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This is a great story by Steve about flying his Pietenpol to Brodhead Pietenpol Reunion for the first time.
Blast of the Past Pietenpol Adventure!
Duane and Steve Barnstorming for Brodhead and Oshkosh Wisconsin.
July 8, 1999
Our wife's think we are nuts, but Duane Woolsey and I are planning our trip to Brodhead 99' with a stop at AirVenture 99' to join in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Air Camper design. Our goal is to relive the barnstorming days of the 20's in our vintage homebuilt airplanes by flying across the US just like the pilots of yesteryear, without the aid of modern radios or equipment. We have planned to cover the distance of 1250 statute miles in three, 8 hour days of flying. We will be following Interstate 80 most of the way so that we can take advantage of the proximity of the highway for navigation and to facilitate easy contact with our ground support crew. Duane's dad, Lars, and our friend Stan are following along (in theory, I bet if we have any winds we will be hard pressed to keep up with them) to provide ground transportation and good companionship. Duane is hoping to find a buyer for his plane while he is there, and so I will likely be flying back to Utah solo. I will be posting news of our travels and hopefully pictures of our trip as it progresses. I am taking a laptop and digital camera to record the adventure.
To see our route, go to www.airnav.com and cut and paste the following link www.airnav.com/cgi-bin/fuel-route?U77-VEL-RKS-RWL-LAR-IBM-OGA-LXN-JYR-HNR-HPT-73C-C37-HXF-OSH
A little about Steve's Air Camper.
A little about Duane's
The Adventure Begins!
Day ONE July 23,1999
Spanish Fork UT to Kimball NE 499 miles
Adventure begins with a little trouble after our 6am liftoff. Duane has an exhaust manifold problem and has to return to Spanish Fork.
Being without radio we were a little handicapped. I saw Duane make the 180 but I soon lost him. I soon turned around myself to see if he would return. Not until I had searched all the fields, did I return to the airport and saw him taxiing in. I dropped the 2500' that I had gained and landed. The exhaust manifold on the left side had come loose and was making a racket. We were without a key to the hanger and had only simple tools, but we got the cowl off and checked out before Lars came to our rescue.
Lars is a professional welder and an all around great guy. He also didn't mind when his son called and asked him to bring his welding truck out to do the repair. We were back on our way 2 hours after we started.
We passed through Hobble Creek Canyon climbing for 9000' to get over the mountains to Vernal, our first stop.
Our course takes us right over Strawberry reservoir. Ground speed 91mph! We landed at Vernal behind 2 RV-4's while Duane play's chicken with a Skywest Commuter. He wisely bugs out.
On to Rock Springs means back up to 9500'.
Pretty country and quit high for our little Pietenpols. We top out at Elk Mountain at 10,500' climbing in early afternoon boomer thermals.
After a quick lunch at Rawlins we head off for Laramie. About this time we learn why we brought so much padding. I have 5 inches of soft foam and Duane is using his sleeping pad. About 15 minutes into the trip we hit turbulence. Nothing major, but enough to sicken Duane as he tries to take pictures of me.
Something about peering through the viewfinder and trying to stay right side up with what was left of his peripheral vision. Needless to say the pictures didn't turn out all that great. We hit Laramie several minutes ahead of schedule and had the question that has seemed to follow us across the country "A couple of Heath parasol's huh?" We passed south of Cheyenne with one wing in Colorado for several minutes then bent north again to call it a day at Kimball NE. The folks there were great and turned over the pilots lounge for our use.
Excellent facility with new ramp including recoil tiedowns, and well equipped lounge and pilot planning area. The pool table was a great place to roll out our charts to plan the next day. Our goal would be Morning Star field Iowa.
Day 1.5 July 24, 1999 4:00am
Our beloved ground crew arrives! Between fitfully hot
twists of rest, I get a bright blast of light in my eyes from Stan's
flashlight indicating to me that the ground troops have arrived! The only
interruption for Lars and Stan was a half hour delay in WY for a friendly
chat with the local State Troopers in the middle of the night.
Day TWO July 24, 1999
Kimball NE to Morning Star (Des Moines) IA 535 miles
It was only another 15 more minutes for the light to start in the east and Duane to get excited about pressing on. Me, I wanted to enjoy a bowl of cereal. That didn't happen. Before I knew it Duane had preflighted and started my plane and threatened to let it fly itself, so I obliged and got going. (I didn't get to enjoy my cereal till the afternoon of day three while everyone recovered.) We bid farewell to Kimball with the promise of another days great flying weather without a cloud in the sky. I woke Lars with a low pass as I turned back East over the airport. He waved from his sleeping bag. Not a cloud to hide the sun for 3 hours! Wow! I take the shade of the mountains for granted! Easy to navigate though. Just put the sun on your nose and if you notice that you are not blinded correct until you are. We decided to make a couple changes to our route. Instead of York we went to Central City, then Fremont, Harlan and Morning star.
Duane took the lead most of the way. His Subaru can out-climb and out-run me. He was having fun navigating and I was having fun watching. Lots of farmland and expensive Avgas later we came to a pretty little place called Harlan. One leg short of our destination, we really wanted to stay. The airport is beautiful and the grass runway is smooth. The price of gas was a all time low. If you need fuel they have MOGAS and 100LL at a nationwide low. 100LL was $1.63 and the Auto fuel was less than $1.50. Super people too! We met a long time GN-1 driver who showed us his mount. A vintage machine with original cub gear and wheels. I was with great coercion that I finally got Duane off the dime, and get in his plane. After 6.7 hour yesterday and more than 6 already today his butt was so sore that he didn't want to go further. I didn't have much sympathy I had to fly the whole trip without benefit of breakfast. I wasn't completely without nourishment. however, I highly recommend my sister Caroline's chocolate chip pumpkin cookies as a snack food. Melted in the humidity or not they tasted like manna. Harlan also marked the beginning of new performance the trusty little A-65. I had been struggling with abnormally high oil usage the whole trip. Suddenly the Continental quit using oil and dropped fuel burn back to 4.1 gph. I'm not sure what made the change, but it will help with the pocketbook. I pulled out my GPS about 20 miles just to check our course with reality. Dead on dead reckoning. A very satisfying feeling. I still held on to the GPS for Morning Star.
I didn't want to tangle with the airspace at Des Moines.
I needn't have worried however, Morning Star was easy to spot. Tim Cunningham from the Piet List had extended the invitation to drop in and we took him up on it. We were glad to be at the end of a second hard and long day of flying, but I didn't know how glad Duane was until he dropped and kissed the ground. The true statement of his charity was displayed when just 15 minutes later I saw him prop up and launch with a rider who just really wanted a ride. Meanwhile I discovered a letter literally nailed to the office wall with our names on it from Tim. He had rolled the red carpet and provided us a place to lay our weary heads in the air condition comfort of the clubhouse.
Morning Star is a private field and was abuzz with activity. Tim and nearly 50 others lease land from a farmer and have carved out a cute little airport just 500' north of I-80. We figured that Stan and Lars would show up minutes later. Minutes became hours and we soon began to fear that the lack of sleep for our ground crew might have jeopardized their mission. Fortunately only 1 hour of sleep in the last two days wasn't the problem, but a big semi rig crash across both directions of traffic had caused their slowdown. Reunited, we all drove to a truck stop, showered and ate. It was well after dark when we all collapsed in the club-house.
Day THREE July 25, 1999
Morning Star Field
After two long days of flying and little sleep we were happy to have a place to stay cool and let our seat bones have a break. I spent some time writing and went to church. Duane, Lars and Stan caught up on the hours of sleep they had missed.
We had the pleasure of meeting the best of the North Field Flying Club members.
Day FOUR July 26, 1999
Morning Star to Brodhead 300 some miles
The bad weather that had been forecast for the last couple of days threatened to get serious as we woke up to rain this morning. There were several cells drifting past to the south that didn't look like a lot of fun and one was due East heading our way. Duane and I had planned to arrive in Brodhead today and then go on to Hartford if it seemed like the thing to do. Right now the thing to do was get out of Dodge before the rain hit. The wind hadn't kicked in yet, but just as we made the decision to get loaded and make a break for Vinton, it started to rain. The rain was gentle but looked like it would stick around for a while. We finished loading and in between breaks in the cold rain we took off and headed northeast. It looked clear along our route from the ground and to our joy it stayed clear on our way to Vinton. Something was wrong however. I began to notice very soon after we started on our heading that things were passing by2 too quickly. Checkpoints were passing us faster than we expected. For the first time on the trip I broke out my Garmin 12XL GPS to check our position. It confirmed what we were seeing, we were on course, but our ground speed was 110mph! I admit that I was a little gleeful with a 35 mph tailwind! My only concern was a line of low clouds about 25 miles ahead of us. We were gaining on the front quickly. Vinton had just been drenched by the squall that we were following minutes before our arrival. The smell of wet grass and rain was rich and heavy. We landed on the East-West Runway directly into the wind. The airport was deserted, but the pilots lounge was open and we called for gas. It was then that we read on the notice board that the runway that we had landed on had been closed due to heat swelling that had cracked and buckled concrete on the far west end of the runway. Oops. We had the choice on takeoff of using the crosswind runway, but we choose the closed runway instead due to the wind. With nearly 5000' of runway we didn't have any trouble with the 100' that we needed, although I'm sure the workers who had arrived to fix the west end wondered what was going on as we back-taxied and took off. Our next stop was Platteville WI. The landscape changed underneath us soon after leaving Vinton. Gone were the square fields and straight roads. They gave way to a majestic view in every direction of manicured fields of grain, corn and soybeans. I found later that the glaciers missed Wisconsin and left the rolling hills, and lakes that give the earth such wonderful variation in this part of the country. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the farms and hills. No wonder there are so many pilots around here, the scenery is astounding. Platteville is a small college town, much like Provo. We didn't spend much time there however, because with only 55 miles to go to our destination, we were pleased to be in the morning air again. Duane and I were really dialed in and with the glass smooth air that we had had for most of the trip, we drew close together in tight formation on this last leg. Over Monroe we snapped pictures and gave the thumbs up. We were really excited to be within just miles of our dream destination. I identified the airfield from at least 10 miles out. I knew it from the overhead photos, and all the studying that I had done. I was a little disappointed that the airfield was deserted except for one Thorp tied down. It didn't dampen my enthusiasm however, as I made a salutory low pass down the intersecting runways. I caught a glimpse of the Brodhead sign, and Maylund Smith's Pietenpol hanger. Duane was a little distance behind when I rounded out on a low final for the long runway. I'm sure it has a number, but like all the grass strips that I became enamored with as we made our way east, there were no identifying marks. I touched down gently and rolled to a stop just off the runway. I looked back an watched Duane glide to touchdown, an image that will remain with me for a long time. I didn't really know my way around, but I taxied right up to the famed Brodhead sign and parked. I'm sure that I was smiling a mile wide as a dismounted despite the sore rear end that had developed over the last 16 hours of airtime. Duane had kissed the ground last night and I think he really meant it. We took a couple of photo's and began walking around. No one had wandered out to meet us and so we wandered around to see the sights. Our first stop was the Pietenpol hanger, we must have looked like a couple of kids looking in the store windows. Inside we could see the Aeronca C-3 and an old Model A Piet. Two Scout fuselages in the rear and a full length spar on the side. Hanging from the ceiling was a cool looking ultralight that looked like it came out of the second decade. Our first contact was Maylund Smith working on his Hatz Biplane in an adjacent hanger. It looks like it is going to be an award winner. He showed me the engine still in the crate. A five cylinder Wasp. (I think.) Should be one cool airplane. We soon discovered that this is the norm for the airport. Everyone has amazing old and rare aircraft. We made our way back toward our planes and found Dick Weeden in his workshop making engine parts for the HCI Radials, and building up handsome Model A engines. These guys are amazing. How they ended up doing something this fun for a living is a mystery I would love to break into myself. Slowly people appeared and we made our introductions to others including Charlie Ruebeck, Francis, Jack McKinney, and Ed Sampson. Not long after we arrived and were made welcome Stan and Lars pulled up. They had endured several adventures on the highway that put them a few hours behind. Just then I saw the only other piet that I had seen since I built my own. Kim Stricker must have had too much fuel to land, either that or he shared the excitement for arriving that we did, since he couldn't get that Air Camper on the ground for at least a half hour. He did low passes down each runway and checked out the area several times. I found it funny to see how much stuff he put in the front pit. Model A drivers didn't have anything on him for lack of forward visibility. He was followed by a quiet Kitfox piloted by Kim's good friend Jerry. These two proved to be the life our Brodhead/Oshkosh experience.
The EAA chapter at Brodhead is a fraternity that has deep roots. Everyone seemed to have a place and a responsibility, including the charge to make everyone they met feel welcome. Before long we found that we had been adopted. We were whisked back and forth between hangers and soon were acquainted with every ship on the field. One of the fellows dropped by just long enough to offer a sample of some Wisconsin Swiss cheese. Oh man, that stuff was powerful. The flavor was some of the best I have ever had. I wish I could have brought some home. We spent some time washing Jack's BIRD, a one of a kind biplane from the golden era. Ed Sampson volunteered to show us the way to the Sand Burr, and we were treated to the history and flavor of the early days of the flyin. Ed is a kind fellow with the wisdom of years of building and association with some of the greats. It was a treat to get him talking. I tried to pay his dinner bill, but he flatly refused. The Sand Burr was an experience. The waitress was one of a kind. She was none too please that we arrived 15 minutes for closing. She was frustrated since she no doubt had plans to leave early. It took some sweet talking to get her to mellow, but after we offered to take her for a plane ride she brightened right up. The food was plentiful and very reasonably priced. We ate there several times. After dinner we returned to the field and I was ready to escape the heat. I am still amazed at the thick air. I really hadn't had the chance to enjoy it so I went up solo for a frolic in the air. I escaped the heat by climbing up into sky as long as I could stand it. The scattered cloud base was at 5500' and I climbed above that by another 1500'. The sun was glowing through the clouds and playing on the grand, but fleeting landscape of the cloud tops. It was an awesome sight. I played in the cool air for 20 minutes, dragging a wingtip alongside the wispy wall, playing hide and seek with my shadow. It was a moment of peaceful solitude to me that seemed a reward for the distant travel. I dropped the last 2000' of my high flight with a tight spiral just southeast of the field. Mike Madrid showed up late in the evening and started shooting pictures. Kim and I put in some flying time right before the sun went down. We took turns blazing down the runway and climbing away. I was having a blast getting acquainted in this newly found flying paradise. We had our own little Brodhead celebration as we were joined by some early arriving Model A's from the model A club. The forecast was beginning to sound like a broken record, hot all day and guaranteed thunderstorms each night. The heat we had, but the precip we didn't, not to outguess mother nature however I took Dick Weeden up on his offer and Kim and I stuffed our two piets inside his hanger. I could hardly fall asleep, I couldn't imagine what might happen that could make the experience more pleasant, except maybe dry cool air for outdoor sleeping.
Day FIVE. July 27 1999
This morning was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever witnessed. The ground fog about 15' thick kissed with light from the rising sun was so beautiful. Everything was soaked in a heavy dew. A few birds sang. I walked around for a few minutes soaking in the serenity of the view. It took an hour for the ground fog to burn off. The dew lasted much longer and my sandaled feet kicked off streams of water with each step. Not far into the morning we heard the familiar sound of Fords overhead. Four Pietenpols appeared from the East. Two Ford and two Continental powered planes crossed the field and circuited overhead several minutes before landing on the long runway. Arriving was Jim Kinsella and his son Patrick, in their newly completed C-85 piet. A beautiful piece of work. Andrew King piloted Jim Hammond A powered piet NX13691. Then the legend I had heard about since the beginning of my piet indoctrination parked, it was none other than Frank Paviliga and the red Sky Gypsy. Will Graff and his award winning piet arrived last with the group in his wood strutted wings. I was in piet paradise. If that had been the extent of my trip it would have been worth it. Frank and company had run into Jim and his son at their last stop of the day Yesterday and had formed up to fly in as a foursome this morning. There were now 7 Pietenpol's on the field and we still had two days before we were to be in Hartford, the specified gathering place for the mass fly in to Oshkosh. Before lunch we heard the now familiar din of another low and slow piet arriving. Mitch Burns soon pulled up among the others in his two year old A-65 powered Air Camper. I really liked Mitch's paint scheme. It was the traditional hoop curve on the front fuse as found on the last original, but done in forest green and white. He put a barnstormers logo on the side "Arial Delight". Mitch is a friendly kind of guy who makes you feel comfortable around him right away. He was happy to have made his destination, and we were equally pleased to have him join us. At some point in the afternoon they opened up the gas pump and we tanked up for the flight to Hartford tomorrow. With a full tank and a nice night I couldn't resist getting a little airtime before the night fell upon us again. Kim had the same idea and before long we were airborne in an aerial ballet. We were kind of hot dogging it. I had rigged up my smoke system and put the field in hard IFR a couple of times. I couldn't help myself. The thick evening air was as still as could be and after a low pass down the runway laying it on thick, I pulled up in crop-duster fashion and flew back through my smoke the opposite direction smoking em good again. What a blast. I began to fear I might wear my welcome thin with all the pollution, and climbed a few hundred feet before tracing lines in the sky again. About this time Kim formed up on my wing and invited me on a low and slow farm run. We had a grand time dusting the crops and sight-seeing in the twilight. Kim had Duane in the front pit and we had a great time carving lines across the Wisconsin landscape. We bid farewell to the previous four Air Campers as Duane, Kim, Mitch and I decided to head to Hartford in the morning. Frank and company stopped on the way for some ice cream. I'm sure Mitch now wishes that he went with them, his only bed was a hard table, and he didn't sleep too well. The rest of us stretched out on the floor of the chapter hanger and fell asleep to the hum of the fan blowing over us.
Day SIX July 28,1999
Brodhead to Hartford to EAA AirVenture 99'
Last we heard from those already in Hartford was that we were to arrive at Oshkosh together at 11am. The four of us left at Brodhead figured that we would leave by 8 or so and make it to Hartford in time for the mass migration with the others. Brodhead is a hard place to leave and without knowing what accommodations there were at Hartford, we choose to stay here. About 6:30 we began to make noises and got breakfast. I had my first warm breakfast of the week, that gave life meaning and I was ready for the day. I was packed and gassed and ready for flight at 7:30. My plane was even dry after having spent the night again in Dicks hanger. I found that I was the only one ready, so Larry Williams and I chatted for 15 minutes or so until the others were loaded up. Our flight consisted of Duane, Kim, Mitch and myself. I lifted off first from the soggy grass. Water swirls from the tires splattering the bottom of the wing. I had become accustomed to taking off in the tall grass. I found that if I just barely lifted the tail and let the speed build I would get light on the mains. As soon as the main gear broke out of the grass the plane would surge forward as the drag decreased and I could gain speed for a couple of seconds before leaving ground effect. This was a great way to break ground with a full load, but also quite fun to practice. It seemed that if I lifted the tail high, like I did on hard surfaces I was making the plane work to hard plowing through the grass. After once circle everyone was airborne and we made our way northeast. I soon formed up with Kim and we did some air to air video. I can't wait to see how it turned out. After a few minutes Duane and Lars formed up with the two of us and got in on the video shoot. If we got Duane and I in formation on tape I will be really pleased. Not long after, Mitch pulled up to the group and our foursome made a lazy formation the rest of the way to Hartford. By this time my excitement was building and when we arrived I could see that we were going to join at least another half dozen piets for the last leg to OSH. I was disappointed however that I couldn't pick out Mike Cuy's airplane among those on the ground. Naturally I lined up with the North-South grass runway, and followed Kim who was on short final to a cushy touchdown. On the tarmac I spotted several new piets, including Randy's beautiful red plane , the Flying Mink, Judge Ted's blue bird with wheel pants, Bill Rewey WWII decorated plane. Dick Alkire was there in his W-8, which I looked over carefully. Dick even let me try it on for size. I have plans for a Tailwind and hope to build it up using the Jim Clement mods. I soon found Mike Cuy's pristine Air Camper tucked in the corner of the big hanger there. That eased my anxiety somewhat, until I found out that he was still back at the motel, sawing logs. The thought passed through my mind that I should go rouse him out of bed, but I thought a little less intrusive introduction might be more appropriate despite our net acquaintance of two years. (Mike says, it wasn't his fault!) Just about the time we were to have our pilot instructions lead by Bill Rewey and Jack McCarthy, we were told the gas truck was ready. Hartford is getting a new credit card gas farm, but it wasn't quite ready when we arrived. Our pilot meeting was quite informal and the gist of it was Circle around until we are all airborne, then follow Bill's plane to the no radio approach to Oshkosh. That is basically what happened. There wasn't much order that I knew of, and whoever fired up and got in line, found themselves in the takeoff order. I especially enjoyed watching Frank and NX899FP heading out to the runway. For those of you not familiar with Sky Gypsy, it has the simple skid plate on the rear instead of a tailwheel. Frank is very courteous around pavement, and instead of man handling the airplane on the ground, chooses to "walk" his plane around till its time to fly. What a sight! It never occurred to me that you could taxi your airplane *outside* the cockpit! I adopted this practice on my way home and enjoyed the curious stares of nearly everyone along the way. Not only very efficient way of moving the airplane around, but it keeps you in shape as well! Frank and Andrew were the last to take off. It was quite a sight from the air to see 16 other piets carving a 2 mile wide circle around the airport. This was see and avoid at its best. As soon as we were joined at 800' by Frank Pavliga and Andrew King, Bill cut north with the five closest piets and started a climb to 3500' I trailed with two or three others and the rest of the gaggle followed in tow. After 15 minutes or so I could stand it no longer and began visiting neighboring airplanes in their position in the flock. Our collective airspeed seemed really slow, we must have only been going about 60mph, so I was able to bounce around the others without much difficulty. It was such a blast to form up with others and then circle out to pick up those in the rear. At one point I could see the whole flight! Duane had the same idea and we thoroughly enjoyed the aerial camaraderie. Our gaggle approached the airport and began to line up. I lost sight of most of the other airplanes and follow Mike Cuy's piet into the pattern. We were too tightly spaced, even for Oshkosh, so I was pleased when Mike flew into the flyby pattern. Just as I waggled my wings to indicate my intention to land, I noticed a bright green and yellow DC-3 on my starboard side. This airplane was about to play havoc with our little flight, but I didn't give it much notice since I mistakenly thought he would be landing to the east. The turn to final was a emotional tidal wave to me as I realized I was about to touch down at our destination! The airport was saturated with airplanes and hundreds of people were on the flightline to witness our arrival. It was a rush! I'll never forget the view and that feeling even if it only lasted 5 seconds or less. I was immediately forced to get back to the flying as I watched the smoke generator on the ground confirm what my body was telling me. We had ourselves a hefty crosswind. I'd guess it was at least 10 knots. I was lined up and eased my air camper down the last 100'. Wing down and in my flare, an unexpected screech of the tires surprised me. I pinned it down and we were rolling straight out. "That was weird" I was thinking, until I saw the large figure of the DC-3 rolling past ahead of me. "Be careful o...f...." I had scarcely began the thought when I heard someone hit full power and then a crunch. I was sickened as I whipped around in my seat to see a white winged piet tipped and turned at a horrific angle to the runway. My eye caught sight of a wheel rolling beyond the scene into the median. Wake turbulence and the crosswind had just had Mitch Burns and his pretty green pietenpol for lunch.
Not knowing exactly what to do, I looked around for a place to shut down and help Mitch out, but as I was looking the ground control person ahead of me waved quite vigorously to move ahead. I took a glance back towards the wreck and notice Mitch already out of his plane and Duane and Lars taxiing by. I decided I better move along and try and help later. I crossed runway 18 and soon caught up with Frank, walking his plane to the parking spot. I pulled up behind Kim and followed him up to center stage. My arrival and engine shutdown put me show center at Oshkosh! The ground volunteers were eager to help me to my parking spot and helped clear the way and push my plane to the best spot in the whole place. Mike Cuy had reserved with the EAA a parking spot for the whole lot of us and we all crammed together right in front. The ground was nice and soft, and we had no trouble pushing the tiedowns into the grass. Even so, it took me the better part of 20 minutes to get the plane tied down. The questions began as soon as I got out of the cockpit. It was a good spot that got lots of crowds and even a better spot to be for the airshow. Little did I know how nice it is to have a place to put things down without much worry. People on the flightline were mostly attentive and courteous around our planes, but one guy's story I just have to tell. Several of our group were gathered around Mike Cuy's piet and hiding from the sun under Duane's wing. Someone was apparently all over Mike's plane and our do good friend had just reminded the passerby to please not touch the airplanes. No sooner had the words escaped his lips when he turned and ran into the trailing edge of Mikes right wing with the bridge of his nose. THUD! I could tell it was going to hurt as the sound echoed through the airframe. The poor fellow nearly dropped to his knees in pain as blood painted itself down his face. Everyone around gave a gasp. Ouch, that hurt. Once we all got parked and registered the other pilots began to scatter. Jack and Bill tried to give directions to the camping spot for the piet pilots, I never found my way there, but from those that did, I heard that it was quite crowded and a little noisy. Kim said that he was finally able to get to sleep after the generators that surrounded his tent finally quieted, but wonders about his CO intake during the night. "Headache, what headache?" The afternoon passed quickly almost in a blur. Everyone was talking piets and joining in the conversation, at one point I escaped an noticed just about every pilot next to his plane with half a dozen others around them asking questions. We made quite a splash guys! Finally my stomach got the best of me and I went in search of nourishment. I about fell over myself when I spotted a large drink price of $3.75 and a hot dog for a mere $6. I finally settled for my first brautwurst dog for $3.75. A tip for those of you going to Oshkosk next year... Bring lots of little snacks, they will keep you from starving and going broke. My wife-bless her heart- stocked me up with trail mix and individual cracker packs that saved me. One other thing, I would suggest a back pack water pouch. My sister Caroline bought one for my birthday and I must have filled it 4-5 times each day. It was a life-saver. It was nice just to have a sip of cool water anytime, and it fit snuggly right next to me in the cockpit for the long flight. Thanks Caroline! After making it back to the flightline, I was hanging around Duanes plane when a fellow introduced himself from the FAA. He said he was looking for Mitch. I was looking for him too, since I hadn't been able to express my concern and condolences yet. Just then he walked up, and just as they say in the movies, the FAA guy introduced himself and said "Hi, I'm from the FAA and I'm here to help." That phrase needn't have stopped my heart, because they were really helpful from what I saw. Not long after, Mitch returned and Kim, Jim and Patrick, and I hitched a ride to the other side of the field where we found NX350MB on a flat bed. What a sad sight. I still feel bad for the unfortunate bird! Good fellowship abounded however and before the afternoon airshow was even half over we had the wings off the damaged Air Camper and stowed in a hanger off the trailer, to await the return trip to Missouri. The damage was moderate. In addition to a prop strike, one wing tip scraped, the other damaged outboard of the last rib. The starboard gear had folded under and the axle broken. The lower longeron took the brunt of the damage and will have to be replaced or repaired back to the cockpit. The tailwheel was totaled but, spared the tail any damage. Mitch was a real champ. I couldn't have acted as calm. It was a pleasure to be part of an inpromptu team that banded together to help another. I'm sure that he would have been of the first to do the same for any one of us. [Since our return, I have recieved an email from Mitch stating that he has trailered his bird home a round trip of over 1000 miles and repairs are underway. ] We returned to the flight line in time to see the most entertaining airshow act I can remember. Jimmy "the Jet" Franklin outdid himself by strapping a jet engine between the gear of a new Waco. It was a show to remember. I clearly remember the sound of the 450hp radial being drowned out as the jet came to life, roaring the Waco skyward. It seemed so silly and exhilerating at the same time it made everyone giggle. The annoucer said that the Jimmy had only two problems, slowing down, and trying to keep his laughter under control. What a nut. I didn't leave the flight line until it was getting dark. After the show I had more lookers and questions. I must have passed out 100 cards. I nearly didn't make it back to camp. Lars didn't know the whearebouts of camp either, so we waited for a rescue crew that finally came. Problem was that I wasn't looking and they missed me. I had to run half a mile to catch up to them. It was a long walk and bus ride back to the camp. We were only a few rows from the highway, and the traffic noise was constant. I made a 20 minute cell call to my wife, (can't wait to see what that cost,), showered in campground stalls and fell to sleep.
Day SEVEN July 29, 1999
Oshkosh Day 2
A good nights rest is essential for peak airshow vacation enjoyment, and that was nothing like a good nights rest. I admit that I was about as excited as a kid could get, but sleep still didn't come easy. I awoke before anyone else in camp due to the tent nearly collapsing in the wind. It is just a cheap Sam's Club tent that has seen lots of kid use, and is nothing for rain protection. After a peek outside it looked like I was going to get wet, so I quickly tore down and stuffed it under the camp trailer where Duane and Stan were still sawing logs. We had only planned for two days at Oshkosh, (I avoid using AirVenture xx' anytime I can, it bugs me how EAA is "protecting" itself) and I wanted to get everything on my list visited. I am working on a 1940 Stinson 10A, and have interest in a Wittman Tailwind as a next plans project, and a visit to the ultralight area was in order. Jerry was up and attem after I returned from the shower area, and the two of us struck out for the flight line. Not much going on out there at 6am. The busses were still parked and nobody was at the gates. I wasn't prepared for the rain, but there was plenty of shelter under the airplane wings. I got a really long look at a Piper Colt during one of the heavier showers. My search for a Stinson didn't reveal any 10A models, but there were several 108's that were absolutely beautiful. Maybe one day my 10a will grow up a little. I arrived at the ultralight area and most of the vendors were still indoors, but I did get a good look at the Six Chutter booth. It would be a delight to own one of there two place powered chutes. Only the cost of three pietenpols and I could be a proud owner! Next I stopped by the Skyraider booth. There single seat ultralight is another that I would love to sample for a summer. Missing was one of my favorite light flight mobiles, the Team Air Bike. I guess the impending suit, and bankruptcy has kept them away. Too bad since they have been such a big player for a long time. By now the busses were running and I hopped a ride back to the show-plane area for a bite to eat. Breakfast prices were prohibitive, but you haven't lived until you have one of the fresh doughnuts warm off the grill (out of the vat, no doubt, but that doesn't sound near as appetizing), and the best deal from food services too. Only $.89! That was enough to get me going for the day. I made my way back to the piets and found Frank P. We had a good chat, and listed to the morning revelry and yodeler wake up the campgrounds. We also watched as one of the Poberesny's brothers flew a Consolidated biplane over the campers calling them to another day of fun. Nice old plane! The breeze was warm and promised to bring another hot day. Before nine I had visited most of the outdoor exhibits. Ones that made an impression were Teledyne Continental Motors (though they didn't have any new A-65's on display), Cessna and the Grand Caravan on floats (a mere 1.8 million, but it would seat my family quite well), and Groen Brothers Aviation of Salt Lake with their Hawk 4 place gyrocopters. I found last night that my Aunt and Uncle were in the display hall selling their aviation library on CDROM. I couldn't get in till a nice ol fella sent me in with a couple of Cadets from the Civil Air Patrol. I left them a card. I visited them again later in the morning and Jon my Uncle didn't seem to fully appreciate the kind of flying that I so much enjoy. He went looking for more avionics in the front pit after seeing the rear cockpit, and was astounded that is just the location for my stuff. He is a gadget type and has one or two of everything in his 182. Pilotage at the distance I flew is not appealing to him. I enjoyed giving him the short tour, and showing him my NORDO card. I think it blew his mind. As the afternoon airshow began I returned from site-seeing determined that if I ever built a Tailwind, that it would look like one of Jim Clement's beauties. His planes look like fast glass. I didn't ever get to speak to him, but I have a few pictures. Next time I make the trip it will be in my new fast Tailwind I hope. As the afternoon airshow began I continued evangelizing pietenpols to all comers and sold my embroidered hats to those that were interested. There were many from other countries that I got to know including a couple from Costa Rica and several from Sweden. I had a hard time finding a place under my own wing to watch the airshow. Shade is at a premium. I had just moved over by Duane's plane when the accident happened. Two warbirds collided on the runway. I jumped to my feet at the sound in time to see a Corsair on its nose doing a high speed cartwheel in flames. I still can't believe what happened nor am I sure about the order of events. Apparently the at near flying speed, a Corsair struck a Bearcat that was positioned ahead on the runway. It seemed like forever till the rescue trucks appeared, but soon the fire was out. The crowd had thinned to just a few rows when the airshow resumed. The rest of the evening was subdued but there were still lots of people looking at the planes and I sold several hats. I left the flight line on foot headed for the post office to send a letter back home. I missed the bus to the museum, but decided to wait for the next one. I didn't wait long alone, the heat was still oppressive, and others who might have gone on foot joined me at the bus stop. I had only an hour to visit the museum, but despite having to run through, saw some of the new displays since 94'. Stopping at the gift shop I picked up some souvenirs for the kids. I bought them balsa gliders. It was the thought that counted, since they only lasted 20 minutes before they were in shreds. Instead of heading back to the campground I went out the back door to visit the Pietenpol Hangar. Pioneer field would have been the place for all the piets. It was a step back in time as I walked across the grass runway. I walked alone to the deserted airfield. I didn't get more than a few minutes there, but I took pictures of the hangar and enjoyed the solitude. I was starved by this time, but still had a long hike back to camp, by the time I got there I decided that the next time I would give a passerby $10 for a ride. By this time, the bugs had become a regular routine. Once the sun went down you were bug meat if you didn't get inside. Next time I will not ignore the feeling I had to get some OFF! I zipped myself in the tent and ate my Caesars salad and nectarine. Fresh fruit and veggies hit the spot.
Among the other news items of the day was one that was
bittersweet. Duane made the sale of his pretty subaru powered Pietenpol.
The reality I had not wanted to face of loosing my flying partner's plane had
Day EIGHT Friday, July 30, 1999
Back to Brodhead
I was anxious to get going in the morning but took the time to get an early shower before the lines got thick. The plan was to meet as a group and Kim would do an interview with the EAA video crew and turn the props at about 8am. To my surprise he turned them on to me and I ended up doing the interview for the video. I hope I had a clean shirt on, at least I know that I had brushed my teeth. My wife would kill me if I didn't look half decent. The interview went well, and I hope that I represented our group well, but I know that everyone would have been more entertained if Kim had the attention of the camera. We didn't do a mass flyout, in fact with all the traffic heading out we got separated by about fifteen minutes each. Our departure briefing netted us a pink card that said we understood our instruction to maintain runway heading for five miles under 500'. That was normal flying for me and I enjoyed getting back to the low and slow. After forgetting my ear plugs in the front seat after being propped I was ready to get out of Dodge and back to my routine. It wouldn't be so quick, since everyone and their dog was thinking the same think. Fifteen minutes later I found myself holding short with the Ford Tri-motor landing directly ahead and a polished T-6 threatening to chew up my tail feathers. It was a little unnerving, but quite fun to see all that hardware living and breathing so close. After the friendly wave-off from the Oshkosh ground crew, I took off and headed due south. It was refreshing to be alone again, taking in the scenery of the southern end of Wisconsin. Anxious to get back to Hartford and gather again with the others I pushed the throttle ahead -not that it made much difference. I ate the other nectarine and marveled that I could see the pit fall clearly till it nearly hit the ground. I touched down on the sod alone, but soon joined the others in the lounge. Everyone was catching up on the Oshkosh adventure, but all seemed to be relieved to be back on their way to a slower place. Frank and Andrew left ahead of us, while Duane and I paid for the fuel we had taken on. The young line guy was impressed with our takeoff two days before and seemed to appreciate the uniqueness of it. If wish now that I would have had the presence of mind to offer him a ride. Inside the lounge we chatted for a while, unwinding from the events of the last two days. It struck me that another chapter of the adventure was closing and another about to open. I waxed a little philosophical in my own mind, about how similar the events of this two weeks could be parallel to life. We had made dozens of new friends and became close to a handful of them. We were each experiencing the adventure of flight together, but from entirely different perspectives. Quite an honor to share a few moments in time with such quality folk. Before long, Frank and Andrew headed south, and we followed out to take off. Kim was the first off the ground and I followed him. Duane was really the only one paying attention to our direction of flight. I was following Kim and enjoying the scenery. We weren't keeping close touch with each other. I never saw Duane, but he soon figured out that the line on his chart was nowhere near the path we were following and broke off. I soon lost Kim and headed in the general direction with lots of detours to see the lakes and cities along the way. Kim realized that he had mistaken one lake for another, and worrying that I was going to get lost after a bum steer on TO, tried to catch up to me. I was surprised to see him when he appeared again. He made a sweeping turn that make me think that he wanted me to follow him so I did. Must have made him feel better. The only thing I still can't really figure out, is that I was the first one to Brodhead by about 10 minutes. The joys of dead reckoning! Lots of people had arrived since our departure to OSH! Everything looked official, there were signs and tables set up and a line for lunch. Speaking of food the EAA chapter folks put on great meals and they were very reasonably priced, even considering the price abuse we had at AirVenture. I soon acquainted myself with the Piet legends, including Grant MacLaren, Orin Hoopman, and Vi Kapler. Orin had about 30 members of his family there for the anniversary and anyone who wanted a ride got one I think. I soon had my white cap and official button. I picked up an extra white cap for Mitch Burns, I know that he was looking forward to the event, and we wanted him to have the memento. Being accustomed to mailing hats I volunteered to send it to him. I bought meal tickets and found my smoke oil right where I had left it three days before. Between giving countless rides and questions, I made a call home to check in with Mandy-Marie and the kids. She was glad to hear that all was going well, and reported that she still hadn't received a letter from me yet. I wrote home everyday. Hundreds of piet people were everywhere, they say that we had over 400 for dinner that night. The corn and brats were wonderful. I must have eaten 4 cobs before my body threatened to explode. I got to meet many of the members of the discussion group, I was pleased with so many who expressed their appreciation in running the list, it is a pleasure. Everyone was really kind and there was no lack of willing helpers to get things done. I think the smoke was a hit. After dinner I filled the bug sprayer and went on a mosquito raid. I burned lots of oil and enjoyed every minute of it. I am amazed how much smoke the little system put out, and how long it lingered. I began to wonder if I might be making a nuisance of myself, but after seeing this shot by Doug Sheets, I didn't worry. As Doug said "Eat your heart out Mike Cuy!" I say, thanks Mike for the idea!
I wish that I had smoked the tree camping area a little better however. I never made it to bed early, and tonight was no exception. I had setup my tent earlier, but unfortunately left my tent open a little bit. Oh what fun to have a tent full of fire ants! After returning home I was still finding them in my stuff. The heat and humidity were oppressive. I couldn't have been more wet in a swimming pool. For the next half hour between trying to resuscitate my air mattress and killing off the errant ants, succeeded in keeping the rest of the camp up either laughing their heads off or cursing me for the late night noise. At least I don't snore. (if you believe that I have this bridge...) Sleep didn't come until the cold front blew threw in the early hours of the morning. I was so happy to have a cool wind!
Day NINE July 31, 1999
Second day of Brodhead 99'
Waking up this morning was strange. I was used to wind, rain, heat and humidity, but this morning was pleasant and cool. The dew hadn't settled near as thick as it had previous days. Clouds blocked the sunrise and a ceiling of gray lingered until late afternoon. This would be my last day in Brodhead, and I wanted it to be a day to remember. I started up and as the self appointed dawn patrol, made for my plane. I untied the ropes and paused as I looked out over the serenity of our little fly-in. The wasn't' any ground fog this morning, but it was still and quiet. The front had blown all the heat out, and now was gone. I could almost hear the lingering notes of last nights bluegrass banjo player. A number of pietenpol's were nestled center field surrounded by damp tents. To the south were many classic aircraft, their owners still snoozing. The prop caught on the second pull and the echoed bark of the Continental rumbled back across the field. My partner on this flight was a fellow from Brazil. He and his friend had caught a flight in Yesterday, and I had promised him the first flight since we were denied last evening due to a flooded engine and falling darkness. I wish I had his name. I think it was Carlos. They didn't have much time before they had to catch a flight out and they were waiting nearby. We loaded up and taxied slowly to give the engine time to warm up, but mostly to enjoy watching the dew trace a shimmering arch off the top of the tires. As we throttled up the arch turned to a violent spray and stung the bottom of the wing briefly before the tires lost their grip. At that instant the plane surged as it was released from the drag of grass grown tall. Our take off was away from the rising sun, and we climbed slowly we turned again to the east. The Dawn Patrol stormed over the camp sounding the wake-up call, and signaling the beginning of Brodhead Day Two. Before terrorizing the group again we headed further east to inspect the damage done to Ted Davis's hangar. The front third of the wood structure was collected in a heap. They had cleaned up the worst of the mess in the previous days, and I saw some of the damaged planes that were dismantled and brought to Brodhead for repair. On our return we strafed the airfield again, but this time we were looking down upon a growing crowd. The lines of those wanting rides were beginning to form around piets coming to life. Ted Bruesuau, Kim Stricker, Jim Kinsella, and several others hopped rides all morning. At some point I stopped for breakfast, nearly missing it altogether. More fun to fly than eat. I lost count of how many rides I gave before Duane caught me during a passenger exchange and said that I might want to get packed. He was feeling understandably uncomfortable with someone else's airplane. I think the sale of his plan cast a mellow hue on the event for him. He was good to answer questions, but was anxious to get on his way to Terra Haute, to deliver his plane to the new owner. I hurriedly went through my junk and cast everything into the car that I figured I wouldn't need for the trip home or, rather could do without. All the heavy stuff was banished to the car. I only loaded my sleeping bag, flight gear, extra oil, and some clothes. Duane and Lars rolled out not long after to deliver Stan to the airport. He had to be home for work on Monday, so caught a plane from Madison. It seemed like just a few minutes had passed when they returned. I was still hopping rides. I moved my gear across the field and filled my tank for the last time. I had one more ride promised to a teenage boy, that had to wait until after I inspected the now departing crowd of model A club members that had shared the time machine we call Brodhead. Around that time I ran into a piet of a smaller scale that captured my heart. It is the new Pedal Piet designed for young tots by Marv Hoppenworth of Aviation Products I had seen it as Oshkosh and promised myself that I would build a couple for my kids. The plans are not yet available, but I have $20 set apart for them when they come out. Hope to have one of the first customer completed copies don'tchaknow. I heard the familiar din of Duane's Subaru overhead and it made me stop. I watched as he circled once and headed south till he was out of site. To say that I didn't feel pangs of regret would be a lie as I watched the red and yellow plane fly away for the last time. It would be a recurring event over the next few hours. I determined that I wanted to get the first leg of my return journey over before it got to late. Platteville would be my first stop, and my first overnight stay. I'm not sure why I left instead of staying till Sunday morning, but looking back now I realize that I didn't want to see the others trickle out, rather I wanted my last recollections of this wonderful place to be stocked with people, planes and memories. I enjoyed the company of the model A club folks and their beautiful looking cars and trucks. Maybe I'll include a auto restoration project one of these days. I couldn't do it on an empty stomach however, and dinner was beginning to look mighty tempting. The dinner crew were cooking the pork chops in grand fashion and it smelled wonderful. Until you partake of a feast like that you haven't enjoyed a hungry man's meal. I rolled away and spent the last few minutes chatting with Mike List, Dominic Bellisimo, Larry Williams and his father Ray. I loaded up and Larry did the honors up front. I guess I mustn't omit a few words about my farewell. It is still hard to describe what I had felt. Many that I became acquainted with bid farewell with hearty congratulations and best wishes. Charlie Ruebeck said it best as I explained that I was leaving. He said, "You're coming back again next year right?" I said that it wasn't likely and he replied "You've got to come back, fly back, drive back, even if you have to crawl back, you com'mon back ya hear!" I admit it, I tear up easy and I had to turn away before I clouded up terribly. Kim had just landed and was loading up yet another passenger and we pledged to do one more round out in the countryside. I really was looking forward to that. I taxied out past the only other Stinson 10A that I have ever seen. Linda and her partner gave a hearty wave. They had been gracious enough to let me crawl all over their plane for pictures and ideas for my 10A restoration project. Too bad I never got a chance to bum a ride. Heading up the slope to the runway was routine by now and I taxied up to the highest corner to take advantage of the downhill third of the turf runway. After a couple of skips I was airborne for the last time from the friendliest place on earth. I circled twice and did a wing waggle. To my astonishment the reply was unanimous from the ground. What a feeling! For an instant I felt like a hometown hero. Tucked in on my starboard side was Kim in his yellow GN-1. We danced low over the corn and beans. It was choreography at it's best. Just past the deep green and blue of the forest lake I broke out and soared high, signaling my departure. I'll always remember Kim's lasting high five till we couldn't see each other any longer. I had only a brief second to turn to a West course before all that I had bottled up came welling out. The emotion of just having accomplished a dream, combined with the reality of many hours of flight that separated me from my home, wife and children, couldn't be ignored any longer. After twenty minutes I decided that I really ought to pay attention to what was passing underneath me. Platteville was out there somewhere, but it may as well have been invisible, since the angle of the setting sun was washing any detail of the ground away in the orange rays that soon would be twilight. Accurate dead reckoning relies on accurate information, and although I had started my stopwatch when Kim and I waved off, I wasn't quite sure of my course. I figured that I was close when my map showed a race track below. Never mind that I mistook it for a high-school race track. It looked like it was in the right place. At 55 minutes however, the airport was nowhere in sight. I began to wonder where it was. It took me a second to arrive at the determination that I must be south of course somewhat. I decided to do what aviation folklore suggests and circle a water tower. That did the trick. I found that the city I was circling was Cuba City. A little looking on my map and I soon found myself again. Five miles to the north was Platteville. I was happy to follow the road north to the now visible airport. I landed, and soon found that I was alone at the airport. The lobby was open however and after a brief phone call for fuel, and an invitation to spend the night, I unrolled my bag and fell asleep. Even though the floor was hard, the air-conditioning and lack of bugs made up for the discomfort.
Day TEN Sunday August 1, 1999
Platteville to Lexington NE
I had my eye on the weather and a quick check on the nifty FBO
weather station confirmed what I was seeing last night. I was amazed and
ecstatic to find that I actually was going to be flying in an East wind.
Tailwinds both ways?! I could live with that. I was in the air by
6:30. My first stop would be Vinton IA, and was pleased to find that in
reality I was making about 85mph ground speed. Life was good. I had
planned five days to make the trip back home due to the expected headwinds, but
now that I was in the air, I promised myself that I would make the best of the
tailwinds and fly as long as the sun shined! Vinton soon appeared (the
runway had been fixed), but instead of landing on the main runway, I took
advantage of the crosswind runway. Strangely the NE wind turned much more
northerly on the ground. I trusted the wind tee and found that the wind
was almost 40 degrees different than at altitude. I hated to call anyone
out on Sunday to pump gas, but owing to the need, I called the numbers.
There was no answer, and a busy signal, so after checking my chart, I decided
since I had good winds, and more still an hour plus reserves, I would head
another 55 miles to Marshalltown. There I did find someone at the airport,
and they did have gas, but I also found that they were pretty proud of the 100LL
there. At $2.23 a gallon they charged the highest price I found on the
trip. Harlan, the next stop was just the opposite end of the spectrum
however, and after just over an hour and a half I was happy to pay the $1.63.
It was prices like this that made me wish I had an extra tank that needed
filling. Just before my arrival in Harlan, I was feeling really guilty for
not being able to attend church. As I over flew a country chapel, I
was really tempted to drop in on the dirt road and just taxi up to the parking
lot. Better sense prevailed and I pressed on. I wonder what story I
would have had to tell if I actually would have done it. I found a group
of aviators on a morning breakfast run, exercising their talents in cool
airplanes such as a Waco and a C-170. No sooner had I pulled up and shut
down, did a flight of T-34's in formation arrive. I was in a hurry,
and worried that I might get stuck in line gassing or paying my bill, thank
goodness that the fellow could see that I was in a hurry and let me pay before
waiting on the war-birds. In no time I was headed out in company with the
170. Tail dragger pilots seem to pay a little more attention to wind
direction and both of us taxied out to the NS grass runway while a 152 took off
to the West. I was first to take off, and made no delay in turning west
again. As if by program at about 500' the wind changed direction and blew
my way. I was tempted to fly a little higher and take advantage of
stronger winds, but the lure and smell of the morning countryside kept me low.
Along the route the high clouds and blue skies turned to a thin overcast.
I didn't pay it much attention, rather I kept watching with glee as I passed
smoke stacks and garbage fires whose thick smoke tails indicated that I was
getting more for my gas dollar than I really should be. Central City was the
next stop since my time to Fremont passed under wing before it should have.
Passing a planned gas stop gave me mixed feelings. I was happy to be
beating the wind odds, yet somehow I felt that I was cheating reality, yet
westward I pressed as fast as I could go. I arrived over Central City and
soon realized that this little strip landing was going to be tricky. The
wind was whipping the corn fields in waves. I watched the waves disappear
as they blew over the cut hay fields, but one thing was sure, the tailwind I was
riding on was going to be a mighty crosswind at this one runway airport. I
could either land, crash, or fly on till I ran out of gas and crash. I
admit I was partial to the first option, but just how I would accomplish it was
still a question. About this time I saw a J-3 on the taxi-way. I
couldn't tell if he had just landed or was headed out, but on my next circuit
one thing was clear, he was headed to the hangers. I felt a little better
that he was on the ground and still right side up. I made the decision
however that the mighty crosswind was not for me. I quartered across
the airport and headed straight for the gas pumps on my new intended landing
path. I have landed in a 30 knot headwind once before and knew that as
long as I didn't turn I could land on a dime and taxi without a wing ding.
Finally on my third pass I committed the Air Camper to the ground in the
neighbors fresh cut hay field. I passed over the corn and a 4' fence and
plopped down in the stubble. I was still carrying power at touchdown, and
had to throttle up to cross the runway. I taxied through the median
careful not to turn and watching for ditches and lights. I didn't change
course more than 3 degrees as I shut down in front of the pumps. The two
J-3 pilots grinned from their mount after watching the unusual arrival.
The pilot said, "Wish I'd have thought of that we fought it the whole way
down." After dismounting the wind wasn't as strong as I thought, but
it was certainly not a bad landing. In Central, you have to call the cops
on yourself to get fuel. Mable the switch operator, calls "Hank" the
sheriff to come down to the airport. The city must not be to far away,
because the officer showed up quickly in his new patrol car, and off duty duds.
They don't take American Express, VISA or any plastic, and they don't have
change. Good thing I had a check, or else it would have been a big tip to
the local law enforcement officer. There must have been something good on
TV because before I could get the plane turned around "Hank" was
making a trail back to town. Moments of solitude like this were ones to
savor. I hesitated before hand propping the A-65 and took a look around.
Everyone had gone and all you could hear was the clanking of old hanger doors,
and the rustle of the wind in the crops. Getting airborne again was still
a heavy control input affair, and I was glad that I had cut myself the extra
slack on landing. Passing by the row of hangers I could feel the
disturbance in the airflow. My west turn-out was a gradual one. I could
feel in the stick that the margin of buoyancy was still low. I was
actually sailing that wing for a moment until I gained momentum in the turn, and
the wind had me firmly in its grasp. Lexington was the next leg and at only 92
miles I expected it to be a short hour trip. After about 35 minutes
however, the clouds would no longer be ignored. I was about to pay my dues
to the wind gods. Ahead I could see a scattered layer of puff balls at
about 500' Visibility was still 30 to 40 miles to the west and north, but
south was looking grim. Virga had formed around Grand Island, and I began
to feel cold. The t-shirt I was wearing at central had been covered by a
sweatshirt. I couldn't believe my thermometer as it dropped to 60 degrees.
I was no longer thirsty and hot, instead the cool air was starting chill me.
Visibility 10 miles from my destination sheathed the airport. I began
looking for at my alternates. Along this stretch of I-80 I had my pick of
many little towns and small strips. I had marked a couple on my chart as I
flew East. I began to get some light rain and decided that I wouldn't be
stretching this leg. I was ready to get down out of this mess. I was
at 1000' and heading around a pocket of rain to the north when I caught sight of
Lexington. It had just been dumped on. A wall of clouds curtained
any further points west. The last five miles seemed to take forever. I
touched down in light rain at 2:10pm. There would be no more flying today.
was the only plane on the ramp.
The wind that had pushed behind me all
day had vanished. I thought I had entered a new season in a time machine.
Indeed that was the case. The temps on the ground were less than 60
degrees, and the drizzle turned to rain off and on for the next hour. Just
by some miracle I was hoping for the clouds to lift and allow me another couple
hundred miles, but the reality of my soon to be overnight stay set in when I saw
the report on the weather channel. It must have showed because the airport
manager offered me the couch and a hanger as I paid my fuel bill. If you
ever have to get stuck, this was a nice place to do it. The folks there
turned the whole office over to me and invited me to take the car and get a bite
to eat. The young line boy helped me hanger my plane. One of the
locals gave me directions, and even pointed out an LDS church that I might get a
late meeting in. Turns out they were done for the day, but I appreciated
the gesture. Following the directions to the fast food joints I picked out
a Wendy's and at a hot baked potato and chili for dinner. If you love
frosties like I do, you'll understand why I had to have one even after just
warming my chilled bones. Back at the airport, the gal was just locking up
and acquainted me with the kitchen and the fully stocked refrigerator. I
was amazed at their friendliness and the interest they had in making me
comfortable. I was glad for the rest, soft couch and the TV remote.
I spent an hour or so planning the next day and watching the weather channel.
The weather and wind I so much enjoyed during the first of the day was
collecting dues. A stationary front blocked my path with IFR conditions
for the next 300 miles. The briefer said I might have a chance late in the
morning. I took the chance to write a letter and catch up on a little
reading before letting exhaustion overtake me about 9:30pm.
Day ELEVEN Monday August 2, 1999
Lexington to North Platte to Vernal
The kind lady who turned the whole place over to me last night warned me that if the weather was good, that I would be joined early in the morning by the duster pilots. They had stuck my plane in the path of the dusters, and so I would have to pack it out before they could start spraying. I took it as good news when I heard the door open about 6am. Dave is a reserved kind of guy that didn't open right up. You can tell the duster pilots by how cautious they are. As soon as I told him who I was and what I was doing their he took interest. Turns out he had seen Duane and I inbound to LEX while he was dusting nearby. He said that he had just finished dropping his load when we flew over and pulled up to check us out. He was surprised when I confessed that we never even saw him. He had pulled up right behind and to the right during our descent 9 days ago. He became my advocate and showed me around. The weather started to look promising about 8am, and Dave called several of the airports on my path and found that the weather was still gray, but well above minimums. I jumped at the chance and piled my gear in the plane. He assured me that if the weather got bad I had my pick of airports since they are only about 6 miles apart for the next 40 miles. I didn't have weather trouble, but kept an eye out on the clouds as I again headed west. Following a river and a major highway made navigation a snap. I had hopes of making it home, but approaching North Platte, I realized that the window of good weather was being slammed shut again. North Platte was a repeat of Yesterday, and I elected to set down after a brief trip of only 55 miles. I had stumbled on to the airport where at least a dozen other returning Oshkosh folks were stuck the previous night. I counted myself considerate that I got stopped in a place where I was alone. I parked behind several show planes including a Stinson 108, two Yaks, two Lancair IV's and several other weather capable GA aircraft. This was a interesting group. As the morning wore on people soon realized that their group had been joined by a strange solo pilot. I had a interesting effect on some of them their. One of the Yak pilots even bowed low in mock respect, when he discovered what I was flying and at what speed. I had to laugh. I made friends with a pilot carrying freight. He gave me the grand tour of his Beech 99. When we returned to the pilot lounge it was full. I suppose that everyone checked out of their hotels about the same time. There was a constant line of folks checking the weather. A few finally gave up and filed IFR and headed out. The clouds and visibility made it just below VFR minimums and the briefers were not encouraging. The wind had pushed lots of moisture ahead of it and now the Rocky Mountains had dammed it up for hundreds of miles. I knew that if could get through it that there was clear skies beyond, but for now the clouds were king. The half our updates to the weather were taunting me. for hours the ceilings would lift at distant airports, while nearby station remained socked in. Then local weather would improve, just to have the next airport in hard cover. It was getting on my nerves, but I knew that to be too anxious would invite poor judgment. I finally gave up and had a snack of dry cold cereal, and raisins. Someone put in a video tape of Jimmy Franklins Jet powered Waco. It wasn't like being their, but it still held interest. Finally about two o'clock I got the break I had been waiting for. 1200' ceilings and better than 10 miles vis for the next 150 miles. That was good enough for me since that was two hours flying. No one else got to excited, and some may even have thought I was nuts to go. Until you fly at 75mph, 150 miles may not seem like a long distance. Three pilots I had become acquainted with braved the cool walk down to my plane. Curiosity makes you sacrifice comfort once in a while and the three of them helped me load up. They were impressed with the simplicity of the piet, it showed on their faces. Astonishment is usually the dead give away. One of them propped me and I taxied out behind an orange Bonanza. The taxiway is the old runway, and the big Banana blocked all access to the runway. I was anxious to depart after the waiting, and soon realize it would be a long time before the pilot would finish getting his clearance. I did a quick runup, turned a 180 and took off. Last thing I remember seeing was the Bonanza still sitting there. The next thing I noticed was that the weather was still like crap. Legal yes, but had I been going any faster the three to five miles I had would have seemed like a lot less. I stayed right around 500' feet and followed the road and river toward Ogallala. I decided that if things didn't improve, I was going to stop again, but after about 20 minutes it lightened up and the visibility improved. The ceilings were still below 2000' but the visibility was back up to 15-20 miles. I take for granted all the severe clear days with better than 50 miles visibility at home. Having tanked up in North Platte I was good to go again for two hours and since the weather seemed to be cooperating I skipped OGA and headed onward to another one of my favorite stops on the way out, Kimball NE. The folks at Kimball were great hosts and invited us to come back. I had just registered 2 hours and 5 minutes when the wheels touched down. I knew that I would have a hard time making it the rest of the way home during daylight today, since this is where we stopped our first night, but at the same time it was a comfort to know that I was within just a day's flying to be home. I still had plenty of light left and fueled quickly. The East wind, although weaker than it had been Yesterday, still prevailed and I was gaining and extra five or six miles per hour. For some reason the next leg seemed like a daunting one. I suppose that it was because I would have to gain nearly a mile of altitude to cross the first range of mountains that stood in between Cheyenne and Laramie. I was accustomed to low land flying, and knew that this leg would mark the end of the great sea level performance. I had noticed that the terrain on the last few legs had crept up toward me and I added an extra 500' or so to my cruising altitude every hour or so. After take off from Kimball however, I could see that I was going to spend most of my time trying to keep pace with the rise to the Rocky Mountains. Just east of Cheyenne the overcast gave way to several miles of puffy clouds. The overcast dissipated, and in its place, late afternoon cumulus clouds were forming in my path. I skirted south of Cheyenne and squinted my eyes tightly to see if I could see metro Denver, where I grew up. I couldn't quite see that far, but I recognized the north end of the front range that I had become so accustomed to in my early training days. I had to make 9000' or more before I could pass over the range of mountains ahead. You wouldn't think the Piet is a good slope airplane, but I am here to tell you that that big Hershey bar wing will pick up the lift. I flew within sight of I-80, and with the climb pulled in I was just loosing the race with the cars on the highway. I had the truckers beat however, at least those dragging a load up the mountainside. I followed the terrain at 500' I never could seem to get above the ground more than that, but always seemed to be able to maintain at least that much. Maybe there is such a thing as mountain wave ground effect. I dunno, but soon I was in sight of the big "X" that is Laramie airport. Construction on the south end of the runway was still underway, but again the north wind dictated the use of the northern half. The wind is a constant in Wyoming, and it was blowing with force this afternoon. I only rolled a few feet on touchdown, reminding me of the thick air I had left behind. The northeast wind was again a blessing since the area north of Elk Mountain is normally very windy due to the natural venturi that is created by the landscape. In fact one of the prominent landmarks is a ridge that is lined at the crest by huge windmills. On our way eastward all 50 or so were working the momentum of the wind into energy with their huge blades sweeping arches through the invisible fluid. This time however not one moved. The blades were still, and I was free from the grasp of the wind that surely would have held me bound. I felt like I was tiptoeing past a sleeping giant. Rawlins was the highest and the oldest looking airport on my route and soon came into view. I landed about 6:10pm. I hoped to get fueled and get airborne ASAP, and beat the setting sun to Vernal. I would have to cross some of the most barren land of the whole trip and stretch this leg 154 miles. But if I did, I would cut off a 90mile dogleg to Rock Springs, and only have 90 minutes of flying for the last leg in the morning. I noticed Jim Weir's RST insignia on a light blue straight tail 172, and hoped to meet the avionic legend, but he had already called it a day and headed in to town to find a motel. I left a card on his seat. With the fuel pumped and the clock running I broke ground 4 minutes faster than my goal of 6:30pm. Density altitude was again a reality again as I climbed against nearly 11000' rarified air. I finally found a weak thermal and played it up to 9000' msl which was enough to start the trek across the high desert. This leg I broke out my Garmin 12XL GPS. Although I had a map, all the landmarks looked the same, and I wanted the added security of the little pointer verifying that I wasn't going the wrong way. Even so I powered it on only long enough to get a fix and a course and shut it down again. I checked it again every 20 or thirty minutes. The first hour was desolate. The only thing in sight were a few old oil wells. Out in the middle of nowhere I saw a pickup truck, no road for miles, strange. The last hour was nothing but postcard vista's. I was passing near dinosaur national monument. The Green river carved canyons on every side glowed in the last low rays of sun. I closed in on Vernal still at 9500'. Mountains surround the community carved in the small valley. I circled several times to loose altitude, watching several R/C planes finishing their last flights at the north end of the airport. The air was still. Base to final was normal but the touchdown was miserable. I'm afraid that I got use to the visual picture and speed of the thick creamy air down low. The headwinds at the last two airports perpetuated the illusion, because when I "arrived" this time I was not prepared for the visual picture of speed that I had. I tried to slow things down, and dropped in a little high. I instantly knew what was going on, but it was all said and done before I could adjust. Even if I'd had a passenger I doubt they would have noticed, but it still amazes me what a stark difference it made to have dense air. I vowed that I would pay more attention. The modelers were just packing up as I taxied by toward an empty ramp. Monday's daylight had run out. The lounge was open, and after a quick call home, and one to the airport manager, I had a car and directions to JB's. I brought my flight gear and planned my last leg. I could have done without charts, clocks, flight plans on this leg since I was now in my back yard, but routine had set in and I made careful plans and wrote everything down. I would arrive home in the morning.
Day TWELVE Tuesday August 3, 1999
Vernal to Home.
The last leg. What a bitter sweet feeling. Showers. I just love an airport with showers. I was so pleased that I wouldn't have to arrive home smelling like a horse. I finished dressing and packing my few things when Don arrived to fill my tank. I thanked him for the couch and shower and the use of his courtesy truck. The folks here in Vernal are really friendly, as most small airport people are, but these guys have been around forever, and love homebuilts. Don showed me his one of a kind Champ like bird, and wanted to chat about my adventure. I could have talked all day, but my destination was so close I may have wrapped up the chit-chat prematurely. I could tell that he understood though and offered to prop me. I was soon at the intersection of runways and owing to last nights landing back taxied to the end. The old high altitude airport habits were kicking back into gear. Most spam can drivers and home build hot rodders may not know that taking off from vernal is like lifting off from the bottom of a cereal bowl. Those low powered pilots among us would appreciate that I was climbing like mad to the west, but not until I flew over the ridge was I any higher over the ground that when I hit the far end of the runway. Head for the low spot on the ridge line and race the cars to the peak. I kept climbing until I leveled off at 8500'. Duchene and Roosevelt soon slipped beneath and behind. The last significant landmark lay just behind the next few ridges. Strawberry Reservoir is a high desert gem. The ridges and valleys scribe a watery labyrinth to the fishermen, whose secrets remain hidden except to those who pass overhead. It looks like a mini Lake Powell. The fishermen were out early. The last ridge before entering my final decent into Utah Valley, marks the border between the desert hills and the high forests. Millions of pine and scrub oak decorate the mountains. The morning light cast long sunrise shadows of the trees on the pale cliffs. Enough with the scenery, I was going to make a grand entrance to the valley! My neighborhood is on the East edge of Provo. "Y" mountain rises nearly 8500' less than a mile and a half from my home. I burst over the top and shot a few pictures from over a mile high. My tight spiral down into the valley would notify the whole neighborhood. I had my eye on my front door, and after about 13 revolutions, and a 4000' drop, my kids ran out the door. My neighbor, Ted Duffin was outside too. Mandy-Marie appeared only long enough for a quick wave, and as soon as she went back in the kids disappeared inside to get dressed. I arrived overhead at about 8:15, before the sun had a chance to make it over the mountain. I gave a hearty wing waggle in victory and turned south to Spanish Fork. I was an hour earlier that I suspected and it took an extra few minutes for the wife and kids to meet me at the airport, since they were just getting up when I flew over. I hope the kids will always remember running out to greet me in their pajamas. The last landing was perfect, at the deserted airfield. Triumphantly I shut down the trusty A-65 for the last time and patted it on the head. The excitement of the arrival of the rest of my family can not be adequately described. It is captured in part in some of the pictures, but it will live vividly with me. What a reunion! The longest that Mandy-Marie and I had ever been apart since we met had been only 5 days. I was overjoyed to see her again. The kids were excited. Crandall, my 15 month old son wouldn't let me put him down. He cried as I strapped him in to his car seat. I think he thought I was leaving. I watched him watch me as I walked around to the drivers seat. He seemed much relieved when I took my spot in the car. We spent the rest of the day getting reacquainted and telling the stories of the adventure of the last two weeks. The bitterness of an adventure ended was lost in the sweetness of arriving HOME.
It has taken nearly as many hours to write this all down as it did to make the flight! If you have made it this far you are more than qualified with enough patience (and time) to build a Pietenpol. Construction of my Air Camper began in February 1995, after being introduced to the design by a fellow homebuilder Gordon Nichol. Gordon provided much of the help that I needed to gain the skills to make a successful project. After less than 800 hours of building, the first flight was during my lunch hour November 17, 1999. I had put just over 100 hours before this trip. Duane and I made the decision to go in February of this year. I hope to repeat this trip again perhaps again in formation with one of my brothers or my Dad in their own Pietenpol. I will defiantly make the trip back to Brodhead. Lastly, I would like to thank my understanding and loving wife for supporting me in my flying. She is the greatest and never stifles my dreams. I hope that I am doing the same for her. I currently have plans to build a Wittman W-10 Tailwind, in addition to restoring the Stinson 10A that I have stuffed in my garage.