October 2011 found Terry and Vern in a Cessna Skylark 175
winging our way to Phoenix, AZ - join us
Day 1 - X14 to KFTW: Not
so early in the morning we set out full loaded in a 1959 Cessna Skylard, N6738E, bound for her new home in Phoenix, AZ. Vern
had just completed the annual and she was ship-shape. She is a really nice plane ... I would add "for her age" but she and I are nearly
the same, I will hold my tongue there. She has the basic "6 pack" and a single VOR but a good sturdy VFR aircraft.
Vern and I installed our Garmin 496 so we had a GPS with XM Weather and we came with iPads in hand. There is nothing that beats Foreflight on the iPad: this trip alone paid for the annual
subscription in the savings on purchasing charts and AFD's. The winds were not forecast to be favorable but I figured we could eek out a neutral wind at 2500'.
This part of the trip through Florida then west out over Alabama has become quite commonplace as we have crossed LAL, CTY,
MAI oodles of times but with every passing mile, the scenery becomes a bit less familiar and the flight that much more interesting.
We made our first fuel stop at 40J, Perry-Foley announcing "Skylark 6738E inbound from the southeast". As we touched
down a gentleman came to meet us which is very unusual. Had we missed a NOTAM? Please don't tell me there is no fuel! He came
up to the plane and eagerly started talking to Vern about the Skylark. He was hoping to see the legendary "geared engine"
in the original plane. To his great disappointment, however, the geared engine was replaced by a Lycoming 180 hp with a constant speed prop
- great for us but not so much for the curiosity seekers. With morning marching steadily toward the noon hour, we said our
pleasantries and pressed on.
We had packed some lunch foods - chicken salad, crackers, fruit and easy
munchies. Vern took this leg to fly while I prepared lunch. By noon time we were finished lunch just in time for the "bump
machine" to ignite. The smooth air with which we had become accustmed for our morning leg was replaced by the warm rising
air currents making holding altitude a bit more challenging that the one finger flying that I was able to do. Vern finished
out the leg landing in Hattiesburg, MS. It was a welcomed break and we remained on the ground for a bit to re-collect our
stomaches out of our nostrils. We were only half way done for the day!
We wanted to make the Fort Worth area by evening so we could visit with Jim and spend the night there. Vern had never seen
the Vintage Flying Museum and I wanted him to see the really cool projects that Jim had been
telling me about there. Departing from Hattiesburg we hit the worst of the winds, finding out 115 kt average speed drop to
95 kts for a short period of time; but as we crossed the Mississippi River, the west gave us the gift of .... well .... non-head
winds which was fine by us and we were back chugging along at 115 kts with an occasional updraft to 125 kts through the leg
to Rusk Co, TX. Whoo-hoo: we made it to the "Republic"!
Our stop at Rusk County was short as it was now getting late in the afternoon and we still had 2
hours to fly to make it to FTW before dark. I had flown in to Mecham (KFTW) with Jim at night a couple years ago and told
Vern that the busy airspace and abundance of lights made it a bit difficult to pick out anything - runways, airplanes, etc.
so it was best to make it in before dark. Just before 1830 local time, we plopped in for a landing with plenty of sunlight
It was good to be done for the day and great to see Jim. He took Vern and I out to a local
Texas BBQ restaurant that has some of the best BBQ ever. We ate until we were stuffed like ticks and headed off to sleep,
ready to meet the world again tomorrow.
Day 2: KFTW to KGTU: Confusing, right?
Yes, I know this is a lateral move and got us virtually no closer to the destination but today was a really fun day. There was a scenic flight going out this morning on the C47, Southern Cross .... and the just happen to be 2 extra
seats that needed to be filled so Jim asked if Vern and I would sacrifice outselves and go for a ride on the Southern
Cross. Ummm: heck, yes we will go! This is way cool - a ride on the old girl will be great. I have never riden in one
before. Vern and Jim spent the morning meandering around the Museum with Jim giving the first
class tour of all of the projects including his baby, the A-26. Vern was quite interested in the whole airplanes but was more
fascinated by allof the parts and pieces and the planes in varying stages of reconstruction. At the appointed time, we boarded
the Southern Cross. She is a gentle giant and started her roar as we powered up and lumbered down the runway. I had
the camera partially out the window hole to shoot some video suddenly realizing as we rotated that my camera was being sucked
fully out the window. Dummie. I pulled it back in and continued filming; the roar of the engines quite deafening. We flew
about 1000' AGL over the northern lakes and suburbs of the Fort Worth area then all too quickly landed. We had been out for
1/2 hour but it seemed like just a flash in time. Way too much fun; but it was also time for us to head north to Decatur to talk to Alamo Aerospace. Jack Sledge from Alamo
Aerospace has been working with us for the last couple of years. Alamo is the owner of the 260 hp engine conversion that I
want to get for Wild Mama for her new engine since the current engine is bucking up on TBO. Currently, the STC calls
for a 3 bladed prop but I would prefer 2 blades. This will require an addition to the STC and Jack is just not sure if it is something he wants to
do. It was our job to convince him that it is. We spent several hours with Jack. Part of the time talking shop and the other
part was cleaning a fouled spark plug that gave us a really rough ride on the short trip to Decatur. Coming to an agreement
on a plan of action we departed Decatur for Georgetown, just north of Austin, TX. It wa another bumpy ride as it was now close
to 1600 hours. Georgetown is a special stop. I have not seen my step daughter, Nicole in, oh, at least
a million or so years and this was the first opportunity that I have had to see her. We pulled in to Georgetown just as another
B-25 was taking off. That is strange - you do not usually see them flying around. Then we learned there had been an airport appreciation day giving vitage airplane and helicopter rides and airplane tours
all day. The show just ended as we came into the airspace. Talk about good timing there. We were met by Nicole and had a fantastic
visit, making plans for our next meeting in FL this fall.
Day 3: KGTU to KSVC: We made an early 0800 departure to make the most of the cool morning and clear skies. We
knew that we would start hitting the mountains soon and did not want to be late afternoon over the rocks or we really would be tossed around. The scenery throughout west Texas was a
barren mass, a parched cracked landscape crying out for some moisture. The towns were few and far between and quite a contrast to the lush greenery
of the east coast and the abundant airports that dotted the landscape. We were happy to have some time in the airpoane now
as we were quite comfortable with her fuel range and could fly for 3 hours at a stretch withut worry. We had to fly the whole
width of Texas and let me tell you - there is a lot of it to fly.
We made our first fuel stop at Pecos, TX and
decided to have an early lunch rather than waiting for the bump machine to jostle it down our throats. The FBO was quaint
with a kind gentleman who gave us full service at a self- serve price. We were pleased; but, as much as we wanted to stay
and chat, it was once again time to press on. We passed north of El Paso and called the Class C approach control to get through the airspace without any incidents. They vectored us and adjusted our altitude
several times before turning us loose on the western end of their space. Next stop: Silver City, NM, home of Team Wild Mama
co-pilot, Caroline Baldwin.
We had ben very fortunate our whole trip. We saw a small rain cloud off in the Gulf
as we passed Cross City, then 3 small clouds in southern Alabama. That was it: nothing but clear blue sky through Pecos. Now
we were entering New Mexico and the dessert southwest and what, to our amazement do we see? Clouds!!! Lots of them. We were
We came into Silver City racing a storm. There were clouds off to the northwest and we were heading straight
for them but the tailwind that we picked up took us screaming in (on the downhill) at 147 kts. It felt like I was flying Wild
Mama again! We landed with Caroline and Bill there to greet us. The winds were just starting to pick up.
We toured the copper mines on the hill where a vast majority of folks make their livings. We toured the quaint
old town of Silver City with its artists shops and pedestrian friendly sidewalks. We went through the museum and saw the ditch
learning about the great flood that made Main Street a large drainage ditch through the middle of town. Then about the time we started to head out for dinner, the thunderstorm
hit .... did I mention that we were in the dessert southwest? .... the lights went out and the heavens opened up dumping buckets
of water all across the area. .... and did I mention that we were in the dessert southwest? .... It continued raing throughout
the evening and in to the wee hours of the morning ..... and did I mention that we were in the dessert southwest? ....
4: KSCV to KHII: We were awakened by the howling of coyotes in the morning and a crisp cool breeze wafting in
through the open windows. The heat wave had come to an abrupt end and it was 45 degrees on the ridge overlooking the valley
below. What a spectacular morning. Sadly, another great visit had to come to an end as we had to press on to our farthest
westward landing point, Lake Havasu, AZ on the AZ, CA border and the location for the start of the 2012 Air Race Classic.
Flying was good again today but it was forecast to turn windy soon. It
was VERY cool this morning - only 45 degrees and I was quite chilled in my shorts. The rains surely cooled the countryside.
Once again, we managed to have a tailwind and our 3 hour trip was substantially shorter as we whizzed
along stady over 130 kts. We called Phoenix to cross through their airspace so wec could avoid climbing over the mountains and having any unwanted airspace violations,
then continued on toward Lake Havasu. We passed very different and interesting scenery along the way: low mountains, deep crevaces, mines and all sorts of
interesting dessert shapes and colors. It was a nice contrast from the barren lands of Texas. Oh, and did I mention the rain
in the dessert southwest??? Lake Havasu sits along the banks of ... well, Lake Havasu, nestled up against what we in Florida call a mountain
(OK, a very large rock). The access to the runway rock side is quite limited and the view os the runway was obscured because
of the large rock that seemed directly in our path. We skirted the peak descending down into the town area and on a downwind for runway 32. It seems
the wind died as we crossed the large rock but the heat noticably increased, almost like someone flipped a switch. We were
greeted by D2 Aero and ushered in to meet the 99s from the Havasu area who are hosting the race start for 2012. We were impressed how inquisitive and organized they were and felt confident
that all was in good hands. With the business of the race behind us, we headed off for a tour of ACS Parts manufacturing plant
before landing at the hotel for the evening.
We had a beautiful room at the hotel with a view of the lake. The
hotel sat near the waterfront district and the London Bridge that was actually brought over piece by piece from London - google that one! We drove around town so we could get oriented for our June visit and settled in to sleep. It had been a long but very productive day and tomorrow we had a plane to deliver!
Day 4 - KHII to KDVT:The
weather forecast for the day was ominous: change of thunderstorms; 30kt winds and blowing dust. We had thought about flying
to Tucson before delivering the plane to Phoenix but with that kind of forecast, we thought it best to make a straight shot for Deer Valley
Airport. We made a very early departure, shortly after sunrise and enjoyed some pleasant temperatures - somewhere between
blistering hot and frigid. The Skylark fly flawlessly. She had been a great airplane to take this adventure ride across the
United States and it was sad that it was all coming to an end. This is definitely something that I could do for a living.
the scenery was varied and quite rugged. It struck us quite strangely that we flew over almost the exact route the day before
and it looked so different this time heading in the oposite direction. There was nothing really recognizable about the route.
We headed to an intersection just north of Deer Valley to avoid a heavy military training area, then picked up highway 17
and flew that into a left base for runway 7R. We located the Skylark's new tie down spot and delivered here safe and sound.
We made flight arrangements to fly back to Fort Myers
on a commercial carrier for Thursday morning so we had a couple of days to check out the area. Tucson was only a 2.5 hour
drive so that was on the list because we wanted to see the Pima Aviation Museum and the famous "Boneyard" at the
airforce base next door. It was already too late to make the run today so it will have to wait until tomorrow. We opted for
a tour of Old Town Scottsdale with its artisans shops and assorted eateries then headed to the resort where our client had
book us a VERY nice suite overlooking the waterfalls, the "mountains" (large rocks) and the city off in the distance.
We met our client for lunch in the resort. He left a happy camper, knowing his airplane was safe in her new home. Shortly
after his departure we got the call about the dust storm. I looked out the window to watch the city, then the mountains, then
the waterfalls disappear in a thick red haze. The trees were laying over in the wind and I would have sworn a hurricane was
eminent if I were in Florida. You could hear the howling of the wind through the corridors of the resort and feel the gritty
air pelting your skin on the balcony outside. Time to come in now. We waited out the storm and watch the falls, the large rocks and the city eventually and ever so gradually emerge just
as they had disappeared several hours ago. There were news reports from Tucson of a 30 car pile up along I-10 that claimed
the lives of 15 people. The cause of the pile-up was zero visibility from the dust storm. Looks like we made a good call
We decided to wander the resort and retire early
again, ready for a long drive to the Museums tomorrow.
Day 6: KDVT to KTUC: This was not a flying
day but because we were around so many airplanes, it had to go on the list as an airplane day. Our departure was right on
schedule from Phoenix to drive to Tucson and we made it through little traffic just in time for the Pima Museum opening. This is one Museum that is really worth the effort. There are several large
hangars filled with restored airplanes but the real attraction is the unrestored ones outside. It is an odd-ball assortment
of all of the things that yo never see in a museum - probably because some will be hard-pressed to fit through the building!!
Their collection is listed here. Museum Photos are HERE.
Following our tour around the Museum we hopped the bus for the "Boneyard" at Montham Airforce Basewhere thousands of aircraft are in open storage. Some of these planes are already in varying states of disassembly and others
are awaiting re-deployment in the second (of later) phases of their useful life. It was interesting to note that the government
saves $10 for every dollar spent in acquisition and storage of these aircraft in parts savings but it was still sad to see
soooooo many plane sitting idle or chopped up like spinach. We concluded our tour and with heavy hearts made the long drive
back to Phoenix - oh, to be flying one of those planes right now!
Day 7: KPHX to KMIA: Our day on the
cattle car - commercial back to Miami and the long drive home to Alva. It was a great trip and one that I would enjoy taking
again. It was fun to fly a basic airplane. It was fun to fly. It was fun to have good weather. It was fun to see
awesome and some not so awesome sights. It was fun to visit friends and family. It was just fun to have the freedom to fly.