Death Valley to Kern Valley to Santa Paula

Catching up Tuesday April 24th 2018:

Airspace around Death Valley consists of, in part, MOA’s (Military Operations Area’s), restricted airspace and military low level training routes. Nellis AFB (Air Force Base), China Lake NAWS (Naval Air Weapons Station) and Edwards AFB aircraft, can be found operating near the area.

With military airspace and fighter jet traffic in mind, it was another pre-dawn awakening. Overnight accommodation had been at the local Stovepipe Wells village hotel.

The BZIM was packed, ready to go by 6am, just as dawn approached. Mountain tops glowing orange in the distance. The cool morning temperatures would make the flying smoother. The military won’t be flying yet too, I hoped.

IMG_1722.CR2

The BZIM at Stovepipe Wells (L09), Death Valley

IMG_1723.CR2

Crossing the pass near Pinto Peak, looking west towards Panamint Springs

Departing straight out, runway 23, it was a slow steady climb from Stovepipe’s 25 feet elevation to the 5500 feet needed to pass the first ridge, north of Pinto Peak, eleven miles away. Crossing the ridge, the plan was to descend, towards the desert floor below.

Approaching the MOA’s, I listened to  Joshua Approach, the controlling ATC authority. It  was a surprise -so early in the morning- to hear the the military controller, speaking to obvious military call-signed aircraft. Although only one side of the conversation was heard, a picture was slowly being painted of fast jet aircraft in the area. One jet was given a clearance which included ‘the transition’. The ‘transition’ I took to to mean the infamous ‘Jedi transition’, the name given to an area where military aircraft switch between defined low flying routes. It involves flying through Rainbow Canyon, low and at high speed. This was directly where I had planned to descend towards after the ridge.

External Link to The Jedi Transition images

Instead, the BZIM’s climb continued. Two way radio contact was established with Joshua Approach. I was now happier knowing the military knew I was in the area, but disappointed not to be able to fly Rainbow Canyon myself. The only aircraft seen though, was a civilian Beech 90 King Air, also skirting the R2505 restricted area, in the opposite direction.

IMG_1733.CR2

Jedi Transition low level military flight training canyon!

Reaching an altitude over 9500 feet, the flying was smooth, calm and the views were simply breathtaking. Snow covered mountains peaks to the west, scorched deserts and mountains everywhere else.

IMG_1737.CR2

Looking south east

IMG_1738.CR2

China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station

IMG_1743.CR2

Inyokern Airport

Stovepipe Wells to Kernville.tif

Skirting R-2505

Rather than fly over the mountains to the west, the western edge of R-2505 was followed south until reaching Walker Pass (5246 feet), near Indian Wells. Here Joshua Approach were thanked for their service and the BZIM descended between the mountains routing to Kern Valley airport (L05).

IMG_1744.CR2

Stunning approach to Kern Valley

IMG_1749

Runway, camping area to the top left near runway, apron and hangers bottom right

Flight time from Stovepipe Wells to Kern Valley was a leisurely 2 hours 19 minutes. Distance flown, 133 miles.

20180424_083425

The BZIM at Kern Valley

20180424_100458

Kern Valley airport and the BZIM

20180424_100510

Looking towards the airport cafe and a friendly welcome

Generosity and kindness, was again, something I would find at Kern Valley. At the cafe, I was welcomed by Shoan and Bea, who cooked up a hearty breakfast. Telling the story of my adventure, Paul Shoemaker, a local pilot, insisted on paying. Paul then offered to drive into town, to get fuel, for my external tank. Although I pressed him to accept payment, Bea told me that I was be wasting my time trying to pay. If Paul wanted to pay, I should let him. Thank you Paul.

Another local “back-country” pilot arrived, asking, why I ended up in Kern Valley.  During research for my trip, I was searching online for airfields that offered “camping under the wing”. Kern Valley promotes this pastime, having a camping area on the airfield, so it featured quickly in search results.  Seeing images of the picturesque airport, Kern Valley airport was always going to be a ‘target’, camping or not.

20180424_100503

Stunning backdrop for 1952 Cessna 170B N8326A

20180424_10272220180424_10273920180424_102735

20180424_083442

I learned there are many small dirt strips dotted around the area, many not marked on any official aviation chart. I had overflown a few, thinking they were private airstrips. As the BZIM had no brakes, I had little thoughts of ‘ticking off’ a few… Perhaps one day.

Fron the airport, many military fighter aircraft were seen to pass to the west of Kern Valley. Here low flying route IR236 begins. Seeing F15’s, F22’s, F18’s descend into the valley, I was glad to have stayed flying high earlier in the morning.

Two hours after my arrival, it was time to say goodbye.  A fly past was aborted after realizing I would have been flying too low and close to workers cutting grass.

IMG_1753

Climbing out of the area

IMG_1755

looking back towards Kern Valley

My next destination, and stay location for the next few days, was Santa Paula airport.

A new brake cable had been sent from P&M Aviation in the UK, to Santa Paula c/o the airport manager, Rowena. Here I would fit the new cable.

Santa Paula is the home-base of fellow pilot, trike owner and amazing videographer, Henry ‘TrikeLife’ Imagawa.
Henry has been making awesome trike flying videos for years! The airports, scenery and obvious freedom seen in his videos, is a major factor in why I wanted to come to, and fly across the United States.

Henry’s videos are truly inspirational.

IMG_1760.CR2

follow the road, flying between the hills and mountains, not over!

The flight towards Santa Paula was uneventful. Aware I would now be approaching potentially busier airspace, I chose to stay low, flying between hills and mountains rather than over them. Exiting the hills east of Bakersfield, undulating land was briefly followed by a flat valley. Soon the final mountain range would be weaved, following Interstate 5, avoiding a number of Condor sanctuary areas, where overflight of at least 3000 feet is required.

IMG_1761

IMG_1764.CR2

undulating land

IMG_1767

not sure what to think of this!

IMG_1769

IMG_1774

Interstate 5

IMG_1777.CR2

IMG_1778.CR2

Spot the Cessna

IMG_1784

Circling Cessna

IMG_1789.CR2

IMG_1793.CR2

Fillmore High School football ground

Flown distance from Kern Valley to Santa Paula was 122 miles.
Time taken was two hours twenty one minutes.

Kern to Santa

Santa Paula is only 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Approaching the airport, there was no sign of the coastline in the distance. Haze and low lying clouds were out to the west.

Soon after parking on the transient apron, I was introducing myself and being welcomed by airport manager Rowena. I was offered use of the en-site airport pilot accommodation for my first nights stay. With an added bonus, it included access to a washing machine and drier. Good use was made of both.

Within an hour of landing, Henry TrikeLife arrived. Henry offered a home for the BZIM, along with a place for me to sleep for the second night at Santa Paula, in his hanger.

I briefly met Henry at SunNFun two years previously. My heavy Scottish accent had been difficult for Henry to ‘catch’ first time, but even back then, after telling him of my planned adventure, he gave me a business card. “You contact me and we can fly together”. Here I was, two years later. Henry would soon fly with me as I crossed the Pacific coastline. But not today. Visibility wouldn’t improve until late Wednesday afternoon.

The brake cable was scheduled to arrive “by Friday 27th”, three days away. As is ever the case, a car is a necessity in America. Henry dropped me off at Enterprise, provided me with the keys to his hanger and said he would return Wednesday around midday. Time to relax at the ‘airport hotel’.

IMG_1794.CR2

Circling Cessna lands at Santa Paula

IMG_1795.CR2

Piper J3 Cub – N6900H st Santa Paula

DSCN1367

Cessna 177 N3171T, Santa Paula

To Death….

….Valley

Catching up April 23rd April 2018

Jokingly or not, a few people questioned my need for brakes. That thought, from the previous evening, lead me to decide to fly out of Marble Canyon first thing, brakes or no brakes. I would position to Page Municipal airport (KPGA). From there I would be able to communicate with the world and have access to mechanics who might assist with any repair.

20180423_053540

Marble Canyon Lodge at 05:35

At 5:00 am I was awake and re-packing everything that I had laid out on the floor from the previous afternoon. Next it was trekking back and forward, back and forward, between my hotel room and the BZIM. The early morning was nice and fresh. Cool for locals it seemed, a few appearing wearing jackets and trousers. It was 16’C, almost a summers day back home in Scotland.

20180423_064000

sunrise getting close

20180423_063949

IMG_1639.CR2

red rock and sunlight and the BZIM

The preparations were completed as the sun rose, turning the canyon sides flaming red. Wow, wow and wow. This is why so many people awake and outside already.

With no wheel brakes I had to leave the aircraft chocked as the engine was started and oil temperature brought up to 50’C. At that point, the engine was turned off, chocks stored and engine restarted. iEfis on, radio on, transponder on, traffic monitor on, lights and strobes on, final checks carried out, radio call announcing my immediate departure, final look around and the BZIM was rolling.

Less than 12 hours earlier I had resigned myself to being stuck at Marble Canyon for days. Less than twelve hours later, the BZIM and I, back where we were supposed to be be! In the air, flying,

After departing and turning north east, it was difficult resisting the temptation, to do as many pilots dream of doing, flying under a bridge. The Navajo Bridge in this case. Resist I did though, fearful of being seen and reported on. The the FAA would likely be quick revoking my permission to fly. Perhaps one day, somewhere!

IMG_1643.CR2

Lake Powell looking stunning in the morning sun

The flight to Page airport was short, only twenty minutes. Landing with winds, calm. Runway length of almost 6000 feet, at an elevation of 4316 feet. The BZIM had slowed to taxing speed well before it vacated the runway at the midpoint. Using the slope of the apron and cutting the engine at the correct moment slowed the BZIM to a stop and soon it was  parked alongside a nice, similarly green coloured, Cessna.

IMG_1649.CR2

IMG_1650.CR2Starting, departing, landing and parking were all accomplished without brakes. I now could see no reason why I should wait for parts to arrive before continuing. A quick telephone to P&M Aviation in the UK, confirmed the part required. The part would be sent to an airport ahead of me. By 8:00 am the BZIM was airborne again, continuing the adventure.

As I was heading south west again, I decided to fly another approach to Marble Canyon airport. The previous evening I had been speaking to one of two french pilots that had flown into Marble Canyon. They were preparing their aircraft, stopping to wave, as I flew a low approach. Now towards the Grand Canyon!

IMG_1661IMG_1662.CR2As the morning temperatures increased, so did the thermals. Heading south towards the southern edge of the Grand Canyon I could see the land rise and rise in front of me. Stronger thermal jolts were being felt the higher above ground the BZIM flew. Knowing the conditions would only continue to worsen as the morning progressed, I decided to forgo the goal of flying over the Grand Canyon. A late evening flight, or very early morning flight would provide the best flying conditions to cross the Canyon. I had missed that window.

IMG_1666.CR2

Looking towards the Grand Canyon

IMG_1669.CR2

the Grand Canyon in the distance

The decision was made to instead fly to Grand Canyon Valle Airport, roughly 25 miles due south of the Grand Canyon. Overflying the Kaibab National Forest provided a change from the desert landscape of previous flights.

The generosity offered to visiting pilots at US airports was once again a pleasure to behold at Valle. Handed to keys to the owners own large pick up truck, I drove to the local gas station for unleaded and then to Fred’s Diner, Bedrock City for breakfast.

Bedrock City  and Fred's Diner

20180423_104655

G-BZIM at Valle

Valle Airport is the location of the “Planes of Fame Air Museum”. Unfortunately closed, however some aircraft were visible whilst air-side.

IMG_1665.CR2

Planes of Fame Air Museum

20180423_104958

Within the FBO/terminal building, there is a large collection of impressive vintage cars on display.

Valle airport is 5999 feet above sea level. Departing around 11:15, temperature 20’C with a density altitude of almost 7800 feet. Ahead, the land would increase height to around 6800 feet. Crossing this higher ground wasn’t easy. Full power, bar slightly pushed out, trying to climb, was only keeping the microlight flying at level flight. Occasionally a shallow climb would develop but maintaining the climb was difficult. Airspeed around 52mph. Relaxing the bar, returning to a cruise speed of 60 mph resulted in the microlight descending below the top of the land ahead. Turning away from the hills, looking options, the BZIM entered a thermal and climbed.  Quickly putting the BZIM into a turn, I tried to stay within the thermal for as long as possible. Finally, at around 1000 ft above the height of the hills, I continued at full power crossing the hills, finally able to descend towards the Las Vegas valley and Jean

The next four hours flying, crossing wasteland, canyons, hills, dry lake-beds and mountains was some of the toughest, relentless flying I’d encounter.  The dry lake-beds, hills and mountains had to be weaved through. Any attempt to try to climb resulted in slow long drawn out climbs with increasing turbulance due to the higher winds aloft.

IMG_1674

Dust devils in the distance

IMG_1675

dust devil subsiding

IMG_1676.CR2

IMG_1679

IMG_1681

IMG_1682

IMG_1685

 

20180423_151430

Having left the seat on a number of occasions, jolted by rotor from jagged hill tops, I weaved between lower ridges, always aware from which direction the wind was coming from. Finally as the last ridge was passed I could relax, knowing the worst was over. Jean would soon be round the corner. Landing in a 18 mph, gusting more crosswind, it felt good being able to relax.

Two aircraft, a Cessna and a PA28  were bashing the circuit as I taxied to the apron. The skydiving school was busy inside, no sign of any venturing outside til later perhaps.

The BZIM was tied one wing down with some nice weighty chains. A quick check of the wind forecast to see if there was to be any change in direction. None forecast. With a hotel/casino close, I contemplated staying the night.  My en-route flight calculations had implied there was not enough time to get into Death Valley. I would have to wait til the morning. This would make leaving the Death Valley area mid morning a bit more difficult.

During reviewing of my plans, eating at a Denny’s, somehow it appeared I now did have time to reach Death Valley. What? how? …I suddenly realized, I had forgot to adjust for yet another time zone that had passed.

A quick call to Stovepipe Wells ensured a hotel room was available. Hoping the winds had lessened, a quick return to the airport didn’t provide much relief. Refuel first. Avgas this time. A local pilot was surprised to see a weight shift trike flying today, even more surprised to see a UK one. He advised to be wary of the mountains and military airspace to the north, saying the winds wouldn’t die down for another hour or so. An hour delay would mean I couldn’t make my destination.

The flight across the mountains was nothing compared to the previous four hour flight. After the first ridge passed, the wind calmed a lot. Once again, flying was pure enjoyment. A strange, in the middle of no-where, complex was overflown. False buildings and rooms were obvious. Only when targets were seen was it clear this was some sort of weapons training facility. Front Sight Firearms Training I later learned was the complex.

IMG_1687.CR2

IMG_1691

IMG_1693

IMG_1696

Continuing the flight towards Death Valley, it was surprising to see areas of new built housing communities located in such a dry arid area. The lush greenness of lawns was obvious and out of place in comparison to the surrounding desert seen from above. Flying conditions, continued to improve, allowing low flight between hill areas.

Eventually Furnace Creek, was spotted, an approach and landing made to the lowest airport in the USA at −210 feet below sea level. The landing was only for a log book entry.

Departure without stopping, heading across Death Valley to Stovepipe Wells, flying low level, even flying below sea level!

IMG_1699.CR2

Furnace Creek

IMG_1701.CR2

Death Valley!

IMG_1705

IMG_1709

 

IMG_1711.CR2

IMG_1713

 

IMG_1716

The landing at Stovepipe Wells didn’t go quite to plan. Late touchdowns and a down  sloping runway from the mid-point, resulted in the engine having to be quickly started and power increased to take-off before the runway end. Eventually after three landing attempts, the BZIM landed and was parked for the night. Just as the sun set.

A true sunrise to sunset flying day!

 

Flying never to forget (part 2)

Continuing catch up for April 22nd 2018IMG_1353I left Damien, Mark, Michael, Frank and Henry behind, on a high. Following Damien’s advice, I made Shiprock my first goal, just over 120 miles to the north west. During the almost two hour flight, there were many strange looking and fascinating natural geographical land features. Obvious dry river beds could be seen carved into the surface.

IMG_1372

Dry river beds are also fun to fly in!

Many formations are caused by water and wind erosion, with others caused through volcanic processes. Many of the ‘carvings’ are below the high flat plains of the area. The plains exist at around 6500ft above sea level. Most features are hidden below the distant horizon and are not noticeable until much closer. IMG_1398.CR2IMG_1387.CR2.jpgIMG_1404One area overflown is known as the “Bisti Badlands”. The ‘features’ within this area are 200ft > 400ft below the height of the surrounding plains. The area was once a river delta that lay west of the shore of an ancient sea. These ‘badlands’ are little traveled and relatively unknown compared to others, due partially to it’s remoteness. Much of the area is only accessible by foot and is not visible from the main NM371 highway which runs closest to the area.IMG_1413.CR2

IMG_1426.CR2

IMG_1429.JPG

IMG_1439

time to have some fun

IMG_1441

I wonder what they were thinking?

One hour forty eight minutes after leaving Cabezon Peak, pushed by a slight tailwind, the BZIM was touching down at Shiprock airfield.IMG_1447Landing at Shiprock was simply for an photo opportunity and to add a log book entry.  There was no wind and it was hot. Much more pleasant in the air, so within minutes of landing the BZIM was airborne again heading towards the infamous throat of a volcano, known as Shiprock. Rising 1,583 feet above the high desert plain, it’s peak is 7,177 feet above sea level.

IMG_1461.CR2

Shiprock

After a few orbits of Shiprock, a heading was set towards Bluff airfield. Landing again was only to add an entry into the logbook, this time not even stopping for a photo. After Bluff, routing next was towards the famous Monument Valley. I wasn’t quite ready for what I saw next. Again, the flatness to the surrounding area hides the change of view, until it was suddenly right in front and below. The San Juan river twists and turns, advancing forward whilst carving an ever deepening canyon. Quickly the river is 1000ft below the surrounding area.IMG_1513

IMG_1517.CR2

IMG_1524.CR2

San Juan river gorging an impressive canyon

IMG_1532

IMG_1539

Monument Valley in the distance

IMG_1543.CR2

IMG_1549.CR2

towards Monument Valley

IMG_1559Monument Valley airport was an ideal stopping point, to grab a bite to eat and refuel  from the gas station just across the road from the airport. With three portable tanks fill ups and two fuel transfers, it was two and a half hours later before the BZIM was airborne again.20180422_13030720180422_13023520180422_123425Flying conditions, were still perfect as the BZIM got airborne just before 3pm. The wind had increased a little, but this wasn’t of concern. Being aware of the wind direction in flight (thanks to the MGL Discovery Lite), its possible to make an educated guess where any rotor or turbulence may be encountered. This allowed for these areas to be avoided with ease. Only when entering a canyon, was the occasional jolt felt.

The final flight of the day would take me to Marble Canyon around an hour and a half away. Routing would follow the spectacular Colorado river as it meandered into Lake Powell.  I had been warned to expect stunning views, as ever 😉

IMG_1561Words can’t describe the sense of awe, nor the feeling of being so lucky to be experiencing these sights. Flying in an open cockpit weight-shift microlight added a degree of freedom and connection that is unique!

IMG_1574

IMG_1581

IMG_1583

IMG_1586.CR2

IMG_1588.CR2

IMG_1591.CR2

IMG_1594.CR2

IMG_1595

IMG_1596.CR2

IMG_1599.CR2

IMG_1603.CR2

IMG_1611.CR2

IMG_1627

Overflying Page Municipal Airport

IMG_1630.CR2

Glen Canyon Dam

IMG_1635.CR2

IMG_1662The final stages of the last flight of the day provided a stunning approach to Marble Canyon airport. Again, Marble Canyon was  chosen due to the proximity of a gas station opposite providing unleaded gasoline.

Today was an almost a perfect day. Meeting everyone from Double Eagle airport NM, perfect flying weather, some amazing photos, videos and memories. Nothing would ever bring me down from the joy I was feeling as I landed at Marble Canyon….

Marble Canyon airport is located exactly where it says. Within a canyon. Following the cable brake, I found I had no mobile phone reception therefore no internet connection. Quickly booking a room at the hotel across the road from the airfield, I learned they had no wifi access. They did have a single PC available in the reception area, for all guests to use. The BZIM was completely unloaded to gain access to the whole brake cable. I fully expected to be stranded for a few days, so moved everything from the BZIM to the hotel room. Over the next few days, I could sort through the items I had been carrying, whilst waiting on parts for the brakes.

An email was hastily sent to P&M aviation in the UK, describing my predicament. I requested a new cable be sent out to me from the UK. With it being the middle of the night in the UK, I would have to wait til the next day for any reply. With the hotel reception area closing at 9pm, a final check of the messages sent out on Facebook. I noted some comments questioning whether I needed brakes.

After all they were only (for) slowing me down!

Continue reading

Its enjoyable after all!

Catching up … Novasota (60R)  to Odessa (ODO) via Burnet (BMQ)

Wednesday 18th April.
Sometimes it’s difficult to be sure whether to depart or wait. The last few days have followed a similar pattern. Calm early, winds increase by 9/10am, winds calm later. This morning had an additional factor. A weak cold-front was moving through the area making much of the transiting area fall under the FAA definition of an “IFR area”. The destination Burnet (KBMQ) was VFR, but winds would be 12 knots gusting 19 knots by 10am.
Although not ideal, it would be possible to avoid the IFR area, by routing east of the direct track, but this would result in a longer period of time with a headwind, arriving after the winds increase.
Decisions…. Get airborne and work it out from there.
Airborne time was just after 7am. Cloud-base was higher than forecast at just over 2200ft.

IMG_0796.CR2

Whilst flying in a particular direction, weather information for airports ahead are listened to. This provides details of surface wind speed, cloud-base and allows for comparing with the forecast given prior to flight.

IMG_0795

Approaching Taylor, cloud-base was confirmed at above 2000 ft and winds had not increased, yet!

IMG_0811.CR2

A rain shower could be seen off the left hand side towards Austin otherwise the constant layer of cloud was not a concern. I can see why the are was IFR, but operating clear of cloud, with 8km’s visibility, flying at 60mph, I was VFR.

IMG_0821

green truck caught my attention

Austin Texas is clearly growing city. Much of the housing was clearly new-built with more new land clearly being marked out for housing. Sports facilities looked spotless.

IMG_0825IMG_0823.JPG

Burnet was chosen as a destination due to the proximity of a gas station, providing access to unleaded petrol/gas.

IMG_0837.CR2

A small collection of donated USAF fighter aircraft are on display outside.

IMG_0846.CR2

IMG_0848.CR2

IMG_0838

40665490095_f57aebdd2d_o (1)

Inside Burnet FBO, a signed photograph proudly displayed.

After refueling the BZIM, departure was delayed as the winds had increased, as forecast.

By 1430, a desire to push on, resulted in the BZIM taking off in winds still reported as gusting 20 knots, but the winds in the destination were good.

IMG_0856.CR2

Sunrise Beach airstrip (2KL)

IMG_0917.CR2

Someone’s house 😉

IMG_0919.CR2

Someone’s house 😉

A 4 hour 30 minute flight to Odessa was probably the first time where the BZIM wasn’t fighting with the winds. The BZIM flew itself. It was hands off, relaxing flying. It was bliss! Previously only the flight along the eastern Florida coastline was nice, but there was still turbulence on that leg. This felt like the first time I was totally relaxed whilst flying. Listening to music and podcasts as I bimbled along at 60 mph. This was worth it!

IMG_0942.CR2

Texas is big and  flat.

IMG_0962.CR2

Oil pumps and drilling wells soon become a common sight

IMG_0961

IMG_0974.CR2

sand!

Arrival at Odessa was just after 7pm. Unfortunately the FBO closed at 7pm, leaving only the cleaning staff in the building. Thankfully one was happy to drop me off at a hastily booked hotel.

IMG_0995.CR2

IMG_0997.CR2

Looking towards Midland, approaching Odessa

41517281722_d057da0e70_o (1)

The BZIM at Odessa Texas

Continue reading

When them blow, they blow!

IMG_0652.CR2

 

 

Monday April 16th 2018

Winds! When them winds blow, they blow.

Gary Berdeaux  of Beachflight aviation, once again, went out of his way to assist me in my adventure. Meeting me at Salt Air Aviation, where I returned the car rental, and then taking me to his hanger, where the BZIM was sleeping, at 0730.

41468363242_f0e5a09715_k

The forecast today was for blue sky’s and wind. A 25 mph head wind in thermic conditions isn’t particularly comfortable. Worse though, the 25 mph headwind would slow my progress, meaning an additional fuel stop en-route.

40677147605_1dc47fdc45_o.jpg27700563708_4f8dac2b3b_o.jpg

IMG_0670.CR2

Departure from Jack Edwards was first toward Denton, on Dauphin Island. The flight to Dauphin Island was a nice slow flight. A distance of 28 miles traveled, should have taken 28 minutes at the BZIM’s 60mph speed, instead, it took almost 50 minutes!

IMG_0675.CR2

Fort Morgan, Alabama

IMG_0672.CR2

Offshore, crossing the channel to Dauphin island

IMG_0676.CR2

Denton in the centre above the tree line

Jeremiah Denton (4R9) airport, Dauphin Island was built on land reclaimed from the bay.

IMG_0678

Looking right, whilst on finals to Denton, Dauphin Island

IMG_0683.CR2

The BZIM at Dauphin Island

I’m told this can give an aircraft carrier departure feeling, but I guess that would be in an aircraft needing a longer departure run and at speeds faster than the BZIM.

After departure from Denton, I was advised by Gary, routing inland would lesson the wind speeds compared to following the coastline. Disappointed, as the plan was to fly low along the Mississippi River, this turned out to be a wise decision.IMG_0695

IMG_0715.CR2

For the short period, where a low level section was flown, the air was very turbulent and the view was not as pretty due to the previous days torrential rains. Much nicer was the area from where False River Airport got it’s name.

IMG_0717.CR2.jpg

Part of False River, now a lake, which once was a part of the meandering Mississippi River.

The flight from Denton to False River (HZR), for refueling, took 4 hours 39 minutes to fly the 211 miles.

IMG_0719.CR2.jpg

False River (HZR) airport, Louisiana

Having missed “Tora Tora Tora”, a Commemorative Air Force team who recreate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor team, at SunNFun, due to my early departure, it was nice to see the aircraft at False River (HZR).

IMG_0720.CR2
One of the Tora Tora Tora aircraft. I think this one is Tora.
IMG_0724.CR2

The BZIM soaking up the sun at False River

A regular gas station, near the entrance to the airport at False River, was trekked to. The airport manager offered a ride to the station, but it wasn’t far and stretching the legs after 4 hours 40 minutes felt good. The FBO has a nice area and feel with free snacks,  coffee and water.

20180416_141351

Next stop, Eunice (LA90) only 60 miles away would allow the BZIM’s tanks to be filled using  Mogas (motor gas). This was done quickly and by 1620, the BZIM was on it’s way to Livingston (00R) 160 miles to the west. Most of this area is densly covered with trees. The area is largely swamp land with a few alligators I am told!

IMG_0747.CR2

Trees

IMG_0758.CR2

More trees, a river and the BZIM

Although Livingston does not have unleaded fuel at the airport, a local gas station just over one mile away resulted in a late evening walk. Even though no fuel was purchased at Livingston, Dan Burrows allowed access to Burrows Aviation building for the night.

20180416_193508

The BZIM in the setting sun


 

 

SunNFun

The flight towards Paradise City SunNFun was a straight line flight north from Arcadia, except for a small deviation east when a rain shower was seen ahead. A diversion to Wauchula almost took place, joining downwind for the airport. However from this location a way around the shower was obvious.

IMG_0153

A rather yucky looking lake.  It looks alive!

IMG_0142

An orbit for a closer look

IMG_0144

Another orbit, and finally its clear. 100’s of Alligators!

Arrival into Paradise City at SunNFun it was…quiet. Traffic wise anyway. Just the BZIM making the low level 500ft join to the downwind, 400ft turning base over the BP garage and finals to 27. The green flag flying was noted on roll-out, so all good (?). Perhaps not, as a couple of marshaller’s  come tearing over to the BZIM. Some confusion continued about where the BZIM would be staying, but eventually the BZIM was moved outside the air-side area to allow camping under the wing to take place.

After parking the BZIM and speaking to a number of staff about my trip, the rain started. There was no time to lower the wing and waterproof the trikes contents, so the one side of the wing was tied down and I remained with the BZIM to hold it steady. The rain turned into a storm. Winds speeds increased (wing down was into wind), gusting started, and direction changed. Holding the wing kept everything fairly tight. Then the lightning!

So, SunNFun wasn’t living up to it’s name. No Sun and definitely not fun. On two occasions an electric shock was felt, whilst holding the wing. First time holding the wing wires (metal), second time holding a wing baton (plastic). Crackling in the air was heard directly overhead the second time. Perhaps my Adidas Continental rubber-ed boots provided some insulation?

As the rain eased, fellow trike pilot Doug Boyle from Piedmont Aerosports arrived with his trailer-ed  trike. Doug was kind enough to offer shelter in his camper and we both went for a bite to eat.

IMG_0382.CR2.jpg

Doug Boyles Trike, camper and tent

SunNFun is the huge fly-in that takes place every year at Lakeland Regional airport. Lots of flying and aircraft to be seen, with vendors selling everything aviation related. Also unusually(?), a wedding! A wedding between Amy and Larry Mednick, owners of Evolution Trikes, whom built the Revo and Revolt trikes took place on Tuesday evening.

IMG_0189

Congrats to Amy and Larry

Also on Tuesday evening, the Uncontrolled Airspace Podcast (UCAP) broadcasts on SunNFun radio.

IMG_0224

Jack and Dave of UCAP

IMG_0222.CR2.jpg

and Jeb!

Wednesday April 11th was spent wandering around SunNFun and readying the BZIM for the adventure ahead. Too much is being carried and needs to be thinned out.

Departure from SunNFun Thursday 12th at around 8:00am

Miami South Beach and across the Everglades

Day 1 flying coast to coast to coast of the USA.IMG_9945.JPGMonday 9th April. Mr Roberts arrived early. Access to the hanger, where the BZIM was staying, should have resulted being airborne by 10am. However two errors building the wing resulted in it having to be taken back off the pylon, the whole process starting again. The second attempt, completed around midday, in the blazing sun resulted in blisters on both hands making the whole sweat drenching process painful. Once everything was ready, it was time to drop off the hire car at Homestead. Thanks Diane Roberts.

Time to jump in and fly.

The ‘test flight’ was out to South Beach Miami with return to Homestead.  Weather at Homestead; hot, sunny, 14kts winds from the south, with gusts of 18kts. The BZIM bounced into the air before the first intersection and continued bouncing as it climbed.  Clearing the pattern, heading for the coast, the bouncing continued. Not the toughest flying, but most passengers would not have enjoyed.

IMG_9949.CR2.jpg

Looking south at the Ronald Reagan Turnpike

Flight to the coast was mostly between 1000ft and 1500ft. Routing between Miami Executive airport and Homestead AFB in uncontrolled airspace, many small private airstrips provided landing options, should a major problem occur. Once at the coast, the flight smoothed. Routing was towards Key Biscayne and upon rounding the Cape Florida Lighthouse turning north. Miami and South Beach were a sight to behold in the distance.

IMG_9989.CR2.JPG

Cape Florida Lighthouse with Miami and South Beach in the distance

Approaching the busy beach area, it was clear parasailing was taking place. This necessitated a transit further offshore than preferred. Unusually(?) no other aircraft,or helicopters, were seen during the entire flight, other than at Homestead.

IMG_0023At the northern turning point, the 18mph tailwind became a 18mph headwind. Two problems arose.

  1. Cramp developed in my left arm, hand and fingers. This is something I had only ever encountered a few hours earlier after finishing building the wing. Mr Roberts advised it was probably due to dehydration.  It was painful but more, it was annoying and distracting.
  2. The voltage indicator dipped below 12.4V.  S**t!

Pulling the bar in to go faster, was causing the cramp to worsen. If I didn’t grip anything, it was O.K. Not wanting to miss a good photo though, I put up with the cramp as best I could, but this wasn’t good.

IMG_0067

A cramp induced photo!

Voltage supply warning light was now flashing on the EFIS (Electronic flight instrumentation system), with 12.1V showing. It wasn’t possible to  switch the transponder off s the BZIM was within a Transponder Mandated Zone. A back up android tablet running iFLY GPS was cross-checked with the EFIS data, just in case it failed. A second android device would provide a further back up system. Returning overland towards Homestead was  smoother than the outbound leg. When the EFIS power indicated 11.9V, it was powered off, to ensure the transponder continued to work. Prior to landing, the EFIS was powered on, and landing was uneventful on 18, and short, turning off at the first intersection.

Airborne time from Homestead to South Beach and return was 1 hour 25 minutes.

South beach map

The charging problem was quickly located. The problem was the 15V car fuse holder contacts, which were blackened. The fuse metal contacts had began to degrade with holes through the metal! Rewiring a new fuse holder took around another hour in the sweltering heat!

With the time now after 1600, a go or no-go decision had to be made. Getting into Lakeland, early Tuesday morning was the plan, so routing to Everglades City was canned. A call to George at Arcadia confirmed access to the camp-ground for the night, so a direct route was planned, routing around larger airports.  Distance of around 150 miles should take 2.5 hours. A quick top-up of AVGAS and the BZIM was ready.

After saying my thanks and goodbyes to Diane Roberts, the BZIM departed Homestead at 1655. The wind was now from the southwest, so any gain was lost as the BZIM headed northeast at an average  62mph ground speed.

Around 20 minutes after departure from Homestead, the cramps returned. This time however, both arms, both hands and fingers were cramping up depending upon how strong the bar I gripped. Other than the odd thermal every few minutes, flying was easy. As a thermal was passed, however, it was painful.

There is not a lot to see crossing the Everglades in the dry season 😦

IMG_0117

IMG_0102

 

 

IMG_0114.CR2

Crossing Alligator Alley 

Arcadia

  • Airborne time from Homestead to Arcadia was 2 hour 28 minutes.
  • Total airborne time for Monday 9th April was 3 hours 53 minutes.
  • Video of Miami Beach leg will be added to the blog at a later date.