco! Special thanks to Roland for having us and showing us around the city!

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Day 5, Leg 2: following the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco

7CF Bay Area photos and report: very beautiful!

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

20140601_07_02.10z Big Sur, following the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey

After enjoying the palm trees and sunshine of Santa Barbara, we plan to follow the famous Pacific Coast Highway northbound over Big Sur and up to San Francisco as the sun sets.  Even though he flew us from the Grand Canyon to Santa Barbara earlier today, Jim also flies this leg, as we’ll probably arrive after sunset — and he’s done the “unrestricted night privileges” checkout at EHFC.

As Jim prepares the route and the plane, Jean-Baptiste starts calling mechanics in the Bay Area to see who’s willing to fix 7CF’s broken vacuum pump, so that we can fly on instruments if the weather calls for it (an option we’d like to have in Seattle!). We finally talk to Alberto from Rossi Aircraft at the Palo Alto AIrport (KPAO), who hears “vacuum pump for a Mooney M20J” and is able to recall the part number from memory…

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Day 6, Leg 1: California-bound!

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

The Hoover Dam The Hoover Dam

Back to flying! Today is a big day — we’re heading to San Francisco with a lunch stop in Santa Barbara. The direct route from the Grand Canyon to San Francisco would overfly the Sierra Nevada mountains, so we first plan a leg to Santa Barbara, then up the California coastline to Palo Alto.

With the first bus leaving at 8:25 am from the Grand Canyon, we get a late start and only manage to start the engine around 10 am. We had planned to overfly Death Valley on the way to Santa Barbara, but the extra distance would force us to stop for fuel in Las Vegas, so we instead take a direct route. The wind has picked up at the Grand Canyon, with some pretty strong gusts, and 7CF’s stall warning horn is chirping as we climb out — even with the airspeed indicator showing 100 mph.

We first head down the…

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Day 4: On the ground in Grand Canyon National Park

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot


Our initial plan was to go see the Grand Canyon during Day 3, then head to San Francisco on Day 4. With the extra time on the ground trying to restart 7CF’s engine, we still hadn’t seen the Grand Canyon by late afternoon, and were both exhausted from three days of flying. Thankfully, we had reserved a campsite for two nights — as a hedge against weather delays — so we decided to spend a full day on the ground in the National Park.

After getting 7CF’s engine running again (we probably had it too lean on landing, combined with an idle speed calibrated for sea level; then we flooded it), the local FBO dropped us off at the Park Service shuttle bus station in the tiny tourist town of Tuscayan, Arizona, and we set up camp.

We didn’t get to see the Grand Canyon until the morning, and somehow the…

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Day 3, Leg 1: Crossing the Rockies

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

Today is a big day: we are crossing the Continental Divide! Neither of us has ever flown ourselves above 10,000 ft, or used oxygen. We’re crossing Marshall Pass (10,845 ft) and planning to cruise at 14,500 ft, using a portable oxygen system per the regulations (and common sense! Special thanks to Mark Sanford for lending us his system). We take off from Boulder around 8:30 am, before the mountain winds kick up and solar heating causes turbulence. First we head due south, leaving Pikes Peak (14,110 ft) to our left and Thirtynine Mountain (11,548 ft) to our right. The scenery on the snow-capped mountains is breathtaking. While the Mooney struggles to climb, we turn plug into the oxygen system at 10,000 feet, and instantly feel more awake!

After Waugh Mountain (11,710 ft), we turn West towards Salida, Colorado. The Mooney has made it to 14,500 ft, but only barely — even with the throttle…

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Day 3, Leg 2: Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon

Mooney Seven Charlie Foxtrot

The second flight of the day takes us through western Colorado, Utah and Arizona:  over Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, to Grand Canyon National Park airport (KGCN). The weather forecast shows some rain a few miles south of the Grand Canyon airport, slowly moving to the north.  We discuss whether to wait in Montrose or not, but decide to take off — with a plan to divert to Page, Arizona (KPGA) if the storm moves north.  Out of Montrose, we climb at 10,500 ft to cross a small pass on the Uncompahgre range. As we climb out, we notice that 7CF’s suction gauge has dropped to zero, which means our backup attitude indicator — an important instrument for flying in the clouds — does not work. The most likely scenario is that the vacuum pump broke, and we will have to get it…

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