Crossing the Country

Colin reporting here. (All of these maps were generated by Foreflight on the iPad or web.)

N971RD flew from coast to coast eighteen times. This page has a collection of the various routes we took, and the people on board. (Boldface identifiers are where we spent a night.) For many of the trips there is a series of posts, or a single long post, describing the trip.

We are now flying N972RD, a new plane (to us), which in 2016 made a bunch of trips up and down the west coast of the United States but has also crossed the country more than ten times. (If you want to see further adventures of a DA40 on long flights, start with Ilya’s flight in 2018 crossing the country.)

This is the most popular page on the blog, so I will try, over time, to deepen some of the information presented here. For now, I do have the letter I wrote to a pilot about staying current, and the set of rules we set out for our two young boys when we were heading out on one of these trips. In April 2008 I took a first stab at How to Fly Across. Then, in August 2013, I added another version which is in five parts.

1: August 2007 Eastbound: Me and Adam on the first crossing. We were halted in Albuquerque with a bad magneto, which made the rest of the trip a mad dash. I dropped Adam in Maryland before overnighting in Providence and picking up Nell and the boys at Logan the next morning.

August 2007

Summer 2007 Eastbound

We flew: SMO – SEZ – AEG – ABQ – ICT – STL – I69 – FDK – SFZ – BOS

2: August 2007 Westbound: Me and Bob. I left Nell and the boys in New York City and flew out of Bridgeport to Scranton to pick Bob up. I wrote it up all in one post.

August 2007 Westbound

August 2007 Westbound

We flew: BDR – AVP – CMH – CMI – SPI – COU – MHK – GLD – COS – FMN – SEZ – SMO

3: August 2008 Eastbound: Nell, Rudy and Dexter and I flew all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, it was our first family cross continental flight in the little plane.

August 2008 Eastbound

August 2008 Eastbound

We flew SMO – SEZ – ABQ – GUY – MKC – PNT – CMI – BKL – ITHLEB – HTO. It is all detailed in this post (which links to a bunch of other posts).

4: August 2008 Westbound: I flew the plane back home solo.

August 2008 Westbound

August 2008 Westbound

I flew: CDW – AGC – EYE – JEF – ICT – GUY – AEG – SEZ – SMO. The trip is detailed in this post.

5: April 2009 Eastbound: Me, Nell, Rudy and Dexter fly from Santa Monica, CA to Washington, DC and then up to the New York area. There are a bunch of posts from that trip and the summary is here.

April 2009 Eastbound

April 2009 Eastbound

We flew SMO – RYN – MAF – 50R – NEW – PDK – IAD – MMU.

6: April 2009 Westbound: Me, Nell, Rudy and Dexter return west from the trip to NYC, but Nell and Rudy fly home from St. Louis after a flat tire (also part of the summary).

April 2009 Westbound

April 2009 Westbound

We flew MMU – AGC – IND – STL – ICT – DHT – ABQ – DVT – SMO.

7: July 2009 Eastbound: Me, Nell, Rudy and Dexter headed to New Hampshire for a week. Subject of the lost trip report.

July 2009 Eastbound

July 2009 Eastbound

We flew SMO – HND – 36U – JAC – RAP – FSD – MSN – IAG – LEB

8: August 2009 Westbound: All four of us returning from New York City. Included in the lost trip report.

August 2009 Westbound

August 2009 Westbound

We flew MMU – CAK – CMI – SPI – RVS – BGD – ABQ – DVT – SMO.

9: July 2010 Eastbound: All four of us headed to New Hampshire.

July 2010 Eastbound

July 2010 Eastbound

We flew SMO – SEZ – SAF – LBL – HUF – ISZ – ELM – LEB. Report to follow. While we were on the East coast Dexter and I had a great day of flying.

10: August 2010 Westbound: All four of us returning from NYC.

August 2010 Westbound

August 2010 Westbound

We flew N07 – IPT – CRW – CPS – NVD – ICT – LVS – ABQ – DVT – VNY (and to SMO in the morning). Report still being written, but to gather ourselves in New York City required the longest day of flying.

11: August 2011 Eastbound: All four of us headed east, stopping in Michigan to visit the set of Oz, the Great and Powerful. We finally got to stop in Chicago, although we would like to never spend another night in Liberal, Kansas (forced down by weather). Recently found entries written by Dexter are here.

August 2011 Eastbound

August 2011 Eastbound

We flew: SMO – SEZ – ABQ – LBL – MKC – MDW – PTK – SYR – LEB – MMU

12: August 2011 Westbound: All four returning, we cut and ran pretty straight for home. We had a very strange lunch in Kansas at an Italian restaurant on the field. We also did a very long day starting in Kansas City and making it all the way home in a single day. Sadly, ISZ is now closed (so Foreflight can’t show it on the map). That was a cute little airport in Blue Ash, Ohio and we’d use it to drop in and have a meal with our friend Claudia.

August 2011 Westbound

August 2011 Westbound

We flew: CDW – AGC – ISZ – CPS – MKC – GCK – ABQ – FLG – SMO

13: August 2012 Eastbound: Rudy announced that he really needed a more northern route this summer. Accordingly, we headed north into Utah and spent the first night at the lovely Sundance Resort. We also stopped to see a friend in Cincinnati  and after a stop in New Hampshire hopped out to the Hamptons for dinner.

August 2012 Eastbound

August 2012 Eastbound

We flew: SMO – SGU – 36U – RWL – ANW – FSD – FCM – IND – LUK – MPO – LEB – BDL – HTO

14: August 2012 Westbound: The boys were tired of traveling and admitted that they did not want to go to New York City for a few nights, or to Maine, or Boston, they just wanted to head home. So we climbed in the plane and bee-lined for the west coast. Along the way we thought it might be a good idea to visit Portland, Oregon so that Rudy could visit Reed College. Fires in Idaho forced us to head south to home instead.

August 2012 Westbound

August 2012 Westbound

We flew: LEB – ELM – BKL – IND – FSD – DSM – RAP – CPR – OGD – HND – SMO

15: August 2013 Eastbound: It was our latest departure ever, which meant that we snaked our way through thunderstorms to get from Flagstaff to Albuquerque. For our second night (Indianapolis) we made what Nell felt was our scariest landing. We lost our alternator over Albany and had to continue by rental car (I returned the next day to shuttle the plane to Lebanon). This crossing (and the return trip) are detailed in a single post.

Eastbound 2013

Eastbound 2013

We flew: SMO – FLG – ABQ – DDC – LWC – IND – LPR – ALB – LEB

16: August 2013 Westbound: Just Dexter and I flew up from New Hampshire to spend a few night in the north woods of Ontario. Then we crossed westward together.

Westbound 2013

Westbound 2013

We flew: CNK4 – MBS – ACB – CID – EAR – APA – FMN – SEZ – SMO

17: June 2015 Eastbound: Just Dexter and I flew into the midwest to look at some colleges and then drop him at Iowa City. Detailed in The Dropoff.

Santa Monica, California to Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois

Santa Monica, California to Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois

We flew: SMO – SEZ – ABQ – LBL – MKC – MDW

We looked at some colleges in Chicago and then we flew to Grinnell and to Iowa City. After leaving him in Iowa City I flew the plane back to the factory in London, Ontario. Once their work was complete and Dexter’s summer program was finishing up I picked up the plane in London and flew to Iowa City. We then continued to the east coast, spent a few nights in NYC.

We flew: IOW – EYE – AGC – CDW


Iowa City to Caldwell

We collected Nell at Logan Airport and went up to New Hampshire for the July 4th weekend.

Collecting Nell

Collecting Nell

We flew: CDW – BOS – LEB

18: August 2015 Westbound

Our last crossing in N971RD. Dexter and I returned from Parry Sound, Ontario to the west coast. Most of this is detailed in A Summer of Flying.

Heading home in August

Heading home in August

We flew: CNK4 – DTW – CMI – MKC – LBL – ROW – ABQ – FLG – SMO

19: July 2016 Eastbound

The first crossing in the new plane. I flew solo from the Seattle area to the New York area, with a short weather diversion.


After dropping Dexter at Friday Harbor

I flew: FHR – BFI – MHW – GTF – BIS – GRB – CDW as detailed in this post.

20: August 2016 Westbound

After the family reunion in New Hampshire, I flew home, dodging a few thunderstorms along the way.


Tried for Denver, blocked by storms

I flew: LEB – BKL – MKC – GUY – FLG – SMO

21: August 2016 Eastbound

A quick jaunt up the coast to drop Rudy in Portland and collect Dexter off of Seattle, and then I flew back to the East coast to meet Nell and Dexter in Cambridge to drop Dexter at school. Storms kept me out of Santa Fe and Dalhart. The restaurant I wanted to return to in Guymon was already closed by the time I picked my way around the thunderstorms in the Albuquerque valley.


Long Legs in the New Plane

I flew: SMO – FLG – ICT – IND – BED

22: December 2016 Westbound

Collecting the plane at the factory and bringing it home.


Some cold air, that’s for sure

I flew: CYXU – PIT – SUS – ICT – ABQ – SMO

23: April 2017 Eastbound

Nell’s first crossing in the new plane.

Much longer legs

We flew: SMO – ABQ – CPS – AGC – CDW

24: May 2017 Westbound

Bringing Dexter home from his freshman year at college. Bad weather at the start meant I got a full route clearance, which details the beginning of the trip.

Ducking south to avoid the Rockies

We flew: BED – GYY – OMA – APA – ABQ – SMO

25: August 2017 Eastbound

Rudy and I flew to New Hampshire since Nell and Dexter wanted to spend a little more time in Los Angeles.


Lunch at Asian Street Food in ABQ is becoming a tradition

We flew: SMO – ABQ – MKC – CAK – LEB

26: October 2017 Westbound

After some time in Cambridge and New York, Nell and I flew the plane home to Santa Monica. We had a great walk at lunch time along the river in Wichita. If not for some time lost in traffic in Wichita, we probably would have made it in a single night. But the evening and morning in Flagstaff were both beautiful.


Just a nap at ABQ, we had lunch parked at YingLing

We flew: CDW – MDT – CPS – ABQ – FLG – SMO

27: May 2018 Eastbound

Dexter and I flew the plane east for the first part of the summer. He wanted to visit a friend in Coal City, West Virginia, so that set our trajectory after Albuquerque. Tulsa, where we spent the night, was sort of a non-experience because we just landed, collapsed into sleep at the hotel, and departed in the morning right after breakfast.


Lunch at Asian Street Food

We flew: SMO – ABQ – RVS – CKV – BKW – CDW

28: July 2018 Westbound

Nell and I brought the plane back to the west coast so that we could use it for a little more of her book tour (Comicon!). We spent a night in New Hampshire on the lake, made a late afternoon departure the next day and spent a night in Indianapolis. The flight on Thursday is the current record-holder for longest nautical-mile day in the four-seater, 1,470nm.


Dinner and a sundae in Flagstaff

We flew: OWD – LEB – BKL – IND – ICT – FLG – SMO

29: August 2018 Eastbound

I got a late start after some maintenance issues. Weather meant two nights as detailed in this post.


Steak dinner in Louisville

I flew: LGB – ABQ – RVS – SDF – AGC – OWD

30: October 2018 Westbound

Flying across with Alex to drop him in Phoenix for the Fall League games of the MLB. Scud running out of New Jersey we made it almost all the way to Pittsburgh before we had to climb above 2,500 and in the clouds. There was ice and (reported) severe turbulence at 5,000 so we were glad the controller let us stay at 4,500. We stopped to see Willa (niece/granddaughter) at Earlham College and then continued to spend the night in Indianapolis. Two more legs the next day and we spent the night in Albuquerque, leaving Alex just two more hours in the morning to Falcon Field (Mesa, Arizona).


Long Legs for a headwind (40kts over Indiana)

We flew: TEB – RID – IND – ICT – ABQ – FFZ – LGB

31: March 2019 Eastbound

Solo to meet Nell in Cambridge. Our fastest crossing to date, thirteen and a half hours flying time. The Hilton President in Kansas City was comfortable and old-timey.

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 11.30.55 PM.png

30kt tailwind most of the time

I flew: SMO – ABQ – MKC – BKL – OWD.

32: June 2019 Westbound

Headed to Los Angeles solo to collect Dexter, see Rudy, and bring the former up to the San Juan Islands for more marine biology.


Had a 30kts tailwind westbound until Wichita

I flew OWD – DAY – ICT – ABQ – FLG – SMO, spending the night in Dayton, OH and Flagstaff, AZ. I could have made it home, but both boys were in the apartment in LA so someone would have been forced onto the couch. I was a little worried it would be me.

33: August 2019 Eastbound

Nell and I returned to the east coast, leaving Dexter to study fish at the Friday Harbor Labs. I watched the weather for a bit and then picked a couple good days. We had remarkable luck and spent less than an hour total ducking around storms, which for a summer flight is phenomenal.


We were considering a stop in Chicago

We flew FHR – BIL – CID – GYY – ITH – OWD. The hotel in Cedar Rapids was nice and fancy. We didn’t get to see the town. Billings was fascinating, since it is a college town but sort of out of scale for it. Delicious breakfast for lunch at Sassy Biscuit.

34: September 2019 Westbound

Got some long legs there… In part because when I departed Albuquerque there was a surprise 3kt tailwind that slowly built to a 50kt quartering crosswind. Really bumpy coming into the LA basin, but it meant it was easy to do the ABQ – SMO leg as one piece.


Storms around Chicago, so couldn’t stop at Gary.

Nell stayed in Cambridge. I left at 9am and flew OWD – AGC – SUS – ICT – ABQ – SMO. It was the first time I stayed overnight at the Wichita airport itself and that hotel is fine, just a little pricey. Nell packed me two bananas and a green apple, which is what I snacked on for the entire trip, plus a bag of peanut M&Ms.

35: May and June 2020 Eastbound

The plane was due for its annual at the end of May, so I flew it from Santa Monica to Fort Worth. I then returned at the start of June and finished the trip up to Norwood, Massachusetts. 

SMO – TUS – FTW then FTW – SUS – CLE – RUT – OWD

This was during the pandemic and being in the sky was the best part. I stopped in Vermont to see Pog & Alex, their first visitor in three months of lockdown. 

DIfferent months, same trip

36: July 2020 Westbound

Dexter and I flew across during the pandemic to get him to Friday Harbor to do some science. We had an AOG in Cleveland so had to spend the night. That meant attempting a crossing of the Rockies starting at 11:30am, which is not my usual plan.

We flew: OWD – BKL – FWA – MLI – FSD – BIL – ALW – FHR

The evening in South Dakota was the scariest because no one was wearing masks.

Northern route west for the first time

37: July 2020 Eastbound

After a flight down the east coast to Santa Monica to see Rudy and continue the work closing our apartment in Los Angeles, I headed back east solo. I flew:


Still pretty unpleasant with the pandemic raging. The hotel room at the Wichita airport was pleasant and the stroll over was nice and easy from Ying Ling, but they had a murder-scene style seal on the door to make you more confident that no one had been in the room since they cleaned it, and that just reminded me more about what we were dealing with.

Long Legs Home

38: September 2021 Westbound

Even as the Delta variant swept through the country, Nell and I decided to head across to the west coast to see friends and close the last two storage units in the City of Angels. An absolutely stunning stop in Memphis, and a stop in Phoenix where it was 95F at 9pm at night. In the middle of September.


You can’t see the storm that pushed us south.

39: September 2021 Eastbound

On the return flight out of Friday Harbor, the scariest stop was Billings, since their case numbers were jumping. After that it was pretty smooth sailing. We were chasing a front toward Cedar Rapids, where I really wanted to spend the night, but it stalled and we definitely were not going to make our way through it as the day was ending. So we landed a little short of our goal and spent the night in Des Moines. We were hoping to get to have lunch with a friend in Chicago, but it wound up being a fuel stop and then a hop back into the plane. Meatball sub in Elmira, NY and then we were home.


Tried so hard to get to Cedar Rapids

40: June 2022 Westbound

Flying Dexter out to the Friday Harbor Fish Laboratories after his (pandemic-postponed) commencement. This trip was the subject of a detailed flight log.


Little zig-zag there at the start

41: June 2022 Eastbound

Returning from dropping Dexter at Friday Harbor for the summer.

Dropping down


I took a few photos and made an entry about the flight.

2 Responses to Crossing the Country

  1. CJ says:

    Great site!
    However don’t see what altitude you were flying esp over the mountains?
    Also would you have done the same routes with a single engine plane?

    • Hi CJ,

      Flying over the Rockies I am often at 10,500 heading west and 11,500 heading east. If I have oxygen and there is a tailwind I will climb as high as 15,500. Above that I start to lose interest in the landscape and part of the reason I am flying the little plane instead of riding JetBlue is to see the countryside.

      The first eleven years were flown in a single-engine plane, but I was often in gliding distance of an airport and always looking for a spot to put it down if I wasn’t. I never went through the mountainous terrain at night.

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