September 15, 2005
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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