Oshkosh '96

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MON JULY 29TH PAINE FIELD EVERETT, WASHINGTON

10:35am Takeoff from PAE to the east, circling around the Class B and climbing to 13,500' Oxygen works fine, engine works fine. Intercept V2 cut corner and fly direct to Moses Lake. I see clouds above and at my alt. coming up and relative darkness below. Listen to ATIS for Moses Lake and Spokane. VFR but not great VFR below 9000' as expected. After my next pilot report I ask for and get weather beyond Spokane, a Bonanza guy flying west tells me its VFR light rain and visibility 10 miles. I decide to fly underneath at 7,500' and keep IFR charts open to nearby airports, just in case I have to land. I was not IFR current at the time, but the combination of WAC, SEC and airport charts helps me see the big picture.

Approaching Spokane and getting Flight watch weather for the next leg over Mullen Pass and Missoula showed improvement but not a lot. I ended up in light to moderate showers and light turbulence. Climbed to 9,500' approaching Mullen Pass, almost landed at Missoula due to how bad the weather looked to the south, but the weather to the north and behind me was fairly good VFR and it was at least VFR in front of me, so I flew on steering clear of the rainshafts. Just past Missoula I started seeing lightning to the south of me, jogged a little further north and kept flying. Made it to Butte, Montana a little circuitously and watched the lightning show from the relative safety of the ground. Averaged 150kts, pretty good considering the deviations, at least for a Navion, TAS was from 150KTS to 160KTS depending on the alt.

Had dinner with my 3rd cousin once removed, saw the wonderful old building where he worked, and saw a lightning strike take out a square mile or so of Butte. Needless to say I wasn't flying any more that day.

TUES. 30TH BUTTE, MONT.

5:30am Woke, showered, breakfasted. 7:00am started getting weather. 7:30am planned and did preflight. 8:30am thought over slightly higher oil consumption, talked to my mechanic it looks like the oil filler cap is leaking some oil. All engine readings from all cylinders looked perfectly normal and the only oil found was near the oil cap and below. 9:30am Finally the weather is improved enough to launch. Takeoff and immediately am twisting and turning to maintain VFR, climb to 13,500' and head towards Bismark, N DAK. Every 45 minutes or so I file a Pilot report and check the weather ahead, and every 80 nm or so I have to drop down to 7,500' or even 5,500' to keep visual with the ground. It's bumpy down low so as soon as the weather allows VFR to the ground from higher I'm back up to 13,500' Arrived at Bismark about 2 minutes late. For some reason I did a perfect flare to a full stall landing 12" off the runway, probably forgot to put my eyes down the runway. Nothing but pride hurt. Everyone kept dropping by the Navion. One Northwest jetliner pilot asked the tower about the military looking plane, I forewarded information on the Navion from the FBO to the tower. I think the same thing happened at Bismark 2 years ago when I stopped on my way to Oshkosh. The woman at the FBO counter was explaining how to get into town with the loaner car, apparently there was a lot of construction going on. I finally just asked if Dominoes delivered, They did so I ordered lunch.

Did preflight, got weather, and filed V2 to Gopher VOR, direct to Anoka Co. (Minneapolis area). Was pleased to see oil consumption was not a problem. On engine start, noticed the GEM was not working, cycled the battery alternator no luck, finally reached around up underneath the dash found the socket into the back of the GEM, noticed it was loose and shoved it back in. The GEM came to life, I consider the GEM to be a necessary piece of equipment for my tight IO-520 installation, so it was a relief to see I wouldn't have to abort.

More of the same kind of climbing and descending to stay VFR to the ground and not get beat up too badly down low, but with a twist. This time there were major CBs and thunderstorms I had to deviate laterally to avoid. I ended up heading direct to Alexandria, south of my original route, Even though I kept my distance from the clouds I had to power back to maneuvering speed several times for comforts sake, the good news is there was a heck of a tailwind so my groundspeed didn't change much.

After diverting south, and ducking under the Minneapolis Class B airspace I finally arrived over Anoka Co. Airport about on schedule, closed my flight plan in the air, and spent a minute or two sorting out which runway I was looking at and announcing intentions while overflying. The flight hadn't been an easy one and I was beginning to fatigue, so I just took things slow. While announcing in the blind I heard my local Navion buddy Navion 109F, Bud, calling from 30 miles out. I was supposed to meet him at his hangar once on the ground, and from the air I thought I had his hangar spotted but taxiied to the wrong one, at least Bud was on the ground to lead me back to the right hangar.

Bud, his kids and grandkids and I had a great time hangar flying and went out to dinner. I camped in his basement overnight we had planned on flying in to Oshkosh the next morning.

A plug for Anoka County airport. Stop by if you are ever in the area, the depth of aviation is astounding. Wally Fisk has dozens of aircraft there, and others have even more. The ones I remember were, 2 Mohawks, 1 basket case Trimotor. A B 25, A Mig 29, a P-51 or two, several huge amphibs, and the restorations are almost every other hangar. J3 cubs, T28s T-34s, military hardware I couldn't identify, including a Navy? counterrotating beast of a twin, one engine driving each of the props, whose wings fold in 2 places. I also saw "Hoot" Gibson the pilot/astronaut hanging around some of the jets. I think he had is T-33? jet trainer there. Every hangar Bud and I dropped by had some old retired airline captain rebuilding one or more aircraft, or some of Wally Fisks people restoring something. I did see most of the flying hardware from Anoka at Oshkosh later, including the Mig 29. MAN that thing screams.

WED. 31ST ANOKA CO. MINNESOTA (MINNEAPOLIS AREA)

Due to weather (IFR at OSH early on) Bud and I took off from Anoka around 1pm, as a flight of two loafing along down low 1200 to 1500 agl at 125kts, first Bud was lead in his Navion, then as we got closer to Ripon we switched places since Buds GPS wasn't cooperating. On the way we saw lots of farms, cows, and highway signs, since the ceilings were around 2700 agl, but the ride was smooth. Approaching Fisk, the controller IDed us as a flight of 2 Bonanzas with tip tanks The tower at Oshkosh got it right though.

Landed without incident even though the Mooney ahead of me seemed reluctant to turn into the grass, I just blew over the top of him and landed far enough beyond not to cause more problems, as the tower indicated. Parked in the warbird area with the other L-17s

Oshkosh was terrific, met lots of interesting people, saw lots of interesting planes, ran into Bruce Williams at the Microsoft FS booth, he was a busy guy with several potential FS customers trying the product. Met the ex-vice president of Control Data Corporation. A group of retired brothers who were really big in an aviation engine operation, and other aviation greats. Bud is very well connected. I also learned a lot of Navion stuff I didn't know before, from other Navioneers.

Camping in the warbird area was exciting, although at times it was hard to sleep some nights warbird pilots would try and sing and other times some teenagers would be trying to grow up noisily in the adjoining tents.

SUNDAY AUG. 4TH OSHKOSH, WISCONSIN

Woke up at 6am got the weather, had breakfast with Bud and his friends, fueled up and took off. The weather was not good around Minneapolis, but there was a northern route that would work if I had to divert. Around Minneapolis I was cruising at 10,500' and had a layer above me at 13,000'? a broken-scattered layer below me at 4,000' to 5,000' which I could continuously see the ground and massive thunderstorms punching up through the layers which were easily visible and avoidable, I certainly wouldn't want to be IFR punching through any of the clouds in the area, more on this later. After I flew over the class B airspace around Minneapolis I started picking up moderate to severe turbulence in clear air, and I wasn't even close to the thunderstorms. I throttled back to maneuvering speed, and began a descent I was fully intending to land at the closest airport, when at 6,500' the turbulence dissapeared. I powered back up and continued my flight diverting to the north, then the south to stay well clear of the thunderstorms. Gradually the layers thinned and once again I climbed back up to 10,500' direct to Bismark. Landed at Bismark after 4.3 hours of intense flying. I talked to a Mooney on the ground at Bismark who was also coming back from Oshkosh. They had taken one look at the weather in the Minneapolis area on their storm scope and diverted even further north than I did, but I suspect they were higher and IFR. And didn't have the luxury of seeing the thunderstorms. I was glad to be on the ground, and because I didn't get to sleep until late the night before (noisy kids in warbirds camping) I knew this was going to be my stop for the day. That plus the afternoon thunderstorms and winds were just starting in the Bismark area, got a hotel room ate an early dinner and slept for the first time in a long time in a bed.

MONDAY AUG. 5TH BISMARK, N DAK

Woke up at 6am, ate breakfast, got the weather, preflighted, and took off. Although I had listed Helena as my destination (It would have made a two fuel stop trip back home) I also listed Billings as an alternate. The winds to the west of Billings were forecast to be pretty ugly, and were pretty strong out of the west all over. Climbed to 8,500' and later 10,500' staying lower to minimize headwinds. Didn't seem to matter they were 25 kt headwinds. As forecast the winds west of Billings were not what I'd like to fly in in mountaneous terrain. 25kts gusting to 35kts, and REPORTED 33kt winds on the ground at Livingston (just west of Billing) I got about 25nm west of Billings before the winds started to kick up and turned back to Billings.

Landed at Billings after 3 hours, and the winds and developing weather were going to keep me there all day. I polished on the plane and watched local light planes takeoff and come back soon thereafter it sounded like it was getting bumpier and bumpier. Saw a Tri-Pacer come in, I remember thinking impressive! (winds were 25kts gusting to 35kts) and I was being blown around just polising my plane. Got to talking to the 2 guys in the Tri-pacer, turns out they were from Yakima. We vanpooled to a local inn had dinner traded war stories and decided to fly back loosely together.

TUESDAY AUG. 6TH BILLINGS, MONTANA

Woke up at 5am, watched the weather channel and planned my flight, originally it was V-2 to SEA Direct PAE, with an alternate at Felts Field, Spokane area. Getting back to PAE in one hop required NO deviations and it didn't look that likely a prospect.

5:30am The Tri-Pacer guys dropped by and we headed for breakfast. Determined what frequency we'd talk on and headed for the airport. The Tri-Pacer is not a complex plane, and they only had to worry about the weather down low, i.e. they couldn't use altitudes much above 8000' for anything. They left about 20 minutes before I did. I took off, and as soon as Billings left me squaking 1200 called them up. I caught and passed them. And until I got above Helena, reported back the weather I was seeing. I opted to fly at 10,500' and skirt around a layer at 8000' to the North. Once to Helena I had to descend to 3000' agl and follow I-90 just like the Tri-pacer would after they stopped and refueled. I had to go to maneuvering speed a few times for comfort, and had a howling headwind. I was pretty sure Paine field in one hop was out. Around Missoula I had a large hole all the way up and decided to go up and see if I could fly VFR westward out of the turbulence. Once at 12,500' I saw that the path to the Spokane area would put me over a solid layer (I didn't like this) so I flew southwest to stay over scattered to no clouds, headed in the general direction of Pullman/Moscow keeping all the logging roads in sight just in case. Now I knew I wasn't going to make PAE with a comfortable reserve so once the clouds I was paralleling broke clear to the west I refigured that Wenatchee was well within my fuel comfort zone and proceeded direct.

On approach to Wenatchee I overflew and descended to drop into an extended 45 for 30, my Navion has a gear speed of 100mph so I did a clearing turn and a steep bank turn to the extended 45 dropped me down to 120mph, with the engine almost off and rwy 7 straight ahead I slowed to 100mph and dropped the gear. Got really busy on downwind getting things trimmed and power back on a little bit, then a Dornier(sp?) called on downwind asking me to expedite. I was almost abeam the numbers so once I got abeam I dropped full flaps and did a 180 arc to the numbers power almost off. The Navion is really good at getting down in a hurry. I was off the runway quickly and the Dornier didn't have to go around. I ran into an old instructor friend of mine at "Wings of Wenatchee" a local FBO and I'm going to get IFR current in the next week, if everything goes well. Had a few cups of coffee and a breakfast bar, refueled and did the 55 minute hop to Paine Field. Landed straight in rwy 29, and was very glad to be home.

11.4 hours flight time to Oshkosh 12.3 hours flight time back. Tim Corrie N5375K