An adventure is only an adventure if it has the potential for something to go a little wrong. A bad magneto is certainly always possible when flying, and that’s what happened to us trying to cross the country. As misadventures go, this one only cost us time. No one was hurt, the airplane was not bent, and there was no outrageous cost (it was covered by warranty).If we didn’t have those two nights motionless after only six hundred miles, it would have been a great crossing. My goal was to fly the plane across the country, dropping Adam in Maryland where Sharalyn and Ellie were, and continuing on to pickup Nell and the boys in Boston (they would fly in on the redeye Jetblue flight) to bring them up to New Hampshire.
The plane flew 2,413 nautical miles (that’s 2,775 miles for you landlubbers). It took us just about twenty-five hours on the Hobbs meter. The longest flight was Albuquerque (ABQ) to Wichita (ICT), 470nm in 4.6 hours. I flew that leg. I also flew the shortest leg, which was eleven miles from the Double Eagle airport to Albuquerque’s main airport. That was a sweaty flight because we knew something was wrong with the plane and we were trying to get it to a better shop for repair.
Sedona was the most beautiful airport we have flown into. It was fascinating to fly into the New Mexico airports, which at midday were at a density altitude of over eight thousand feet. That meant our groundspeeds on take off and landing were really high. Adam noted that when I touched down at ABQ my ground speed was 71kts. That means you are skittering along on the small wheels much faster than you are used to, and you need more room to slow down.
Seven Bar Aviation installed new magnetos and we took off at about the time we would have been continuing from Double Eagle two days earlier.
We threaded our way through forming, mature and dissipating thunderstorms. Having the Nextrad weather display was critical. We couldn’t have planned our route without it. We were not coming any closer than five miles to any precipitation, and everything was visible out the canopy. You could see a big fat column of rain dropping from the thundercloud onto the plains below. It was very dramatic. A lot of the light precipitation would be fine to fly through, but since there were thunderstorms in the area, it wouldn’t be safe to guess which were just rain and which were thunderstorms (high energy, fast moving air, possible lightning strikes).
Wichita’s Yingling Aviation was a fabulous FBO. We were beat from the more than four hours in the plane. I was very happy to get out of the plane and the jet jockeys that walked by with their snide comment (“How’s the air conditioning in that thing?”) did nothing to dampen my excitement at having made it over a thousand miles from the east coast with less than a thousand left to Adam’s destination. We drove a little further than we wanted for dinner, but we got to eat at the famous Scotch and Sirloin steak house. At least the woman at the FBO told us it was famous. It was certainly good steak.
Adam flew the night flight leg from Wichita to St. Louis. I would have enjoyed seeing some of that terrain in the daytime. The change from the plains to the hills and river valleys would have been interesting. We were treated to a spectacular moonrise, silvering the clouds and gradually lighting the ground below. We listened to a military flight arranging mid-air refueling practice. The end of our flight was St. Louis, a Class Bravo (huge) airport, and Adam kept the tower and approach controllers happy with some crisp flying. The FBO had arranged our hotel for the night and we collapsed for six hours or so.
The next morning was hazy. We stayed low on our way to I69 (Batavia). I had selected the destination rather randomly that morning when Adam pointed out that the logical halfway point was Cincinnati. We knew we wanted to land at a small airport nearby and I picked one that was just past. When he looked it up Adam said, “Hey! That’s the home of Sporty’s!” They send me a catalog every few weeks, hoping that I needed some more aviation-related goodies. Sometimes I do. In fact, in the plane right then was a bunch of approach books, a propeller lock, a set of tie downs, a set of turf anchors, a collapsible storage box for the baggage area, a quartet of life jackets… a whole plane full of stuff from them, come to think of it. And I needed another little wind protector for one of my headsets.
We landed there and fueled, but they only had vending machines. We each had a soda and an ice cream sandwich and Adam took off to the east. We flew through an active Military Operations Area, our eyes peeled for interesting planes doing training exercises. No such luck. It went cold (inactive) before we were ten minutes in. I napped a little on the way to Frederick, MD, listening to music and letting Adam listen to ATC. Flying into Frederick we were snaking between two Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), one the National Air Defenze Zone (ADIZ) and one the expanded radius around Camp David for George’s weekend. Again, the G1000 was invaluable. It would have been a drag to be plotting the TFR on a paper chart with a written description and navigating around it hoping we had the lines correct.
After dropping Adam with Sharalyn and Ellie, and fueling the plane I continued on to Rhode Island where Brett, Dave, Willa and Jasper met me at the airport. I had just enough energy to take three of them (Dave watched from the ground) up for a ride in the pattern. (I just learned that SFZ is the airport where JFK Jr. learned to fly.)
I was so close to picking up Nell and the boys and bringing them to New Hampshire, but they wouldn’t arrive at Logan for another ten hours, so I went to Brett and Dave’s house to rest. The next morning: Landing at Logan.