The Request"Flights Above The Pacific Northwest" or FATPNW is an active local facebook group. It has really exploded with activity and flying lore, so much so, that it was recently highlighted by AOPA on how to connect with local pilots.
In a recent post, there was a request for someone to help ferry a plane from east coast back to the Seattle area. The post generated a bit of back and forth about the evils of ferrying an airplane for free, and how not charging for a ferry flight hurts the profession and blah, blah, blah. The back and forth kind of set me on edge. The presumption that money was the only moral motivation for ferrying an airplane felt wrong on many levels.
- There was no indication in the request there would be no payment.
- It negated the notion that there could be non-economic motivations, implying adventure or flight time were not forms of compensation.
- It implied that not paying to fly was different than being paid to fly (both clearly lower my cost of flying).
- There were accusations of under-cutting and hurting other ferry pilots (apparently OK to hurt the airplane owners or yourself by paying for flight time)
- It seemed threatening, as though if you were to fly for free you would be black-listed by the professional pilots.
The plane was brought to yet another mechanic who tore into it with gusto. The fuel system was examined and tested, the carburetor was removed and rebuilt, the ignition system was disassembled and any suspect parts were replaced. And while it was down, the owner opted to have some other improvements made on the plane. The new mechanic flew the plane repeatedly, accumulating multiple hours of flight time with no issues. It bothered me that no root cause of the failures had been found for certain, but the collection of the mechanic’s flight time demonstrated that something had been made better. So James and I committed to picking the plane up, and getting it as far west as we could, but safety would be our first priority. No night flights, no instrument flights, and at the first sign of trouble, we were putting the plane down at the nearest available airport. The owner agreed.
Day One: TN to OKKRVN) to Smyrna (KMQY) just outside Nashville where I arrived later that night.
Early the next morning I requested my first Uber ride and the two of us headed for the Smyrna Airport. While the plane was still in the hangar, we did our preflight to assure the plane was ready.
The winds favored a north departure from runway 01, and the cold morning air had us airborne in a brisk climb out following a left turn to the west. We climbed to 6,500, intercepted I-40, and followed it on a 2.4 hour flight to Memphis. We flew north of downtown, and landed to the south at General Dewitt Spain Airport (M01), paralleling the Mississippi river. I landed in my first new state of the trip.
James took off to the south, and made a right turn out over the Mississippi River where we crossed over into Arkansas, my first time in Arkansas, but it would not count until I touched the ground. After an hour and a half of following I-40, James flew north of the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock Arkansas (KLIT). James slipped in for a touch-and-go, and we flew around the pattern. He turned the plane’s control over to me, and I touched down for my landing in Arkansas. My second new state of the trip. We picked up a courtesy car from the airport, went out for lunch, and swung by Walmart to pick up some water and snacks for in the plane. Back at the airport the plane had not been refueled, so our departure was delayed.
Again we calculated fuel consumption at 7.1 GPH -- again, right in the expected range.
KOKM), about 60 minutes short of our planned stop for the night. I landed and took back off, turned the controls over to James and he landed – each of us checking off our final new state for the day.
Day 2: OK to …
We climbed to 6,500 feet and headed west between the layers. And it just got worse. Soon the scattered layer below us had become a solid sheet of clouds. Our commitment to fly only with the ground in sight required we turned back. Turning with the wind, our ground speed jumped up to over 150 knots; the wind that was slowing us down before, now had us in hyper-drive back to clear air. Just below the edge of the clouds was Jones Memorial, a small airport in Bristow OK. (3F7). It has a dramatic up-sloping runway to the south, and it creates the illusion you are high on final. James made a good landing, and we pulled the plane in to the lea side of a building to shelter it from the strong south winds.
We hoped to sit it out for a bit while the clouds pushed through. We walked up and down the ramp while we waited. We looked at the other planes at the airport. We looked in the windows of the shop. We looked at the sky. We looked for a restroom. We waited. We looked at the weather on our phones. We looked at forecasts. We looked at the sky. We looked some more for a restroom. We looked at our progress for the morning, 25 nautical miles. A guy in a truck passed by and let us know there was a pilot lounge in the first of two mobile homes. Turns out there was a whole home in the pilot’s lounge. Inside we found shelter from the wind, a restroom, a kitchen, a living area, and a couple of bedrooms.
We walked back to the airport, still hoping for a break in the clouds. It was not to be. We secured the airplane with ropes. We sat in the trailer and read. I finished my book. We debated over who got the bed, and who got the fold-out couch. There was no bedding on the couch, so we brought in our jackets from the plane. James convinced me to take the bed. We headed off to sleep early. But each time I was about to drift off, the trailer was hit by another gust of wind jarring me back awake.
Day 3: OK to NM
Up to 6,500 feet, back over the top of I-40, westbound we went towards Oklahoma City. We chuckled at the way the controllers said “Murican Airlines” and we made the short hop to Sundance Airport North West of Oklahoma City (KHSD). James again made a smooth landing to the south on the long runway. The FBO at Sundance is a beautiful, modern, glass and marble facility. And they had cheap gas! But now it was Monday morning, and we had hoped to be here Saturday night. We filled up, having only flown 1.5 hours since our last fill up. We wished we had emptier tanks to take the opportunity to buy more of the inexpensive gas.
James had not landed in Texas yet, so at Tradewinds Airport in Amarillo (KTDW), I turned the controls over to him for this landing too. The winds were strong and favoring a short crossing runway. James set up a crab on final, and then rolled in a good right-wing-low cross wind landing. We taxied to the FBO, and set out in search of lunch. We ended up at Whataburger.
|James lands in TX|
The Longest Leg
The controller told us about earlier planes in our area experiencing "severe turbulence." Moriarty seemed to never move closer. We climbed higher in hopes of avoiding the reported turbulence. Sandia East (1N1) came into view. Moriarty stayed out of reach. Time marched on, we did not. We climbed to 12,500 feet. We leaned the mixture more. The engine was at the end of what it could deliver at this altitude. Moriarty had finally moved next to us. Sandia East was just ahead. The mountain pass grew, our view of the city improved, but the GPS’s estimated time to Double Eagle II (KAEG) was still longer than we anticipated. We recalculated fuel burn, and how long we had already been flying. We tightened our seat-belts for the predicted turbulence.
We aimed towards Double Eagle II and started our descent. We were cleared to land, James gave me the controls so he could take some photos. Vectoring the plane on final, we passed between the airport and a couple of hot-air-balloons. This seemed fitting for Albuquerque.
|James lands in NM|
I powered the plane back up, gave it time build up excess speed, climbed to 500 feet above the ground, turned right to circle back towards the other end of the runway, and turned the controls over to James. James landed on the same runway and we taxied in.
|Auto created movie of the adventure|
View the full photo album.
|33 down 17 to go|