Thomasville, GA Fly-in
October 10-12, 2008

It has been a while since I have added anything to this section. It hasn't been because I am not flying. I have been mostly concentrating on getting my 50 hours of cross-country flying needed for an instrument rating. Basically, all I did was pick an airport more than 50 nm from my airport, fly there, do a touch-and-go, and fly back. In all of my cross-country flights, I have managed to hit all of the (relatively) local interesting places to fly. That includes Everglades City, Cedar Key, and Key West.
I now have all my required hours (and then some), but now I do not have the money for the flight training. So, the IR is on a short hold until I gather the money.

Last year, before I bought my plane, I joined the Cessna 150-152 Club. I met some of the members when I went to Cedar Key. On the online forum, several members went to the Thomasville Fly-in last year, and had a really good time. This year, many of the same people were talking about going again, since last year was so much fun. Always in search of places to fly my plane, and since it sounded like a fun event, I decided to go, also. Some of the people going were the ones I met at Cedar Key, so I already knew a few people.

I talked with a few people online, and the plan was to fly up to Wayne's airport in Eustis, Florida on Thursday night, where another member, Tracy, would also join us. Then we would get up on Friday morning and head for Thomasville. Well, the weather after work on Thursday was not good, so I had to alter my plans to leave fairly early on Friday morning.

I left North County Airport (F45) around 8am on Friday morning. Everything looked good when I left.

As I approached Sebring, a small scattered layer appeared.

I climbed over it and then an overcast appeared.

I didn't want to try and climb over the overcast, since it looked pretty high, and I didn't want to get stuck on top of it. My original plan was to stop at Bartow for fuel, since they had the cheapest price on the way up. Unfortunately, Bartow was IFR when I passed over it. Ceilings were about 700 feet when I took this picture. No Fuel for You!

So I continued on. I had plenty of fuel and I could fly all the way back home if I had to. I don't have any pictures of this, but as I continued north, the undercast filled completely in, and the overcast started moving down. The worst of it was around Winter Haven, and at that point I started to tune in all of the ATIS and AWOS broadcasts I could pick up. Everyone in the area was socked in (including Tracy, as I later found out). I even had Flight Watch programmed into the standby frequency in case the weather got worse. But just as I was getting ready to turn around, the overcast started to lift and the undercast started to break up.

I flew to Wayne's field (X55), where I was meeting him and Tracy. I couldn't find the field the first time over it, as a large cloud was blocking it. I kept going until I saw another small airfield north of Mid-Florida. The clouds were open enough over Umatilla that I could land there if I had to. I turned back south to see if I could locate Mid-Florida again.

This time I saw it, and Wayne had heard me fly over a couple of times now, so he came on the radio to see if it was me. Then I orbited the field a few times looking for a good place to come through the clouds. I found a good hole a few miles north of the field to drop through. Nearby Leesburg was reporting 700 foot ceilings and I would say that was pretty accurate. I approached the field, but was still a little fast, so I went around and made a successful landing the second time. Mid-Florida is a grass field, and although I practiced soft field landings during my private pilot training, this was my first actual one. I wouldn't call it exactly soft, but it was safe and there weren't any issues.

Once I go there, it turns out Tracy hadn't even left yet, since his home field Kissimmee (KISM) was IFR since early this morning. I went back to Wayne and Rita's (Wayne's wife) house so we could check the weather. It was around 10am when I landed. Tracy finally got off the ground around 11am and got to Mid-Florida around 11:30 or so. By then the weather had cleared enough for us to head out.

Taking off from the grass field was interesting, also. The take-off roll was much longer than I was used to, especially since the grass was wet. But I got off the ground without any issues. Later, I remembered that a soft-field take-off was usually done with 10 degrees of flap to get off the ground earlier. I didn't use any flaps, but it wasn't a problem. Just something to remember next time.

Since I didn't get fuel on the way up, we had to stop somewhere. We decided on Williston (X60), since they had a pretty good fuel price. The flight there went well until I was on final. Just after I turned final, and called it on the radio, I hear, "Gulfstream Jet on four mile straight in." Keep in mind, all three of us flew a complete pattern and made individual radio calls the whole time. The jet made only one call. I figured that the landing speed for that jet was probably faster than my cruise speed so, I called a go around.

Once we fueled up, it was direct to Thomasville. Concerned about the low clouds, we decided to get above them for the trip up. At 6500 feet we were above most of them, although we had to maneuver around a few taller clouds. Here's Wayne and Rita on the way up:

It was a little interesting flying with two other planes in such close proximity, since usually I am trying to stay as far away as possible from other airplanes. I found that I spent most of my time watching for the other planes instead of naviagating. That wasn't a real issue since we were all going the same place, and they had a GPS (I don't).

We made it up to Thomasville and landed without incident. Here we are parked in the special "Cessna 150/152 Club" parking area:

And here is my home away from home for the weekend:

As you can see, the weather was really nice once we got to Thomasville (at least on Friday!). We were up late on Friday night hangar flying with the other members of the club that met us there.

I must have been having too much fun on Saturday since I didn't take any pictures. The weather on Saturday was so-so, OK ceilings but not much sun. Planes flew in and out all day long, although it appeared many left on Saturday because of the weather. I have also kind of decided that I am not going to fill the camera with lots of pictures of planes on the ground, as everyone takes pictures of that at fly-ins. Most of the planes were common general aviation planes, like Cessnas, Pipers, etc. There was a polished Lockheed L-10 Electra and also a polished Ercoupe. There was also one Beech Staggerwing , one of my favorite looking airplanes.

Saturday we hung out, walked the flight line, and generally socialized. Saturday night we got ourselves into town through the generosity of Tracy's wife Mary (who drove up to meet us on Saturday) and John Vargo (who drove up from Panama City since the weather was not great). We ate dinner at an Applebee's and had desert at a Dairy Queen. Saturday night we could not stay up as late as the night before, since we were so tired. Just a short chat around the "Taxi Light" fire. Before that, we checked out the pallet bonfire put on by the fly-in.

We woke up Sunday to 300 foot ceilings. Here are some of the other planes parked across the taxiway from us on Sunday (you can see the weather was not as good as Friday):

Since we weren't going anywhere, we went back into town to the Waffle House for breakfast. After breakfast, we went back to the airport where the ceilings had raised to 400 feet. We all packed up out gear and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, around 1:30pm, ceilings were at 1900 feet.

Here I am shortly after take-off, heading south:

As we got into North Florida, the weather got even better.

Here we are crossing the Suwanee River. Ceilings were much higher by then. On the way back, I was a little more comfortable flying closely, so I payed more attention to where we were.

Here's a shot of Wayne somewhere over North Florida.

We had to dodge a few small showers as we approached central Florida. I headed to Leesburg for gas and to check the weather the rest of the way home, and Wayne and Tracy headed towards their home fields, also.

The weather radar showed scattered showers the rest of the way home, with one large shower over Sebring. I had to divert pretty far west to get around it, but by 6:30 or so, I was home.