Seattle to Texas by RV-12
here I was sitting at my computer (as usual) in April 2017, when I got this email from
Don - a fellow Vans RV-12 guy I know down in Texas. And I actually opened it (this seems
to happen a couple of times a day - I never learn.) They always seem to have 'Requests.' Well, he was
looking to buy an RV-12 (same kind of airplane that I have) that was offered for sale right near me and
wanted to know if I knew anything about it.
Diamond Point Airstrip - near Port Townsend - where the airplane was located
This discussion progressed to my
going over to the airport where it was based to "just take a look" -
definitely NOT a "pre-purchase inspection" I told Don. Even so, Don
N756TS - Don's new airplane
up next was the question "How do I get it down here?" I suggested
a trucker who moves RV's for a living - the wings come off the RV-12
and it's easy to move. I suppose you have figured out where this
is going, but Don asked if I knew anybody who could fly it down.
I think in the Army they teach you to "Never Volunteer", but I was
never in the Army, so I volunteered (after consulting with Dot.)
And, in May, I did exactly that and flew it the 2500 miles down to
Brownsville, Texas. Well, not exactly - since I got stopped about
2 hours short by some severe weather, and Don had to trailer it the
rest of the way to his place - but almost, got there, that is. Got it as far as Del
Rio on the Mexican border.
was a fairly routine flight (two flat tires), made in three days with
three legs per day. This web page is the story with all the
details. Too many details, maybe, for my non-pilot friends. Not enough details for the
tech types. But, there are lots of purty pictures for those
who just want eye candy. It's a helluva big, beautiful country.
evaluated three main routings, north, central, west and four further
of a west coast north/ south route - six in all. Each routing had to be
evaluated for terrain, leg length, and suitable airports for fuel stops
In the end, the weather
dictated the routing, which had to be changed even while en-route, when
Roseburg, Oregon - my first stop - fogged in, and I had to divert to
North Bend/Coos Bay on the coast, thus moving my next stop from Willows
to Santa Rosa, California.
Final Routing - Hey, this is a BIG country! (SkyVector App.)
Maybe a month elapsed
between my agreement to fly the airplane and departure time. I
used the time to continually fine tune my routings and also to check
the weather on a daily basis. By the time I took off, I had a
pretty good handle on what to expect. My base line was for three
days, three legs per day. And, that's what I did.
My northern routing took me
east via Spokane, Missoula, and Billings. Although the terrain
was challenging in the leg between Missoula and Billings via Bozeman
Pass, or maybe Helena, it was a relatively short path through the
Rockies out onto the High Plains. From Billings, I would head
south via Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Amarillo on the east side of the
Front Range. The problem that surfaced was there was continual
convective activity in that area - common in the Spring, when the
remaining remnants of the winter's Alberta Clipper cold fronts continue
to sweep into the now warm and moist air moving up from the Gulf.
I decided threading through CB's (Cumulonimbus thunderstorms) was not
my cup of tea, so set aside that option.
The Central route took me steadily southeast via Boise and Pocatello, Idaho,
Salt Lake City and Albuquerque. The problem with this route was
two fold. Continual marginal weather combined with a very long
transit of the heart of the Rockies. Many miles of High Terrain,
few airports, and uncertain weather were not a good recipe, so I
eliminated that route completely.
That left a dog-leg routing - north-south via Oregon and California,
and then east across the desert and southern Rockies. I had flown
the north-south portion many times, so knew exactly what to expect
there. The east-west portion would be new, but looked
readily doable. However, the North-south segment had continual weather
perturbations that forced me to plan four versions - from down the
Oregon Coast on the west, to an inland routing on the east side of the
Sierra via Klamath Falls, Reno, and Las Vegas.
An early trial balloon Flight Plan on Fly-Q - yet another aviation app I use
The continuing overall problem was the shifting weather that was moving the problem
locations day-to-day. If the ends were OK, the middle turned bad,
and vice versa. Even if it were sunny, parts of the desert SW
were experiencing 40-50 kt winds. Trying to find good flying
weather for the whole three day stretch over such a broad swath of the
country was asking for a bit much.
Good at one end - crummy at the other - here's a rainy Northwest 2 days before departure
I made several trips to the private airfield where the plane was
kept. Reviewing the logbooks, I noted the Transponder had never
been certified despite about 80 flying hours on the plane. Arrangements
were made to have it done in a shop in Arlington, a nearby airfield. I also
made arrangements to then move the airplane to Pt. Townsend and use a
neighbor's hangar until departure.
Getting the Transponder certified
I set the week of May 15, 2017 as the target period and Friday, May 19 as the
tentative departure date. I was experiencing weather problems in the
northern end with cold, wet conditions in Washington and Oregon -
but hoping for an improvement in late week. On Tuesday, May 16, I
took possession of the airplane. After a good inspection and
engine run-up, I took off and performed some flight tests including
checking stall speeds, trim, and autopilot functionality. I sure didn't
want to hand fly an RV-12 for 2500 miles! Then I headed for
Arlington in the rain for the Transponder checks. Crummy day, but flyable.
With those checks signed off, I returned the plane to my home airport at Pt. Townsend, topped off the fuel
tank, transfered my gear - tools, spare parts, and survival gear -
from my plane to the new plane - and bedded down the airplane in the
loaned hangar to await departure.
Transferring all my flight gear and supplies between airplanes
Now, I was ready to Rock 'n 'Roll, and went into a weather watch
routine. It was shaping up as an all too familiar PNW pattern, with fog and low
clouds in the morning, burning off to clear skies in the afternoon -
only clearing sometimes, that is - and even then, late afternoon! This can go on for many days, so I
decided to get out of Dodge ASAP, even if it had to be late in the day,
to get down at least into central Oregon, and away from the scourge of
the Puget Sound morning marine layer.
Meanwhile, the Coast was in
its usual even worse shape with a lot of low ceilings, drizzle and fog - only
clearing briefly, and then suffering high winds off the ocean. My
plan was to shoot for Bakersfield the first day, with stops in Roseburg
and Willows, California (Nancy's Airport Cafe!) If the
Williamette Valley stayed crappy, I would try to get east of the
Cascades, likely through the Gorge (Columbia River), and then down the
east side. Every possible routing and stop was pre-planned on my
computer and iPad apps - primarily ForeFlight (FF) and FltPlan.com - with paper
printouts of every flight plan.
Wednesday, I packed my bags - a day early I figured - but I'd be
"ready." The forecasts showed slow improvement with Friday
morning the likely (and hoped for!) departure time. The forecasts (TAF) are
issued twice daily - at about 3:30 AM & PM, with the actuals
(METARS) coming across the wire at about 57 minutes past each
hour. One wrinkle in these parts is the actuals can be clear all
night, deceiving you, while the fog forms early between 5 and 7
AM. Head for the airport in the clear and get skunked by the time
you get there! Been there, done that.
At about 0345, Thursday morning, I checked the new forecast, which
except for persistent Puget Sound morning crud. At 0400 I
checked the latest
sequences - Jefco (K0S9 - Pt. Townsend - my home airport) was reporting
"operational" with MVFR (Marginal VFR weather) of about
1500-1800 ft overcast, good visibility. This was actually "good"
- since the trap was "clear", which could be followed by fog.
"Clear" allowed for the early morning radiational chill-down that led
to the fog formation. Low cloud ceilings actually trapped the
heat keeping visibilities operational and reducing the likelihood of
Amazingly, even the Coast looked
promising. I figured I could stay low over Puget Sound if necessary down to about
Olympia and then climb to my best wind altitude of 5500 ft, dodging
clouds as needed. I made a Command Decision, hopped out of bed,
awoke Dot, washed my face, jumped into my clothes, grabbed my pre-packed bag and
announced I was "OFF!"
In neighbor Jim Piper's hangar awaiting departure
Driving to the airport in the dark - and with no other traffic - seemed
a little surreal, but it had brightened by the time I got to the
airport. I wanted to be "wheels up" by first light to beat any
early fog to her punch! I pulled the airplane from her hangar,
stowed my gear,
listened to the ASOS (recorded weather) one last time, looked around to
eyeball the clouds in confirmation, and jumped in. I figured I
could make it to
the South Sound, even if I had to scoot down low over the water.
With no traffic at that hour - I did my runup and self-announced my departure
on Runway 27 with a left turn out to the south - and took off -- headed for
Texas! I started up at 0550 hrs and took-off at 0601L.
The weather was as reported, with some scud, broken cloud layers and a solid
overcast to the West - the Olympic Mountains being obscured.
Seemed to be brighter to the south and clouds were more ragged towards the East, so I
edged over in that direction, calling Seattle Approach for Flight Following (FF)
to Roseburg (KRBG.) Initially, due to my "kinda low altitude", he had a
hard time picking me up on radio and radar, but we worked it out.
I told him I would climb to 5500 when able.
And so - we were off on the Grand Adventure. I recorded
my OFF time on my How-Goz-It
flight plan I started on my clipboard and began my detailed trip
two button pushes were required to transfer my Fore Flight (another FF)
pre-planned Flight Plan
from my iPad to the Skyview on my panel, via Wi-Fi, creating my Magenta
line on my panel moving Map display - direct to RBG. (I admit it, I'm a
hopeless Child of the Magenta... but I do love to parallel navigate
the Old Fashioned Way, using Pilotage.) The TRACON coordinated with
Seattle Center, then gave me my squawk code and the red light showed he
was tracking me nicely. I used ATC services and Flight Following
all the way, and never filed a Flight Plan with Lockheed.
Sooner than I expected, the clouds got even more ragged and blue patches
began opening above me. By just Bainbridge Island, (maybe 30 miles south
of Pt. Townsend and abeam downtown Seattle), I began climbing for the
blue above and advised the Controller I was heading for 5500. He
cleared me into the Bravo as required with nary a hiccup.
passed through the broken layer to clear skies above with the Olympic
Mountains peeking above the cloud tops to the West, and Mt. Rainier rearing
up to the SE.
After a bit, the broken layer below thinned and changed to wispy
tendrils riding over the ridges with ground fog in the valleys.
The beauty never gets old and reminds me constantly of why I love to
fly so much.
Quickly, Mt. Hood began appearing in the distance
Not much traffic on the frequency at the early hour,
just me and the Controller and the airplane - and God - the two of us
sharing the solitude and the view. If there is a God, then this must be his view. Thanks God, for letting me
join you this morning. Believe me, I am the antithesis of a
religious type guy, but flying on such a beautiful morning can certainly
nudge you in His direction... I feel like Adam reaching out to touch God's finger on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Even in this little airplane, the miles tick off quickly, and with a nice
tailwind, you can make some pretty good progress. Soon we are down south of
Olympia with the Columbia River coming into view. I think
of all those poor folks fighting the semi-trailer 18-wheelers down there on I-5, as
Mt. Hood gets bigger at my 10 o'clock and Seattle Center transfers me to
That's Portland and the Columbia River off to my left.
You can see the I-5 bridge on the right side about 1/3 down
I'm a big non-fan of the FAA - except for ATC. Those guys
are my pals, always a mic click away, like a big Guardian Angel riding
along with me. By now, the frequency is alive with a lot of air
carrier guys going in and out of Portland, passing off to my left. On the
hour, I check the latest weather sequences on my phone. Not
supposed to do that, or even work in flight, confuses the cell towers or something, but
I usually find great success. I use a service called Weathermeister
(latched on to it from my Bro, Tony T.). And I can get updated
METARS (Current Station Weather Reports) and Winds Aloft - I'm always looking for the altitude with the best
winds. And, I can get my weather radar. (I use an app called MyRadar - you can see it at the end.)
The Autopilot has
us nicely tracking our Course line, level at 5500 and I have all the
latest weather info at my fingertips. Tell me this isn't the
Cat's Meow! Now, where's that Call Button? - I want that Stew with my breakfast!
But, Hello! What's this? Everyplace is nicely Clear - even
the Coast - except, except that is, for my destination - Roseburg. Its
early morning fog seems to be hanging around a bit late, while
everywhere else has burned off to CAVU (Ceiling And Visibility
Unlimited.) Hmmm...... I contemplate my options. One
is to overfly to Grant's Pass. That's a nice stop - we did that
last summer. But look at that! North Bend/Coos Bay is wide
open. Clear - and even no wind. With my iPad and FlyQ (another app), I determine that the
distance from Eugene to Roseburg is the same as Eugene to North Bend
(OTH.) And, I already have my alternate coastal routes all
pre-programmed. OTH is just one sheet down on my clipboard.
That would shift my next stop from Willows to Santa Rosa.
Just a two-finger touch on my iPad and FlyQ gives me the distances
and terrain elevations between Eugene and both Roseburg and North
Bend. Only about 7 miles difference!
flown the Medford - Mt. Shasta - Redding route many times in the past
few years - the Coast sounds good to me! I know the scenery will
be the best, and I'll be able to fly at a lower, more reasonable
altitude - it's usually cruise at 9500 ft down past Mt. Shasta.
Just then, my Guardian Angel chimes in. That's what I really love
about those ATC guys. He's not just sitting there sipping his morning
java, he's watching me, and my flight progress. We're on the same
"RV 56 Tango Sierra, Portland Approach."
"Looks like nobody is getting into Roseburg, waddya have
"Funny you should mention that, I was just noticing
that myself on the latest weather. Here's my backup - proceed to
Eugene (EUG), and if RBG is still flat, I'll divert to North
"OK, sounds like a Plan. I'll advise Seattle Center
and if you switch, we'll update your flight plan. Lemme
"56 Tango Sierra, Wilco."
So, on I trundle down to EUG. I've gone from Seattle Approach
(the TRACON), to Seattle Center, to Portland Approach, back to Seattle
Center, and now I've been handed off to Cascade Approach - they
control the Eugene and Medford areas. It's all seamless to me,
and each Controller in turn knows all about me, where I'm coming from
and where I'm going to. I love it! I spent a day visiting
the Seattle Center facility and hung out with the controllers handling
this sector. I can picture exactly who they are and what their
work stations look like. We are brothers connected by radio.
Approaching EUG, and
after a few radar traffic vectors for Eugene air carrier ops, RBG is
still down, so I advise going to OTH. I've done a lot of flying
in this area, and I've never flown into North Bend. Not even on
an air carrier in the old West Coast Airlines days. We've always diverted. North Bend seems to
have some of the worst weather on the Coast and while flying, even on nice days, you can
hear guys trying to get in there all day - and they all wind up diverting.
Actual Track - Diverting into North Bend / Coos Bay
I check back in with Seattle Center and they know I'm diverting.
I call the Controller and ask if he's got a pencil and paper. He
says "Yeah, why?" I answer "You better write this down, because
I'm the first guy ever to divert INTO North Bend!" That cracks
him up - 'cause he knows. It's not all straight business up
there, you know....
Soon, he hands me off to OTH Tower - North Bend is a Controlled airport, i.e.
with a Control Tower. The Tower Controller is expecting me and
I'm cleared into his Delta, to land on Runway 13 after a long Left Base. I sweep
across the sand dunes and the Bay.
The airport is right on Coos Bay and the
airport data sheet for pilots
advises to watch for passing ships, with mast heights extending up to
ft. After landing, the Ground Controller directs me to Coos
although unannounced, a pair of line boys come running to marshal me
in and get me parked. I park right next to a Boeing 737-200 - my
favorite airplane (of many!). A good omen? I've been flying and working on
737s since 1965, and the Tail Number of my own airplane is...... ready
for this?....... N737G. Story here.
That's the airport - right beyond the top bridge on the left
Not too many of these beauties still around - she looks as good as ever!
I already have a
full-up current Flight Plan for the next leg to Santa Rosa (STS)
prepared and printed out in advance as a "Just-in-Case".
Soon, I am refueled and in the nice FBO lounge using the bathroom,
washing up, and getting a drink. It's only about 9 o'clock in the
morning and I feel like I'm halfway there and the day hasn't even
started yet. Geez, airplanes are a nice invention!
Dot to advise her of my safe arrival - 'cept it ain't Roseburg, it's
North Bend. Anyhow, I'm off for Santa Rosa going down the
Coast. She and Tony and Don (in Texas) are following my progress
on FlightRadar 24 that allows you to track any airplane. It's all
very slick. They should know I've diverted before I even call.
It even gives you your flight profile - altitude and speed
Truth be told - you can even follow yourself - while flying! And I've done it a few times!!!
Did I say that???
The North Bend fuel stop is a critical data point for
my flight. This is a new - and different - airplane than the one
I normally fly. I can already tell the prop is pitched much
higher, and the cruise speeds are a lot different. And, it's got wheel pants. I don't really
know what its performance is. This leg will baseline the rest of the trip.
I know the distance and flight time, and departed with a full fuel
tank, the fuel added from the truck meter will give me my "NAM's" - or
Fuel Consumption in Nautical Miles/Gal of Fuel, and Fuel
Consumed/Minute/Hour of flying time with considerable accuracy.
Here's my actual How-Goz-It Flight Plan, (from FltPlan.com), that I was using from Pt. Townsend to Roseburg - same basic distance and winds to North Bend,
Note that my Flight Time (2:35) and Fuel Consumed (13.4 Gals) is bang on!
So is my Departure Time - 0601 L - OK - one minute behind sked.
I may fly a little airplane, but I still strive to fly professionally and with precision.
Although I use multiple flight planning apps, FltPlan.com is the most customizable for this purpose and I find they are the best. Remember - Garbage IN, Garbage OUT. I've tweaked it endlessly over the years to get it just right.
For this leg, I burned 5.19 GPH and my NAM was 21.64 NM/Gal.
The (almost) whole flight [through Pecos, Texas (PEQ)], required 17.183 flying hours and 81.6 Gallons of fuel
which produced an overall Fuel Burn of 4.749 GPH
I have found that about 22 NM/Gal and a round number of 5 GPH works well for planning purposes.
Actual miles flown is always higher than point-to-point due to maneuvering on departure and arrival.
With a 20 Gal tank - this is basically a 4 hour airplane - Fly 3 hours and refuel, leaving a nice 1 hour Reserve.
Driving a car, BTW, the most direct routes vary from 1883 SM to 2069 SM requiring (at 25 mpg) between 75 and 83 gals.
Following my route would require closer to 100 gallons.
The direct drive time would vary from 29-31 hours.
Departing North Bend, it's a right turn out and then down the Coast -
this is navigation made easy - REAL easy. And the scenery - well,
the Oregon Coast on a sunny day - it's the best!
Entrance to Coos Bay
Cape Blanco ahead - Just follow the coast - California, Here I Come!
'Ya see those beaches? They're my Emergency landing strips!
Cape Blanco and her Lighthouse - there's even a State Airport there
That's Gold Beach, Oregon - mouth of the Rogue River. I'm coming back!
Beach on one side of the field, and the town on the other. Can't beat that.
The Oregon Coast is always spectacular - but much better from the air!
Looks like a bear's paw - I find another one in the desert later on...
Can't see this from the highway!
Crescent City, California coming up
Right after Pearl Harbor, a Japanese submarine (I-17) shelled an oil tanker
near here 20 Dec 1941, which then went aground.
The city was also severely damaged after the tsunami from the big 1964 Alaska earthquake
That's Jack McNamara Field in Crescent City. I last flew in there in 1966 - but this time, just flying over.
I soon leave the Coast around Eureka and head Inland.
Next, it's down the Redwood Empire. We drove through this area last in 2010
- Ft. Bragg, Eureka, Willits (home of Seabiscuit), etc. Didn't much
enjoy it - too much traffic, too many very windy (that's windy, not windy - aahhh, Engleesh) roads, and too many
guys (and gals!) who wanted to go twice the speed limit (and I have a lead foot
myself.) Flying is sooo much better.
The Eel River
Willits - Home of Seabiscuit
Getting into the California Live Oaks
Off-roaders at work
Coming into the "wine country" where the beautiful people have their vineyards and "chateau."
Passing Ukiah, I'm handed off from Oakland Center to Norcal Approach,
and make a 10 mile straight-in to Runway 14 at Santa Rosa
Schulz Airport, named after the father of Peanuts.
And - even more important - Snoopy!!!
Every real aviator's best pal.
Sadly his home burned during the fires last Fall - 2017
Heading for Santa Rosa - KSTS - 53 NM ahead
Using the Approach Plate below, right on my panel, I can nail it on the runway centerline extended many miles out.
And I don't even have a Nav radio receiver!
I can get all these Charts and Approach Plates right on my Skyview Panel....
....and also on multiple Apps on my iPad
....and even on my Android smart phone
Even my taxi diagram is here - and all geo-referenced (little airplane shows my exact location)
No more big Sectionals to fold and re-fold
No more big Jeppesen loose leaf manuals
No more hours filing Revisions every month
No more big heavy Flight Briefcases
And there she is - Runway 14 - just where advertised
Sonoma Jet Center was the FBO here - very swank. They treated me like
I was a Gulfstream biz jet. Again the line boys ran out and parked me, although again unannounced, and
I filled up again. They had a very nice outdoor patio, and not being
met by a Rolls Royce, or expecting to find much to eat at some of my
stops, I had packed a brown bag lunch. So - here it was - Noon - and I
was enjoying my lunch on the patio in the warm glorious weather of the north San
Francisco Bay area. Try doing that in your car! And this was 'jes a
little pokey Light Sport aircraft.
Leg 2 North Bend - Santa Rosa (KOTH - KSTS)
After checking in with Dot and Tony T. by phone, I jumped in, started
up, and began taxiing for departure, when my serenity got jolted back
to reality. The airplane began handling strangely; after a brief
taxi I called the Tower and was cleared back to parking. I
thought maybe I had a flat tire. I did. Nose wheel
flat. Well, there goes Bakersfield tonite.
I pondered my future. Not much chance for getting a new tube, (and tire?), I
figured, any time soon (the RV-12, as do most small aircraft, still
uses tube tires.) With the help of one of the line boys, I began to
remove the wheel pant off the nose wheel (I fly my airplane
without wheel pants.) I told my woes to the gals at the FBO desk and
took a seat in their opulent lounge, checking on local hotels. After a while, a mechanic
came and we walked out to the airplane. He asked the tire size -
it's a 5x5 - pretty standard GA size - and he thought he had a tube.
I helped him remove the wheel and went back to the lounge. He
returned shortly with the bad tube - it had completely failed around the valve
stem. He said he could replace it - I said "Go for it."
After another little while, he was back - we reinstalled the nose wheel, threw the
pant in the baggage compartment, and I was good to go again.
Geez, looks like BFL is
back on today's flight plan, I thought - can hardly believe it.
I'd only lost about 2.5 hours, which was miraculous. Great job,
Sonoma Jet Center! Gals, guess I won't need a hotel room after all.....
I departed straight out off 14 heading for Petaluma, and was soon
overflying Sonoma Valley Airport, where I had gone last year to visit
and fly my friend Chris's Curtiss P-40 - story here.
Climbing back to 5500 ft.
Looking south towards San Francisco across the Bay
You can just make out the Golden Gate Bridge - top center
Oil refinery - Martinez, California
I-680 bridges and Grizzly Bay and Suisan Bay
Navy Mothball Ships
Heading for Modesto - KMOD
The SFO Class Bravo (Blue Lines) (Entry Clearance required) is to the right, while the Travis AFB
(KSUU) Alert & MOA (Military Operating Area) (Yellow dashed lines) to the left
was Hot due to an Exercise or Air Show or some such.
Had to thread
between them 'jes right.
The Tower handed me off to Norcal Approach for
FF to BFL via Concord, Modesto, Merced and Fresno. I was hardly
linked up with them when they lost all their radar and began separating
all their traffic, including me, with radio only - now that's fun - when - suddenly,
Bitchin' Betty (the computerized voice on my Skyview avionics) began
yelling in my ear "High Fuel Flow." I checked and it showed 10-11
GPH (normal is 4-6).
So - here I was with red lights flashing, Betty Bitching, and
Norcal / Oakland yakking at me. And navigating through busy and unfamiliar
airspace. In a strange airplane with a strange panel setup. All at the same time.
In aviation parlance, this is
called "Task Saturation."
Here's the High Fuel Flow Alarm - which also threw off Time
Remaining, Gals Remaining, and Arrival Fuel, all computer
derived. It now showed me 4.8 gals short of fuel at
The Fuel Flow Transmitter is, IMHO, unreliable on the RV-12, which is why I
deleted all that information from the screen on my airplane. The
CORRECT Fuel Remaining can be seen on the top Fuel Gage showing 19+
Gals remaining - basically a Full Tank. Never trust
computers! The regular fuel gage is run off a cork float, not a
laser beam pulse counter feeding some computer chip. Now, that works!
I considered declaring an Emergency, but
decided to do some troubleshooting first, while NorCal switched me over to
Oakland Center, who wondered why I was showing up - and tried to send me
back to NorCal. I explained that Norcal had just had a radar
failure and to expect a lot more right behind me.
So, I did the Big Three - Aviate
(kept the blue side up), Navigate (threaded between the SFO Bravo airspace and the hot Travis AFB Alert Area),
(with NorCal, then OAK) while I did some investigating of the Fuel
Flow situation. I know - confusing - I have three "FF"s here
going at the same time - Flight Following, Fore Flight, and Fuel
Flow. Just hang in there; you'll figure it out.
Bringing up the full screen engine monitor, I
could find no other abnormality in the other parameters, so decided to
press on for a while to see if the engine was running OK, or whether I
was possibly losing fuel from a leak, etc. There were lots of airport
Meanwhile, I dove into the Skyview Setup Menu's,
and reset the Fuel Flow warning red line to about 15 GPH. That shut off the
flashing red lights and stuffed a rag in Betty's mouth.
Ahhhh..... a little peace and quiet returned to the cockpit, allowing me to do
some more checking and work things out with the now overloaded
Passing north of Mount Diablo, east of Oakland, a few pretty good
bumps going past.
Anyway, with the engine running OK, and fuel quantity
acting normal (i.e. no apparent leaks), I pressed on. Eventually,
the High FF Warning went away, came back a few more times, and then
disappeared for good. 'Jes one of those little computer
gremlins. I call 'em WEEDENS - short for WIDN (What's It Doing Now?) A modern computerized airplane's little game of revenge. (Are you listening HAL? I'm sorry, I can't do that, Dave.)
Of course, housing tracts filling up every square inch of California - and America.
I call these "Horizontal Slums."
Some people insist on a little better - they want "waterfront property".
Presto! Waterfront Property! Even where there's no water!
Wait 'till you see Palm Springs...
And those damn windmills! Destroying every open vista not destroyed by the developers...and killing millions of birds in the process.
Oh guess what! Now they've figured out that if they
can't put up windmills, they can build "Solar Farms" all over the
landscape, so those "Green folks" back in the city can just plug in
their electric cars and feel so good about themselves - sit back while
it's charging, saving the Planet, and sipping a chardonney.
Some of these use photo-voltaic cells to
generate electricity, but some use mirrors aimed at water tanks. The
water boils creating steam for generating electricity. Problem is,
those concentrated sun beams will incinerate anything in their path -
like birds. Birds flying by getting instantly cremated. People who
work there call 'em "smokers."
Passing the old SAC base at Castle AFB in Merced - acres of empty ramps
and a nice long runway where B-52s used to train. Adjoining the
base is the Castle Air Museum, which has a terrific collection of
aircraft. We spent the day touring that place back in July 2010.
A B-52 training base for about 30 years
The big ramp now home to just a small gaggle of bug-smashers
Castle Air Museum - a terrific collection of big military hardware - including a B-36
Being worked by Fresno Approach (KFAT), enroute Bakersfield (KBFL) passing Tulare (KTLR), Delano (KDLO).
That's the Sierra Nevada in red on the left (east.) Red is terrain above me; yellow is terrain within 500 ft.
I skirted the east edge of the Navy's training area from Lemoore NAS -
shown in magenta boxes below - not wanting to mix it up with any Top Gun F-18s and their Tom Cruise drivers.
Approaching Fresno (KFAT) - above - Class Charlie as shown on my iPad display
Right downwind for the far parallel runway at BFL - the near runway (black) was closed for construction
A long runway, hot day, and due to
construction, a long rollout to the end and then a very long taxi-back
to the FBO parking. Maybe 5-6 miles of taxi. The steering
was a little squirrely, as it had been departing Santa Rosa. I
knew the reason - the mech up there had put 28 lbs in the nose
wheel. This airplane likes 22 psi, and won't steer with that extra pressure. I had already planned to drop the pressure on arrival in BFL.
But -- as I approached the parking, suddenly the steering had gone
completely bonkers again - the line boy was
giving me marshaling signals for a turn to the left, but the plane
wouldn't turn to the left! After I did a big 360 to the right, I
managed to line up with the parking spot and shut her down. What
they hey! Line boy thought I was nuts. I jumped out looking at
the nose wheel - just replaced. I was sure it had gone flat again
- but - it was OK. So what's the problem now? Another
challenge in a long day, I guess, but that's why I get the big
bucks! I began to think my Texas trip was gonna end in
First night's stop was in Bakersfield, California
I had flown into Meadows Field once before - flying a Cessna 150 from Seattle to Santa Monica (in one day!)
The date was May 28, 1966. That was 52 years ago! Still flying.....
Yep - that's me in Santa Monica - 1966 - still smiling....
Santa Rosa to Bakersfield
After long discussions from the hotel with Don in Texas and Tony T.
Seattle, I contemplated what could be wrong this time. Brakes
mostly. Never considered the tires again. The next
morning, I was out to the ship bright and early.
I gassed up,
proving the high fuel flow warnings and indications were phony, and
got a mechanic over to look at the plane. What we found was
another flat tire - this time the left main. Very hard to see
under that wheel pant. Sheesh. This
was getting a little old.
They towed the airplane over to their
hangar where we pulled the wheel pant and repaired the wheel.
This time we (he) reinstalled the wheel pant to avoid an asymmetric
situation. But I made a mental note that leaving my wheel pants
hanging on my hangar wall back home was definitely the way to go.
mischief hiding under those things and too many complications for
routine things, like servicing the tires with air or checking the
Some more "fun."
Clearly, she's in an historic old wood hangar - still in use.
Surely there during my last stop in 1966 - over 50 years ago.
And, No! I'm not Orville Wright's third brother.....
The night before, it definitely looked like my ferry flight was
doomed to end
in Bakersfield. And then, with this newly found maintenance
requirement, it looked like my planned day's flying
was gonzo. But, at 0930, I taxied out for my next leg to Palm
Springs, only a couple of hours late. Another little challenge
put in my rear view mirror.
The young guy at Bakersfield Aviation
Services was another homebuilder and super helpful. Many, many
I climbed to 9500 ft just
north of the L.A. basin with my route being Palmdale - Victorville to
Thermal (Jackie Cochran Field) via JEFFY Intxn. High ground ahead. But during
climbout, it became clear I could cut the corner quite a bit and shave
off a bunch of time, and doing the same at SOGGI up ahead, got me
into my first stop without as bad a delay as anticipated. Those folks in the back may have a connecting flight, you know.
Enroute to 9500 ft out of Bakersfield (KBFL) and heading for Palm Springs via Palmdale (KPMD).
Off to the right across the mountains is Los Angeles (KLAX)
My Flight Plan had me tracking via JEFFY intersection, but as you can see, I was able to 'cut the corner' enroute Palmdale.
Palmdale - Home to many historic flights, production of many famous aircraft from the L-1011 Tristar to the B-2 Bomber. And, of course, the SR-71 Blackbird!
Off to the left appeared the vast expanse of the Rogers Dry Lake bed and
the runways of historic Edwards AFB. It was from here that so
many milestone test flights had been made over the decades, and where the Space Shuttle
had landed when Florida weather was bad.
Hard to overstate the Aviation greatness of this place.
"Edwards Tower - RV 756 Tango Sierra is Left Base for Runway 2 - Full Stop!"
Always wanted to do that....
(Rwy 2 is 21,119 ft long x 300 ft wide. Guess I don't need to plan for a Short Field Landing.)
Next up is Victorville, the home, and usually the final resting place, for a
large fleet of retired airliners, some heading for new jobs, most
heading for beer can heaven. The Boneyard. One of a number
of sad similar desert destinations for once proud flying machines.
You can see the parallel paved runways extending onto the dry lake bed.
Tony LeVier dead-sticked an F-104 in here - theoretically "impossible".
And Chuck Yeager broke the Sound Barrier.
Scott Crossfield and the X-15.
What a historic aviation spot
These airplanes gave us their all, safely flew millions of people millions of miles, and now - now we just cut 'em up. In our P.C. world, we no longer use the word "scrap." We've even dropped "recycle." Now, we "re-purpose."
If you love airplanes like I do - this hurts - it hurts bad....
Los Angeles Center called traffic - a FedEx Caravan passed left to right close above me
Some cinder cones in the desert - look fresh!
Looks like Mama Bear and her three Baby Bears
These desert homesteads are more to my liking.
Hot and dry, maybe - but not cheek to jowl with your neighbor.
I just hate it when you sneeze and your neighbor says "Gezundheit!"
As they said in the sales promo's - "Just a mile from the nearest water."
What they forgot to say was - that mile was --- straight down...
San Gorgonio Mountains
San Gorgonio Mountain - 11,499 ft.
The Mojave Desert is BIG - and Lonely.
The desert is beautiful
Approaching Palm Springs, in the Coachella Valley, with the airport in the right center.
I continued down the valley to Thermal.
Nothing like a little "waterfront" property - in the middle of the desert!!!
Hate to imagine what the cost of these homes are.
Water must be cheap, and plentiful around here.....
Waterfront sells! (I know, I live on waterfront).
Since they like it so much - let's give 'em more!
Lots for Sale - Cheap! Well, maybe not so cheap....
Wonder if they'll have docks so they can "sail" their boats to the ocean?
Hey! This is Palm Springs!
Entering the left downwind leg for Jackie Chochran Field in Thermal, California.
Jackie was a pioneering female aviator during the 20th Century. See here.
She lived and died in Thermal, and the airport is named in her honor.
The airport is Minus 114 ft - i.e. 114 ft BELOW Sea Level - my low point on the trip.
Warm, (but not hot!) and with no traffic (or people) around, I refueled, and ate my
lunch (which was my scarfed off extras from the hotel breakfast bar) at
their nice picnic table under a palm tree. No flat tires.
What a life! Thermal is at the east end of the Palm Springs
Coachella Valley and just north of the Salton Sea. Unable to find a
restroom, I fertilized the palm tree, climbed in, and headed for my
next stop - Chandler, Arizona - just south of Phoenix.
Bakersfield to Thermal (KBFL - KTML)
Departing Thermal, I climbed out past the north end of the Salton Sea.
Man! The desert is big - and hostile
I remember once flying from NY to LA on a 707. I overheard these two ladies in front of me - one said
"These transcontinental trips are so tedious."
I could think about was - Wow! - Imagine the pioneers, crossing these
mountains, and canyons, and deserts with little food or water in a
prairie schooner and two oxen. Or later, taking 4 or 5 days by
train. Or later yet, in a "modern" airplane like the DC-3.
it's even worse. I made 4 transcon flights last year. On
one, I got a window seat (extra $$$); on the other three, stuck in the
middle - the people all kept their window shades drawn the entire
flight and played with their thumbs and phone the whole trip.
While all this beauty unfolded right outside and the miracle of flight
allowed this all to happen effortlessly.
Strange people walk the planet these days...
Next stop is Chandler, Arizona (KCHD) - just south of Phoenix.
A lot Restricted airspace to thread through. Today's
electronics allow you to do so with precision. In the old days,
you had to eyeball your way through using charts and landmarks and you
could get yourself in big trouble without much difficulty.
I just hate those F-16s trying to fly formation with you - I'm going so slow for those boys!
....or maybe they think you are that target drone they sent up for gunnery practice....
My Skyview panel also gives me VFR Sectionals (above) and IFR Hi and Lo Charts (below)
Just a button push gives me 5 different flavors of chart.
Another button push lets me switch my
flight instruments back and forth between Vertical Tape displays (which
some people call "EFIS"), and the traditional Round-Dial "Six Pack",
which some people call "Steam Gauges." Actually, they're ALL EFIS
(Electronic Flight Instrument System) - that's how come you can flip
them back and forth to suit your taste. Altho I've flown with the Tape
displays for many years, I like the Steam Gauges better and that's what I fly
Fore Flight also creates a "Breadcrumb" trail.
I arrived dog-legging around the Luke AFB training area and through the PHX Bravo.
Thermal to Chandler (KTML - KCHD)
There are so many ways to track your flight these days!
A good deal of my cross-desert trek paralleled I-10, which would have been my emergency safety zone.
At one point enroute Phoenix, I came across maybe 50 miles of stopped
eastbound traffic. Don't know if there was a wreck, construction,
or what. I imagined, from the look of it, that those people had
maybe 8 hours of angst to get through the mess ahead of them. I
also imagined what it would be like sitting on the freeway for hours in
the desert heat, hoping for a restroom and hoping you didn't run out of
gas. There are no "alternative" routes! I have experienced
this a number of times in my flying and it makes me very happy to be up
there looking down.
Some desert views
Here's another "Bear's Paw" - remember that one off the Oregon Coast?
Blythe, California and the Palo Verde Valley & Colorado River
Annual rainfall = 3 inches
A true oasis in the desert
Funny how, in a place with no rainfall, so much of the land is dominated by water features.
It's these infrequent cloudburst events that cause flash floods to sweep down from the mountains.
No wonder they call this the "Painted Desert"
Yikes! Where to land out here???
Passing Buckeye, I crossed the Estrella Mountains and descended into the Phoenix basin
lot of traffic - hard to see because of the urban sprawl background -
the lady TRACON Controller got me through the Bravo (Positive Control
They call Phoenix the "Valley of the Sun".
I call it the "Valley of the Developer"
or Urban Sprawl on Steroids
Sub-divisions - appear to be marching across the desert until they reach the Mexican border!
In Chandler, I phoned the FBO guy at my next stop - Deming, NM (KDMN) and asked if he'd be there.
He said - "Well, normally...", but it was his daughter's HS graduation and he was shutting up shop at 6 PM.
It was now 3:00 PM, more or less - I said "I'll be there!" And, I was.
I asked "is there any wind?" He said "No wind."
When I got there, the wind was 25-30 kts.
He met me with his gas truck and then personally drove me to the hotel.
Great people out there - in "fly-over country..."
I asked him about the wind. He said "Out here, we don't consider that to be 'wind' ".
My max altitude was 11,500 ft and my max ground speed was 149 kts (171 mph) between Phoenix and Deming, NM.
Those mountains are tall and I had a pretty good tail wind - not bad for a Light Sport, eh?
Open-pit copper mine
Not too many places to land out here.....do I keep saying that???
It's truly amazing - not only how beautiful the landscape is - but how it keeps changing so dramatically mile after mile.
And - the lighting and colors change along with the terrain.
I took 782 pictures on the flight - this is only a fraction...
one point, the mountains coming up looked pretty high. My Skyview
showed no red or yellow, so I should be able to clear them with no
problem, but.... Mountains often look too tall when you approach
them in a plane. I studied my charts a lot and pondered.
was at 9500 and I don't like crossing ridgelines with less than 2000 ft
clearance. The air was rough and some of those up and down drafts
were really moving my VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) around. Just
then, my Guardian Angel reappeared.
"RV 56 Tango Sierra, have you checked the terrain ahead of you?"
"Roger, Center, my thoughts exactly, leaving 9 point 5 for 11 point 5 at this time."
11,500 ft and chugging along pretty good
In this area, Albuquerque Center has one freq covering the whole
altitude column, so I cruise along listening to the air carrier guys
and their endless "ride report" requests.
So - you know me - I click the mic and advise:
"Albuquerque Center, RV 56 Tango Sierra, Ride Report."
"Go ahead, Ride Report"
"Rough, Man. I feel like I'm in the 10th Round with Mohammad Ali"
"Roger - I'll pass it on" which he did to the other GA guys in the area.
Desert air is rough in the late afternoon - only Dummies fly then...
KDMN is Deming, New Mexico
When the terrain isn't rough - it's flat and barren - Not too many roads!
A long walk to the nearest phone.... "Hello, is this Enterprise Rent a Camel?"
I wanna call this "Baboon Mountain"
Second night was Deming, New Mexico
Field elevation - 4314 ft - My High airport point of the trip.
Half way to Pecos, I began approaching the western edge of a
forecast storm system - its cloud deck forced me down low - where it
was SLOW and very bumpy.
... and now, I'm underneath
But Pecos - forecast to be cloudy with showers - was clear.
A bunch of Vans RV guys came over to look at the airplane and chat
Turns out to be my next-to-last stop
Weather was supposed to be crummy. What do they know?
Deming to Pecos
Pecos to Del Rio
I think they call this the West Texas Badlands. Well, if they don't, they should.
Really nasty looking terrain.
Not sure, but I think geologists call those varves - shorelines left from ancient waters as the levels drop.
...Or, just more eroded sedimentary layers
This leg was of some
concern before I left due to the extensive military jet training areas
covering much of the area, and the proximity to the Mexican
border. Laughlin AFB maintains a Class C airspace for their
extensive jet training. I had read nasty stories about the Border
Patrol and their low threshold of tolerance for airplanes straying off
course in the border areas. The ADIZ (Air Defense Identification
Zone) is right there (Magenta band on the chart below.)
helicopters and all that.
Unmarked tethered surveillance balloons extending to 15,000 ft..
So, I called Houston Center before departure from Seattle, and talked directly
to an ATC controller who handles that sector. He told me not to
worry - as long as I had a squawk code and was talking to him, there
would be no problems and he would keep me safe from the jets and the
So, now I'm enroute from Pecos and talking to him. All is cool.
And then, the weather began deteriorating (as predicted.)
The clouds went from scattered to broken and then started to become overcast.
I dropped through a hole from 7500 ft to remain VFR beneath.
Eventually, I was forced down to about 2000 ft.
After not talking to ATC for awhile, I got a call from a United jet passing over:
"RV 756 Tango Sierra, are you still on frequency?"
"Houston says they have lost you on radar and are unable to raise you
on the radio. They said to squawk 1200 (the VFR code), radar
service is terminated, frequency change approved and have a good day."
"Thanks for the relay, tell him Wilco."
Well - I got so low, I lost my ATC coverage and my Guardian Angel,
and now I was on my own. Potential prey to military training jets
and the Border Patrol's Blackhawk helicopters, and all the other things
I had worried about. I remembered the words of the phone call - "As long as you have a squawk code and are talking to me, you have nothing to worry about!" Well, now I didn't have either of those things, plowing around the sky inside a MOA and right next to the Mexican border.
You can't enter a Class "C" without a Clearance, and USAF at
Laughlin AFB is the controlling agency via Del Rio Approach. The
said to contact Del Rio Approach on 119.6 within 20 NM. So, I
began calling them - even though I was maybe 50 out - figuring they
could provide me the radar services that I lost when Houston Center
lost me. I continued
calling without success until about 20 NM out, when I switched to
calling Laughlin Tower - again with no success. So, here I was
not talking to Houston Center, or Del Rio Approach, or Laughlin Tower,
and right next to the Mexican border.
I started watching for a Blackhawk...
Approaching Del Rio, Texas - KDRT. Downwind leg is just about in Mexico.
I gave up and tuned the Del Rio ATIS (Automated weather) to get the
altimeter setting, winds, and landing runway. I set up for Runway 31.
Weather is deteriorating and the windshield is starting to pick up raindrops.
Looks like that might be the airfield at my 11 o'clock.
Entering the left downwind for Runway 31
The traffic pattern is to the SW of the runway, strangely, which just
about puts you in Mexico. I landed without incident and taxied to
the FBO - Pico Aviation. Two guys came running out, parked me and
chained down the airplane.
...and so - here I am, Del Rio, Texas - right on the Mexican border.
Turns out to be the End of the Line.
Taxied right past the Border Patrol - yeah, they had Blackhawks
...didn't seem to be anyone home. It was Saturday.
They asked if I wanted gas, and I said "Maybe."
But first I would have to check the weather. I had already
checked it on my phone approaching the area (another little task in a
busy cockpit) and could see there were storms further south towards
Laredo. If I hung it up in Del Rio, Don didn't need the weight of
a full tankful of gas if he had to trailer the airplane home.
Mighty small looking airplane.... 3 days out of Port Townsend
You can see the weather getting nasty looking south beyond the airplane in this picture.
She's chained down securely awaiting Don.
Inside the FBO, I did some more detailed weather checking using their good wi-fi. Forecast is for
severe thunderstorms and tornadoes around Laredo. Right on my route. Weather radar
shows they're not kidding. See those hooks and that purple?
need to go from Acuna to Brownsville. No forecast for improvement
over the next several days. I'm not keen to go scud-running right
along the Mexican border, maybe running into a tethered balloon cable
(unmarked), and getting beat up in a big CB. Or worse. I
called Don and told him I was done. I would stay a day or two if
needed, but wasn't going to spend a week in a Del Rio hotel awaiting
good flying weather.
I chained her down, unloaded all my gear, and headed home to Hansville
- just 2 hours shy of final destination. Sorry, Don.
It started to rain as I unloaded my gear from the airplane into the rental car.
Enterprise was closed, but the FBO guys knew the manager and he brought the car
out right next to the airplane. A whole lot better than fighting
150 other people at the baggage carousel. They also fixed me up in a hotel at a good rate.
It was a great
trip - 2200 nm - and a great experience. Don eventually came for
the plane with his trailer. I missed out on his promised Texas
I've been flying for 54 years and that's my secret.
I'm chicken. Cluck. Cluck.
Yikes! That's mean looking purple!!!
'Ya see - I was right!!!
inside the FBO, I met another pilot and asked him about the Laughlin
training area, the MOA, and all the rest. Couldn't raise anyone
on the radio. "Oh", he said, "They're closed on the weekend."
I made a mental note to attack the United States on the weekend when
the military go off duty. Come to think of it, Pearl Harbor was
attacked on a Sunday morning, wasn't it....
- I transit the Class "C" airspace controlled by the Whidbey Island NAS
all the time, and they are definitely a 24/7 operation.
And so - that's my little story - flying a Vans RV-12 from Seattle to Texas.
Hope you didn't find it too long - or at least enjoyed the pictures.
The RV-12 is quite a capable Cross-country airplane.
You can go far in a lot shorter time than a car - see much more - and with much less stress.
Hope you enjoyed it! I did! It was a great experience.
Don came up a few days later and trailered the airplane back
to his place near Brownsville. The wings come off quickly so
trailering the airplane is quite easy. I regret I didn't get it
all the way to his airport, but better safe than sorry. I also
regret missing out on his promised Texas BBQ dinner. I may have
to go back down there just for that!
Here he is arriving home.
Myself - I Drove to San Antonio the next day and got on a Southwest 737 back to Seattle.
As you can see - my iPad works just as well flying commercial.
Photo Info Note:
I've been asked, so here's the answer: Except for the Skyview and iPad Screenshots,
all the photographs were taken with a Canon SL1 camera using a Canon 18-135mm EF-S f3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.
I have a large collection of Canon equipment and lenses but think that combo is unbeatable for my flying work.
There is a lot of fine camera equipment out there these
days. I'm sure Nikon and Sony and Fuji would do a fine job
too. I've been in the Canon eco-system for more than 30 years,
their equipment all works together going back to my old film equipment,
and they do a good job for me. I doubt I'll switch any time soon.
Although there are more pictures being taken now than ever before, most
of them are taken with cell phones. Camera use is still alive and
well, but in decline. I have phones and tablets that take
pictures, but I rarely use them - only when I'm stuck (they are good
for that moment, though.) I have difficulty taking decent
pictures with phones - I also have extreme difficulty making phone
calls from my cameras. When I'm out and about, and can't readily
carry a larger camera, I have half a dozen pocket
point-and-shoots. My current favorite is the Canon G9X.
I have taken many people for rides in my airplane. Lots of them
take pictures with their phones. I've yet to see even one that
approaches those taken with my cameras - the kind of stuff you can see
on this page.