2012 San Francisco Air Venture 2012-07-02 Day Summary

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2012 San Francisco Air Venture Departure (2012-07-02)
2012 San Francisco Air Venture Departure (2012-07-02) @ 08:30 from Chestermere, Alberta.

The first day of the trip is under our belt.  It was a hell of a day of flying, for sure.

We decided to cross the Divide via the Crowsnest Pass route to Cranbrook.  We scraped through between the clouds and some convenient saddles between mountain peaks.  Luckily, the clouds were building, but not dropping.  Very exciting mountain flying, but not dangerous.  We got to chat with Darren Scarlett a bit, too, because he was up flying high west of Calgary.

We each had crappy landings at Cranbrook.  We had trouble with the pumps at Creston, but we got that sorted out and then hopped he 3.5 miles to the border strip at Porthill where we entered the US.  Really easy crossing, and the border people were excellent.

The flight down the Creston Valley, over Sandpoint, and into Coeur d’ Alane was terrific, even though we had a pretty strong headwind at altitude.  Lots and lots of flooding in that valley, same with the Kooteney valley near Cranbrook.

The scenery we’ve seen today has been indescribable.  From the Cowboy Trail to the high mountain peaks, to the fertile valleys, it’s been simply spectacular.  I really think it’ll be hard to match anywhere else on the trip.  Got lots of good video and I’m really looking forward to putting the video together.

Tomorrow, we’ll do two hops; from here to Richland, Washington, then on to Bend, Oregon.  We flew nearly 5 hours today with the longest leg being Kirkby‘s to Cranbrook about 2:20.  Hopefully, tomorrow won’t be as long.  We’re both knackered.

We met guys in Cranbrook who’ve heard of the CRUFC and are pretty interested in the trip.  At Creston we met some guys from Lethbridge, too; namely Ron Janzen and his partner.  They bought Troy’s RV-7 and both know Darren Scarlett.  It was nice to see them again.  They’ll be coming up to Kirkby’s breakfast next weekend.

This is a truly terrific adventure, already.  Both Geoff and I have been this way before, but tomorrow we’ll be venturing into places we’ve not been yet.  Luckily, they won’t be so humid as some of the places in BC were today.

Gotta get ready for tomorrow.  I’ll try and do a daily post to keep you up to date.

Blue Skies,

Stu

2012 San Francisco Air Venture 2012-07-02 @ 17:29
2012 San Francisco Air Venture 2012-07-02 @ 17:29
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West by Northwest

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by Stu Simpson

I could tell this was going to be fun. The day had adventure written all over it. And you’ve just gotta know the day is ok when Don Rogers shows up early instead of late.

He and Fred Wright were on a long downwind for Kirkby’s runway 16 when I first heard them. I had just started my pre-flight when I caught the distinctive whine of their 503’s to the south. Don landed first, settling gently to the grass. Freddy took his time, the Chinook’s big wing coasting in ground effect until just before the intersection. Then he too settled to the earth and became mortal again.

The three of us were going exploring today, heading to Dave Forrester’s place. Forrester is the big cheese at the local R.A.A. chapter. He lives north of Cochrane about a mile off highway 22, half way to Cremona. He gave me a hand-drawn map to his place when we met at the October CUFC meeting. I don’t know what Forrester does for a living, but he ain’t a cartographer.

Still the map was the only way we were going to find his place. I’d checked on the Calgary chart to see if I could match up his symbology with the government’s. If my calculations were correct, I was reasonably certain we could find the place.

The only thing that worried me was a note that Forrester had put on his map. It read, “Strongly suggest an overshoot before landing – center is 20′ higher than the ends & runways undulate”. I could only imagine what “undulate” meant.

When everyone was sure of where we were going and how we’d get there, we all saddled up and turned north. I had been elected leader for the day so Don set up off my left wing and Freddy off the right. I must say, we cut an impressive figure in the afternoon blue.

It wasn’t too long before we drew close to Jim Creasser’s place. I looked for him on the ground as we flew by, but he was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later we crossed highway 2 and I began scanning for landmarks to navigate by.

We had to follow the highway west from Airdrie to it’s intersection with highway 22. None of us had been this route before and we were very pleasantly surprised at the landscape beneath us. The bald prairie changed quickly to a very uneven texture of small hills and knolls covered with autumn’s brown grass and scrub. Its not what you would call pretty, in fact it looked rather alien, but it sure was interesting.

Then we saw the most surprising thing of the day. About halfway along 567, 100 meters north of the road was a fort. No kidding. Someone had simply built a log fort in the middle of nowhere. It was just like one from an old cavalry movie, complete with guard towers in the corners. How or why it’s there is a complete mystery to us.

The moonscape quickly changed to more hilly country. We watched as Nose Creek cut an enormous gorge northward through the area. Then we came to another river, whose name I don’t know. Looking at the map though, I noticed if we followed this river, it would take us very close to where we wanted to be. And it would even save us a few minutes travel time.

We followed the creek to the next intersection that Forrester had drawn. Then we were over a spot that looked just like his map. Sort of. It had the fields in almost the right place. And if you looked hard you could kinda see a path in the field that looked like it might have been a runway. At one point anyway. And there were some buildings that looked big enough to house an airplane.

I decided to do a fly-by to check the place out. I told Don (Fred’s radio wasn’t working) my plan and began descending. I was just turning in for the left-hand downwind when a wind sock caught my eye. Then two runways became clearly visible, one north/south, the other east/west. Only the strip was in a different field. I had completely missed the mark. I might add, in a futile effort to save face, that my wingmen also missed the correct field.

Fortunately, I was set up perfectly to turn to a right-hand downwind for a landing to the south. Let me tell you, Forrester wasn’t kidding when he mentioned the hill in the middle of the strip. He did get the height right, about 20 feet higher than the end. Now I know why I got picked to go first.

My wingmen were visible in the circuit as I coasted in on final. It occurred to me that I’d never made an uphill landing before. But with the wind blowing right on the nose, and the ground coming gently up to meet me, my touch down was a beauty. I dodged a few badger holes on the roll-out and cleared the runway near a fenced cow pasture (since my last pasture landing, I keep a pretty close eye on where the cows are).

Don was on short final, slowly sinking toward the ground. It was just plain eerie to watch the Chinook disappear from sight. I kept expecting a column of smoke and fire to erupt from the other side of the hill, like in the movies, but of course the Chinook came trundling over the top of the hill a few seconds later. Then Freddy touched down and we all went exploring on the ground.

But no one was home. Either somebody had squealed and told Forrester we were coming, or we just flew in on the wrong day. So we just hung around on the ground and checked out the Forrester homestead’s hangar. There were three planes in it. One was a beautiful old Luscombe in immaculate condition. What a sweetheart. There was also a homebuilt in there, type unknown. The front end was in pieces because of work being done on the engine. The last plane in the shack was Forrester’s Kolb Firestar. A pretty, yellow single-seater that looks like a lot of fun.

It was time to bug out. These fall days run notoriously short of light in a hurry and we didn’t want to take any chances. We ambled out to the hay-field/airstrip. I suited up and swung the prop. And swung the prop. And swung the prop again. But nothing wanted to light. The motor would gargle and struggle for a few seconds, then it would just kind of croak. Don and Fred both shut down and came over to help. We tried everything, changing the plugs, switching the plugs, and fooling with the carb. Nothing was working. Then Don suggested we check the sparks and sure enough we found our problem. The PTO plug wasn’t getting anywhere near the spark that the mag side was getting. We decided to give it a few more tries and, fortunately, it caught.

We each did our first uphill takeoff, which was fun. It’s on days like this you appreciate a good climb rate. We all formed up and turned back to the southeast. We had spent a fair amount of time trying to get the Beeve working again and it had cost us some daylight. With the wind on our noses at about 7 – 10 knots, we we’d be cutting it close to make the home ‘drome before dark.

Then my radio died. I figured that since Don was the only one of us who had an operable radio he should take the lead. So when he was in a safe position, I peeled off to take up the left-wing slot on him. He didn’t get it. We flew on like that for a few minutes with me waving my arms like an idiot trying to signal him that he was now number 1. I don’t know what he thought I was doing, maybe airobics (pun intended) or something, but he soon peeled off to take up his original slot.

Poor Fred. God knows what he thought was going on.

We soon made our way back to highway 2, about halfway home. Don had been very careful watching our altitude so near the Calgary control zone, and we’re very glad he did. Just as we passed over the highway, a Cessna Citation sailed over going at about 150 knots, missing us by only 600′ as it turned final for YYC‘s runway 16.

Our formation turned south when we reached the east end of the control zone. Home was only a few minutes away. Good thing too, because we were running out of daylight and I was running out of body heat and bladder space.

A mile north-east of Kirkby’s I peeled off to the east and entered my base leg for runway 16. The Chinooks continued southbound to Indus as Don bid me farewell on the radio, which was sort of working again. I cleared the runway and climbed out to watch them silhouetted on the evening sky. It was truly a beautiful sight and a post-card ending to a great day of flying.

I guess that will likely be our last major cross-country flight until next spring. Unless, of course, we have a mild winter, or a really good destination and a warm day, or hot chocolate waiting at the end of the line, or….. Well you get the picture. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Something Worth Waiting For

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by Stu Simpson

I guess it all started a few weeks ago when I got this notion that I’d like to fly to Wetaskiwin. Of course I didn’t want to go alone, so I invited a bunch of other guys. We had everything lined up, departutre points and times were all set, and everyone knew what the game plan was. Everyone but the weatherman, that is.

The day we were all set to go the wind was straight out of the west at 30 knots. So much for Wetaskiwin.

When I phoned Gerry Moore to let him know we’d scrubbed the flight he suggested another destination. One that was much closer and maybe even more interesting.

He told me about a strip he’d found in the Highwood Pass southwest of Longview, which immediately intrigued me. I love exploring with my airplane and finding airstrips that aren’t on the map.

So I called everyone again and said we’d try for the Highwood. And again we set departure points and times. And again the weather was awful. I’ve got hand it to Jim Corner, though. He flew into Kirkby’s that morning riding a 25 knot tail wind, only to learn we weren’t going.

It happens.

I was determined to find this place. So I arranged another try for the next evening. We agreed on the departure point and time (starting to sound familiar, isn’t it?), and this time we even got airborne.

Wilf Stark, Don Rogers and Ron Axelson accompanied me as we made our way southwest that evening. The wind was stronger than forecast (big surprise, that) but we were still making reasonable progress. Right up to when Rogers radioed that he was having trouble transferring fuel from his Norseman’s rear tank to the main feeder tank. Then Stark chimed in, saying he thought he didn’t have enough gas. Our nearest alternate was Black Diamond’s Thompson’s Ranch. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we’d best divert to Black Diamond, fix the problems and go home.

It happens.

Our time grounded at BD was fun. We examined some of the aircraft there and, of course, we took every opportunity to kid Rogers about his personal plumbing problems. Stark determined that he had enough fuel to get him and his Super Koala home safely, but then it was Axelson’s turn to sweat. The battery on his Ercoupe had bought the farm, so he spent several minutes hand-propping his baby until it finally caught.

The flight home was uneventful, if you can call a summer evening’s flight above stunning green hills, valleys and fields uneventful.

Four days later Stark, Bob Kirkby and I were in the air again, and this time I knew we’d make it. The wind ambled calmly from the south at a leisurely six or seven knots, and a layer of high cirrus spread above us to dampen the unsettling effects of daytime heating.

“Dragonflies, this is Three,” called Kirkby when we were a little south of Okotoks, “watch this.”

He nosed over for a second or two and then launched his Renegade into a short series of chandelles and stall-turns. Wilf and I watched him maneuver gracefully around the sky before plying him with admiring “Oooo’s” and “Aah’s”.

Soon, Black Diamond drifted by off my right wing and I remembered the many flights I’d made in the area years before with my Beaver. I have to admit, I’ve missed the hills and mountains near there.

Longview ought to be just over the next hill, I thought, checking the map. Then an unfamiliar voice rattled in my earphones.

“Dragonflies, this is Lima Kilo Papa. What’s you’re position please?”

“Lima Kilo Papa, this is Dragonfly One,” I replied. “We’re approximately seven miles northeast of Longview at fifty-seven hundred feet, southwest bound.”

Kilo Papa asked for a few more details to better clarify where we were. The he radioed that he had us in sight and would shortly be passing a few hundred feet beneath us. He added that he was headed for Black Diamond this morning and heard us on the radio. He wanted to check us out because we “sounded like fun.”

“Kilo Papa, Dragonfly One has you visual,” I called as he sailed underneath us.

“Is that a Supecub?” queried Wilf.

“Roger,” came the answer.

“That’s a gorgeous airplane,” said Stark. I could practically hear the smile on his face.

The Cub driver asked what type of airplanes we were flying and I provided him with a brief description of each. He asked where we were heading and I told him that, too. He got quite interested in this and said he’d flown the Highwood pass before, looking for the same strip, but hadn’t found it yet. Then he asked if he could tag along with us. Of course, we gladly welcomed him.

So the four of us droned on into the Highwood valley looking for an airstrip in the woods.

Kirkby was the first to spot it. At the very south end of the valley, where it turns west again, it lay directly in our path about a mile-an-a-half ahead. Since I was flight lead it fell to me to make the first approach and landing.

As I crossed over the strip I thought it looked pretty good, albeit a little narrow. Forty-foot tall pine trees jutted up not fifty feet from the button, and a pond was located at the side of the runway at about mid-field. It would have to be avoided at all costs. A thrill ran through me and I found myself smiling involuntarily at the challenge of the coming landing.

I turned final about a third of a mile back and kept a wary eye on the distant wind sock. It was still parallel with the runway and indicating about 7 knots. I eased the ‘Max through a small gap in the pines, pulled the throttle back, and nosed over gently for the ground. The plane settled smoothly on the mains, with the tail-wheel alighting almost immediately afterward.

I lengthened my rollout to give Stark plenty of room for his landing, which he accomplished beautifully. Then I back-tracked and followed him off the runway just as Kirkby was clearing the trees on final.

Wilf and I climbed out and the first thing we heard from the crowd that had gathered was, “Thanks for the great airshow!” We swelled with pride.

The Supercub taxied in as we introduced ourselves and chatted with the rancher who owned the land, and his friends. John, the Cub driver introduced himself, too. We spent about thirty minutes chatting and letting these warm-hearted folks examine our airplanes.

Then it was time to go. You see, on these adventures getting there is most of the fun, and getting back is the rest of it.

Since I was first to land, it seemed only natural that I be first to takeoff. I noticed the slightly longer takeoff run since our field elevation was 4800 feet, about 1500 feet higher than the home ‘drome. Naturally, climb out took a bit longer, too.

John and his Supercub were headed to High River. On the radio he bid us farewell, thanking us for the good time and promising Bob he’d drop in to Kirkby Field in the future.

Quick and smooth describes our return flight, at least unitl we crossed the Bow River. There, the thermals kicked themselves loose from the prairie and rumbled right by us on their way up.

A garbled radio call, “… traffic…. eleven…” It sounded like Bob. I reflexively checked north, which was my eleven o’clock position, and my heart nearly stopped.

A Mooney was headed straight for me! I nosed over and yanked the throttle back, telling Wilf to drop down a few hundred feet. Seconds later I watched through the top of my cockpit as the Mooney zoomed by less than a hundred feet away. He hadn’t changed course by so much as a degree. Maybe he figured he had the right of way. Or maybe he didn’t even see me.

The odd thing is this: I’ve flown many, many hours with Kirkby and he has never, ever had a radio problem. Not until he tried to warn me I was about to be killed. Even after the near miss his radio functioned perfectly.

It happens.

Fortunately, Wilf was never in any danger, and a few minutes later we all touched down safely at Kirkby Field.

Another adventure would now be written into our log books, and hopefully etched for ages in our memories. It sure took us enough tries to get there, to that airstrip in the woods, but I’m sure glad we kept trying. This flight was definitely something worth waiting for.

Return of the Giant

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by Stu Simpson

In case you haven’t heard, the Giant is back. And this time it’s better than ever.

I’m talking, of course, about the Green Giant – my Sylvaire Bushmaster II that I’d previously re-engined at the turn of the century with a Rotax 582 (up from a 503). Well, I re-engined again, this time with a Continental A-75.

I’d been toying for some time with the idea of an upgrade, and actually had plans to begin the project in the spring of this year. A bearing failure and subsequent forced landing in November of 2004 precipitated the start of the project a little early. In the end, it was excellent timing, for I’d have otherwise lost all the 2005 summer flying season to the project.

With the help of quite a number of people, chief among them Gerry Theroux, Bob Kirkby and Ken Beanlands, the Giant is back in the air with a new look and a new sound.

After several proving hours on the engine with some short and medium length hops, it was time to really put it to the test with a long cross-country flight on July 1st. Former CUFC president Ed D’Antoni suggested a trip to Castor, a distance of about 115 miles. He suggested it largely due to the airfield’s proximity to one of the town’s restaurants.

I was all for it, and so was Al Botting, Bob Kirkby and Ken Beanlands. Strangely, though, D’Antoni bowed out at the last minute. Hmmmm….

We set out on a perfect morning with hardly any wind on the surface, and a 15 mph tailwind at 6000’. We soon soared past Beiseker and the Red Deer River Valley and arrived over top the moonscape prairie south of Stettler. It’s wonderful land to see, comprised of small, well-rounded hills that are rarely more than 20 feet high. It appears to be the effluent of an enormous geological sneeze.

Once past that region, we flew past many huge sloughs that somehow got listed on the map as lakes. These muddy troughs were full to their brims after the recent rains and served well as landmarks for those of us navigating by map. Actually, I was the only one navigating by map.

We landed on Castor’s pristine paved runway and taxied in to make our way to the food. Botting arranged a ride to a nearby restaurant with a very kind local gentleman named Bill. Bill was a sharp contrast to the waitress in the café who treated us like we were the biggest pain in her day. Good thing the food was okay.

Bill kindly shuttled us back to the field after lunch and we soon set out for Three Hills and more gas. Now, the thunderstorms were building around us and we were anxiously watching the sky as we went.

On the ground at Three Hills we looked east to a huge cell sitting directly in the path we’d taken less than an hour before. We got out of Dodge just in time. Another massive cell was laying a whoopin’ on Drumheller, and a third storm was handing it to the area north of Bishell’s, where Beanlands shelters his Christavia.

We decided to escort Beanlands as far west toward home as the weather would allow. Once airborne, we saw the storm had moved well north of Bishell’s strip and that Ken would have no troubles with it. On the other hand, another cell appeared to be brewing near Kirkby’s. We thought it prudent to quickly turn for home.

We finished the flight with no problems and the cells we worried about didn’t amount to much. I was ecstatic over the Giant’s and the Continental’s performance. I logged 3.5 hours and all temps and pressures were right where they needed to be. Fuel consumption was the same or less than the Rotax. We should try this again sometime, I decided.

Sometime arrived a few days later when Botting and I coerced Andy Gustafson into a flight south with his Merlin. Bob Kirkby needed an aerial photo of the High River airport for a COPA brochure he was building. What better excuse to fly than a photo recon mission for COPA?

We set out from Kirkby’s on another perfect morning. We soon got the shots of High River and decided to head west to the scenic terrain of the foothills. We over-flew the Turner Valley Ranch strip, Butler’s strip and the flood-ravaged hamlet of Priddis. Coasting along next to the Rocks, I couldn’t help but recall the fantastic flight Andy and I made to that magical, mysterious kingdom last fall.

Then it was time to turn for home. We turned east along Highway 22X and eased off the altitude so as not to bust Calgary’s Class C space. One feature that caught my eye was Red Deer Lake, another over-sized slough that actually had water in it again. It’s been nearly dry for more than 15 years. We set course to pass over Glen Clarke’s strip and I peered intently down trying to spot his Cub. No joy there. Boy, did he miss a good one this time.

Since Andy was kind enough to join us at Kirkby’s, Botting and I decided to return the favour and escort him home. Besides, with our photo recon mission complete we needed an excuse to stay aloft a bit longer.

Our flight lasted exactly two hours, and again the Continental ran flawlessly. I don’t have a moment’s regret about switching engines again and I know the A-75 will give me a great many great years. So bring ‘em on, because the Giant is back!