Log 19- Idaho,Wash, Oregon

08/22/08

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September 15, 2005
S83-S72-S94-S98
Kellogg to St. Maries, Idaho to Port Whitman to Kennewick, Washington

I departed Kellogg early in bright sunshine and after 10 minutes of following the narrow canyon to the west the terrain finally began to open up indicating I had really crossed the Rocky Mountains. 

At Missoula I had met an airport policeman who was also a pilot and he had raved about the airport at St. Maries just south of me so I decided to stop in for a look.  I landed and walked over to the open but empty airport lounge and could immediately feel the small town charm of the place.  Many airports have a courtesy car which they let itinerant pilots use to drive into town for lunch. The courtesy cars are usually 15 years old and come complete with broken down seats jammed doors and odometers over 200,000 miles, but here in St. Maries there were two brand new Chevy SUV's available for any pilot to use- pretty uptown. 

I spent only a few minutes here and then took-off for Washington.  On climb out I realized I was now in timber country when  I saw huge rafts of logs tied along the shore of the river.  For the next 30 miles I just navigated by eyeball to find the lowest terrain around the mountains as I headed south and west. 

The leg over eastern Washington state was some of the strangest looking scenery of the entire trip.  The undulating hills reminded me of a picnic blanket spread over a rocky meadow.  It was not quite flat and not quite hilly and all of it was covered in strangely swirling patterns of plowed fields of dry land wheat.

My lunch stop was at Port Whitman which my flight guide said sold fuel.  When I landed there was no FBO or fuel pump but I was immediately greeted by a very friendly local crop dusting pilot.  He graciously sold me fuel from his own tank and then would not let me pay him enough for it.  After that he insisted I borrow his truck and drive into town where I had a wonderful Mexican lunch. 

Flight service informed me that my destination was reporting only 5 knots of wind but on the ground here it was blowing nearly 20 knots.  I then reasoned that the wind would continually decrease as I flew towards my destination, boy was I wrong.

The next leg of my flight was one of the most uncomfortable of my entire trip.  I still had the doors on the gyroplane from the cold early morning start in Idaho and since I have no vents it was very hot in the cabin.  The doors also make the gyro much more susceptible to gusty cross winds.  With the doors off the cross winds just blow right through the cabin but with the doors on the gyro yaws back and forth in gusty conditions.  Now with the hot dry ground sending up lots of thermals of rising air it was very gusty so for 2 hours I was bounced back and forth in the stifling cabin.  It was not until 5 miles from my next stop that I descended from the high plains into a green valley of Kennewick where there was almost no wind, and the farmers were burning the stubble off their fields.

Kennewick Washington was one of the friendliest cities we visited on our entire trip and the next day was spent doing some needed maintenance on the gyro and getting lots of help from the terrific crew at Tuttle aviation. 

 

                

             

                   

September 17, 2005
S98-DLS- S07
Kennewick to The Dalles, Washington to Bend, Oregon

This was my favorite flight of the entire trip.  It started with cruising along the Columbia River which is sunken into the deep gorge it has carved.  The Columbia is a bright blue ribbon of water weaving its way through a brown and barren landscape.  At times I flew down inside the gorge with the walls towering above me and at other times when I did not want to follow the twists and turns of the river I flew over the barren ground that formed the bluffs and cliffs through which the river had carved its way.  

One minute I would be flying 500 feet above the flat table land and then I would get to the edge of the gorge and suddenly be flying 2,000' above the river.  A few moments farther on I would be just 500 feet above the dry ground again on the other side of the gorge. 

At The Dalles I enjoyed lunch at the quaint cafe right on the field, then took off for Oregon on the other side of the river.  The flight along the Deschutes river was magical.  I often flew down inside the river gorge waving to kayakers and rafters bobbing along on the river.  Several times I spiraled down and down until I was flying very close to the river and could see every detail of the river runners below me.  The scenery was dramatic, the flying challenging but not scary and the day exquisite- I had rarely enjoyed myself more while flying.

    

                  

                   

                                                

 

September 19, 2005
S07
Bend Oregon
The 45th state- only 3 to go.

 We were visiting friends in Bend, Oregon and my friend whose birthday it was wanted a gyroplane ride.  Normally I am happy to give rides but today I wanted to decline.  I simply had bad vibes about flying which I almost never have.  Had it not been his birthday I would not have flown. 

I should have listened to my instincts but I did not.  Unfortunately right after take-off the gyroplane developed some sort of control problem.  I immediately informed my passenger we were returning to the airport but as I turned around and headed for the runway we had further problems.  The end result was an accident just short of the runway.  My passenger and I suffered mostly cuts and bruises but the gyroplane was badly damaged.  The worst part was that both our wives and his son saw the accident and viewing it was certainly more traumatic than being in it. 

Unfortunately the accident damage made it nearly impossible to figure out what had caused the initial problem so we were left with a broken gyro and lots of unanswered questions.  One thing was certain though, my dream of flying to all 48 states lay in pieces on the ground.

The next few days were a blur of doctors, insurance people, FAA inspectors, and simply trying to figure out what was next in our lives.  I spoke with half a dozen gyroplane experts about the accident and everything pointed to mechanical failure but that did not stop me from blaming myself for injuring my passenger and breaking my machine. 

Dee knew my determination and was aware that my first thoughts and words even as I climbed out of the wreckage soaked in gasoline were on how to finish the trip, but she was still coming to grips with the scare she had received watching the accident. 

After 3 sleepless nights my determination overcame my self-doubts and I decided if there was any way to finish the trip I wanted to do so.  Unfortunately gyroplanes like mine are very rare with maybe only 6 of them in the entire Western U.S. and who would want loan me one after hearing that I just wrecked mine. 

I've always known how important it is to have friends and now is when one of mine stepped in to help me.  Scott Tinnesand who had been one of my gyro instructors and who had helped me every step of the way came through again. 

Scott called Randy Coplen the Groen Brothers Aviation dealer in Seattle, Washington and explained my predicament and how close I was to completing this historic flight.  Randy graciously offered me his perfect SparrowHawk gyroplane named Mirah. 

Randy's machine is a work of art and had won the Grand Champion Award at the EAA fly-in at Arlington, Washington earlier this year.  Randy also worked with David Groen and others at GBA headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah to provide additional support to enable me to finish the trip.  (Randy's Seattle dealership is offering kits you build yourself, or builder assist kits where you spend two weeks at his plant and leave with an aircraft, or fully assembled and ready to fly SparrowHawks  www.gbagyro-sea.com )

So it was barely a week after this disastrous accident that I was in Bend, Oregon with David Dressler the Oregon GBA dealer helping me to install the rotor blades on Randy's Machine in preparation for flying on to California, Nevada and finishing the trip in St. George, Utah.

September 27, 2005
S07-2S7
Bend to Chiloquin, Oregon

I was a slight bit nervous to be getting back on the horse so soon after getting bucked off and Dee likewise was still struggling with the vision she had in her head of the accident.  With David's calm assistance we rechecked every nut and bolt on the gyro then I taxied out and took off. 

My first leg today was to Chiloquin, Oregon but the airport there did not sell fuel so I had planned to meet Dee so she could bring me gas before we both continued on to California.   The flight involved climbing to over 6,100 feet but Randy's gyro performed wonderfully with its fuel injected engine providing much more power than would have my carbureted engine.

By the time I landed the wind was nearly 20 knots and it continued to increase while I waited for Dee.  A local pilot also told me if it was windy here it would likely be howling at our destination near Mt. Shasta, California.   The wind and our nervousness made it an easy decision to call it a short day and wait until tomorrow to press on to California. 

 

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This site was last updated 10/20/05

Copyright Rob Dubin 2005