Oshkosh '91


Took off from PAE around 3pm, landed in Lewistown, Mont. 4.5 hours later. While descending for a landing with the field in sight, I was told by Seattle center to cancel my IFR flight plan on the ground, their freq. 133.4. I tried this frequency along with several others listed on the remote outlet while taxiing, but no one could hear me from the ground. There was a FSS on the field but it was closed by the time I arrived. Having not contacted anyone, and being worried about contacting Seattle center before my 1/2 hour was up, I ran around the deserted airport frantically looking for a phone. Finally I flagged a forest service truck down, who told me there was a phone on the far side of a building about 1/2 of the airport away. I ran to the phone in the 6000' Dens. alt, and the 85 deg temp, and estimate I called flight service with at least 10 or 15 min. to spare. They had already called the police to come out to the airport and look for me. I guess I called just in time to stop the search. The moral of this story might be, if you are in a position to cancel IFR in the air, DO SO, especially if you are unfamiliar with the airport, and there is no one around. Of course there have also been reports of people cancelling in the air, then crashing on landing. I guess what I should have done, is said, "I will cancel on the ground in 25 min., if unable this freq." (less time if you know where the phone is.) I knew there was a phone on the field, since the airport had an instrument approach, flyable after the FSS closed. I stayed at a low budget motel that night for $18, and ate a huge dinner at a place called the Snow White Cafe for $5.95. There were OLD '50s and '60s pickups with gun racks all over the streets.


I got to the airport around 9am, and although the AOPA airport handbook stated fuel 8-5, I had to get someone to call the fuel guy in, to fuel me up. During my flight, I was at 9000, and center kept calling traffic 3 miles away at 9500, heading the same direction, eventually I saw this low wing fixed gear aircraft which I was gaining on, but slowly, he must have been about 3 knots slower than me, and eventually I passed him. I had planned to fly from Lewistown to Fargo N. Dak. for the next leg. The weather looked fair with only a slight chance of thunderstorms in VFR conditions (i.e. you could/should be able to fly around them) close to Fargo. I departed anxious to land at a nice crowded airport with a tower. By 20 nm. from Bismark, I could see there were IFR conditions just past Bismark. I called Flight service to see if there were Thunderstorms still predicted for the area, and not only were there predicted, but actual thunderstorms in the clouds ahead. I quickly changed my destination to Bismark, and stayed at the airport waiting for the weather to improve. After landing, with severe gusts due to the front passage, and getting a cup of coffee, I saw this Piper Archer II pull up to the FBO I was at, it looked like the same plane I had passed earlier, it was. I had lunch with the two pilots at the main terminal building. After several hours of watching the lines of thunderstorms I decided to call Flight service and see if there was a way around these thunderstorms. I was very intent on where the woman at flight service was telling me the lines were, and which direction they were moving, and thought I could see a path along V-2 which would avoid the thunderstorms when she said, "this was just in, there is a tornado watch alert in the area along that route until 11pm." Well I had heard enough I stopped her, and said. O.k. you don't have to tell me anymore, I'll try again tomorrow. I got a hotel room for the night.


In the morning there was still a line of thunderstorms in my path, however, the line would be past Redwood Falls, MN. So I decided to fly their, land, and see what the weather was like. Shortly after takeoff, while still in a climb at 2500 rpm, my tachometer reading dropped to 0, but the engine was still running the same. I assumed the cable had snapped, since everything else looked o.k. I informed Bismark Departure of the problem, they asked me if I wanted to declare an emergency. Since I had charts which showed me my TAS, at a given density altitude, manifold pressure, and rpm, I figured I could get pretty close to my expected cruise of 18.8" man. press. and 2300rpm by backing off the prop, while calculating the true airspeed, so I told Bismark approach, there was no real problem, I just wanted to inform them of the defective instrument. I think I was pretty close to 2300rpm, at least close enough. While I was in flight to Redwood Falls, I started to wonder if they would have a mechanic at the field who could fix the tach. cable. I looked up the only FBO listed at Redwood Falls in the AOPA airport guide, found a phone number, and asked Minneapolis center if they could call and find out for me. Minneapolis center was very nice, and came back a few minutes later there was no mechanic there on Mondays, but there was one at another airport 30 nm. away. So I requested a change of destinations to Marshall, MN. Shot a VOR approach with a circle to land, and 4 hours later, after lunch, and watching a mechanic take off my starter to get to the tach. cable and replace it, there were no thunderstorms between me and Appleton, WI my next stop. I was able to land at Appleton without further mishap 2.1 hours after Marshall, and parked amongst 75 other Navions, I climbed to 11000 to avoid some questionable weather, and noticed I had a 35 knot tailwind.


I spent the next 2 days hangar flying with all the other Navioneers, and discussing the pros and cons of Navions, and getting all kinds of information. There were about 2300 Navions built, some Military versions (L-17s), some twin Navions, and most single civilian Navions. I think the last Navion was built by Ryan? in the late 60's early 70s but bore little resemblance to a "real" Navion. Most Navions were built in the late 40s, early 50s There are around 1500 Navions registered worldwide, and an estimated 300 others not registered, not bad for an aircraft which began production in late 1946.


Awoke at 4am, and was ready for the briefing to fly en masse to Oshkosh by 5:30am. I had met someone ("Bud") who was putting together a Navion, but had never ridden in one. I had already topped off all the tanks, so with full baggage, I could not carry him and the baggage. But he had relatives, and was already camped at Oshkosh, and wanted a ride about as bad as I wanted to show off the Navion, so we worked out a swap. His son, and daughter in-law, drove up with him to Appleton, and his son flew in one Navion, he flew in our Navion, and my baggage was driven to Oshkosh by his daughter in-law.

While we were taxiing out, 50 of us Navions single file, we heard someone had a flat tire, and someone else had a prop strike on a tall stake in the grass. Due to my wonderful radio work on the ground, I was not cleared to takeoff in time to follow the Navion in front of me, so we had to find our own way. The flight was pleasant, and we arrived at Oshkosh just before 7am, sequenced ourselves on the taxiway (rwy 18L) and were back in the thick of the Navions landing alternately on 18R, and 18L. Bud found out later, the Navion his son was in, had its exhaust stack fall off, but not out of the cowling, They made it to Oshkosh without incident, at reduced power, and excess noise.

There was supposed to be a "final plane" which would tell Oshkosh tower we were all down, but this plane had to turn back to Appleton, due to some kind of engine problems.


I spent most of the mornings going to Forums on everything from the SR-71s performance, to a gyroless autopilot kit. And most of the rest of the time walking and looking at planes.


I asked for an IFR departure from Oshkosh the night before. After calling clearance 10 minutes before 11am (my planned departure time) I was told to wait 10 minutes prior to engine start. Then I was told to wait another 10 minutes. I was finally given a clearance and told to contact the ground on 120.7 (the ifr ground freq.) Once clear of the parking area. I followed ground control by following a guy on a moped out to the taxiway. Contacted ifr ground and announced IFR to Fargo, with clearance. They told me to contact ground on 121.9 ( the vfr ground freq.) I did this and was directed to rwy 18R. All the time I was taxiing, I was doing my runup everything passed including the mag check. At rwy 18, I was given directions which looked suspiciously like VFR directions, and seeing as how the IFR traffic was supposed to be departing rwy 27, I held up my IFR card, and showed it to the controller who was clearing takeoffs visually This confused her, and she waved me back up the runway to allow other VFR traffic to depart. Finally ground asked me if I had a problem taking off from 18R, I responded, I did not, but that I was IFR, and the published departure for IFR traffic was from rwy 9/27, and I was just making sure there was no confusion. Several minutes later I was directed off the runway, then back on and cleared to depart with an IFR heading. I grinned and waved at the controller, just to show I understood we were both just cogs in the system.

On climbout I started noticing the EGT readings were slightly higher than I would expect. And on levelling out and backing off to cruise, the EGTs were definitely higher, I did the correct leaning procedure and shortly thereafter noticed my groundspeed was on 99 knots, it should have been 110 knots, with a 20 knot headwind. I started to do a wind calculation, when I noticed my TAS was only 121 knots instead of somewhere around 130 knots. I then started looking for a reason for this lack of airspeed. My first thought was to the airframe, but the flaps and gear were in fact up, and the cowl flaps closed, my next thought was to the engine. I did not suspect carb icing, but just to see what would happen, I pulled the carb heat out. The engine almost died, and didn't get better, so I pushed the carb heat off. This would tend to indicate the mixture was too rich, but I had leaned the engine properly, so that wasn't it. I then remembered my mechanic saying the EGT would be hotter on cylinders with only one mag operating, something to do with the way the fuel would burn on one mag. Well this sounded like the next thing to try. I switched from 'both' mags to 'left' mag, with NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL, this gave me a sinking feeling, that the right mags were not working, and sure enough when I switched to the 'right' mag, the engine stopped. I quickly switched to both and kept an eye on the EGT, and CHT of the cylinders. There was a narrow margin of mixture where the engine sounded healthy, and I strove to keep the mixture in that spot. Too much, and the engine would start to drown, and too little it would run rough.

I informed Minneapolis Center that I wanted to change my destination to Stevens Point, which was only 20 nm away, and that my right mags were shorted out, and my engine was not developing full power. They asked me if I could make the airport, and I assured them, if the engine kept running the way it was, there would be no problem. I was throwing my maps around, getting out the VFR map for the area, and finding the approach plates for Stevens Point. I was cleared down into a cloud deck, and asked for the VOR approach, while getting vectors to the IAF, I popped out of the overcast layer, cancelled IFR, thanked Minneapolis for their help, and proceeded to fly visually to the airport, where I set up for a straight in approach, and stayed high enough to be able to make the airport if the engine quit. It didn't and I landed without incident. On the ground I called Flight service and made sure there was no confusion about where I was, and asked flight service to thank Minneapolis again for their help.

One of the grounding shields on the right mag wire had shorted through, causing the whole mag. to fail, and it only took about an hour to fix.

After being delayed on the ground for about 10 minutes awaiting IFR clearance, flight service, whom I'd been getting my clearance info through, suggested that I pick up my clearance in the air as the whole Green Bay area was saturated with IFR traffic, and I saw enough holes in the layers above to go with this. After several high speed runs followed by momentary climbs in excess of what my plane was capable of for sustained periods, through holes in the cloud deck I was on my way, and finally picked up my IFR clearance. I made it to Fargo, N. Dak. with no more problems. Since Alexandria VOR was out, I was cleared direct to a NDB, then direct to the next VOR, so I was able to get lots of NDB practise.


Flew from Fargo to Billings, I was planning on flying further, but the thunderstorms, rain, and hail moved in for the rest of the day. When the winds started to pick up I made sure my plane was securly tied down, and put the canopy cover on it. I saw a Cessina 150, which had been crumpled by winds breaking the tiedowns and flipping it over, sometime in the recent past. I was amazed at the fact that several large airliners were taking off directly into the bad weather. I spent about 6 hours waiting for the weather to improve before I gave up and found a hotel room for the night.


Flew the last leg of the trip from Billings to Everett. About 2 hours out, I discovered I had too much coffee at Billings, and not enought pit stops prior to takeoff, so I had to 'improvise' with an empty bottle. There was no way I was going to stop just because of my bladder, and I had no passengers to worry about, so I made use of the "autopilot"/ wing leveler. This trip took me 5.3 hours. I thought I was going to have to shoot an approach to about 900', but while I was getting vectors the layer of clouds was pushed out over the sound, and Paine field was clear, so I was cleared for the visual. On final, the tower started asking me how Oshkosh was, so after I landed I dropped by the tower and told them some of my stories.