By Skyhawk to Florida – Day 2 – Oshkosh to Cheyenne

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:

0576-Garmin430-83kt

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.

I’ve got two Rivers of the Day today. The first one wasn’t very big, and seemed to have a severe problem of indecision as to what way it was supposed to be flowing. 0563-WI-river

Some time later, I crossed over the second River of the Day – the mighty Mississippi, just south of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. On the other side was Minnesota, my second state of the day.
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From this point on, the terrain was pancake-flat and increasingly dry.0614-Iowa

They seem to have a thing for right angles out in the Midwest…
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With the constant wind, it only seems logical to exploit wind energy – and they do. There were wind farms  sprouting all across Minnesota.
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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.
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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.
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0628-SD-irrigation

Once again, I saw Pac Man eating a farm – with eyes, this time!
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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).
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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.
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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.

<- Back to Day 1 – Ithaca to Oshkosh     |       Ahead to Day 3 – Cheyenne to Mack Mesa ->

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By Skyhawk to Florida – Day 1 – Ithaca to Oshkosh

Finally, after waiting all week for the weather to clear, the weather this morning was at least MVFR in Ithaca, with ceilings getting higher as I headed west. For once, everything worked right! I filed a flight plan, took off on time, landed on time, closed the… all right, let’s not talk about that… took off again, crossed a lake, and landed again – all as I’d planned months ago. That’s got to be a first for me. Anyway, at eight-thirty this morning, the ceiling at Ithaca was 2,000 and clear under, so I hopped in 46493 and took off, heading west.
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By Geneseo I was comfortably above 2,500 feet, and basically stayed around that altitude for the entire leg as the ceiling rose above me. There was a large headwind – 25kt or more – and it’s usually best to stay low in those circumstances. My ground speed for the first few hours was in the low 80kt range, rising into the mid-90kt range over time. In time, I passed by Niagara Falls. You could see the mist rising from miles away, and even from outside the restricted area the falls were impressive. 0381-NiagaraFalls

As I passed north of Niagara, I entered Canadian airspace, and was handed off to the St. Catherine’s controller. In case you haven’t done it before, overflying Canada is not a big deal. You just have to be on a flight plan and assigned a transponder code before you enter Canada, and then you just go. No need to deal with e-APIS or customs notifications or anything like that, as long as you don’t land in Canada.

This was my first time dealing with Canadian Air Traffic Control, and it was interesting. They must be the politest controllers I’ve ever spoken to, for one thing. For another, the terminology is just slightly “off” for ears used to decades of FAA-speak. I got used to it, but you have to listen carefully at first. The other interesting thing about Canadian ATC is that the enroute controller handed me off to the tower of every airport I passed by (or switched me to the CTAF at untowered airports), then picked me up again on the other side. That took some getting used to, as well. The last Canadian controller I talked to signed out with “good luck – at that speed it’s going to take you a long time to get to Wichita!”  “It beats walking”, I said, and he agreed.

After an hour or so, the St. Clair River and Lake Huron appeared at Fort Huron / Port Edward, and I was back in the USA.
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My route entered the US at St. Clair (KPHN), and then it wasn’t too long before I was on the ground at Owasso Community Airport (KRNP). Owasso is a nice uncontrolled field with two turf runways and a longer asphalt runway 11/29. There’s a self-service fuel pump outside the airport office, and a small, but very friendly, cafe which serves quite tasty omelets.
0420-KRNP-493

I availed myself of all three – after four hours fifteen minutes in the air, 493 needed fuel, and after listening to all that fluid going into the tanks, I needed the airport office’s restroom desperately… enough said about that… In the interest of full disclosure, sometime between taking on fluid and getting rid of it, closing the flight plan slipped from my mind. Somebody from the airport came into the cafe and told me to call Flint Tower – oops. A good apology always works… After lunch, I took off again and headed northwest across Michigan. I suppose I should continue the “river of the day” tradition…     0424-CrotonDamLake

About 45 minutes out from Owasso, I’d climbed up to 4,500 feet so as to have a little more air under the wings as we crossed Lake Michigan. The Nordhouse Dunes stretch northward of Big Sable Point, and that’s the point where I turned westward to cross the Lake just north of the restricted zones.
0432-Lake-NordhouseDunes

Crossing Lake Michigan was another new experience for me. Once you get off shore, there’s nothing to be seen but water and sky – it’s 44 miles from Big Sable Point to the point just north of Manitowoc, and for most of that time you can’t see either shore. It’s easy to see how people get disoriented under those conditions. It was fairly clear by Eastern standards, but the horizon still wasn’t all that sharp. Finally, Manitowoc appeared out of the mist, and we’d made it across…
0437-Lake-Manitowoc

Forty miles further along, and I was on a two-mile final for runway 27, Oshkosh (KOSH).   0442-KOSH-final27

In investigating places to stay in Oshkosh, I found that the Hilton Garden Inn had a picture on their website showing airplanes parked outside. I’d called them, and sure enough they had their own private ramp for guests. How could I pass that up? When I landed I told the controller that I was going to the Hilton, and he said “taxiway Bravo, turn left on Bravo 3”, and I was there.
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I checked in as quickly as I could, and walked the mile or so to the EAA Museum across the airport. I had an hour to spend there, and it was great.         0511-EAA

We’ll see what nature has to throw into the mix, but my plan for tomorrow is to push all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and pick up a day. If that works I can get to Mack only one day late. We’ll see…

<- Back to Intro: By Skyhawk to Florida  |  Ahead to Day 2: Oshkosh to Cheyenne ->

By Skyhawk to Florida (via Colorado) – watch this space!

As many of you know, my photomosaic was chosen to be used as Sun’n’Fun’s poster this year, and they sent me two free tickets as a “thank you”. How could I pass that up? Later on, I was accepted as an official Volunteer Photographer for the week, so I’ll have a job (and maybe some backstage access?) as well. I’m really looking forward to the show.

Sun-n-Fun-2015Poster

N46493 and I will be leaving for the Sun’n’Fun fly-in in Lakeland, Florida, later this week. As in my last trip, I’ll be blogging each day so everyone can follow along on how badly awry my carefully-planned trip has gone.

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My intention is to leave on Thursday, or maybe Wednesday, or Saturday, for Oshkosh (or maybe Kokomo, Indiana, or perhaps Bowling Green, Kentucky), depending on the weather. On the way to Florida I’ll stop off in Colorado (as you do…), where I’ll spend some time with Jerry and Barbara Friedman before Jerry and I head southeast to Clearwater Airpark. Sun’n’Fun will run from April 21-26, and then we’ll head back home up the East Coast, stopping with my college roommate near Myrtle Beach, NC, along the way.

Ahead to Day 1 of the trip: Ithaca to Oshkosh ->

<- Back to 2013 to read about my previous trip to Colorado

End of the trip – Day 10 – Dayton to Ithaca

OK, I have to admit it up front – I didn’t do any of the flying this leg. When I woke up this morning it was MVFR at best in Dayton, and by the time we had breakfast they were reporting a 600′ ceiling, with a front with rain and low ceilings all the way from Ohio through western Pennsylvania and points south. Worse, the forecasts were for deteriorating weather through the day, with no real clearing until Sunday. If it was just me, I’d have found something to do and waited it out, but given there were two of us, and Jerry is IFR rated, well… we filed IFR. The trip back was basically boring. We flew through clouds and rain, and all I had to do was function as a heading bug. That is, when Jerry wandered off heading, I bugged him about it.

This is what it looked like:
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So, 493 and I are back in Ithaca at the end of our trip. It was well worth it, and I’m looking forward to my next long journey with N46493.

Day 9 – Hannibal to Dayton, Ohio

Today’s flying was probably the best of the trip. The weather was forecast to be fine for the 330 mile trip, and it was. For once, I could fly just the route I’d decided on the night before.

We got out of Hannibal around 9:00AM. No pictures of the Mississippi, sorry. We crossed the river while I was too busy climbing out of the airport – it’s only a few miles east. We crossed the border into Illinois at the middle of the river.

The weather was calm and the sky clear, but there was a haze layer going up to about 4,500 feet. I decided to climb above it, and by 5,500 feet we were on top.
ontoplayer_4695

Above the haze it was clear, cool and beautiful, and the air couldn’t have been smoother.  Southern Illinois is farming country, but unlike the dry farms of Texas and Oklahoma I’d passed through a week or so ago, here the rivers are high and the fields are flooded.
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We flew south of Springfield, and I grabbed a shot of the dome of the State Capitol building as we passed.
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Frankly, most of Illinois and Indiana, when we got there, are basically boring to fly over. Just flat land and farm fields as far as the eye can see, split into neat one-mile squares, stretching to the horizon.
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Sometimes there were some interesting patterns, though.
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The haze layer we’d been on top of at 5,500 feet started to thicken and turn into clouds, so I descended to 3,500 to get under them. Of course, as soon as I did that the clouds dissipated, the haze cleared, and it became a really clear day (by Eastern standards – Jerry was noting how poor the visibility was by Colorado standards – you couldn’t see more than about 20 miles…).

Our course to Dayton was essentially due east, so as we got into Ohio the navigation wasn’t difficult – just follow the roads, which follow the east-west section lines…
OH_4713

I had been a bit undecided about flying into Dayton International (KDAY), as opposed to one of the outlying airports, just because of the size of it. It’s got parallel runways 6/24 Left and Right, and huge ramps… it seemed a bit intimidating.  Still, it was just a class C, like Syracuse or Islip, and I’ve flown into them many times, and it was by far the most convenient to the Air Force Museum. So, I decided to give it a try. As it turned out, it was easy.

The controllers were easy to deal with – we picked up Columbus Approach about sixty miles out, and were with them until they turned us over to Dayton Tower at about 15 miles from the field. We were cleared to land on runway 6 Left while we were still ten miles out, and in the end it’s just a runway – all right, about twice the length of 14/32 at Ithaca, but the same width.
KDAY_4724

The biggest difference is how far you have to taxi after you land. As it turned out, Dayton International is physically huge but not very busy, after the airlines which used it as a hub folded. After a few miles taxiing, we arrived at the Wright Brothers Aero FBO – nice to see they found something to do with themselves after inventing the airplane. I don’t know if it was Orville or Wilbur who met us and waved us into a parking spot outside their hangar, but in any case we were soon set.
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They were really nice about arranging a rental car when I called before we left Hannibal, and it was waiting for us as we taxied in. Less than half an hour later, we were at the Air Force Museum, and that’s how we spent the rest of the day.
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We’re 383 miles from Ithaca as the crow (and, hopefully, Cessna 172) flies, so tomorrow should get us home if the weather cooperates. We’ll see.

We’re on our way back! – Day 8 – Mack, Colorado to Hannibal, Missouri

Jerry Friedman, ‘493 and I are in Hannibal, MO tonight – and true to the trend of this trip, when I went to bed last night I had no plans whatsoever to be in Hannibal (or Missouri at all, for that matter). The Weather Gods strike again.

We left Mack Mesa (C07) at 7:00AM this morning (MDT), in clear skies and light wind. We’d dipped the tanks on 493, and we had 30 gallons of fuel – more than enough for the 200 miles or so to Cheyenne, Wyoming, our first stop, and we felt that it would be better to go with that than to load the full 52 gallons in the wings for the first leg. It’s as well that we didn’t, as we used nearly all of the 2, 500 foot runway (at 4,500 feet altitude) to get airborne, with the two of us and our bags and assorted stuff we were bringing back east (including a box of rocks – I did some fossil hunting while I was in Fruita).

Anyway, while our climb rate was a bit unimpressive, climb we did, until we had gained about 5,000 feet in altitude and had enough to get over the ridges north of the Grand Junction valley.
CO-ridges_4641

As soon as we could get over the first ridges, we aimed northeast toward the Meeker (EKR) and Steamboat Springs (BQR) VORs, still climbing until we reached our peak altitude of just under 12,000 feet. We aimed for low spots in the ridges where we could see the horizon over the mountains.
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Finally, as we passed the Steamboat Springs ski area, we crossed the highest point in the trip, and it was downhill from there.
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After two hours and 221 miles, we reached our planned first stop, Cheyenne (KCYS). We got a straight-in approach to runway 9, and a great breakfast at the terminal restaurant.
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As we waited for our pancakes, eggs, sausage, watermelon, strawberries and hash browns (we just asked for pancakes, but they threw in all the rest), we checked the weather. Our original plan had been to head to Mason City, IA (KMCW) for an overnight, and then go on to Oshkosh tomorrow, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. There was a cold front stretching down across Nebraska, Mason City was already having heavy rain at that time, and was predicted to remain bad all day. Worse, it’s predicted to be bad further north, so it looks like Oshkosh will be for another trip.Time for plan B.

From the map, it looked like conditions would be better further south, roughly along the Kansas-Nebraska border, so I replanned our destination for the day to be Kansas City, with a rest and refuel stop in mid-Kansas. We took off refueled in person and airplane, and with the 6,500 foot elevation of Cheyenne, used a whole lot of their 9,500 foot runway getting off. The weather held along our course back into the plains of Colorado, then into Nebraska and finally Kansas. At least we didn’t have to worry about clearing the mountains…
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At one point, I swear we saw Pac Man devouring a farm…
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After another three hours flying, 562 miles from Mack Mesa, we landed at Concordia, Kansas (KCNK) to fuel and check the weather for the next leg. Concordia had a self-service fuel pump, and an unlocked FBO with a sign “back soon”. We had some 100LL and a few Diet Cokes while we waited for the man with the wireless password.
KCNK_4668

Once again the weather seemed better further south and further on – to the north of the  Kansas City Class B they were reporting marginal VFR conditions, but to the south of the Class B the ceilings were over 10,000 feet, and it looked OK to get even further. Hannibal, MO (KHAE) was reporting clear below 12,000 feet, and forecast to remain so. Therefore, our overnight stop became Hannibal, and off we went.

I suppose I can’t do a post without the river of the day, so here’s the Kansas River:
KansasRiver_4677

We continued on to the Johnson County VOR (OJC), which is just south of the Kansas City Class B, and turned northeast. As forecast, the weather north of us was much worse, with lower ceilings and rain. We flew through a few light rain showers ourselves – nothing bad, no turbulence to speak of, and the visibility through the showers was fine. It was just enough to wash some of the bugs off the windshield. I kept the worst of the showers off to our left, and bent our course gradually until we were headed direct to Hannibal. At one point the sun broke out and we were treated to a beautiful rainbow directly ahead.
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We passed over the Missouri River, which is 10 feet over flood stage according to a report Jerry just read. The flooding was obvious (if unrecorded, because of the uninspiring lighting conditions). The ceilings rose and the clouds broke, and finally, around 6:20 CDT, we arrived at Hannibal (KHAE).
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Weather permitting, we plan to go to Dayton, OH, tomorrow to visit the Air Force Museum and spend the night. On the other hand, the way this trip has gone… how’s the weather in Atlanta? Watch this space…