Oshkosh Airventure Fly-In Cessna 150-152 Club Fly-In July 25-August 3, 2009
Saturday, July 25 I knew I was
going to be tired in the morning. Every night this week had been spent packing,
weighing, and ultimately loading everything into 98M, my Cessna 152. I had
planned a 8:30 am departure, and here it was midnight, and I still wasn't in
bed. It's going to be a long day...
I awoke before the alarm clock at 6:30
in the morning. Even with only a few hours of sleep, I was excited to begin my
adventure. The plan was to fly my plane up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the largest
fly-in in the world, Oshkosh Airventure. I would spend a few days there, and then
fly a couple hours south to Clinton, Iowa for the Cessna 150-152 Club Fly-in.
After that ended, I would head back home. Here was what my plan looked like
before I started:
The flight plan. Let's see how it actually turns
I arrived at the airport at 8 am, only about 15 minutes behind
schedule. 98M was there and ready to go. All I had to do was finish loading it
and get everything plugged in and I would be ready to leave.
98M was ready to go, and the weather was
There was still a little more room left.
The first stop was Cross City, in the big bend region of Florida.
There, I would meet Sandy, and fellow Cessna Club member. From there we would
travel together up to Sewanee, TN, where I would spend the first night.
The first day of flying. This is the actual flight log
from my GPS downloaded into Google Earth.
I had a couple of new pieces of equipment with me on this trip.
The first new thing was a used Garmin GPSMAP496 I picked up off of Ebay. These
things are not cheap, even used, but everyone raves about them. I also had the
XM weather subscription, as well as the XM radio subscription to help while away
the time. Here's a picture of the GPS in action on my first leg:
I finally enter the 21st Century with a GPS. You can
see the live weather radar to the east of Florida.
The other piece of new equipment was my APRS tracker. I have been
playing with this for about six months so far, and after experimenting with my
first radio, I decided to build up another one that better met my needs. Due to
time constraints, I only had one test flight with the new radio before I left,
and that was only marginally successful. Here's what the new tracker looks like
The new tracker in action. It is much more compact than
the previous one.
Hopefully, interested parties back home could watch my flight in
real-time. It would hopefully ally some concern people might have if they don't
hear from me while I am flying.
I finally got off the ground at about 8:30 am, about a half
hour after I had planned. Hopefully Sandy would be running a little late also,
and I wouldn't be embarrassed by my tardiness. The flight up to Cross City was
fairly un-eventful. The weather was good, and the only thing that I had any
issues with was the tracker. During my test flight, everything had worked
perfect, then I started getting some strange flashes from the LED lights that I
couldn't figure out. Well, after about 45 minutes into the flight, I started
getting the same strange lights. So, mostly, I spent the flight to Cross City
trying to figure out what was going wrong with the system. I finally figured out
that the power supply to the radio was overheating, so I ultimately ended up
taking the cover off the box housing the power supply (not pictured above), and
directing the passenger air vent directly on it. This combination seemed to keep
the power supply cool enough to operate the rest of the trip, and the tracker
ended up working perfectly.
The weather was good on the first leg of the
So, I make it up to Cross City about 10:30
am, about a half hour later than I told Sandy I would meet her. Of course, she
is already on the ground waiting for me. It turns out she was ready to go early,
so she left ahead of schedule. Figures! Her daughter, Jessica was her co-pilot
for this trip. When I landed, the guy running the FBO hands me a phone number to
call. Uh-Oh, I hope it's not the FAA! :)
The phone call was actually
another Cessna club member, Bengie, who was trying to convince us to stop at
Eufala, AL for lunch, instead of our planned stop in Thomaston, GA. Sandy and I
discussed it, but since Eufala falls on the New Orleans sectional chart, and
neither one of us had one with us, we decided to just stick with the original
plan. Plus, I couldn't raise Bengie on the phone before we left, so we really
weren't sure what his plan was.
While I was on the ground, I also got an
excited phone call from my Dad. He had been watching my tracker on the internet,
and wanted to call me to tell me it was working. That was good to hear, since I
had some problems on the first leg, and I am never really sure if the signals
are getting out. At least now I knew the tracker was working.
Alright, we had spent enough time
on the ground! Let's get out of here. We climbed in the planes and headed
to Thomaston, which would be our next gas and lunch stop.
While en route,
Sandy and I conversed over the air-to-air frequency. I was flying about five
minutes ahead of her, so I would let her know if there was anything interesting
to see and what the weather was like. Suddenly, I hear a Georgia drawl like no
other, "Sandy, you out there?" It was Bengie! Somehow he had found us on the way
to Thomaston! Well, maybe found was too strong a word, since all he had really
done was figure out what frequency we were on.
What ensued over the next
45 minutes or so can best be described as an airborne version of "Marco Polo."
For those of you who have blocked your childhood from your memory, that is a
game that is typically played in a pool, where whomever is "it" has their eyes
closed and will call out "Marco", and everyone else will call out "Polo." This
continues until the "it" person finally tags one of the other players, who them
becomes "it." Well, that may be fun in a pool, but I wasn't too sure how it
would end up when you are playing with airplanes! So, as we were flying, Bengie
would ask where we were, and after we told him, he would modify his course to
intercept us. As it turned out, Bengie finally caught up to Sandy about the same
time I landed in Thomaston. They both arrived about five minutes after I
Skydivers in action at
After a little catching up on the ramp,
Sandy, Jessica, and myself were quite hungry, so we grabbed the crew car and
headed to town for a late lunch. Before we left, we asked
the guy at the FBO how to get to town, and he went through
some supposedly simple and quick directions on how to get to the main drag in town. I say
"supposedly" because once we got in the crew car, I found out that no
one, including me, was paying attention to the detailed instructions on how to get to town. Instead
of going back in, we decided to just wing it. It actually worked out pretty well,
as we found the "strip" without too much trouble. My 496 GPS can also act
as a car GPS, so my lesson from this incident is to always grab the
GPS before heading into town.
Sandy, Jessica, and myself eating lunch.
Standing in front of the FBO. We only got one of the
on the porch to
A DC-3 came in to pick some people up for
Filling up the fuel before departing. A derelict DC-3
sitting on the ramp
After topping off the tanks, we
said goodbye to Bengie. He was not going to Clinton this year, so we headed on
without him. It was nice of him to meet us along the way, though.
The flight to Sewanee, TN was pretty
uneventful. Sandy and I did the same thing we did on the first leg.
I flew a few minutes ahead, and we stayed in touch via the air-to-air
Downtown Atlanta in the typical southern
Some scattered showers in northwest
And here is what it looks like on the GPS.
Flying into the Sewanee, TN airport was
pretty interesting. First, it is surrounded by lots of tall trees. They aren't
so tall as to make it difficult to get into or out of the airport, but they do
obscure the runway from view until you are just about on top of it. I was
definitely glad I had the GPS to follow when finding that airport. Otherwise, I
may have been circling the area until I found it. The other thing that makes
this airport interesting is that it sits on the top of a bluff, and that does
crazy things to the winds. As I was on final approach, the winds are a little
squirrelly, but nothing unusual from what I have experienced before. Usually,
once you get below the tree line, the wind smoothes out and you do a normal
landing. Well, not here! That wind was all over the place all the way to the
ground. After we landed and were talking to Catherine about the winds, she
mentioned that this was a particularly calm day, and it was usually
Here is my approach into Sewanee looking towards the
southeast. Notice the bluff in the foreground of the picture. This is what
makes the winds crazy here.
Once we were on the ground and had our planes
tied down, we gave Catherine (another Cessna club member) a call, and she came
and picked us up. We got the tour of Sewanee, including
the stop light. Catherine made a wonderful dinner, and
I had a good time with Waymon, Catherine, and Jessica talking about flying and
brainstorming what they should put in their short film about women pilots (more
on that later). The weather here was quite a change from back home. Catherine
had all the windows open in the house, and the humidity was quite low. Of
course, it helps that we were 2,000 feet above sea level, but still, it was a
nice change from the weather back home.
26 I got up around 6:30 in the morning so I could get an early start
to Oshkosh. I had a long way to go, and I had to be on the ground before they
closed the field at 8 pm. The weather, though, had other ideas. North of
Nashville, it was clear weather, and in Sewanee (near Chattanooga), there was a
high overcast, but flyable. Between the two, however, was a line of storms that
I didn't want to go through. The good news was it looked like it was
dissipating. So, I waited until the weather was good enough to make it to my
first gas stop, Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Finally, the weather cleared
enough for me to leave by around 11:30. I said goodbye to everyone and departed
towards Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Sandy, Waymon, Catherine, and me in Sewanee right
before I left.
The weather still wasn't great to Bowling Green, but it
This is the day's flight path.
I had a few clouds I had to divert around and under
around Nashville, but otherwise, the first leg was uneventful. When I arrived
in Bowling Green, the sun was shining and they weather was nice. I had a really
nice landing, but of course, no one was around to see it. I bee lined for
the self serve pumps and topped off the tanks. While I was getting ready to
depart, a couple of T-6s took off in formation ahead of me, probably on their
way to Oshkosh. I took off and headed to my next stop, Purdue University
Airport. Total time on the ground at Bowling Green was 20 minutes. I couldn't
afford to spend too much time on the ground if I was going to make it to Oshkosh
before they closed the airport for the night.
The weather was much nicer on the way to
Purdue University. Unfortunately, this is the closest I
would get to campus on this trip.
Originally, my plan was to make the Purdue
stop a lunch stop. I would take a few hours to eat, wander around campus, and
generally check out my alma mater. But, the weather delay from earlier in the
morning put me behind schedule, so I had to settle for the airport and a brief
conversation with the student working at the FBO. This airport has a control
tower, the ramp was full of people on their way to Oshkosh, and the pattern was
full of student pilots. So, you know this means my landing was not one of my
better ones! I was starting to get worried, since each landing today was worse
than the one before it. How bad would my landing at Oshkosh be with
Apparently, my tracker was continuing to
work, as I got a call from my Mom who saw I was on the ground and wanted to see
how I was doing. We didn't talk long, as I had to get back in the air. Have I
mentioned that I was worried I wouldn't make it to Oshkosh before the field
closed? I think I have. This stop was only about 40 minutes long, which wasn't
bad for the traffic there. I did have to wait for a couple of arriving planes
before I could depart.
I had planned for the possibility of not getting
to stop for lunch somewhere along my trip, so I had brought some energy bars and
some snacks with me. I munched on those while on the last leg of the
A wind farm in NW Indiana. This one looks like it is
The Chicago skyline deep in the haze.
Some scattered showers south of Oshkosh.
Here's what they looked like on the radar. Sorry about
the blurry picture.
There were some scattered showers in
Wisconsin as I approached Oshkosh. I meandered around them as I made my way up
the state. They were easy to avoid, as the visibility was pretty good. As I got
closer to Oshkosh, I started to monitor the Oshkosh approach frequency. It
sounded like they had recently closed the field for arrivals, probably due to a
storm over the field a little earlier. They had everyone in a hold, and were
slowly clearing the hold as I got closer. Luckily, by the time I made it to
Ripon, the first waypoint on the way into Oshkosh, they had finished clearing
the hold. I saw a Bonanza coming in from the southwest, so I pulled into the
conga line behind him.
My approach into Oshkosh. You can see where I swung
around to get behind the Bonanza before Ripon.
At Oshkosh, they land planes on both the
North-South runway, and the East-West runway at the same time. They also use a
parallel taxiway to the North-South runway as another runway. On top of all
that, they try to land three planes at a time on each runway. This is so they
can get as many planes as possible down. Oshkosh becomes the busiest airport in
the world for one week a year. As I approached the next waypoint, Fisk, a
controller directs you to the North-South runway with a turn to the east, or to
the East-West runway by continuing to the northeast. I was sent to the
North-South runway (runway 36L to be exact). Once you make the turn to your
runway, you change to the appropriate frequency for that runway.
Fisk to the runway.
On the runways, they have painted different
color dots. This is how they can get three planes down at once. As I approached
the runway, I was told to land on the yellow dot. My landing was a little long,
but was not too bad (whew!). The time was 7:00 pm local, so I made it with an
hour to spare (I wasn't worried at all).
After you land, you are required to get off the runway
as soon as possible so that other planes can land behind you. This is
usually not on a taxiway. I pulled off the runway into the grass and onto the
nearest taxiway. Then instructions at that point just tell you to follow the
ground crew's instructions. Well, I sat there for a few minutes without seeing
any ground crew, so I taxied towards the line of planes I saw getting off the
runway to the south of me.
Once I got there, one of the ground crew
signals me to go the other way. So I turned around and went the other way. Once
I made it into the line of planes headed to the "North 40", I taxied all the
way to the northern most point of the airport. This was the north "North
My landing and taxiing at Oshkosh.
I made it!
My campsite at Oshkosh.
Before I left home, I made sure to wash and
wax my plane so that it looked it's best for the trip. By the time I had taxied
through all the puddles, mud and grass to get to my parking spot, I shouldn't
have bothered. There was mud on the underside of the wings (from the tires), and
all the way back on the horizontal stabilizer. Oh well, at least I
After I landed, I called a couple of friends
from my home field who were already there. They tracked my spot down and helped
me set up my tent. Then, we grabbed the bus over to their campsite. They had
rented a car, so we all piled in and went to dinner in town. After dinner, I
headed back to my tent where I immediately went to sleep. It had been a long
day, but I made it!
27 I was pretty tired when I went to bed, but I was parked really
close to a road, not too far from a major intersection, and next to the loading
dock of the Hilton Hotel. The combination of those three things made for a lot
of ambient noise that made it difficult to sleep. I did get some sleep, just not
as much as I would have liked.
I got up and took a shower. At least the
showers weren't too far from my campsite (once I found them). In order to save
some money on this trip, I brought some food for breakfast and lunch with me so
I didn't have to buy the carnival food from the on-site vendors. The people
camping next to me did the same thing, so each morning we would sit under the
wings of the airplane and visit. They were from Texas and had a really nice
Once breakfast was over, the first order of business was to
pay for my camping and admission into the show. The registration booth was
already closed by the time I arrived the night before. It was located at the
entrance/exit to the North 40, on the other side of the east-west runway from
where I was camped. I waited for the bus for about 10 minutes, and then decided
to start walking, and flag down the bus once it caught up to me. Well, I made it
all the way around to the entrance before it caught up to me, so I started the
day with a couple mile walk.
I paid my camping and registration fees, and
was finally given a map. That made it a lot easier to find my way around! Since
Airventure is so big, it is impossible to do everything in a whole week, let
alone three days. So, I decided that I would spend each day in a different area,
and whatever I didn't get to would have to wait for next year. Today's plan was
to visit all the vendors and see what is new and exciting out there. I spent the
whole morning and part of the afternoon walking around the vendor
Today, the White Knight Two arrived. It is the mother ship for the
private space vehicle that won the X-prize about five years ago, and is planning
on offering private rides to space for an affordable (?) price.
White Knight Two in Aeroshell Square. The space ship
sits between the two fuselages. This plane carries the space ship up to
around 50,000 feet, and then drops it. The space ship ignites a rocket
which takes it into low earth orbit.
My last stop for the day was the Cessna
booth. Usually Cessna doesn't have a lot of love for us 150/152 drivers, so I
wasn't expecting much. A group from the Cessna club flew into Oshkosh on Friday
in a mass arrival to celebrate the 50th anniversay of the Cessna 150
(1959-2009). I wanted to participate, but I didn't have enough vacation time to
get here early enough for the mass arrival. When they landed on Friday, Cessna
met them and gave them all gift bags to celebrate the 50th anniversary. That was
a nice touch.
So, I walk into the Cessna booth, and see this:
A banner comemorating the 50th anniversary of the
Cessna 150. In case you can't read it, it says, "This year marks the 50th
anniversary of the Cessna 150 In the 27-year-long manufacturing run that
followed its introduction in 1959, more than 31,000 Cessna 150s were built at
Cessna's Pawnee facotry in east Wichita, Kansas During the peak of
production, a Cessna 150 rolled out the door of the assembly line every 23
minutes. Now, a half-century later from the first serial number, no less than
two-thirds of the entire 150-series fleet remains in airworth
Fellow club member John's 1959 Cessna 150. Number
88 off the production line. Right in the center of Cessna's booth.
Cessna would be putting a different club
members 150 in the booth each day. Very cool. Now I would have to stop by each
day to see who's plane was in the booth. While I was talking to John and a
couple other club members who also happened to be in the booth, it started to
rain. It didn't let up for a while. We huddled under the Cessna tent until it
slowed down a little. Then I headed over to the International Aerobatics Club
(IAC) tent to meet up with the other North County people. Our plan was to meet
there for the air show, walk the flight line for a while, then head into town
Well, it continued to rain, so they cancelled Monday's
airshow. We started to walk the flight line, but it really wasn't any fun in the
rain. So we all headed back to our tents to make sure they survived the storm
and to put on some warmer clothes, as the temperature was supposed to be in the
50s tonight. We met for dinner, then went to Wal-mart to buy their $1 ice for
the cooler instead of Airventure's $3 ice, and then back to the tent around 11pm
28 Tuesday morning was pretty much like Monday morning, except I
didn't have to visit the registration booth. I didn't sleep well again, due to
the noise from the road and hotel. After yesterday, I was tired of talking to
people that wanted to sell me something, so my goal was to hang out in a
different part of the grounds. I decided to head over to the Pioneer Airport/EAA
Pioneer Airport is a little grass runway with some older
hangars/buildings around it. It is really another runway on the Oshkosh airport
grounds, but during this week, it is only used for the helicopters giving rides
over the convention site. So, I hopped the bus to the tram, walked to the other
bus, and finally ended up at Pioneer Airport. I walked through the older hangars
and looked at some of the interesting planes they have in there.
An Ercoupe in one of the hangars.
I walked through another hangar where they were doing the "KidVenture"
program for kids. It has all sorts of airplane-related activities for kids. They
were flying flight simulators, building wing ribs, and all other sorts of
things. If I was a kid, I think I would have fun there.
was OK, but I was a little disappointed by it. I was really expecting to see
some old airplanes, like around WWI era. But instead, the majority of the
aircraft there were from the years between WWI and WWII. Plus, it was just sort
of a "walk around and look" sort of thing. There wasn't anyone talking about
these aircraft or giving tours of them. Still, it wasn't bad, but it just wasn't
what I expected.
Next, I wandered across the grass runway. The runway
seemed to be in pretty good shape, and it would be fun to land on it someday. On
part of the runway, people were flying Radio Controlled airplanes, and on
another part, they were showing kids how to fly line-controlled planes. Those
are planes with string attached to the airplane that controlled the elevator of
the model. They had little gas engines like the RC models. I sat and watched
them for a few minutes because it was both interesting and my feet were still
hurting from yesterday.
After resting my feet, I continued across the
grass runway over to the EAA Museum. I wandered around that for a few hours
looking at the various aircraft and displays they had.
I am going to show this picture to the next person that
complains about how small my airplane is! This is a single seat plane with
a wingspan of only 7 feet. It sits only five feet tall.
The RV-1. The first RV built.
While I was wandering around, I came across a talk by an author on
a book he had written about White Knight One and Space Ship One. It sounded
interesting, so I sat down and listened to some more details about how the two
air/space-craft work. It was interesting and gave me a chance to rest my feet.
After the talk was over, I went outside to some picnic benches and ate my
sandwich. Bringing stuff for my lunches was working out really well, since it
seemed to me you couldn't get away with a lunch for less than $15 here. That
adds up pretty quickly.
After I was done at the museum, I decided to head
back to the Cessna booth to see who's plane was in there today.
Dan's highly customized Aerobat. It was quite a hit in
the Cessna booth. Dan is wearing the green shirt. Sorry, Dan, I don't
have any pictures of your face!
Dan was there, and I got the quick tour of his plane. He had taken
a 1978 (I think) Aerobat that already had the tailwheel modification on it, and
turned it into a "Bird Dog on a Budget". It was a really nice plane, and he has
spent a lot of time to make it as nice as it was. And just about everyone who
came through the booth had to ask him about it. It really shows what you can do
with these planes if you are creative. Also, I found out from Dan that EAA
wasn't too pleased with Cessna's idea of moving planes in and out every day, so
Dan's plane would be stuck in the booth until he left for Clinton. I really
don't think he minded at all.
I managed to wander back up to the flight
line in time to see the Airbus A380 show up. This is the largest passenger jet
in the world, and it is big!
The Airbus 380 demonstrating some slow flight before
landing. This picture does not do justice to how large the plane acutally
Here's a picture of it on the ground so you can get
some sense of the scale of it.
They would be opening it up so you could walk through it, but the
lines were so long, I never did. It sure is impressive, though! By this time,
the airshow was getting ready to start, so I wandered over to the IAC tent to
watch. Eventually, the rest of the gang from North County showed up, and we
watched the show and then walked the flight line.
Here is an interesting plane I saw on the flight
line. It is a 1953 Anderson Greenwood AG-14. Only five built, this one
is number 5. The performance is pretty much in line with my plane.
The rest of the day's schedule was pretty much like that last few.
We went to dinner, went to Wal-mart, and went to bed. Today, I solved my problem
with the noise while trying to sleep. I bought some ear
Wednesday, July 29 Well, the earplugs worked,
I slept through the whole night! Either that, or I was so tired that it didn't
matter. Today was my last day at Oshkosh, tomorrow I would be flying down to
Clinton, IA for the Cessna 150-152 Club flyin. My next door neighbors were
leaving this morning, heading to Branson, MO for a couple days before heading
back home to Texas.
Here's my neighbors packing up their 210 for the trip
Me, ready to take on another day at Oshkosh.
I said goodbye to my neighbors, and headed into the convention
grounds. Today's plan was to see a couple different things I didn't want to
miss. My first stop for the day was the ultralight area. I don't know much about
these, but they had their own runway on the grounds that they flew out of. It is
one of the few areas where you can always see something flying.
ultralight area was on the complete opposite side of the airport from where my
tent was, and since my feet were killing me from all the walking this week, I
decided to take my time and ride the whole way down there. So I waited for the
bus near the tent, then caught the red tram to the vendor area, then caught the
yellow tram to the vintage plane area, and then caught the blue bus to the
Ultralight area. This was easily several miles from my tent.
So, I make
it to the ultralight field, and there are helicopters flying. Oh, well, I guess
I'll watch those for a while instead.
A little one-person homebuilt helicopter coming in for
The helicopters were pretty neat, but the ones I liked the best
were the personal, one person machines. Most of these are homebuilts you can
build in your garage. There also were some larger homebuilts flying around, as
well as a couple of factory ones. It was interesting because they had an
announcer that would give you information on them as they flew by. It wasn't
what I came to see, but it was interesting, none the less. The helicopters were
using the field for the next three hours, so eventually I got bored with them
buzzing around and made my way back to the main area of the show.
next thing I wanted to see was the RV airplanes. One day I want to build an
RV-7, so I wanted to walk around and look at some. There is certainly no
shortage of RVs at Oshkosh. I went to the homebuilt parking area and just
wandered up and down the planes, looking at the various ways people had solved
the same problem. I had two interesting observations about the planes. The first
was how different people handled rudder trim tabs. Some people used a thin, but
long wedge to trim the plane. Others use short, but fat wedges, and others used
an adjustable trim tab. There is definately more than one way to solve a
The other thing I noticed was the different ways people tied
down their planes. Some were very secure, and others probably wouldn't keep the
plane on the ground in a five knot breeze! I think the next time I am here, I
will do a photo essay on tie downs. It is amazing that something so simple has
so many solutions! Oh, and no, I didn't take one picture of a tie down this
By this time, the afternoon airshow was getting ready to start, so
I meandered back to our usual meeting place. Today, after the airshow, we walked
through the warbirds area. This was good, since I hadn't been through that area
yet. I find the warbirds interesting, but I don't have the facination with them
some people do. A couple of hours walking though them was enough for
The warbirds area is next to the North 40, so we decided to swing by
the tents to put on some long pants and grab a jacket since it was starting to
cool down. I also decided to swing by flight service and check the weather for
tomorrow morning. It was forecast to be overcast in the morning with rain in the
afternoon. Since I was planning on leaving first thing in the morning, I figured
I would be out of there before the rain started. After that, we went to dinner.
No Wal-mart trip for me tonight, since I would be leaving in the
Thursday, July 30 I awoke at 6am to the
sound of rain on the tent. Uh Oh, it's not supposed to be doing that yet! I
looked out and the sky was very grey, and it did not look at all like the
forecast. I still needed to take a shower and get dressed, so I figured I would
do that first, and then take a look at the weather. After my shower, I pulled
out my 496, hooked up the XM antenna, and waited for the weather to download.
Once I had the radar images, things did not look good. The rain was apparently
moving faster than predicted, and it looked like it might rain the entire day.
There were a couple of holes in the front, so maybe I would get lucky and one of
those would be overhead when I was ready to go.
I still needed to pack
everything in my plane and take down my tent, so I started working on that so I
would be ready to leave if and when the rain stopped. It was still raining when
I was ready to take down my tent, so I took it down in the rain and packed it
away wet. I hate to do that, but there was no chance the tent would dry before I
left, and I would be setting it up as soon as I landed in Clinton,
Once my tent was packed away, I was starting to get worried about
my fuel situation. I had arranged with the fuel service to top off my tanks
first thing in the morning. I had seen the fuel trucks driving around, but I
couldn't figure out why someone hadn't come over to my plane yet. Eventually, I
walked out to the road and flagged down a fuel truck. There was no way I would
be ready to leave at a moments notice if I didn't have full tanks. I talked to
the driver and found out the airport was not letting any of the fuel trucks
drive on the grass. Well, that made it quite difficult for me to get fuel, since
that was where I was parked!
So, I went and got my plane and taxied it
up to the road so I could get fuel. We fueled up the plane and then I pushed it
back out of the way in case someone else wanted to leave before me. Keep in
mind, now, that all of this has happened while it is raining. I had a rain coat
on, but my feet were soaked from walking around in the wet grass. After I had
the fuel, and the plane was officially "ready to go", I headed back to the fuel
service/flight service area so I could pay for the gas and check the weather
When I got to the fuel shed, the driver had not called in my
gallons yet, so I couldn't pay. Arrr! They were nice enough, though, to just
give me a phone number to call when I got to my destination to pay by phone so
they didn't hold me up. That was nice of them, and got rid of that little
problem. Then I went to flight service to get a weather briefing. They were not
at all optimistic of my chances of getting out of Oshkosh today. I looked at the
radar and thought there might still be a hole in the weather coming up, but they
were recomending I wait until tomorrow morning to leave. One of the problems I
have with flight service in general is that they are so conservative to the
point of being unhelpful. I'm sure it is all due to liability and such, but they
are the experts and I would like to rely on them to give me the truth with the
weather. Instead, if it is not "clear and a million" you get to hear "VFR flight
not recommended". The problem with them crying wolf all the time is that you are
forced to rely on your own, potentially flawed, interpretation of the
weather to determine if you can fly or not.
It was clear I was not
getting out right away anyway, so I headed over to Joe and Nancy's tent. There
tent happened to be close to the flight service area, so it wasn't out of my
way. They are in the North County group I've been hanging out with all week, and
are both pilots with much more experience than me. I sat in their tent with them
and we discussed the weather and generally just waited to see what the rain
would do. It was their opinion that if a hole opened up so that I could take
off, that with the 496 I could avoid the worst of the weather. Worst case, I
could get out of Oshkosh and land at a neighboring airport where I would have a
lot more flexibility on checking the weather and getting out whenever I wanted
to. I decided that I would wait for the rain to subside, go look at the radar at
flight service one more time, and make a decision based on that. At this point,
though, I was really kicking myself for not leaving yesterday afternoon. The
weather was beautiful all day yesterday, and it would have been an easy flight
to Clinton. If I had done that, I would be sitting in the rain in Clinton,
instead of trying to get down there today in much worse
Eventually, the rain did come to a stop (around 10:30 am),
and I went and checked the radar. Flight service was still chanting the mantra
"VFR flight not recommended" but it looked to me to be the biggest hole in the
rain all day, and I might not get another chance. I hopped the bus back to my
plane. I saw Dan from the Cessna club pre-flighting his plane, so I knew he
had the same plan as me. I would have jumped off the bus and talked to him,
but I was afraid I would miss my window, so I stayed on the bus. There was
no telling how long it would take for another bus to show up.
I got to my
plane and taxiied out to runway 27. About five minutes later, I was next in
line, so I took off to the west. It was about 11:00 by now. My plan
was to turn southeast as soon as possible and follow Lake Michigan to the south
ahead of the front. Then, when I could, eventually make my way through the front
where it looked good. Worst case, I could continue south around the bottom of
the front, and loop back around to Clinton, which was already on the back side
of the front.
After I took off, I looked to the west and saw what looked
like a much brighter section of the sky ahead. I looked at the radar on my GPS,
and it also confirmed that the area had little to no rain. So, instead of trying
to fly around the front, I took this path to fly straight through it. As the
radar showed, I hardly got the plane wet at all, and only had to fly about 20 or
30 miles west until I was on the other side of the front. Then I turned south
and headed to Clinton. At first, I tried to stay under the clouds, but they were
too low for my liking. I could see that there were two layers, so I popped up
above the lower layer and that was much better. The top layer was around 9500
feet, and I was flying around 4500 feet, so it wasn't too bad where I
The weather was not great on the way to
Clinton. This was actually a little south in the "better" weather. I was
too busy in the really bad stuff to take pictures.
The weather was definately VFR, but it was probably the worst
weather of the whole trip. I am sure that I would not have flown this without
the help of the GPS, especially the weather radar. The advantage of the radar is
that I always know what is ahead, so I don't fly into something I can't get out
of. I can also check the METARS at various airports, so I could see that
conditions were improving as I went south. Without the in-cockpit weather, it
would have been a lot more difficult to determine this.
The route from Oshkosh to Clinton. It's only about a
two hour flight. You can see the line is more squiggly at the beginning of
the flight as I worked my way through the weather.
The Mississippi River, I must be getting close to
Clinton! I have now flown west of the Mississippi.
About two hours later, at 1 pm local, I arrived in Clinton, IA for
the Cessna 150-152 Club fly in. Dan was only a few minutes behind me. After I
parked my plane, I was starving, so I grabbed some pizza they were selling for
lunch. Prices here are much more reasonable than Oshkosh. After I ate, I checked
in, and then went back to the plane to set up the tent.
My new campsite at Clinton, IA.
We were definately in the middle of a corn field.
The rest of the day, I caught up with people I knew in the club
from Florida and met a bunch of people I only knew online, on the club forum.
Airplanes continuted to arrive all afternoon, and I heard that eventually there
were over 100 there. I also managed to get into a 9am spot for the flying
contests for tomorrow. Now I need to find a co-pilot.
Dinner was served
in a large hangar at the airport, and eventually it got late, and I got tired,
so I went to bed. It had been a long day.
31 The next morning I awoke around 6:30 am. I grabbed a quick shower
and was ready to go for the flying contest. I had conned Sandy into being my
co-pilot/bombadier, so we were ready to go. After a short briefing, we all
headed to the planes to get lined up for the contest.
The flying contest
consisted of two different things. First, you had a nerf ball that had to be
dropped into a garbage can in a kiddie pool. The person that came the closest
won. Second, there were two green lines painted on the runway 75 feet apart. You
had to land the plane between the lines in the area affectionately called "Green
Acres". If you did manage to land between the lines, you were then judged on
style and grace. So not only did you have to land the plane in the right spot,
you had to look good doing it! You get three shots at the nerf drop and three
shots at the landing, alternating each time.
Off we go. Take off at the beginning of the
Bombs Away! The first drop.
How did we do? Measuring a drop. Yes, that is the
target on the left.
Yes! The first landing was between the green
Another nerf drop. I never did find out how we did on
A little long on the second landing.
The third landing was also long. I am way too high here
to get down before the green line. Hey, some people did a lot worse than 1
out of 3 (some people did a lot better).
Here is the track from the GPS over the runway. We were
pretty consistant on the bomb drop runs. That is the lines over the
grass below the runway.
After the contest, I topped off the tanks and parked the plane
back by my tent. Then I wandered back out to the contest site to watch the next
heat fly. They made me feel a lot better about my performance! Once that was
over, I went back to the FBO to see what was going on over there. While I was
there, someone comes in looking for a pilot for the scavenger hunt. Hey, I'm one
of those, and I don't have a co-pilot yet for it! She was going to be co-pilot
for someone flying in the contests after lunch, so we would do the scavenger
hunt after that.
While I was waiting for my co-pilot, I wandered over to
the ramp to see what was going on. There were two planes with stuck exhaust
valves, and some club members who are also aircraft mechanics were helping them
fix them. What they were doing was removing the valve from the cylinder head,
and then pulling it up through one of the spark plug holes (after the spark plug
was removed, of course). Then they would clean the cooked-on oil off the valve
shaft and off of the valve guide, and then put the valve back in. It sounds a
lot easier than it actually is.
A valve stem brought up through the upper spark plug
hole. The dark stuff on the shaft right at the hole is what you clean
Tracey showing where the valve needs to be
Quite a crowd formed to watch the experts. All
told, four planes had to get valves "un-stuck" over the weekend.
After the flying contest heat was over, I met my scavenger hunt
co-pilot at the FBO and got the clue sheet. Basically, you fly from one town to
the next, trying to answer questions about things on the ground. They can be
things like, "What is written in flowers in front of the church?" and "What
color are the bleachers behind home plate at the little league field?" You fly
around and answer the questions as best you can. You get a lot of practice in
turns around a point doing this. Once you return, you turn in your answers and
are given a second sheet with "bonus" questions on it. These are questions about
things that were near the objects you were looking at during the flight, but
weren't necessarily focused on. These would be questions like, "What was the
color of the other set of bleachers?" Like a lot of teams, we took a camera with
us and took pictures of all the objects in the first round of questions. This
helped us answer the bonus questions.
It takes most people around two
hours to fly the scavenger hunt. It took us three hours. This was mainly due to
getting lost once, and not reading the entire question before we started flying
to the location of the next clue. The shortest time was a little over an hour,
but those guys were crazy!
Modern Art? Nope, this was our track for the scavenger
We got back just as dinner was starting, so after we answered the
bonus questions, we ate some dinner. After dinner, there is usually a bunch of
people that take a sunset flight to see the area, and of course, the sunset.
Tracey, another pilot from Florida, and Dan, with the "Budget BirdDog," were
getting ready for a flight and invited me along. I pulled out my plane and off
We flew over a train for a while, then over the corn fields for
a while, and then over the Mississippi River for a while. Then we climbed up to
watch the sunset. After that, we did a little night flying, and then headed back
to the airport.
Tracey's plane right before sunset.
By the end of the day, I had flown about five hours, and filled my
gas tanks twice. This is definately the type of fly-in where you "fly". Usually,
you fly into an airport for a fly-in, and then stand on the ground and watch
other people fly.
After a little socializing after we got back, I went to
Saturday, August 1 It was a little overcast of
Saturday morning, and I was a little tired of getting up at the crack of dawn,
so I slept in on Saturday. After I got took a shower and got dressed, I went to
a seminar in the big hanger put on by the mechanics in the club. The topic was
sticking valves, and I thought I might have learned everything on Friday when I
watched them on the ramp, but I did pick up a few more details from their
presentation. It is probably easier to remember these things when you are not
standing out on a hot ramp.
I spent most of Saturday watching the flying contests, meeting other members
of the club, and looking at the airplanes. Since I had done all the flying
contests on Friday, I didn't need to be anywhere at a particular time. I decided
that Saturday would be a relaxing day around the airport, especially since I
would be doing a lot of flying on Sunday and Monday as I headed home.
highlight of Saturday is the banquet Saturday night. This is where they
presented all the awards from the flying contests, raffled off the door
prizes, and showed all the videos people had been working on all weekend. I
sat at a table with a couple of other people from Florida, a couple of people
from Georgia, and a couple people from other places. We had a pretty good time
joking around while we ate.
After the prizes were given away (I didn't
win anything), they showed the videos. Several people were scurrying around all
weekend taking video of what was going on, and then editing it down to a
reasonable size. I was very impressed by the talent in the club. One of the
videos shown was the one Catherine, Sandy, and Jessica worked on while they were
at Catherine's house after I left for Oshkosh. I knew what they were planning,
but I hadn't seen it yet. Jessica, who is a high school student, did the filming
and editing of the video, and it came out very well. Plus, I think it is
hilarious. Well, don't take my word for it, watch it right
The rest of the videos were also good,
but they are too long to post on YouTube, so you'll just have to take my
word for it. [Edit - A few more videos have made their way onto
After a little more socializing, it was time to go to bed. I had a long day
ahead of me tomorrow.
Sunday, August 2 I got up
around 6 am so that I could get everything packed away into the plane. I
estimated it would take about two hours to be ready to go, and I wasn't far off
from that. Last night, several people who live in the south were talking about
flying together until we got to a point we needed to split up. My ultimate
destination today was my sister's house in Carrollton, GA where I would spend
I had been watching the weather, and there was a front draped
over the southeast US. It was moving slowly east, and it looked like if I took
my time getting to Georgia, it would be past my destination by the time I got
there. Traveling with the group would not be the most direct route, but since I
was in no hurry due to the weather, it didn't matter to me.
At breakfast, we all met and
put the plan together. We would fly from Clinton to Mt. Vernon, IL and
then on to Muscle Shoals, AL. At that point, we would break into a couple
smaller groups to our individual destinations.
Topping off the tanks before heading out.
We finally got everyone together and
headed out as a flight of seven. That didn't last too long, as within a few
minutes, the first person peeled off and headed east. We flew to the first gas
stop in formation. That was the first time I had ever done that, and I really
enjoyed it. We had two former Navy fighter pilots in our group, and you sure
could tell which planes they were in!
John in the lead and Bill on his wing.
John and Bill joined by Jim.
The whole group.
The air was smooth and visibility was great
on the first leg of the trip. There was a decent tailwind, although we could
have had a much better one if we climbed higher. But, I wasn't in any hurry, so
it didn't really matter much.
The day's flights.
A line of Cessnas on the ramp at Mt. Vernon, IL.
Stopping in large groups is never fast, but
we managed to do OK in Mt. Vernon. We were on the ground a little over an hour.
When we left, we lost another plane in our group. Steve went to Kentucky to
visit with his grandchildren, so now we were down to five. The next stop was
Muscle Shoals, AL. We continued to fly formation on the way there.
More formation practice.
Cruising along. It's getting a little bumpier now.
We made pretty good time down to Muscle
Shoals. We still had our tailwind with us. When we landed, everyone was pretty
hungry, so a group headed off to a nearby Subway to bring back some sandwiches.
I didn't eat anything since I was only about an hour away from my sister's, and
I knew we would be eating dinner when I got there. I had snacked a little on the
flight down, so it wasn't like I hadn't eaten anything since
Because of the food run, this stop was a little bit longer
than the last one. It took about an hour and a half to get everyone back in the
planes. At this point, we were going to divide down into a couple of smaller
groups. John and Sandy were headed to Panama City, FL for the night, and Jim, Bill
and myself were headed to the Atlanta area. I would drop out of the flight at
Carrollton, and they would head on to their airport just south of Atlanta. By
this time the front had cleared Carrollton, so I wouldn't have any problems the
rest of the way. Jim and Bill might have some issues, as the tail end of the
rain was right over their airport when we left.
A good air-to-air shot of my plane with me in
Our flight of three to the Atlanta area.
I flew lead on the last leg of the trip. Yes, they kept
After a little over an hour, I peeled out
from the formation and headed into West Georgia Regional Airport. Bill and Jim
continued on, and made it into their home airport just behind the rain. My
sister, Becky, saw them fly overhead in formation right before I landed. She
said it looked good.
I landed without incident and tied the plane down. I
let my nephews sit in the plane and work the controls for a few minutes while I
secured the plane. Then it was off to my sister's house where I got some food
and washed my clothes. Somehow I had miscalculated the number of shirts I would
need and ended up one short! Oh well, now I have one less thing to do when I get
Monday, August 3 Once again, my plan was to get an
early start so I could get home at a decent hour. Of course, the weather doesn't
always adhere to my plans. When I got up, it was foggy outside, and there was
no way I was leaving early. The forecast was for the fog to lift around 10 am, so
we decided to go to Waffle House for breakfast. After breakfast, we headed to
the airport where I let my nephews play in the plane a little more. I asked them
if they wanted to go for a quick flight. The younger one wanted to go, but he
was so small, he couldn't see out of the windows, so that wouldn't have been a
very exciting flight for him. The older one, who could see out the window,
didn't want to go. So, I let them play in the plane a little longer, and then
they "helped" me put fuel in the plane.
My two nephews and my sister. Is there
a future pilot in there somewhere?
Alright, enough messing around, I needed
to get going if I had any chance of making it home today. I took off and headed
to south Georgia. Looking at the weather in the GPS, visibility was still
pretty poor in central Georgia. Not wanting to stay down that low the whole way,
I climbed up through the clouds above the thin layer. The air was smoother and
the visibility was much better up there. The further south I got, the closer to
the convective activity I got. This made me climb higher to stay above the
clouds. Eventually, I decided that I didn't want to climb any higher, so I dropped
down below them where the ceiling had lifted.
The front that stayed ahead
of me on Sunday was now stalled in north Florida. I wasn't sure what I was going
to do about that yet, so I decided to get to my first fuel stop and then figure
it out. I had to skirt around a major storm system in south-central Georgia to
get to Homerville, but that wasn't too bad. It took a little longer to get to
Homerville than I had originally planned because of the weather diversion, but
it was only about ten minutes longer, so it wasn't a big deal.
was an interesting airport in that there really wasn't anything there. It is a
totally self-serve airport. There is a single, paved runway. The pumps are self
serve and the "FBO" is a small building next to the pumps. You use the airport
frequency as the code to get into the air-conditioned building. There are
bathrooms in there, a fridge with bottles of water, computers to check the
weather, and keys to the courtesy car out front in case you need to run into town
for something. When you are all done, you just lock everything behind you.
Needless to say, they have cheap gas prices, which is why I stopped
I used the computer to check the weather, and decided that if I
headed towards the gulf coast of Florida, I could pick my way through the storms
and then follow the coast line down to around Tampa. Then, hopefully, I could
start to head across the state. So, with a plan in place, I took off and headed
The radar when I left Homerville. The magenta line is
the direct course to my next stop. Obviously, I wasn't going that way. I
headed SW towards the Florida Coast (towards the 21 on the screen).
Monday's flight path. Lots of diversions for
I picked my way through the storms in north
Florida, and actually made it back over near Cross City, my first stop of the
trip. Looking at the flight path now, it would have been better to head a little
more due south out of Carrollton towards the gulf coast, instead of flying more
towards the center of the state. But, I was holding out hope the storms would be
out of my way by the time I got down there. Obviously, it didn't
Eventually, I made it to Okeechobee Airport, my final stop for the
trip. I planned it that way so I could top off the tanks and land back at North
County with nearly full tanks. This would keep me from having to pay the super
high gas prices at my home 'drome. When I was landing at Okeechobee, the radar
showed a large storm between Okeechobee and home, but when I looked at the sky, I
could tell it was dissipating, so I wasn't too worried about it. I gassed up and
took back off on the final leg of my journey.
North County Airport. I'm home! The weather was
actually pretty nice by the time I got here. You can see West Palm Beach
in the background.
About a half hour after leaving Okeechobee, I'm back home
again. All tied down and ready for our next adventure.
Conclusion Well, that was one heck of a trip. It was by far,
and I mean by far, my longest flight I have ever taken in my plane. My plans
were never really impacted by the weather, although I had two days (the trip
from Oshkosh to Clinton and the last day), where I really had to work at getting
to my destination. I would have to agree with everyone who has said on-board
weather is really valuable for trips like this. Although I could have, and might
have, flown those trips without the XM weather, I would not have had the
confidence I was doing the right thing (and going the right way) as I did with
it. I can see why people say they won't fly without it. It adds an extra level
of confidence that is hard to get any other way.
This was my first time
flying into Oshkosh, my first time attending the Cessna 150-152 Club Fly-in, my
first time flying west
of the Mississippi, my first time flying in formation, and like I said before,
the furthest I have flown on a cross-country flight. I enjoyed the whole trip and would do it again (and just might in about
twelve months from now). In fact, I am already trying to think of other destinations
I can take an extended cross country flight to. Finally, here are some
statistics from my trip:
Total Days of Trip: 10 Days Flying: 6 Miles
Flown: 3,247 statute miles (2,822 nautical miles) Average Speed: 95 mph (82
knots) Total Flying Time: 36.8 hours (Hobbs), 33 (Tach) Total Gas used: 187.5
gallons Average price per gallon: