It’s been a long day – eight and a half hours flying – but well worth it. I’m in Cheyenne, Wyoming, ready for tomorrow’s relatively short 200-mile hop to Mack Mesa.
I got off nice and early from Oshkosh, into clear and cloudless skies. Unfortunately, there was a fair amount of wind in those skies – a 25-35kt south wind, to be precise. It took a lot of crab to hold a more-or-less westerly course, but for most of the trip the best I saw was this:
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin 430, the lower right-hand box is Ground Speed (GS) – 83.4 knots. My airspeed was about 105 knots, so that amounted to more than a 20 knot headwind.
As I flew westward, the smooth conditions when I took off became increasingly bumpy, and the reported winds at each airport grew higher. I had the choice to stop at Spencer, Iowa KSPW (state number 3, by the way), but the winds were kind of high – 23 gusting 33 – and I had what seemed like sufficient fuel, so I decided to stretch on to the next waypoint which was reporting only 15 knot winds on the METAR. So, on to Yankton, South Dakota KYKN (state number 4).
By the time I got to Yankton, the AWOS was reporting 19 gusting 31, but straight down Runway 19. The landing was interesting – felt like I was hovering at the last bit, and taxiing to the fuel pumps I was careful to use the control inputs you learn in training, but never seem to really need much in our calmer climate. Total elapsed time, four hours 51 minutes.
Jerry sent me a “welcome to South Dakota” text message as soon as I arrived (thank you FlightAware), with the note that he didn’t think there was anyone else there. There probably are, but you can’t prove it by me. I refueled, used the restroom in the airport office, and took off again without seeing a single human being.
With the wind strengths, I seriously considered tying down at Yankton for the night and trying again in the morning, but in the end I decided that although Cheyenne was predicting winds in the high 20’s and gusts in the mid-30’s, they had runways oriented correctly for the winds, and it was still early – worth pushing ahead the remaining 320 miles. And so I did.
In South Dakota, the circular irrigators I’d expected began to appear. What I hadn’t seen before are the little curved fillets in the corners between fields, lined out with windbreaks of trees. That must be something new, as a lot of them seemed to be rows of seedlings. These are fairly mature, though.
Somewhere over South Dakota or Nebraska (state 5), the winds shifted around to northwest, and my groundspeed picked up significantly. For much of the last hour, I saw ground speeds in excess of 100 knots, which was very gratifying. Minneapolis Center and Denver Center both had radars down, so I had no flight following for most of the second half of the day. After about three hours, though, I was able to call Cheyenne Approach (Wyoming – state 6), and twenty minutes later, I was on final for Runway 31 (wind 310 at 22 gusting 34).
Another interesting landing, with a bit more wiggle in the wind than at Yankton, and I’d arrived at KCYS. The folks at Legacy FBO were nice enough to toss me the keys to their courtesy car, and the day was over.
The winds are predicted to be light, first thing tomorrow morning, so I plan to be out of here early and in Mack Mesa 10CO before 10AM. We’ll see.