Monthly Archives: July 2017

Summer 2017 Trip Part 2

Day 5
Travel day from Greybull, WY to Rapid City, SD (2 hours). It was a beautiful flight. We flew north over the Big Horn Lake and then followed the river through the canyon over the Yellowtail damn to Fort Smith where we then turned southeast towards Rapid City. We crossed the border of Wyoming into Montana, but we can’t call it an official visit and we did not land.

Departing KGEY heading north

Climbing out was slow, even with only 50 gallons of fuel. We averaged about 350 fpm. So I slid over closer to the mountains and used the updraft to increase our rate of climb. This route to the north and then swinging back around to the south east was for sure not the most direct, but by far the most scenic.

The flight following and radar services are very spotty out here. I was able to contact Denver Center once I got over Sheridan (SHR) as they must have a relay station at that airport. The services lasted all of about 15 minutes as I passed into a no radar zone then lost radio coverage. So squawking 1200 and VFR all the way to Rapid City.

The descent into Rapid City is a bit tricky. You have to stay high to clear the mountains just west, then descend at a pretty steep angle to be at pattern altitude once you get close to the field. Fortunately it was Sunday, air traffic was light and Ellsworth Air Force base, just north of Rapid City, was closed for the day. The wind was 180 at 17 gusting 35 as we descended and landed.

Piper Comanche Landing Rapid City

I did my homework on Rapid City. There is a Westjet FBO on the field. Seems they are a bit pricey and not all that GA friendly. Located on the south end of the field is Rapid Fuel self-service pumps and free public tie-down parking right behind their hangar. Make sure you bring your own ropes as the chains provided are very short.

So what do you do after a grueling 2.5 hour scenic flight around the mountains of Montana, and across the plans of Wyoming and South Dakota? You go to Sunday brunch at Ruby Tuesday of course!

We then checked into our hotel and relaxed the rest of the day.

Day 6
Today we were tourist! We started our day at the Fort Hays Dances with Wolves Film Set where we had breakfast then the bus picked us up for our tour. Our bus driver for the tour was a hoot, and he took us to Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road through scenic tunnels and pigtail bridges, Custer State Park, State Game Lodge for lunch (this is the presidential summer White House for former president Calvin Coolidge), Needles Highway passing through scenic tunnels and by scenic overlooks, Sylvan Lake (a spectacular man-made lake located at the bottom of Harney Peak), and Crazy Horse Mountain. Then we returned to Fort Hays for a Chuckwagon (dinner and show). It was a great day!

Ft. Hays

Mt. RushMore

Sylvan Lake

Crazy Horse

Chuck Wagon Dinner Show

Day 7

Travel day from Rapid City, SD to South St. Paul, MN. Because of thunderstorms which aren’t good for little airplanes like ours, we decided not to go to the North Dakota stop that we planned.

The Planned Route

Instead, we detoured to Sioux City, Iowa so that we could wait out the storms. Joe Foss Field has two FBOs. After reading up on them we chose Maverick. They were kind enough to lend us the courtesy car. As it was a bit after lunch time we headed out for a bite of food. We discovered a wonderful diner named Marlin’s where we had lunch. Great food.

Marlin’s Diner

Once the storms passed, we were able to continue our flight. The remnants of the storm made it challenging during our flight from Sioux City to South St. Paul. There were multiple layers of clouds from 3500 feet to 6500 feet and above. I still managed to get some pictures (even though it was very hazy the entire flight) and videos (cloud surfing).

The Actual Route

The Flight

The destination airport KSGS South St Paul Municipal Airport-Richard E Fleming Field is a gem. They have 100LL, Jet-A and 93 octane Mogas. They also offer a full service FBO with courtesy cars and rentals. We decided to use Uber this time and it worked out great. Took us 15 minutes to get from the airport to our Air BnB location.

Oh yeah we really like We were able to rent a nice little house for $89 a night in the west 7th neighborhood in St. Paul. We have all the amenities of home, while away.

More to come – Time to play tourist!

Summer 2017 Trip Part 1

Our summer trip this year was overly ambitious and had to be scaled back to reasonable. Once we figured out what we could do versus what we wanted to do, we came up with a pretty good route.

We will first head to Forth Worth Texas and visit some friends and see the sights like tourists. Then it will be on to Grey Bull Wyoming to visit more friends at a dude ranch. Then over to Rapid City South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower. Then of to St Paul Minnesota to do a brewery tour and walk the river walk. Then a short stop at OSH, of course, and then we turn south, past the Chicago skyline, down to Crossville TN to visit family. From there a short hop over to Pidgeon Forge to play tourist. Ambitious but not impossible.
Distance: 3605 nm
Time: 29 hours
Fuel: 292 gallons

The first leg of the trip took us from Ocala, KOCF to 23M Clarke County for a fuel stop, and finally to KGPM Grand Prarie

We had to fly higher and a bit more north that planned as many thunderstorms popped up along the way.

The clouds looked like cypress knees. A bunch of cumulus towers two to three thousand feet tall and slowly climbing. My wife did a short time lapse of the flying as we cloud surfed.

I highly recommend 23M Clarke County airport as a fuel stop. Nice folks and very reasonably priced 100LL and 93 mogas. Here is a link to their facebook page

We climbed up to 10,500 for the leg from Clarke County to Grand Prairie to get above all the little towers of cumulus clouds. The Comanche really hums along happy at that altitude. I was able to lean it out well and burn about 8.5gph at about 130kts

We landed at Grand Prairie about 3pm local time and got our rental car and headed downtown. We decided to try something new and used and got a great little studio apartment right in the heart of downtown Fort Worth just off main street.

We walked around downtown for a while and then over to Risckys BBQ and had a great dinner and drinks. One of the local favorites is a local brewery just south of Forth Worth called Revolver Brewing. They have excellent brews. I highly recommend them.

End of day 1.

Day 3
After a really nice stay in Grand Prairie we departed out and headed northwest to Casper Wyoming with a mid-point fuel stop in Kansas at Scott City Municipal.

Flying out of Grand Prairie was much easier than I imagined. I had visions of getting routed all over the place and then abandoned as soon as I left the bravo. Instead I was instructed by the tower to fly runway heading and then contact regional departure. Once handed off to regional departure they gave me one vector change for the climb and then handed me off to Fort Worth Departure with no problems.

We continued north west and made a fuel stop at Scott City in Kansas. This is the second time we have made a stop in Kansas for fuel. Both of the airports we used had cement runways made of large square blocks. The tires sang out a song as we landed and taxied. The fuel was reasonably priced and they pumped for us.

Piper Comanche landing Scott City KS KTQK

We made our final hop from Scott City all the way to Casper Wyoming. The terrain began to change color, just like on the sectional a little while after our fuel stop.

I used the Hipsher IIP VOR as a navigation point to keep me clear of the restricted areas around Camp Guernsey and to keep me clear of the mountains just west of me. It was a relief to turn that final corner and head west into the valley right at Casper.

Piper Comanche Landing Casper Wyoming KCPR

We used Atlantic FBO on the field and got a ride to the hotel for the night. The folks at the FBO were really nice. Wife and I had a fantastic glass of lemonade, which really quenched our thirst after so many hours of flying. The hotel send a shuttle to pick us us and take us back. Fuel was reasonably priced, but I only took on the minimum as we are now in some really high Density altitude areas. Weight is really king out here.

Day 4

This morning we departed Casper as early as we could and then flew north west again along the river up to Grey Bull Wyoming. As you can see in the video below the density altitude, even early in the morning, is very high. We rolled a very long time before gaining enough speed to lift off the runway. Fortunately the runway at Casper is 7000 feet long and afforded us plenty of time.

Piper Comanche Departing Casper

Flying to Grey Bull was really easy. The route was even simpler. Just go west to the entrance to the valley then turn north and follow the river up to the airport.

Flying to Grey Bull

The airport was visible from a really long way off as it sat right at the top of the valley on the entrance to the river.

Piper Comanche Approach and landing Grey Bull WY

We then spent the day sight seeing with friends.