Friday, December 23, 2016

Bringing the SNJ back from Fairbanks AK to Lincoln CA: Part Three

...continued from parts one and two.

Kamloops BC to Oroville WA (USA)

The next morning was "warm" for Canada and the sky above was morning-sky-blue.  We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the hotel and caught a shuttle back out to the airport.  The wool pants and thermal underwear gave way to a fresh pair of jeans, the fleece was staying in my duffel bag.

The plane was waiting for us where we parked it the night before, but neither Andy nor I could remember the gate code (Note to self:  Take a photo of the gate code before exiting the ramp).  We found a cooperative airport staff member who escorted us back onto the ramp.

Penticton Regional Airport
Andy filed another international flight plan including a time window for us to arrive at the Oroville Airport.

We had plenty of fuel for our short flight across the border so we loaded our bags back into the plane, strapped in, and pointed the plane back down the runway towards Kamloops Lake and the Thompson River we had followed in the previous evening.  As the tail lifts off the ground I let it rise just enough to be able to see the runway ahead over the big engine obscuring my view.  The airplane lifts smoothly off the runway and resumes biting into the sky as I retract the gear.

We climb paralleling the shoreline until we clear the ridge on the south side of the lake and then turn direct on course toward Oroville.  I grew up in Washington, and I have been nearly everywhere in the state.  But I don't recall ever having been to Oroville before.  It sits just four miles from the border where customs agents are usually working the automotive crossing.  For us to clear customs here one of the agents is sent to greet us, thus the earlier time window.

Somewhere down there is the border
Crossing the border I look for the tell-tale line of trimmed vegetation, but in the arid climate of Eastern Washington, there is no vegetation growing from the rock to be trimmed back.

We extend the gear and make a wide left-downwind pattern and line up on the narrow runway.  And boy does it look narrow.  But this time I am ready for it.  I kick the rudders a couple times to loosen up my feet and get my heels on the floor rails and toes away from the breaks.  I get another landing I can be happy about, and Andy again says I am staying ahead of the airplane much better.

Checking for Atomic Bombs?
We parked in front of the customs "office," opened the canopies, released our seat-belts, and waited for the agent to come out to come meet us.  Eventually an ominous SUV pulled up on the other side of the fence and an Agent exited the vehicle.  He let us climb out while he interviewed us.

Then he got out his Geiger counter.  That struck me as really odd, but Andy had warned me that it would happen.  Since the older instruments are painted with "glow in the dark" radium paint, the geiger counter started squawking and squealing as soon as the agent got near the panel.  He glanced over at Andy and me, and Andy just shrugged and said "radium painted gauges in the instrument panel."  The agent move the Geiger-Müller tube over the panel to verify Andy's report, gave us an all clear, and walked back into the office.

Andy walked to the pumps while I climbed in the plane and went through the start-up checklist for the short taxi it to the fuel pumps.

Part of our reasoning for not refueling in Kamloops is that aviation fuel is generally more expensive in Canada than it is in the U.S.  Aside from being paid for in Canadian Dollars, it is dispensed in liters, pushing my limited brain to do two conversions in order to come up with the equivalent price.  But recently I discovered that SkyVector does these conversion for me automatically. Just click layers, select the FBO tab, check the type of fuel, currency, and units of measure.

Make your Flight Plan at

Had we used it, we would have seen that gas was a dollar less expensive per gallon in Kamloops than it was in Oroville. Pretty cool.

Oroville WA to Bend OR

After refilling the plane we saddled back up and snaked the big SNJ down the narrow taxiway that was clearly made for planes the size of a Piper Cub to the south end of the runway.  I lined up the plane with the runway and pushed the manifold pressure back up to 30 inches.  As the tail lifted, again I held it just low enough so I could see the end of the runway over engine and we smoothly departed back to the north.  I retracted the gear and made a climbing 180 degree left turn back to the south, called up Air Traffic Control (ATC) for flight following, and continued to reach for cooler air above.

Crossing from WA to OR
We had been in straight and level cruise for a while when ATC came over the radio to advise us that Military Operation Area (MOA) we were flying in was "Hot," or in use, and we were sharing the airspace with some F-18's who were aware of our presence.  At 10,500 feet I was just above the bottom of the MOA airspace.  I offered to let the F-18's practice their intercept skills on us, but got no joy.

straight line to Bend
We continued straight and level south paralleling the Columbia River as it passed through Wenatchee WA, and then crossing over it on our way south past Ellensburg and Yakima.  Soon we were crossing the Columbia for a second time as we flew into Oregon.  Wind turbines were visible on the mesa above the river.

I had flown into Sunriver Resort in several times, but I had somehow overlooked how close it was to the cluster of airports including Madras, Bend, and Redmond.  We landed in Bend to refuel the airplane.

Due to some technical issues at work, I had several messages on my cell phone.  I attended to these while Andy refueled and oiled the airplane.

Bend OR to Lincoln CA

Our stop in Bend was just brief enough to resupply the plane.  Andy and I snacked on some protein bars, and re-hydrated before pointing the plane south again and picking up flight following from ATC.

Volcanic cone and crater
I had not flown south of Sunriver in eastern Oregon, and I am disappointed I had not done so sooner.  All across the terrain is evidence of the Pacific Northwest's volcanic history.  Everywhere you look are volcanic cones, craters, or lava flows.  It was totally fascinating to me.  I need to go back.

The air grew warmer and I was down to just a t-shirt under my unzipped flight suit, and the canopy was slid open in flight even against the added noise.  Andy and I cruised along straight line south towards Sacramento.

Near the Oregon - California border
We approached the Oregon-California border and the Goose North MOA as we continued south towards Lincoln.  I checked if the MOA was active and the controller responded that it was not.  Andy and I discussed the persistent Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) around Beale Air Force Base, and how we may have to navigate around it.  As we continued south, ATC queried us about our knowledge of the TFR ahead.

I asked if he was referring to the one at Beale and ATC said that the Beale TFR was not active but indicated there was a second TFR closer to us due to a forest fire.  He had us stay at 10,500 feet as we passed through it while the fire-fighting helicopters hugged the terrain far below.  Not long after that we were cleared to start our descent.

ATC cleared us through Beale's airspace as we descended and maneuvered for a long straight in at the Lincoln Airport.  Andy pointed out a cluster of structures to the east of Beale's runway, and mentioned they were some sort of space communication something or other.  We were headed straight for them.  ATC had us turn about 20 degrees right so we would pass north of them as we lined up on the runway.

I was feeling pretty confident from my previous couple of landings, and as soon as the main wheels touched down, I pulled the stick back to pin the tail wheel on the ground.  But my airspeed was still a bit high, so the plane ballooned up off the runway, and I fought the stick for a hard "thump" back down on the ground.  "Pride cometh before a fall."  Every time.

The sun is setting on another adventure.
We were greeted by several of Andy's social circle who were happy to see his return to Lincoln.  We refueled the plane.  One of those who greeted us was representative for the local paper, Melissa, who was there to get Adventure Flight's ad published in the paper.  Andy pointed out the hangar, told me to bring the plane over, and he would walk over and open it up.  I offered Melissa a ride in the back seat as I taxied back, and she eagerly accepted.

We spent the next couple hours unpacking and sorting our gear from the plane, and tucking the SNJ into the hangar with its stable-mates.  I booked a flight home for the next morning.

That evening Andy and I enjoyed a hearty meal at a local Lincoln Pizza Parlor.

Epilogue and photos

A little over 16 hours in the plane, 15 landings, Four U,S, States, Two Provinces, Two countries, and a great adventure with a really good co-pilot.

See all the photos here:
See all the photos here

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