Monthly Archives: April 2017

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 airnav.com 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 airnav.com 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 www.100ll.com 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

Russ

 

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 airnav.com 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.

 

Regards

Russ