The Perfect US Flying Trip?

I am sure that many of you have seen this article about the Perfect US Road Trip.  I really enjoyed the article and recommend giving it a read.  Lots of great suggestions for places to visit and things to see.

The Perfect US Road Trip

The Perfect US Road Trip

After reading it, I got an idea.  What if I did this same trip in my airplane?   I pulled up the road map provided in the article and starting matching it up to airports using the SkyVector website. Lo and behold, nearly every place mentioned has an airport nearby.  In some cases right next to the site.   I created a flight route that nearly mimics all the locations provided in the perfect trip and to be honest it looks quite possible.  Maybe a few adjustments for getting over mountains and around some restricted areas but, otherwise very possible.

I used to help me find airports close to the sites.  When selecting airports I tried to go with local or municipal airports that had FBOs that could get a rental car or at least provide a courtesy ride to a local hotel.  In nearly every case fuel and hotels were available within a short drive, if an overnight stay was needed.  Mind you, not every place had a five star hotel with every amenity, but most had inexpensive motels within a short distance.  I did not really focus on finding the least expensive fuel, just that the airport had fuel available or a close by airport had fuel.  I am sure a thrifty pilot could use to check local fuel prices and adjust the route to save a buck or two on fuel.

Could this route be optimized to be more direct?  Yes it can.  The goal here was to match the road trip as close as possible.  That way even if you don’t land in every state you at least get to fly over and see them from the air.   Another benefit is that you can fly over all those commuters on the highways below, open your window and shout at them “Where is your plane, peasants!”.

The Perfect Flying Trip

The Perfect Flying Trip

Rudy the Red-Nosed Cessna 172

As this is supposed to be a sight seeing trip I chose to plan for flying my 1964 Cessna 172E. This will be a low and slow flight focusing on maximum visual enjoyment.  This plane consumes about 6-8 g.p.h and goes about 105 knots (or 120 mph) on a calm wind day.  The trip would cover 9673 nm, take 91.5 hours of flying time and consume at least 778.3 gallons of fuel.  Some of the legs would be right at the maximum range with safety, and to be honest I’m not sure my backside or bladder could make it that far without an interim stop.  On some of the legs slight left or right deviation would be advisable to avoid those pesky tall mountains, but none of it is impossible.

Sunny Side Up the World's greatest Piper Comanche 180

Sunny Side Up the World’s greatest Piper Comanche 180

If I did this trip in my Piper Comanche, slightly different numbers. 80.5 flight hours and 804 gallons of fuel.   For sure I would be more comfortable, I could fly further and get there quicker.  However I think the point is to take it all in, so low and slow would be optimal so a simpler craft would be best.

The cost for this trip by aircraft will be a bit higher than driving.  The biggest expense will be fuel. Based on the regional prices of Aviation Gas 100LL from the website the average price for a gallon of fuel in the US right now is $5.09 per gallon.  Therefore 778.3 gallons of fuel would run about $3692 in fuel.   Most FBOs will waive overnight parking fees with a fuel purchase so that is a money saver.  My 172 has a MoGas STC, which means I can burn unleaded car gas that does not contain ethanol, so I might even save a few more dollars.

Another expense will be an oil change.   With just under 100 hours of flying time at least one oil change will need to be done.   A shop might charge an hour of labor and the cost of the filter and oil.  Probably best to budget $200 for that activity at about the half way point of the trip. Perhaps this oil and filter could be prepositioned for the half way point of the trip.   If you are your own mechanic then lucky you! You can change the oil on your own.

So who wants to go?

Happy flying



Flying to Florida for Sun-N-Fun

Greetings Florida Visitors!

Many of you will be traveling soon to enjoy a week of plane fellowship at Lakeland Linder Regional airport for a popular event called Sun-N-Fun.   I would like to offer some advice as a transplant who has tried to adapt to the unique experience that is flying in Florida.

First off use flight following.  Get on with ATC as soon as you can and use it for your entire flight in. Expect that you might be dropped once you get 50 miles or so north of Lakeland as the traffic will be too tight for ATC to work you in.

Getting Prepared

There are some essential items to bring on the trip.  Bring plenty of sun screen SPF 30 or better and apply it several times throughout the day, or we will know you are a tourist by your bright red color and the glow you give off at night. Wear a hat with a brim, and maybe something to cover the back of your neck.  Bring a rain poncho or pick one up at the AOPA or Jeppesen booth so you can stay dry during the sudden showers. Drink lots of water all day long.  Our temperature and humidity are very high and you will get dehydrated rapidly while outside.

If you don’t have an adsb receiver and a tablet of some kind with compatible software this might be the time to get one.  You can build a Stratux for about $120 and link it to an iPad or a Android pad for cheap. It is worth it for weather and traffic.

The Route

The air traffic is going to be a bit more busy than normal so I would like to offer some suggestions for flying towards the event.  Coming from the west I would suggest using a route such as MAI->CTY->OCF->KLAL.  If you are coming from the north I would suggest using a route such as TAY->GNV->OCF->KLAL.  Coming from the north east I might suggest SAV->SSI->GNV->OCF->KLAL I do not recommend flying the east coast of Florida as there tends to be enormous amount of traffic and training along the east coast and ATC will be very busy.   Also there are several restricted areas around Jacksonville which make can make for some extra challenges.

Flying the inland route has a couple of advantages.  First it keeps you out of the Tampa and Orlando class bravo airspace. They are both going to be really busy already and the added stress of passing through either bravo airspace might make the trip more difficult than it needs to be.  Second there are some good places to stop along the way here and take a break, get fuel or spend the night.

According to Williston Municipal Airport X60 has the historically lowest price on 100LL fuel in the north central Florida area. and they also have a diner.  If you are looking for an overnight stay, Ocala KOCF, has several hotels in the area and overnight parking is inexpensive.

About the Weather

Clear Skies? So the weather forecast is going to say something like clear skies, sunny and warm. Usually that means a scattered layer of cumulus clouds somewhere between 3000 and 5000 feet.  Even if it does not rain we have a lot of moisture in the air and these clouds show up pretty much every day. The ride will be bumpy below 5000 during the day and closer you are to this cloud layer the worse it will be.

Afternoon Storms This wonderful aviation event usually marks the transition in Florida weather to the time when we start getting thunderstorms.  This unique weather phenomenon tends to happen in the in afternoon in Florida. Now don’t get too worried as they tend to be localized and intense for a short time and then die out almost as rapidly as they form.  They are not usually a line of storms, more on that in a minute, and instead tend to be isolated rain heads that can easily be avoided by flying around them. When you fly around a Florida storm, give it a wide berth.  Stay well away from the falling rain as there is also a really strong downdraft right outside that rain head.  A good tip I learned:  If you cannot see through the rain, go around it.

This afternoon thunderstorm weather happens for a couple of reasons.  I am going to possibly oversimplify but here goes.  The wind starts in the morning coming out of the west gently blowing eastward and slowly bringing moist, warm air off the Gulf of Mexico.  Then as the day progresses, sometime around 2pm, the winds shifts and starts coming from the east.  The very hot easterly wind brings even more moisture from the Atlantic and pushes rapidly across the state like a mini storm front, plowing it’s way across and creating many small and intense thunderstorms, which die out after the sun sets.

Bring Good Tie-Downs Bring really good tie-downs for your plane, not the cheap stake your dog out on the lawn kind.  These intense, short-lived storms can pick up and throw your plane around.  What a lousy way to lose your airplane to a thunderstorm at Sun-N-Fun.  Many plane owners have lamented not securing their craft properly and having it flipped over onto another plane at this event.  It happens so be prepared and don’t end up a statistic.

Fronts When flying into Florida, there are some locations that tend to form large lines of thunderstorms that can be very treacherous.   The most common place is diagonally from Tallahassee , across the state of Georgia, to the edge of South Carolina.  Sometimes it will be a bit south of that point, coming across Cross City to Jacksonville, but they very often form north and work their way south. Make sure you have a good eye on current weather when transitioning this space. Do not attempt to penetrate these storm lines unless you really know what you are doing.  Conditions around these storms will easily rip off your wings.

Morning Fog  Sometimes we get a low layer of clouds about two hundred feet above the ground that will cover whole sections of the state.   The good news is that this layer will rise quickly or burn off.  However, this does create low IFR conditions over large parts of the state so be prepared to wait it out somewhere a bit north until it is clear.

The Arrival

Read the NOTAM Flying into the event can be challenging for a first timer, but is relatively safe and rewarding.  I cannot stress enough to read the NOTAM published for this event. You can find the NOTAM here.   Early morning arrivals are better than later as the traffic tends to be less first thing in the morning.  Best advice I can give is know the NOTAM, keep your eyes outside, relax and enjoy the ride.

Here is a great example of the approach and landing at Sun-n-Fun.








Sunny Side Up – New Instrument Panel

Day 1

The worlds greatest Comanche 180 – Sunny Side Up is in the process of getting a new instrument panel. The original “Scatter dash” as we call it included some antiquated and slightly out of adjustment instruments. It was time for an upgrade.

The original panel

The original panel

Getting all the old instruments out was not too difficult. The attitude indicator and the directional gyro were enormous. These two instruments took up a good portion of the space behind the dashboard.

Starting to remove to old panel

Starting to remove to old panel

The old autopilot a Piper Autocontrol 2 was a marvel of mechanical engineering. Almost fully mechanical with a mix of simple electronics to make a wing leveler that will follow a heading bug. The problem was that it would occasionally malfunction and try to put me in a hard right turn which almost resulted in a wing over. It was time for this very old technology to go.

All the instruments out

All the instruments out

Cutting the original panel was a bit nerve wracking. Once the cutting wheel spun up and was put to the metal there was no going back. I was not committed to the change. Much planning went into the cutting to make sure we did it right.

Starting to cut the old panel

Starting to cut the old panel

Cutting the panel sprayed aluminum dust everywhere. What a mess it made. Following the directions in the STC paperwork, we cut away every bit required. I was aware we would have to tweak, but just not how much more lay in store.

All the old panel cut away

All the old panel cut away

Setting the new panels in place to check the fit gave me a false sense of completion. I began to get hopeful and think that there was not much left to do. That was a bad way to think as there were many slow and tedious tasks ahead.

Checking the fit of the new panel

Checking the fit of the new panel

Day 2

Today was a day of little visible progress although much was done.

The fine tuning of the fit of the panel was done. This required a lot of re-trimming of the cut areas and tweaking some drill points. Once we got that all set, we had to drill several holes in the new panel and into the meat of the remaining frame. Then countersinking every hole and confirming fit.

One of the unforeseen issues is that there is no standard design for all the plumbing behind the instruments. The Comanche had a “scatter panel” until near the end of production and we are putting in instruments that were never in the plane before so we have to kind of make it up as we go. Well not entirely, we have looked at later models and are trying to mimic that plumbing as best we can and apply some common sense.

Checking the instructions, measuring the panel again and designing the plumbing for all the instruments.

Checking the instructions, measuring the panel again and designing the plumbing for all the instruments.

Hours went into confirming the alignment of every screw hole. Notice the vacuum filter in the picture above? No such thing ever existed on this plane. Nope none. Had to make up our own plumbing to add it in as the new DG and AI require one.

Painted the panel a classic flat black.

Painted the panel a classic flat black.


Day 3

More work on the panel today.
I spent three hours getting the right side panel finished up. There were lots of little details to get exactly right. Getting some of the screws into the ELT was an exercise in contortion. Those little holes were way up in the corner and reaching them was a challenge.

Right side is in

Right side is in

The two smaller holes are for some future updates.

The next biggest time suck was the breaker panel. Moving the breakers from underneath the panel, to the right side took a lot of concentration. Each breaker had to be removed individually from the bottom bus bar, rotated 180 degrees and then all the wires reattached and a new bus bar installed. Of course, there were those mystery wires the went to nowhere and a couple of the breakers were completely empty. Woof!

The breaker panel.

The breaker panel.

Left and right panel installed

Left and right panel installed

Already tired, we finished up for the night by securing the left panel in place. The fit and finish was good, but it still needs a bit of trimming.

The next three steps
1. Secure all the wires behind the panel
2. Install the pitot system gages
3. Install the vacuum system

Day 4

Progress is measured in hours and inches right now. So many little tasks each requiring many small steps to achieve.

For example, We have this wire – not sure what it does. It has a 15 amp fuse that was blown plugged into it. Not sure how long it has been blown or what it does. Tracing it out has been a challenge.

I spent the better part of 6 hours running all the plumbing for the gauges. The airspeed is connected to the altimeter, the altimeter is connected to the VSI. The airspeed also has the ram air from the pitot tube and the VSI is connected to the static port all the way in the tail of the plane.
As I shared earlier the plumbing for the vacuum gauges was all new too. Each and every pipe and connection was new.

An interesting solution for the empty holes. The manufacturer sent all the holes cut from the panel. I took some strips of 40 gauge aluminum and made some strips long enough to go across the holes diagonally. Then I drilled and tapped them and secured them across the holes with #6 screws. Then I applied a glop of silicone and pressed the blank into the hole I then taped them in place to secure them until the silicone cures.

Tomorrow we have some final items to complete.

  • attach power to the EDM700
  • find the wire for the pitot heat (F2C)
  • test all the circuits
  • swing the gear
  • install all the panel labels
  • test the vacuum system
  • test the pitot system

Day 5

Attaching the EDM700

We put the panel all back together and started testing.  Some initial issues were the EDM700 kept reporting low voltage.  We tried lots of things, and finally solved it by cleaning and adjusting the bus bar that connected the circuit breaker.  Seems there was some film on the metal that was creating resistance and reducing voltage to the unit.

Finding the Pitot Heat Wire

Chasing the pitot heat wire has proven an exercise in futility.  Even with a wire chaser, we were unable to find the end of the wire in the cabin.  It seems we are going to have to run a new wire from the cabin, through the wing and out to the pitot tube heating element

Test all the Circuits

The gauges were also an issue.  The amp meter read a constant discharge.  A test with another amp meter showed no such thing.  With a bit of adjustment we were able to get proper reading.  All the instrument gauges read slightly differently and I thought maybe it was a grounding issue.  I ran a new ground cable and it seemed to make it better, but not exactly the same as it was before.


Swing the Gear

One of the most important test we did, at least for my peace of mind, was a gear swing.  My reasoning was that we moved and touched every single wire that connected the switches and lights that controlled the gear.  I wanted t make sure it was all working properly.  I am glad we did.  The gear lights did not work and had to be replaced.

Test the Vacuum System

This was pretty easy.  We pulled the plane out of the hangar and started it up.  Within a few seconds the instruments began to spin up and I heard what can only be described as “kissy noises” coming from the panel.  I felt around behind each instrument and found the loose connections and tightened the hose clamps a bit more to make them stay stable.

After many more hours we arrived at a functional product.  Sure there are still a few things to do, including touching up my scrape at the top of the airspeed indicator and adding all the labels.  For now it is looking good and then final touches will happen over the next few weeks.

The Finished Panel




Flying to Oshkosh

Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on Oshkosh nor travel to and from.  I have done it and survived to write about it.  I have made several long cross country trips in a small airplane.   I would like to share with you what I did to get ready for the trip and staying at Oshkosh.

Part 1 PreFlight

OCF-to-OSH-2016I fly my Comanche 180 from Ocala Florida up to Oshkosh.  According to SkyVector the flight is 938.1 nautical miles in length and would take approximately 7 hours and 52 minutes at 120 knots and burn 87.9 gallons of fuel at 10 gph, give or take a few.   Realizing that my bladder nor the Comanche’s fuel capacity would carry me that far, I would need to make stops.  I like to keep my flight legs under 4 hours, in fact if I can get 2.5 to 3 hour legs all the better.  So I added some stops, based on fuel and comfort of my passengers. Thus the route became KOCF->KCTJ->2R2->KOSH  Link to the Route on Skyvector.   This way I am not over tired and sore from the flight.

You may recall from one of my older posts, that I always plan alternates.  I selected these primary sites based on distance, fuel price and proximity to other landing options.  Also I really want to fly the Chicago skyline along the coast of Lake Michigan. Therefore I planned the route to take us just along the western side of Lake Michigan as we fly to Oshkosh.  Keep in mind there is much more to do before blasting off into the sky, the most important of those being to read the Oshkosh NOTAM.

Taking NOTAM

Every year EAA publishes the Oshkosh NOTAM.  About a month or so before the event, I request a copy be mailed to me and I download a copy so I can start reading immediately. I read this NOTAM through a couple of times and then make notes of the pertinent facts that most apply to me, and highlight the most important facts for quick reference in flight.  As I will be flying VFR I try to focus on those parts of the NOTAM to understand how I get in and out of Airventure safely.

fisk-vfr-arrival-2016The most relevant then becomes the Fisk VFR Arrival to OSH section which outlines how to approach, communicate and get sequenced for landing.  Some of the important parts I highlighted were as follows.

  • Ensure lights are on, and all non-ADS-B equipped aircraft set transponder to Standby within 30 miles of OSH.
  • Obtain Arrival ATIS (125.9) no later than 15 miles from Ripon and note arrival runways in use.
  • Have NOTAM arrival pages mentioned on ATIS available. Then monitor Fisk Approach (120.7)
  • Arrive at Ripon at 90 knots and 1,800’


One additional point, I programmed the RIPON and FISKE intersections into my GPS, but the NOTAM specifically mentions that you must visually navigate over the railroad tracks, which are not in the same place as the intersections.  So I had to keep my eyes outside and look for the railroad tracks.  Oh and these tracks are not really visible! I figured out that they were hidden by a line of trees and follow the tree line over the tracks from RIPON to FISKE.

Assigned a Runway

Once you arrive at FISKE the controller on the ground will call you out by aircraft type and color. I got “White low wing with lights at the ends of the wings”  He then guessed I was a Cherokee. Now as a Comanche driver I do not take offense that he was unable to see that I was a Comanche.  I did however correct him and thank him for his efforts that day.

fisk-arrival-rwy-27-2016At this point the arrival controller gave me instructions on which runway and frequency I was supposed to use.  On the days I went last year there was a light westerly wind so I was sent to runway 27 and given that tower’s frequency.   Now it is very important to listen close at this point.  Lots of airplanes are coming into the pattern at the same time, some in front and behind, but also planes lining up for straight in approach.  The pace of the controller’s cadence is fast and complicated as planes will be taking off, landing, exiting the runway and going around right underneath.   My instructions changed a few times between the first call and the point when I exited the runway.

One last point on landing, is that the controllers want you off the runway and into the grass as soon as possible.   My first day I touched down a bit hot and rolled quite a ways before I was able to exit the runway safely,  The good news is that the grass is very smooth and the tires on a Comanche are plenty big so exiting was not too troublesome.

Video of Flight from FISKE to Runway 27 and parking.

Parking Pass

Getting to parking is a bit of an adventure.  After I got off the runway, I held up a sign for the parking area VAP so the ground marshals could guide me. My Comanche qualifies for vintage parking, so I was directed all the way back down 27 and around the airport to the west side of runway 36 where I was parked about half way down in the vintage section.  Very good spot for watching the airshows.

Leaving the Show

osh-vfr-departure-2016As I had a hotel out at Portage, I commuted in and out.  I like camping, but I only go two or three days so it seems a waste to carry all that gear when I can sleep in a comfy hotel bed.   After the airshow is done for the day, the airport is once again open for a few hours and I was able to depart. Again the NOTAM came in really handy.   I was directed to depart runway 18R.  So I had to follow some important procedures:

  • Transponder still in standby until clear of class D.
  • Fly heading 180 at or below 1300 MSL until clear of class D airspace.
  • Be aware I would overtake and be overtaken by other planes


Then the flight becomes just like any other VFR flight I have done.  Nothing else changes.  I hope this article gives you some insight into the planning and important tasks to accomplish when flying into Airventure.







Planning the Summer 2016 Trip

I put much effort into the planning of a summer trip.  The steps start out with a discussion with my wife about where we should go, where we have not been and how long do we want to stay out there.   Then I open up a browser and pull up my two favorite planning sites Skyvector and AirNav. Lately I also use TripAdvisor to find local attractions that make the stop more memorable as they often have “top ten things to do” lists for major cities. summer-2016-trip-plan

One of our goals in all this travel is to visit all 50 states. We have a few states we missed last time so we want to add them to our route. The rule is we have to do something there besides land and buy fuel for it to count. Our theme this year is “BBQ & Beer” so we will try to have bbq & beer at each stop. I would like to sample local microbrews and find bbq places where the locals eat.

So the plan is:
1. Oshkosh / New Holstein
2. St. Paul Minnesota (brewery tour)
3. Fargo ND (See the wood chipper from the movie)
4. Rapid City SD (Mt. Rushmore)
5. Kansas City (Jack Stack BBQ)
6. Memphis (Beale Street)
7. Nashville (Hot Chicken)
8. Crossville (Visit Family)


I hit a bird

Turkey Vulture vs Comanche

The particulars:

  • N8244P: 1964 Comanche 180.
  • TTAF: ~3200
  • SMOH ~900
  • STOH ~60

comanche-at-dons-shopI was descending out of 4000 about 12 miles south of KOCF, setting up for the ILS 36 approach, when a big black turkey vulture dove into my path and I chopped it up with the prop. Blood and guts everywhere. The right wing suffered some minor damage from the chunks hitting the leading edge. I think the worst part was when I realized I could not avoid the bird. I had just a split second to yank the yoke to the left and the bird hit the prop at about the 2 o’clock position. I think that saved me as the prop chewed it up and threw most of it down and to the right, away from the cockpit. The insurance company wants a tear down and inspection. The craft is now with my trusted mechanic Don and getting a tear down and inspection.

I guess the silver lining is that I did not die. Things could have gone way worse on this one. I was at 24 square in a descent at about 160 kts. That bird could have blasted through my windshield and disabled me with a much worse outcome.   Another silver lining, and perhaps the best one, is that a mechanic I really trust is doing the repairs. Some days I think someone is looking out for me. I have done so many foolish things that I should have long ago won a Darwin award. Yet here I am.

Converting to a Major Overhaul

I was really worried that my stabilator was damaged but none found. After a few conversations with Don, I am going to pay the extra and turn this into a major overhaul.  The prop is going out for inspection and repair, possibly overhaul. I will have to ask Don which is happening. It has maybe 100 hours on it. There was no visible damage I could see but always better safe than sorry.

Engine parts OK – somewhat

The engine is all apart. The good news is that the bottom end of the engine, factory new in 1975 ish, containing the crank and cam all looks good. The top end, which was recently overhauled – the cylinders, pistons, and rods etc, seems to be less than stellar workmanship.

AD needs to be done

While Don was tearing through the engine he also looked at the logs and discovered an AD – Airworthiness Directive that had not been done.

DATE: January 30, 2003 Service Bulletin No. 475C
(Supersedes Service Bulletin No. 475B)
Engineering Aspects are
FAA Approved
SUBJECT: Crankshaft Gear Modification and Assembly Procedures
MODELS AFFECTED: All Lycoming direct drive piston aircraft engines (including VO-360 and
IVO-360; excepting O-320-H, O-360-E, LO-360-E, TO-360-E, LTO-360-E,
and TIO-541 series engines).
TIME OF COMPLIANCE: During overhaul, after a propeller strike, or whenever crankshaft gear removal is required.

The infamous gear now in compliance with the scalloped edges.  As explained by my Mechanic “This pic is of the infamous AD crank gear. You will see the scalloped flange. It used to be solid round. The idea of the AD is so you can confirm that the gear is flush and tight on the crank by being able to slip a feeler gauge into the scalloped area to confirm it is flush with the end of the crank...”

AD complied

AD complied








New Crank or Not?

inspected-camMr. Don, my mechanic and I have been discussing reusing my existing cam and buying a new one. The plan was to buy a new one and if my existing came back with a yellow tag, we would sell it on eBay for someone looking for a used cam.  Don had a conversation with the shop that did my existing cam shaft and the shop owner stated that the failure rate is negligible between new and resurfaced cams.  The final point that was the clincher that made me decide to use the existing cam was that my existing cam is tried and true – we know it is good it already ran 900 hours without issue. Odds are that it will continue to perform just a good as a new one. In fact because it has already been stressed and found to sustain – it is just as likely to last as a new one.


The process of putting the engine back together was slow and careful.  Each part after thorough inspection was then carefully put back into the engine case and properly fitted.  The assembly took a couple of days and then installing the engine on the plane a few more days.  This is not a process to be rushed.







Pulling the Dent

A chunk of the bird hit the leading edge of the right wing. leaving a golf ball sized dent.   The mechanic used a drill and dent puller to pull the dent back out.  Then some body filler and paint to smooth it out.  he also repainted the leading edge so it was pretty much invisible.















Plane all back together 1/1/2016

After three months of waiting, the plane is back together and looking good.   The engine is running great and the dent is gone.  Hopefully no more issues for a while.



Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 5

Departing Memphis, Heading to Nashville

The stop in Memphis was too short.  I really hope we get to go back and see more of this city. I especially want to go back to Beale street and try some of the other venues.   So with a full tummy we departed Memphis and turned north eastward to Nashville.  The flight took a little over an hour and provided us with some relaxing views of ever-growing mountainous terrain.

Our timing with John Tune could not have been better.  I called the airport a few weeks before our arrival to confirm fuel and tie down fees.  The nice young lady at the FBO informed me that the airport was closed for construction until august 10th at noon.  We landed at about 2 pm that day.   Only some of the taxi ways were open and we had to back taxi to get off the runway and then follow signs through a maze to park at the FBO.

Landing at John Tune from the West

Once we got clear of the airport and met up with our friend Joe, we had a lovely evening of socializing, drinking and smoking cigars on the front porch of the rectory.  Oh yeah, our friend Joe is on his way to becoming a priest.  His summer assignment put him at a local church in Nashville and we stayed with him at the church rectory.

Edleys-bbq-nashvilleWe all got a bit hungry and decided we needed dinner. Joe suggested a local place called Edley’s BBQ.  It did not disappoint. The food is served cafeteria style and includes a bar with local micro-brews.   I tried a few really good local brews and had some delicious brisket. I have to say the place was doing a brisk business and had quality eats.  This made for a really great stay in Nashville as it added to the fun of the trip.

After our visit we once again packed into the plane and flew off to Crossville Tennessee KCSV to visit more family.  Crossville is a golf mecca. If your thing is golf this town has everything for that.  One of the more unique experiences is the local flea market every first weekend of the month.  The whole main street of the town is taken over with flea market tents and vendors sell their wares up and down the street.   It is a really unique experience and made for a pleasant visit.

Leaving Crossville and Flying to Spartanburg

My wife had a business conference in Greensboro.  We made arrangements for her to meet her mother in Spartanburg TN as I had to get back to work the following day.  We departed Crossville early in the morning and flew over the smoky mountains. I finally understand where they got that name.  The valleys are full of low lying clouds, which gives the appearance of smoke in the valleys.


Link to the route on SkyVector

The flight over the mountains was about as picturesque as one could imagine.  The peaks and valleys made for some terrific pictures.  We flew over the mountains at about 9500 feet to make sure we had sufficient clearance over all the peaks.  ATC wanted us to climb up even higher. The only part that surprised me was how close Spartanburg airport seemed  to the southern side of the mountains.  Just a soon as we cleared the range to the south I had to put the plane in a descent to get us down to the altitude of the airport.   We saw some pretty high ground speeds as I descended into Spartanburg.

Crossville to Spartanburg

Nice airport there at Spartanburg.  The ground crew was very helpful and the fuel was reasonably priced.  Once I dropped off my wife and said goodbye, I climbed back in the plane for that last long leg all the way back to Ocala.    This part of the flight proved to be a bit more tricky.  Summer storms blew in over Tallahassee and then made a mess of the middle of the state all the way from southern Georgia to Ocala.

I used flight following on this leg and I am glad I did so.  As I was crossing over the southern border of Georgia, I could see huge thunderstorms ahead pouring out their fury right in my flight path.  Jacksonville Approach diverted me to the west coast and I flew home right behind the big storms.  This made for some unusual cloud formations that I have rarely seen.

Link to the route on SkyVector

Last 25 Minutes Coming Into Ocala

This concludes the Summer 2015 trip.  We had a great time.

The Numbers (Best Guess):

  • Total Distance: 2685nm
  • Flight Time: 23 hours
  • Fuel: 233 gallons

The Entire Route on Skyvector

Summer 2015 full route

Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 4

After Oshkosh

As they say all good things must come to an end. Oshkosh was much fun and I am glad I got the experience.   I have high hopes that I will go again next year.  There is so much more to see and I really need the whole week to see everything.   The Airshow was exceptional each day.  I got to see some rare and exotic military aircraft, ate some good food and chatted with lots of pilots from all over the nation.

I ended up staying an extra night in Portage due to bad weather. The storms were really big and strong just to the south so I opted to stay on the ground an extra day and go early the next morning.  After another good meal and a solid night’s rest St Louis Arch Southbound on the Mississippiin Portage, I packed up the plane and flew back to St. Louis, where I landed at KCPS St. Louis Downtown.  One fun moment was the approach to the airport.  I was flying south, descending and was instructed to land on runway 12 by entering a left base. This approach put me right down the Mississippi river and gave me a great view of the arch.   Just after I snapped this pic the plane was forced straight up about 200 feet from a thermal.  Stuff went flying all over the cabin. Seems there is a giant turbine with big fans blowing straight up right there.  Scared me a bit, but I landed just fine without incident.

I spent the night there in St. Louis with the wife and the next morning we flew out to Arkansas to go camping.  We selected the Petit jean State Park camping site because they had an airport right next door.   The park is right next to the Arkansas river sitting up on a bluff high above the rest of the valley.

Link to the Route on Skyvector

Route from St. Louis to Petit-Jean


We did not go straight to the camp as we needed to stock up for the outing.  I called ahead to the airport in the next town called Russellville Regional KRUE to let them know we were coming, and to request the use of the crew car to go shopping at the local grocery store.   We landed after a couple hours of very warm flight.  The airport manager met us and gave us the keys to the crew car.  Nice folks there at Russellville.  I highly recommend the stop and patronage if you are in the area.

I picked Russellville, not only for the good name, but also because there was a Wal-Mart super center only a few miles away.  This made getting the groceries and other supplies we needed for camping very easy.  By planning ahead to pick up supplies here we did not have to cart a bunch of extra weight with us all the way from Florida.

We departed out of Russellville and flew to the Petit jean Airport.  It was a hot day and we were pretty close to max weight between all our supplies and food.  The climb out was slow, but steady and after a short climb I turned us on course and we flew to Petit jean.  The landscape along the way was really lush and green.  Lots of low hill, farmland and forest all mixed together and intertwined with rivers.  Very pretty country.

Camping at Petit Jean

Petit jean State park is located on top of a hill.  If you watch the video above you will see the Arkansas river borders this sudden change in elevation where the park resides on top.   It looked like someone built a huge mound and then sliced off the top and made it flat.  Very unique geography.

A YurtThe camping experience was not quite what we hoped.  Maybe it was just too hot and uncomfortable, or perhaps it was a bit too rustic.  We opted to stay in a yurt down on the lake front.  My logic was that we did not need to bring a tent, we would have electricity and gas cooking grill and bunk beds provided, so all we needed was food and clothes.   Unfortunately we were really far from everything else in the camp.  With the exceptional heat it was very hard to get about and sleeping at night was hot and sticky to say the least.  Next time we will book a cabin with A/C, or come here in the fall when it is cooler.  After four days of camping we departed Petit-Jean and headed for Memphis to visit some friends and have some BBQ.

Departing Petit-jean

We departed Petit jean on a hot day.  As you will see from the video above the Comanche did not climb all that well and I had to turn out from the rising terrain to avoid skimming the trees.  Really pretty flight all the way over to Memphis.  The rapidly changing geography made for some delightful scenery as we headed east towards the Mississippi river. There was one small moment of excitement. As we approached Searcy Municipal KSRC at about 3500 feet I spotted a flight of two C130 military transports flying a southerly route that would intersect ours.  I climbed up a bit and tuned to the local CTAF.  We were within a mile or less of each other when I heard them calling and was able to let them know where we were so that we avoided each other easily.  ATC must have warned them of our presence and they finally tuned in to talk to me.

Link to the Route on SkyVector

Landing at General Dewitt-Spain

The flight to Memphis took just about an hour.  I planned Dewitt Spain airport as it was closest to downtown, which made for easy access.    For some reason I still had it in my head that the Mississippi river was something romantic.  In reality it is one dirty water river that often goes over the banks and threatens all the towns along it’s shores. It demands respect.  While in the FBO at Dewitt Spain I saw a sign on the wall that showed how high the water had come in the last flood.  It was above the front door.  Basically the entire bottom floor of the building was underwater.  Quite a sobering reminder of the power of nature.

John and Tre AngottiWe met up with our friend and I took him and his son out for a fly in the Comanche.  I always enjoy introducing folks to the fine art of flying.  We went out over the city and around his home.  I let him take the controls after a few minutes of flight basics and he did pretty good maneuvering the plane around. I had to redirect them once as we were headed right into the Memphis Bravo.  Overall I would call the flight A success as he came back asking all sorts of questions about how to get his own plane and get a pilot’s licence.   Job complete, seed planted.

Memphis BBQ

Blues City Cafe bbqAfter that introduction to flight we ventured down to Beale street and went to the Blues City Cafe for some great BBQ.    Beale street is a unique experience with restaurants galore and music coming out of every doorway.  The swell of people, the mixture of food aromas and the sounds of blues playing made for one powerfully nostalgic trip that made us we want to stay for more.  We will have to go back and try some of the other establishments when we have a chance.

The food at Blues City was spectacular, and not just because I was really hungry from all the smells. I had a half rack of ribs that were so good it made me want to slap my mamma.   The wife tried the catfish and I traded her some ribs for a taste.  I have to say it was well worth the trip to try this place out.  The food was great.

After this fantastic meal with good friends we packed back into the plane and flew to Nashville to spend the night.   More on this topic in Part 5 – Stay tuned!

Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 3

I landed safely at portage, had a great dinner and a good night of sleep.  I got up in the morning, got a weather brief from DUATS and then walked down to the plane.  I was so excited and nervous I could not eat breakfast.



I spent a good hour reviewing the NOTAM the night before and I had a good plan on getting to Airventure.   I looked at the sectional several times and tried to get a good idea of the location of the two checkpoints. As both of these points are GPS fixes it did make it pretty easy to find them. The actual locations of the fixes on the ground however are a different story.  More on that later. My first flight in was on Thursday and I wanted to get in early in the morning to have the least stressful landing experience.  I had experience flying int sun-n-fun in Lakeland FL and I knew that early was better than late. I did a good walk around inspection of the plane as I didn’t want yet another incident. I topped off the fuel, started the plane ran all the pre-flight checks, programmed the GPS with the route and launched off into the air.

VFR Route Portage to Oshkosh

VFR Route Portage to Oshkosh

The route from Portage to Airventure was pretty simple.  Take off and fly northeast towards RIPON, which also happens to be the name of the town where the fix is located, join the gaggle of aircraft headed to  FISKE and plan a landing at OSH. I knew from reading the NOTAM that I needed to be at 1800 feet and 90 knots.  Getting to that speed in a Comanche takes a subtle hand. Finding RIPON was really easy as it is a big town and the GPS fix is almost right in the middle so there is little chance of confusing this point.  FISKE is a different story.  When I reached RIPON I had a bit of trouble finding the railroad tracks.  They are not really visible from the air as there are trees grown on both sides of the track that obscure them from sight.  Once I figured out that the line of trees was the railroad tracks it made the navigation easier.

Note, that a straight line via GPS from RIPON to FISKE will not take you over the tracks you have to navigate visually as the tracks are slightly south of the direct route between the two fixes. I must admit I never really located FISKE visually on the ground  I just watched my GPS and listened carefully for the arrival crew to call out my aircraft.  They called me something like a Cherokee low wing so I had to guess that they meant me. I added the ATC audio to the video so that you hear what I heard.  I had some fun with the folks at FISKE and I found the chaos at OSH a bit frightening.  The tower folks seemed a bit stressed out.  This is a long video and it would not hurt my feelings if you skip ahead to the really good bits.

Flight from Portage to Oshkosh

Landing at Oshkosh is really no pressure.  Only hundreds of other pilots watching and critiquing your every move as you try to hit the dot on the runway and turn left into the grass before another aircraft climbs up your tail.   I did a pretty good job of landing on the orange dot and I think my landing way pretty good.  Some young smart-ass pilots were standing beside the flight line with scoreboards letting us know how they thought we did on the landing.  I was pleased to see that I got three 8s and one 9s. Due to the age of my Comanche I was entitled to park in the Vintage parking are, which was right next to runway 18/36 and the daily air show.  After landing I had to taxi quite a ways but it was very much worth it. I was able to lay under the wing of my plane and watch the air show in shaded comfort.

Oracle Plane Airventure Airshow

Oracle Plane Airventure Airshow

Describing the sights and sounds of Airventure is difficult.  Airplanes, people and something to see in every direction. One of my favorite things to do was walk around the vendor hangars.   Any company that has anything remotely to do with aircraft was there in these enormous hangars selling their wares.

Exhibit Hangars

Exhibit Hangars

There was every kind of product a pilot could ever imagine. Oh sure all the big names were there selling radios and GPS units.  What I really enjoyed were some of the quirky vendors selling cooling scarfs, memory foam seat cushions and miniature replicas of every sort of model of aircraft.  I did end up buying a few trinkets and a couple of spare parts for my bird but nothing all that spectacular.  That magneto repair at St. Louis ate up all my spending money. After a wonderful day, which concluded with a spectacular airshow, I was able to easily depart OSH.  I posted a few pics on my Facebook page and a friend who lives in the area saw the post.  She invited me to dinner with her family.  So I departed OSH, flew south until clear of the airspace , then turned east and headed to New Holstein.

Flying from Oshkosh to New Holstein

Flying from Oshkosh to New Holstein

The flight was pretty coming across the lake, over the wind turbines and landing in the grass at the airfield.



Departing from Oshkosh and flying to New Holstein I had a wonderful dinner and gabbed with old friends.  What a great evening.  Sorry, but I forgot to turn on the camera for the night flight from New Holstein back to portage.  I will just say the sky was dark and beautiful all the way back. Best night of sleep I had in a while.  Must have been all that fresh Wisconsin air. Stay tuned for part 4!

Our Summer Trip 2015 – Part 2

After spending a few days as tourists in St. Louis, My wife went to her conference and I flew north towards Oshkosh. The flight up there was very easy. I made one stop for refuel on the way up.
Link to the Route on Skyvector

Monmouth Airport C66

Monmouth Airport C66

I chose an airport a bit out of the way because told me they had the least expensive fuel in the area and as usual they were correct.  I saved around 20 cents a gallon stopping here.  What a great little airport.  They had a homey FBO office on the end of the main hanger and a large agricultural spraying operation going on.  I had to negotiate my landing with a
couple of air tractors coming in and out as I was landing.  Nice folks at the FBO and they even helped me pump the gas.
Video of landing at Monmouth C66
I was experimenting with different positions for the camera on the airplane so you will notice the camera is on the right side and mounted a bit lower. My plan for Airventure was to stay at a hotel located next to a small municipal airport located in Portage Wisconsin.   Again I was influenced by the fuel prices on airnav and the ease of access to Oshkosh. I would fly in and out of Oshkosh each day and sleep in a bed at the hotel.  I must say it all worked out great.

Ridge Motor Inn

Ridge Motor Inn, Portage

The Ridge hotel, located about 3/4 of a mile and a short walk from the airport, was nothing fancy but it was inexpensive, had a bed, a good working shower and a restaurant that served simple comfort food and ice cold local beers.  My favorite beer for this trip was a local brew made by New Glarus Brewing called Spotted Cow and it was really tasty with a cheeseburger with an over easy egg on top.

New Glarus Spotted Cow Beer

New Glarus Spotted Cow Beer

Video of Landing at Portage C47

Portage Municipal Airport

Portage Municipal Airport

The Portage municipal airport was a great spot. The manager was a character!  He cussed like a sailor, yet went out of his way to be hospitable to all guests. The airport is located about 48 nautical miles southwest of Oshkosh, the flight would take me less that 20 minutes and  provided me with access to low price fuel.   I really enjoyed gabbing with all the pilots coming from and going to Oshkosh.  I will probably use this same place again as it was a gem.

Portage Municipal Airport FBO

Portage Municipal Airport FBO

After an uneventful yet enjoyable flight to Portage I put my knapsack over my shoulder and made the short walk over to the hotel for the night.  I needed to get plenty of rest and be ready for my first flight into Oshkosh.  After a good dinner and a couple of cold beers I kicked my feet up and relaxed and got prepared for the flight to Oshkosh the next day. Stay tuned… part
3 coming soon!