Reflection Time – Part 1

The aeroplane is still sitting abandoned ( only by me) in Chino awaiting it's return ride from Chino. Early indications are not good for a smooth recovery but that will play out in weeks to come. For now I find myself reflecting on the trip with all it's triumphs and whether there were any parts that perhaps didn't quite hit expectation.

The trip we made to OSH the first time had always felt like a missed opportunity. I really had no idea what to expect so I mismanaged my time. I really met nobody. Even the Falco folk that were there remained largely a mystery. I really wanted to change things this time. I wanted to make the Oshkosh experience more socially focussed and about people.

I think people that know me well would say that I'm not really a hugely social person. They would probably be right. I don't enjoy small talk, I can't see the point and I don't do it well. I don't have a wide selection of friends. I prefer a couple of good friends rather than a lot of fake ones but with all that said, it doesn't mean I don't enjoy meeting people, particularly if they have similar interests.

This trip for me was to meet people interested in aeroplanes as well as getting more of a feel for the American people along the way. It was going to be an aviation overindulgence and experiment in immersion of a similar but different culture.

Being a flying trip it was of course going to provide experiences that are rare for a New Zealand aviation enthusiast. I wasn't solely about people. Aviation was certainly a large part of the focus too as well as all the things that go with it. Anyone who flys light planes will tell you that you will see things flying small planes that you will never see any other way. It's the nature of the beast and it's part of why we love doing what we do so much. Only an aviator can understand this part of it.

So how did it stack up?

People.

I wasn't let down on the people front. Along the way we were delighted by the American people. Right from when the container arrived at Chino we had people more than willing to help. In fact they wouldn't take no for an answer. Certainly without the help of Vince, Thom, Roland and the rest of Chapter 92 I couldn't have started this whole adventure. But that's aviation too to a degree.

As for more mainstream America I now firmly believe that the US people are the friendliest on the planet. They are more than willing to help and everything is done with a smile. I even noted it with driving. Here in NZ, people seem to switch into an 'angry mode' when they jump behind the wheel and road rage seems the norm. The US drivers are a lot more relaxed and as a result they are considerably better drivers. I think it's all part of their outlook.

Joe from the FAA. A nice guy and really helpful.

Certainly economic pressures could play a big part in adjusting people's attitude to a more depressed and stressed state but I certainly didn't see evidence of this with the exception of the people in Pierre SD. Something there had them on a low but everyone else we met were very upbeat.

Longmont Times reporter enjoying the machine.

The attitude I noticed and liked a lot was that people go about doing what they do. They are happy for you to join in. If you don't like what they do, tough! I like that attitude. For instance when we left Ceday City UT our taxi driver turns up unshaven, a straw cowboy hat on playing Steppenwolfe on the radio. “There a little bit of Rock and Roll for ya” all with a cheery smile. I got the impression that if we sang with it he'd be all for it. If we asked to turn it off I'm sure we'd have been told to jam it. I love that.

The ground crew at Appleton.

The folk at the show at OSH were great. Pretty much what I expected since they are aviation enthusiasts. What was new for me was my new found (and short lived) celebrity status. I'm not big on this anyway but what I liked about it were the people I got to meet. It's always interesting meeting people whose articles you read etc and seeing what they are really like. I particularly enjoyed Bob the homebuilder and his radio show. It was fun and he is a really great guy.

Eric from AOPA. Another neat guy.

More trouble in the making.

 

So the people along the way and at OSH itself certainly made the trip all that I hoped it would be but the real icing on the cake for me was meeting Duane and Mary. I had emailed Duane many times before, himself being another Falco builder and flyer, we share to bond of a similar life track in all things Falco.

Falcos North and South

Duane and the reporter from the Longmont Times

When I was in Chino I spoke with Duane on the phone for the first time in my life. He offered Darryn and I accommodation at his house. That for me is a mixed blessing. It's usually well out of my comfort zone and I don't like to outstay my welcome if things start derailing.

Trouble in the making. Boys Night

From the moment we taxied in at Longmont and saw Duane on his Peugeot moped we knew this guy was different. For the next few days we enjoyed Duane and Mary's hospitality and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

The maestro and his egg sandwiches.

For the remainder of the trip there were very few passing hours when one of their names didn't pop up in conversation usually with a laugh.

Thanks Duane and Mary. You guys really made the trip for us. I hope we get to repay the favour down our way some time.

Duane

 

Posted in Falco, USA | 4 Comments

Back to base.

I need to sum the trip up. That will be a long considered post. For now I'll describe the final flight.

Derwood woke me up. I had a really solid sleep last night. It was a good time to wake up though.

The weather for our trip looked good. There was an airmen for IFR weather in the Chino basin but it hadn't eventuated. We decided to indulge in the hotel 'food' for a bit of a breakfast. Chino is on a different time zone so we wanted to wait until 08:00 local so we would get a METAR from Chino produced by a person, not a machine, at 07:00 Chino time.

Derwood dug up a taxi for us and he duly turned up in his Toyota capable of 7000RPM ( ask me how I know) playing Magic Carpet Ride. 'A little bit of rock on roll on' he advised. A nice guy, down to earth.

By 08:30 we were away with a positive weather outlook ahead. The briefer told me he wanted to visit NZ. I hope some of these guys do. And I hope I get to help them out one day, even a little bit.

The flight headed south initially. Level at 8500' I was keen to avoid the Las Vegas Class B so we tracked to fly around it. The terrain slowly changed from high hills, desert in style, to desert proper.

We flew along taking in the amazing colours of the land below as we flew to the South of Las Vegas.

“TRAFFIC” came through our headset. The box showed' about and close on the right. A quick scan and we had a Southwest 737 off to our right. He was on a high right base to the ILS into Las Vegas runway 26. What a cool sight. This happened again a little while later. While we were clear of airspace I can only assume we were probably giving the controller something to do. With the speed the second Southwest Jet flew by I'm sure he was just as interested in us as we were of him.

Shortly after that we spotted a Twin Otter heading for the grand canyon on a sightseeing tour.

We turned right at our track intersection to head more toward Chino. The land changed to a vast sandpit. Lots of nothing with the occasional road and railway.

I confess to not enjoying the desert flying. We both were certainly more on edge. Duane had told us that rather than water, you're better off with a .45 when flying over the desert. “just how long to you want to prolong it? “.

A we approach LA we shuffled for a frequency to get a clearance into the Class C. We got shunted around a few frequencies until we finally ended up being directed back to our first choice. They are busy. I can only assume the controller didn't hear me and thought we were somewhere else. Anyhow, someone finally acknowledged us which here is the equivalent of a clearance into the C. In reality a clearance isn't required but you do need to have two way comms. So if a controller doesn't want you, he just ignores you. They are extremely helpful for the level of traffic they have to deal with. I won't make comment on our own guys at home but I certainly will see them differently after this trip.

Before we knew it we were cleared to land on 26L and the adventure was over.

I find myself slightly emotional again. More to come I a day or two. I think I'll write it on the plane home.

For now I'm off to find my FedEx box of clothes. I'm sick of these ones!

 

Posted in California, Falco, USA | 2 Comments

Skippin’ Town

A quiet night in Jackson Hole. We were lucky enough to meet briefly with Alfred's Daughter Sara and her husband Stephen and thier gorgeous little daughter Elisabeth for a brief drink. After that we ventured into town for a quick meal and returned for an early night.

We were both looking forward to a great sleep in our flash separate rooms. Big comfy beds, flat screen TV, you name it. But did it happen? Nope. I had a fairly broken sleep and Derwood reported similar. I was awake at 05:00 so I had a look at the weather. I was ready to go by 06:20 so I rang Darryn and he was ready to go too. We headed for the airport. It was a touch chilly at 8 degrees at that time of the morning. Typical alpine weather.

The rental car girl said it was beautiful at the airport at 5am as there was a big thunderstorm brewing West of the Tetons with the lightning adding to the beauty. I wasn't that impressed as I could see the storm moving closer so we were keen to split ASAP yet again.

Back at the FBO Darryn had everything all set so we walked along the line of Business jets to our ride and got it ready for departure. At 07:30 local Darryn was pushing the throttle in as it was just starting to hail lightly at the arrival end of the runway. We rolled clear of the weather on the takeoff roll and climbed into beautiful clear skies.

At our selected cruising altitude of 8500' we were below the tops of the terrain but it was fairly easy navigation through some fairly mild valleys. The scenery as we headed south from Wyoming into Utah was absolutely beautiful in the morning light with nature showing us all the colours of the rainbow in the terrain as it slipped on by.

Our Destination had changed. Initially I had planned Provo but everyone we told about it could only respond with 'Oh'. That did it for us. So the day's destination was Cedar City Utah, which was initially only an alternate. This particular flight was bound for a tech stop in a little town called Nephi. I had chosen this as a tech stop earlier on since Provo was charging around $6.70 a gallon for 100LL but Nephi, just 10 minutes further on was down at around $5.25 provided you pump it yourself. That was good enough for me. I mean the gas at any price is cheaper than home but there is no point in throwing money away. And anyhow, we prefer the smaller town to stop at anyhow.

As we approached Provo from the East we had the mountains to contend with. There is a very beautiful canyon just East of Provo, aptly named Provo Canyon that we headed for. The weather was great and the wind light. The majesty of this area has to be seen. Certainly an iPhone camera doesn't do it justice.

We flew through the canyon at 8500' with peaks 3500' above us on either side. Unbelievable and indescribable. Derwood did a great job at not smiling but I couldn't help it. It was nature at its best and seeing the terrain open out to Provo City and the lake beyond was stunning.

From the exit of the canyon we hugged the edge of the cliffs to avoid Provo class D. We were above it but we wanted to be sure and it was fun, but don't tell anyone.

Within minutes we were on descent into Provo for a well earned leg stretch. We gassed up, chatted to the pilot of an executive jet who was waiting for his customers to return from their business.

One hour had passed all too soon so we jumped in and headed for Cedar City just an hour down the line.

 

 

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Cowboy country

We had a great night in Lander even if the beer does have a tendency to go to your head a bit when you are at 6000'.

We were awake again at 06:00 and did the standard prep for the flight. The only change being that we filed the plan from our room since AT&T doesn't have any coverage in Lander so our cell phones didn't work.

We gassed up the mighty Buick crew car and returned to preflight the plane. I needed to get rid of some rubbish and make a pit stop so I went into the tiny terminal. The door had a sign saying to renter the Tarmac the code was 3522. As I entered I tried the handle.. It was free so I didn't take too much notice. Oops. So obviously when I went to leave I was stuck. Hmm.. Er 6722.. No.. Er.. Bugger. Forgot! So I frantically waved out to Derwood in the hope he would look over. Fortunately it didn't take long before he did so he came and rescued me. What a dufus!

07:30 and we were rolling down Lander's runway 03. Another high altitude takeoff so I just gently let it lift itself off and climb very slowly while it gathered energy. The density altitude was 7000'. Interesting stuff.

Anyhow, in moments we were heading West again and making a slow climb to 10500. Another issue we are noticing are highish Cylinder Head Temperatures here. I like to climb it very slowly with an indicated airspeed of about 120knots. It keeps the temps down and you make reasonable forward progress while having a good visibility over the snout. It seems to work out well. The climb rate isn't high like,that but we don't need it either.

Very Pretty

The flight up the valley toward Dubois was very pretty with some terrific colours in the rocks and soils.

We slowly climbed the little machine up to 10500', the highest it's ever been. The granite was stretching skyward so ten five was about as low as we could get over the rock. The top or the saddles we flew over were quite remarkable in that while it was high, it looked like fairly flat land with trees, grass and streams.

Way up high.

No sooner than we got to 10500' and we were on our way back down again in order to join the circuit at 7600' without being at warp factor 10. The controller at Jackson seems perplexed that the foreign registered aircraft was so small. I guess he's used to a lot of executive jet traffic.

After touch down we were guided into a park with all the big money. Obviously Jackson Hole is popular with the rich. We can always imagine I guess.

Follow Me.. Just like the big boys.

I'm not so little!

The FBO staff were great but since we aren't really used to the idea, and I still don't really understand it, so we did most of the 'putting the aircraft to bed' ourselves. The staff just chatted and gave us a lift to the FBO building.

We signed up with the FBO and walked up to the terminal to get our car.

The bartender from the night before had given us a great tip for a breakfast spot so we headed that way. What a neat spot. A great view of the Tetons while eating pancakes. Nice!

Pancakes with a view!

We went for a bit of a drive after that to find our hotel, even though it was too early to check in then when for a look at Jackson town.

What a cool little town.mit is very much Cowboy country with wooden sidewalks and all the old style buildings. The more modern buildings are more of an alpine style of log and stone. It's a really cool little town. It's a shame they let cars through it really as I think it would be awesome if they closed it out for vehicles. The amount of traffic through there is very high and it's kind of a shame. Still, it's fun.

Missing from Ponsonby Road!

More Caffein

The scenery is certainly very beautiful. What I say next is not meant in any way to detract from this but is more of a description for NZ bound readers. The feel is a lot like the Southern Alps of New Zealand. One of the Peaks of the Tetons could easily be Mt Aspiring. While they are obviously taller, the basin elevation is higher also so it appears similar in height to Mt Aspiring.

One river running through the valley could easily be the Kawarau River. The area is a lot bigger and has a more wide open feel to it. It is also a lot hotter than anywhere in the southern Alps would achieve.

Oh no! Not New Zealanders.

I think we are both getting a bit punch drunk with all the sights and scenery that we have seen. It it a great primer for future holidays but I think we won't truly understand it all until we've had a chance to reflect in coming months.

I just heard from Alfred's daughter Sara, so we will catch up with her and her family tonight for a couple of drinks.

Tomorrow we are off to Provo for a night. I'm not really sure what to expect. It was plucked out of nowhere as just being kind of in the right place for where we need to go. Fingers crossed.

 

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Land ‘er at Lander

Another early start. We always seem to beat the alarm clock so it's not as bad as it sounds.

We got up and got ready. The last few days have been a drag since we haven't had Internet. Our hotel advertised it but in reality it didn't work. That irks me but they didn't seem to care. I won't be staying at any Howard Johnson's ever again. Not that they will care.

Anyhow,

I managed to get a radar weather picture over 3G on my phone. It showed a bit of weather along our track so we made haste and went to the airport to head for Lander lickerty split.

As it worked out we had an uneventfully flight down to Lander. The terrain is absolutely not what we expected. I guess flying into Christchurch regularly makes you expect terrain to jump up out from flat land. Not so. The hills were higher than us (8500') but kind of rolled their way up. Quite a surprise. Very scenic nonetheless. The colours of the soil were quite remarkable. The US of A sure is a big continent with vast areas of not much interspersed with beauty of many kinds. The further we travel, the more we appreciate it.

After landing at Lander we noted our cll phones didn't work. AT&T have zero coverage here, which was both a surprise and a problem. We needed to close our plan before someone came looking.

Derwood shuffled off to the 'Terminal' in search of a phone. He came back with a closed plan. The location of the fuel pump, which had eluded us, and a crew car for the night. Good work!

I still don't fully understand this FBO thing. I've tried asking but never really got a full answer. I feel like we are getting too much for nothing so I try not to use them until I fully understand. As for now though, driving away with the full use of a car without any paperwork filled in or anything, seems too good to be true. At the very least the level of trust is unbelievable but does restore ones faith in society. Shame NZ can't learn a bit from it.

We fuelled, packed up and drove to town in search of a hotel. Easy work, we found a suitable room at the Best Western and checked in.

Once we had settled in we drove 10 miles up the road to Sinks Canyon. What a beautiful place. We spent about an hour looking around and taking photos before we were driven out by torrential rain coming from a lightning storm that brewed overhead. In amongst the nature discovery and photo taking, Derwood heard a rattle snake so we moved on. That may have had something to do with him losing his lens hood for his camera.

The afternoon had us drinking some very fine iced coffee followed by chores in the form of washing.

After eventually finding some accommodation and rental cars in Jackson Hole for tomorrow we went down to the Cowfish, a local restaurant recommended by Duane. While we hate to admit it, we had the best food we've had all trip at the Cowfish. And while it was against my will, the beers from the local micro brewery were very tasty too.

Tomorrow, another early start for a high altitude flight into Jackson Hole.

 

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Never Forget your dreams

A fairly broken sleep last night. There is a motorcycle convention just down the road at Sturgis and the Hells Angels picked the same hotel as us. They were actually fine with a couple of exceptions at around 02:30. So we've been a bit tired.

We left around 07:15 and went for coffee again at the green bean. After coffee we set of on our drive through the Black Hills in search of Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore.

The drive through the hills was very pleasant although we both agreed, it was a lot like home. We could easily have been driving down through Kiangaroa State forest or even parts of Old North Road for that matter.

We did pass a couple of lovely lakes though that would be a great stop if you had a boat in tow.

 

 

What I liked best about the drive were the little towns. They hadn't changed a lot from the old cowboy days. You could just picture the dusty streets with horses at the hitching post outside the Tavern. Or perhaps the sheriff sitting outside the jail with a couple of six shooters strapped on.

 

The first stop was Crazy Horse. What an incredible achievement. I won't go into too much detail , I would recommend looking at http://crazyhorsememorial.org but the basic facts are these.

 

 

 

What the completed carving will be like

The monument is the tallest in the world at 563' high, starting at around 6000' elevation.

I confess to not being fussed about going to crazy horse. I'm pleased I did. I found it fascinating that one person, followed by one family could think so big that they could take on such a massive project alone and in the knowledge that they old never see it completed. Even I won't see it completed.

I found it actually a bit emotional and moving. It's a must see. The whole display is very well set up.

I was extremely impressed.

Next stop, Mt Rushmore.

This too is a very impressive monument. Not to the same scale as Crazy Horse, and now complete I guess, but is impressive nonetheless. It's one of those things that you see on TV or in movies but don't really appreciate it until you are standing underneath it.

As a more complete display there is a really nice trail to follow for various vantage points and other displays. It's marked as a strenuous trail. If it was at sea level it would be such a big deal but you do notice the difference up at 6000' odd.

It was great to see both monuments and they both are must see attractions but if I could pick only one I think I'd go with Crazy Horse. Again, moving! I love the catch phrase too. 'Dreams and Dynamite'.

Always reminded of Derwood

Tomorrow we are off to Lander in Wyoming for one night. Then Jackson Hole for two!

 

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Spearfish

The night at Pierre was interesting in that we got to see the other side of America. Everyone seemed to be on a low. We went into Subway since there wasn’t a lot of choice. I’ve never seen such a collection of depression.

So anyhow. We got up around 7 and headed out to Mustang Aviation to fly to Spearfish. It’s a 1 hour flight and has a 1 hour time change so we arrived about when we left. The terrain along the way was flat and parched with not even a lot of farming. The winds were fairly strong at our selected cruising altitude of 4500′ but it was smooth contrary to the forecast.

The wind kicked up a bit of dust haze, but as we approached Spearfish the haze cleared to reveal a lovely rolling terrain covered with Pine trees.

Spearfish (Black Hills airfield actually) is in a small basin and is very pretty. It’s a small airport but in keeping with most places we’ve already seen, the airport is extremely well kept.

We taxied in to be met, as is common, by a marshaller. This time the marshaller was a young girl called Maddy.

Maddy expertly directed us to our overnight parking spot. As we shut down she greeted us with a big smile offering any assistance we might need. Fuel, tie downs, etc. I didn’t even get the phone out to close the plan and a car drove up behind the aircraft. “are you George?” .. It was Laura bringing out our rental car. Wow, what service. She even opened the truck so we could transfer our bags directly into the car.

Maddy raced off to get the fuel truck and I rang up to close the flight plan.

As I mentioned our registration to the briefer, he  said ” Wow, I’ve spoken to you guys 3 times now. Once on the radio and twice on the phone.” he was super friendly. He said he used to live in Spearfish so proceeded to give me a great rundown on activities in the area. He was great.

I swear America is the friendliest place on the planet by far.

Once we got the plane tied down we went into the office to sign for the car. Laura then handed us several maps and showed us the best way to see what we wanted and suggested several eating spots. What great service. New Zealand aviation and service has so much to learn.

We headed off to check into our hotel and get some food.

As per Laura’s recommendation we headed to the Green Bean and enjoyed a great breakfast in a lovely setting.

After breakfast we had some time to kill so we decided to head about 45min South to Ellsworth Airforce Base to the museum. It’s an active Bone ( B1) base. While we were there we went on a tour of a training ICBM missile silo. Quite an experience. We even needed our passports for security clearance as its on an active base.

A fun day so far.

Unfortunately the wifi at the hotel is broken so we are at Starbucks typing this up. Updates might be scarce until we get more reliable Internet.

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