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 out!

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 nice.

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 in action:

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 day.

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 did.

Skydivers in action at Thomaston, GA.

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 guys
on the porch to wave.

A DC-3 came in to pick some people up for Oshkosh.

Filling up the fuel before departing. A derelict DC-3 sitting on the ramp
in the background.

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 frequency.

Downtown Atlanta in the typical southern haze.

Some scattered showers in northwest Georgia.

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 worse!

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.

Sunday, July 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 was flyable.

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.

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 everyone watching?

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 trip.

A wind farm in NW Indiana. This one looks like it is under

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 40".

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 tried!

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!

Monday, July 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 Cessna 210.

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 tents.

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 status."

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 for dinner.

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 to sleep.

Tuesday, July 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 Museam area.

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.

Pioneer Airport 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 is.

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 plugs!

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 home.

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.

The 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 a landing.

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.

The 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 problem!

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 year!

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 me.

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 morning.

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, anyway.

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 again.

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 weather.

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 was.

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.

Friday, July 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 contest.

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 lines.

Another nerf drop. I never did find out how we did on these.

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 off.

Tracey showing where the valve needs to be cleaned.

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 hunt.

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 went.

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 bed.

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.

The 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 now:

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 YouTube]

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 the night.

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 breakfast.

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 it.

Our flight of three to the Atlanta area.

I flew lead on the last leg of the trip. Yes, they kept switching sides.

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 home.

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.

Homerville 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 there.

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 for home.

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 weather.

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 happen.

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.

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: $3.87