Virginia to Colorado | 2019-10

I finally departed Virginia for the trek west.  Left about 1300 on 13 October 2019 for the final destination of Denver, CO. I hate driving for hours so I departed a day early to cut the travel time in half.
DAY 1, Yorktown to Lewisburg:  The first actual target was the National Museum of the United States Air Force, but I stopped about four hours short - in Lewisburg WV - which allowed me to hit a couple of events before I left.

DAY 2, Lewisburg to Dayton:  A convenient thing about stopping in Lewisburg was "The Lost World Caverns" were right next to it. Since I wanted a full day at the Air Force Museum, I could afford to take a visit since I only had a five-six hour drive in front of me.

The sign marking the turn...which looked like a road to a house.  And then I came across the GIFT SHOP which was a real surprise. I've never been to a gift shop in a tree...it was like Narnia. Average gifts for sale but excellent location.

As the road continued to begin to wonder if there's anything actually there. The "Lost World" caverns felt about right, but then as you crest the last hill, this cool little cabin (and actual residence) is waiting for you...waterwheel and all!  And to my surprise, this was also where the actual gift shop was located. You enter the cave (cavern) through a tunnel that is IN this building.  Cool idea.

There is no specific commentary to these and the following pics...just shots of the amazing formations created over so many years.  I did learn that it's stalagmites and stalactites.  For my entire life I thought it was a "g" in both. It's not.  But lest you forget...when the "mites" go up, the "tights" come down. Or funny enough, while in the cavern, I heard a grandma describe it as the "mites" are like mountains and the "tights" hold tight to the ceiling.  I guess that's more G-rated.

I don't show it here, but there was a "look up" spot. It's a shot straight up to daylight. In fact, it's how the found the cavern. It's where the farmer (the land owner) used to dump dead cows and sheep. It's since been protected and covered with a grate. Another cool thing is it's still how bats get in and out.

Aside from the amazing formations and dramatic lighting found in caves, one of my favorite things is they're always the same temperature. Always! This particular cavern is always 52 degrees. You can see your breath with the right lighting. If you get a chance, I recommend visiting. It's only about 12 dollars. I wouldn't necessarily drive to it but if you're in the area and/or on I-64, I'd stop.

Nothing really of note upon the arrival to Dayton.  If you want lodging, it's Area A.  I had pick A or B as I was on the interstate.  Chose A and was lucky.  I do have to show the room, however, as it was  a bit "cramped".

Living room on the left, the hallway on the right and TWO separate
sleeping rooms down the hall to the left.

DAY 2, Dayton to Crawfordsville:
Again, I had only about a four-hour drive to Crawfordsville which gave me time to see the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base / Dayton, OH.  As mentioned, this museum is the only reason I went "up" then "over" towards Denver.  So get ready for some pics!  In roughly the order I viewed them and with limited commentary to keep the post from running on...

Welcome to the Museum!

Nieuport 28 and Fokker Dr.1 

Curtiss P-6E Hawk and Boeing P-26A Peashooter
The paint jobs on both of these is amazing and the Hawk kind of looked like a Hawk to me.

A personal favorite (and always will be), the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. This is an E model.  I love its lines, its intake, and how it looks like it's literally chewing up the air.  Also, I always go the feeling it plays second fiddle to the Mustang, and I'm all about supporting an underdog.

It's hard to argue with a bomber called "Strawberry Bitch" as is this Consolidated B-24D Liberator. This North American A-36A Mustang is the first version of the Mustang for the Army Air Forces and you can see its resemblance to the P-51.  I snapped its pic because it's a good looking airplane and I wasn't tracking the P-51's predecessor.  It's also nicknamed "Apache" or "Invader".

German Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10 and  Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed.
Had to put these two together as they're both incredibly iconic as "the bad guy".

Two excellent paintings by Wilson Hurley. On the left, "Working a Pair of "TACOs" North of Checkpoint Pecker" and on the right, "Close Support, Troops in Contact". Hurley became a very renown landscape artist and painted these from his actual experiences.  He flew over 150 close air support missions in the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog (shown below).  Impressive.

 Two more close air support birds; the Douglas A-1E Skyraider and the North American F-100 Super Sabre.  The "Hun" has always been a favorite of mine, and the Skyraider not only has a cool name, it's a piston engine that flew a lot of combat in a jet age.

In the "Thud" vs "Rhino" debate, I have to go with the Thud. Probably because it's a single-engine, single-tail legend. I didn't take a picture of the Thud because I couldn't get an angle I liked.  This particular F-4 was certainly worthy of a pic...it's "SCAT XXVII" which was the last one flown by Robin Olds.  I'd just been to a gala a week earlier and heard his daughter speak. She does an excellent job keeping his story alive and sharing history. For the record, Thud and Rhino are street names. Their given names are Thunderchief and Phantom II.  Both legends in their own right.

A long-time favorite of mine, the North American F-86 Sabre.  Kind of a love-at-first-sight thing for me. When I took the picture of the one on the left, I couldn't place it exactly, but something was off.  Then I looked at the sign - it is an F-86A.  I'm not sure I could list the differences, but you can tell it's not a later model. The right picture is an F-86D and I don't particularly like their noses, but I took the picture because it had a great logo/mascot down it's sides. It was the logo of the 97th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, which is now the 97th Flying Training Squadron - the Devil Cats.

Two Twin-Mustangs! The North American F-82 Twin Mustang. I posted these for a few reasons.  They're pretty rare, these two are beautiful and earlier this year, I saw the one operational XP-82 (44-83887) at Oshkosh. There are only five left in the world, the two above, one on static display at Lackland, one being restored, and the one at Oshkosh.

These two aircraft have always had my attention because they simply scream "speed". On the left is the Convair B-58 Hustler and the North American XB-70 Valkyrie. Neither were very successful (2 Valkyries and 116 Hustlers were built), but they both look so cool.

Two more Hun shots - just cause.  This one painted as a Thunderbird

The Blackbird - the legend.  The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird or Habu. An interesting note...the story exists that President Johnson misspoke the designation (was RS-71) in a press conference.  In reality, CSAF LeMay asked the President to change it prior to the speech.

I like X-Planes.  One of these technically isn't an X-Plane but still a concept plane. From left to right, the North American X-15 (mach 6.70 and to the edge of space), the Douglas X-3 Stiletto (only one built), and the North American F-107A (based on the Super Sabre with intakes on top). If nothing else, you have to respect the things we've tried in order to improve aviation.

Go to this museum if you can!  It's free!

DAY 3, Crawfordsville to Nebraska:
As you might guess...pretty uneventful. Just lots of driving. I even looked around once I got there to see if I missed anything. Saw corn and that's about it.

Pretty good and effective trip.

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Thank you Rick

This was it...my last flight in a Rick Aviation airplane (at least for now). It's time to move on to a different challenge. The last official flight was with the perfect co-pilot and I couldn't have asked for more. But for my own closure, I had to fly once more alone.  Maybe it's the plight of a single-seat background or maybe it's just a private thing between me and RAI (Rick Aviation Inc). I think it's the private thing.
Originally, I was going to fly Foxy (12F) but then it struck me..."why wouldn't I fly the Tractor"?  It was the first plane I flew and for my first several flights, the only plane I flew. She's almost always available because she doesn't have a GPS. She's a Tractor, but tractors are reliable, and she runs wonderfully.
So we did some patterns for about 36 minutes and it was fantastic. Beautiful day, perfect temperature, incredible moon rise, and another successful power-out 270. I call the return to the same runway (but opposite direction) landing the "power-out 270" because you have to turn much more than a 180. And that is what makes it tricky.  If you turn aggressively, you almost have too much energy and you're likely eating up usable runway. This almost always requires a slip once you're realigned with the runway.  I've tried a few "impossible turns" and this was the lowest; 500 feet above ground (AGL) level, 70 knots, and a 5 second delay.  It was very close to best glide so the 5 second delay didn't buy much altitude but did push me away from the end of the runway.
I think in the future, I would turn about 30-40 degrees downwind (if there's a noticeable crosswind), then turn back into the wind which will push you towards centerline.  This might reduce the amount of slip required and preserve runway.  If you try this maneuver (which I highly suggest):
  • Start higher (maybe 700 feet AGL) until you're comfortable
  • Commit to the turn - a 30 degree turn WILL NOT work.  The turn ends up being at least 45 degrees and often up to 60 degrees.  The lowest one I tried, I was essentially turning right at the stall warning horn.  And this was solo so 150-250 pounds lighter.
  • Anticipate the final; if you get the airplane turned quickly, you will likely be too high to make a 'normal' approach...you won't have the remaining runway you want.  So to preserve that runway, you'll likely need to slip.  Use the turn to final and just hold it into a slip.  I.e., turning right to realign with the runway, keep that bank, add left rudder (full) and keep the nose tracking down.  Before you know it, you'll be position that looks much more normal and controllable.
  • Remember it's training; if you're ever concerned it won't work, discontinue, establish a normal attitude, add power, and go around.
  • Summary of the situation;
    • You're trapped between a good energy state but not far enough away from the runway (you're likely over it)
    • A weak turn (30 degrees) will push you way too far down the landing runway (the opposite direction runway)
    • You're probably fighting a tailwind - you will have a higher ground speed and float further
    • Slips are highly effective
    • Many GA airplanes can get stopped quickly if you get on the brakes
That was quite the departure from saying goodbye. If anyone reads this, I just want to say thank you to Rick Aviation. It was clearly the highlight of my time on the east coast. I would not be here if it wasn't for my prior job, I wouldn't pick this location, but RAI helped make it enjoyable.

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Why I Love Airfields 10 : 2019-10

Why do I love airfields?  Well, there are several reasons and you can find out in the series - "Why I Love Airfields".  This is the tenth installment, but there are hundreds or reasons/images captured by the brain which are impossible to share.  This addition is for those random moments which are by chance, but at the same time, only seen at an airfield.  For example, what are the chances you'd see a 75-year-old legend taxi by while preflighting a Cessna 172?  Almost zero, but there she was in all her glory, the B-24 aka "Witchcraft".  The funny thing about the "Liberator" is her numbers in contrast to her notoriety.  Everyone knows the B-17 Flying Fortress, but we made 5000+ more Liberators than B-17s.  5000 more!  We've only made 744 B-52s.  That's incredible.  And so we don't forget, the numbers we're talking about are 18,188 B-24s and 12,731 B-17s. As of this post, the USAF's entire inventory (including everything) is about 4,786 aircraft.  That's the deficit between two air frames in WWII...what an incredible effort.

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First Robin Flight: 2019-10

I was lucky enough to 1) reconnect with a friend from combat 2) fly some acrobatics again and 3) take my first flight in a Robin aircraft - a Robin R2160.  Gimli is the owner and we re-met by location (both being in Virginia).  Simply put, it was an epic day for me - perfect weather (clouds included) and the ability to fly a higher-G airplane.  We executed aileron rolls, snap rolls, slice backs, some cloud chasing and spins. He even let me land it which was very nice of him. I hadn't spun since 1996 (T-37s) and it was a fun as it's always been.  It was one of those days where you wish you could paint real-time.  We could even see our propeller arc against some of the darker clouds. I was beside myself and couldn't thank him enough.  It made me want to buy an RV-8 even more than I already do.

N2160Z - a Robin R2160.  The owner hasn't named her other than "Robin".

Thank you, Gimli!

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Operation Diamond Mountain: 2019-09

Moving (or ferrying) aircraft from airfield A to airfield B is a thing that's kind of grabbed my attention and, to be honest, I really like it.  There's a clear mission (get the plane to airfield B) and the receiver is usually very happy to get the aircraft.  Moving an aircraft with and without the owner are very different experiences. Operation Diamond Mountain was to move a Diamond DA-40 (N346JP) from Colorado Springs (KCOS) to Newport News/Williamsburg (KPHF) and was with the owner.  It was a two-day, four-base trip which morphed into a five-base trip.  The audible of the fifth stop was to avoid a 2+ hour round trip in an automobile.  It was a great audible.

This is how it all started...you can fill in your own comments.

This is the overall flight.

Day 1: KCOS to KPCD.  Just short of (west of) crossing the Mississippi River, we eventually landed at Perryville International, but had a fuel stop at Moundridge Municipal Airport (47K) in Kansas. The two pictures below are the exterior/interior of the Moundridge "FBO".  How great is that pic on the left?  Tiny building, windows open, epic sky and a windsock with no bend.  The inside pic doesn't really convey the atmosphere, but you're seeing about all of it.  Loved the bowling alley chairs and while you can't see it, there was a locker with a key to the courtesy car!  That's a great thing about airfields...they usually have some means of transportation and everything is secured by numbers pilots know (usually by heart).

Inside and out of the Moundridge 'Terminal'.

Above is just after landing at  Perryville International, Missouri (KPCD).  Pictures never do justice to the actual scene, but it was a nice day.  Good wind, too.  Luckily there were people at the FBO as they guided us to the courtesy car and the punchy code to the building.  They knew we'd be arriving early on Sunday so their help was invaluable (and they were sure we'd have the airfield to ourselves - which we did).  It was two guys working on a Skylane...the airplane owner and a guy that wishes he has an airplane.

The lodging was slightly more complicated than the airport.  100% of the hotels in the town were booked.  That required real-time searching and the closest was 30+ miles away.  Enroute to that hotel, we discovered the reservation we made on Expedia was only near the town but was actually another 30 minutes beyond.  Luckily Expedia let us cancel on the premise that the hotel was listed in a different city.  With even more luck, the town we were already driving to had some hotel vacancy.  Not the first two we tried, but the third. So, in an effort to save XX cents per gallon and not checking hotels prior, we ended up paying more for hotels, haggling with a travel site, and burning time driving around Missouri. Eventually we ate at The Pasta House Company in Farmington.

Day 2: KPCD to KPHF.
The departure out of KPCD was uneventful and a pretty beautiful day.  Winds were still howling so we had a nice, short takeoff roll.  Note to GA flyers - if you're flying VFR and you plan on flying a practice approach - tell ATC (if you're getting flight following) because everyone and their brother will wonder why you're flying past and/or the long way to a field on a clear in a million VFR day.  In fact, they might even say things like, "do you see the airfield...it's on your left for 12 miles" or "what are you doing?".  Those aren't my favorite calls.

We made a fuel stop at Fleming Mason (KFGX) in Kentucky.  Slightly warmer than I'd wish for, but still a beautiful day and the FBO (as seen above) was very nice and welcoming. Offered us the courtesy car and the whole nine yards.  We didn't use it, but still very nice of them.  At this point, I could feel the pull of Virginia so I wasn't overly keen on extending our time at any stop.  The nice thing about this stop was we shared the fuel pump with a two-seat plane I've never seen and an RV-8 which is a personal favorite.

The next stops were Richmond International (KRIC) and the destination, Newport News / Williamsburg International (KPHF).  The nice thing about stopping at Richmond was 1) we avoided a back and forth to recovery our car and 2) although it's in my flying neighborhood, I'd never landed there before.  It was good to check it off the list and it saved us about 2+ hours.  Amazingly, the aircraft owner (who recovered the car) arrived within minutes of me.  I was buttoning up the airplane and he walked out on the ramp.  It reminded me that there is a time 'minimum' where flying might not be more effective than driving.  I've found that to be about 1-2 hours.  By the time you've secured local transportation and done everything required with flying, a 1-2 hour drive might be easier in the car.  It's never as fun...but that's not the point.

Overall, it was a very informative trip and I was able to garner just under 20 hours of Diamond time.  That might come in handy for any future ferry flights which I've started to find interesting and rewarding.  For the airplane itself, the DA40 is pretty accommodating, relatively easy to figure out, not bad on comfort (better if you're about 6' or shorter), and has a pretty capable autopilot (we had pretty rough air).  Call me if you ever need to move your Diamond!

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