September 2, 2005
Independence to Ames to Atlantic, Iowa
Yesterday's winds have died out and today there is
barely a breeze disturbing the windsock as I take-off. Dee leaves the
airport at the same time and so I circle overhead taking pictures of the
motorhome driving through the corn fields.
Today I feel like I am really experiencing
America's heartland as I fly over field after manicured field. There
is barely any land that is not planted in some crop and I delight in looking
at all the different patterns I can spot in the fields below. From a
car this can get boring but from my perch on high I can completely change
the perspective by simply climbing or descending a few hundred feet.
From 1,000 feet up I see patterns across the land while from 300 feet I get
an intimate view of each farm and field I pass.
Most every farm has a break of trees planted in an
L shape protecting them from winds out of the North and West. Some
farms have nice lawns while others have brought their planted fields right
up to the edge of the house and barns.
I only have one corn maze on my route for today but
like the others it is a treat that marks the mid point of my day crossing
Sept 3, 2005
Atlantic, Iowa to Takio, Missouri to Sabetha, Kansas to York, Nebraska
After yesterday's sameness of the Iowa fields today
is almost a cliché as I can literally notice the change in the landscape
almost as I cross each state line. Missouri brings me into some hills
and trees, Kansas is drier and I see my first wheat fields while Nebraska is
back to corn but not nearly so uniform as Iowa. As I get closer to the
100th Meridian or 100 degrees of longitude west I see the land become drier
and witness the first circular irrigated fields similar to ones that I have
flown over so many times in my home state of Colorado.
When I land at my first stop in Missouri I see from
the signs that the airport is mostly used by crop dusters and since it is
Saturday no one is around and the place is deserted. My flight guide
had said I would be able to buy fuel here so I am in a bit of a fix.
While I am busy calculating whether I can make it to the next airport, a
local pilot drives up to go for a flight. Fortunately all the locals
have a key to the gas pump so I'm in luck. He has no way to take a
credit card but I have just enough cash to get some gas and be on my way.
The next stop is Sabetha, Kansas and again the
place is deserted though a friendly young man drives up moments after I
land. He is not a pilot but nevertheless is full of intelligent
questions about the gyro. I had not expected gas here but I see a pump
so maybe this can save me an extra stop later on. My new friend calls
his father in law the mayor to ask how I get gas. The mayor says to
call the police which my friend does and sure enough 10 minutes later the
town cop comes out and fills up my fuel tank. Since I have no more
cash left my new friend pays for the gas then drives me into town to an ATM.
When we get back to the airport he and his father watch me take-off and wave
me on my way. This is really small town America at its very best!
As I fly north into Nebraska the 15 knot southerly
wind helps me on my way. Fortunately my landing is on runway 17 which
is directly into the wind. Between yesterday and today I have landed
on 3 grass strips which always make me a little happier. It makes me
feel like a barnstormer of the 1920's when I swoop in and land on the grass.
September 4, 2005
Today starts with winds of 25 knots and predictions
of the wind to hit 40 knots along our route so instead of flying I go to the
airport and spend my day changing the oil and doing some regular
September 5, 2005
York to Cozad to North Platte, Nebraska
I want to beat the days heavy winds so Dee and I
are up at 5:45 am. I plan to pre-flight in the dark and get underway
at first light. These plans are upset when my 6 am call to flight
service reveals thunderstorms just a few miles away. By 7 am its
pouring and there is lightning all around us. To make matters worse I
had left the gyro outside on the ramp and not put its rain cover over the
engine. I do not want to loose another day so I keep checking the
weather to look for improvement. By 11am it finally starts to clear
and we head for the airport. I go through my preflight then taxi out
and begin my take-off roll. The wind is howling at 25 knots
straight down the runway so my rotors come quickly up to speed but the
engine is not making full power so the gyro only climbs a few feet above the
runway before I'm forced to land and taxi back to the ramp.
Despite my problem I feel worse for Dee who is at
the constant mercy of the flying. She is up early and ready to drive
off in the darkness, then forced to wait 5 hours, then told she is going off
to western Nebraska, and now I have to call her and tell her to wait again.
On top of all of this she has concerns for me flying in these strong winds.
I'm not much of an engine mechanic but I get lucky
in my first guess and find a wet spark plug wire. After drying it out
the engine makes full power so I call Dee and tell her I'll meet her in
North Platte. Our original destination for today had been Ogallala but
given the late start we decide North Platte will be far enough.
The first leg of the flight is to Cozad and I have
picked it because it has a runway facing directly south into the wind.
The navigation today is easy because I can follow a road heading due west
but once again I am forced to fly pointing 30 degrees sideways to account
for the wind pushing me.
As I fly along I pick up the wind reports from the
airports I pass. The lightest winds reported are 23 knots and the
highest gusts are 34 knots reported as I pass Kearney. Unfortunately
crabbing into the wind is hurting my speed and I begin to worry about having
enough gas. I calculate and recalculate my reserves.
Unfortunately I burned up quite a bit with my wet spark plug problem and
taxiing out twice and testing it to fix the problem.
Had I thought of this earlier I could have stopped
at Kearney but now it is behind me. There is one airport 10 miles
closer than my intended destination but it is to the south directly into the
wind and its runway does not face into the wind so the landing would be much
harder. I decide to press on to Cozad.
As I land at Cozad it is blowing 29 knots
fortunately right down the runway so the landing is very easy. On
landing I find I had only enough fuel for another 20 minutes flying.
I check with flight service and am told the winds will be lighter farther
along my route. Sure enough in another half hour the breeze is only 12
knots and is more of a tail wind so the flying is easy and pleasant.
Up ahead of me I see a freight train and I race
alongside waving to the conductor while I zig zag back and forth over his
Just as I land at North Platte and throttle the
engine back my cel phone rings- it is Dee telling me she has just arrived