I made the 800 nautical mile flight home to New Mexico this past Saturday from my Thanksgiving trip to the St. Louis, Missouri area.
The visit with family was great! I so much enjoy getting to visit with my sisters (and brother when he is there), in-laws, nieces, nephews and, of course, my Mom. Getting to see all the little ones in action is always entertaining. So much energy!
The forecast winds for the day were not terrible. That is really something considering that flying west, on this route, this time of year is usually pretty… interesting. For the first half of the return flight, the wind was from the south down low and right on the nose up high. The second half of the trip called for wind right on the nose below about 10,000′ and around 15 knots on the nose above that. My plan to avoid as much wind as possible was to stay low thru Missouri and Oklahoma and then go high over Texas and New Mexico. Staying low would keep the wind coming from the side instead of on the nose. Yes, a rougher ride but also faster.
The trip east is a pretty easy one-stopper (for fuel). Heading west, it is a two-stopper. I was departing with about 2/3 fuel (20 gallons) as there is no fuel available at St. Clair, MO (K39) where I was tied down for the week so it was absolutely going to be at least a two-stop trip.
I attempted to get under way at about 0800 but the my poor Daisy is not used to cold weather and didn’t want to start. After rounding up some jumper cables and giving her a bit of help, she came to life. I really do not like cold starts. It is well documented how hard these are on an engine and I avoid them whenever I can. This was one of those times when it was unavoidable.
Taking off at near 1000′ MSL elevations is an exhilarating experience. The RV-3 is not overpowered at my normal 5000′ MSL airports but down low… well… it’s still not OVERpowered but it is certainly FUN! A low pass for some of my family that had come to see me off and away I went.
I stayed as low as possible and headed southwest. Given the population, 500′ MSL was the best I could do and I had to dodge a few small towns to achieve that. This is another strange thing – in the desert southwest there just aren’t very many people/structures that one has to avoid. I was throttled way back to avoid crazy high fuel burn and airspeed. At 1500′ MSL and 2200 RPM, I was showing 160-165 mph ground speed.
Lamar, MO was reporting low fuel prices on AirNav.com so after about 75 minutes, I touched down and filled up. You have to call the police department and they send an officer out to unlock the pump and recieve the cash only payment. The wait was about ten minutes and the officer was friendly. The 100LL was $5.06/gallon. So, a good stop that was worth the wait. Be warned though, I didn’t see any of the typical transient services like a restroom, pilot lounge, weather computer, snack machine, etc… Go in the weeds and hit the road!
The wind was just starting to pick up, as predicted. I stayed low and slowly the 160 mph airspeed slowly turned into 140 mph, the smooth air turned into rough air. I was checking AWOS reports and most every airport was reporting 20-30 kts from the south. Seems like this area always has south wind on the ground.
Woodward, OK was the next fuel stop. Again, because of their 100LL fuel price ($4.99/gallon) on AirNav as much as anything. The landing into 30 kts of wind went fine, the service was quick, and I found a computer to check the wind. The forecast was the same. I asked the gal working about the wind – she confirmed that it always blows. Hot and windy in the summer, cold and windy in the winter! 🙂 Both the line guy and the counter girl were friendly and the pilot lounge was very nice. Two stocked refrigerators had gobs of snacks and sodas with a price list on the door and a jar of cash in each. I LOVE the west and the trust that people still have in others! Needless to say, I put more than was due into the jars just to encourage it to continue. Another pilot landed while I was stretching and reported that it was smooth at 8000′ and the wind wasn’t too bad. So, after departing, I climbed straight to 8500′. Sure enough, not too bad. I climbed on up to 10,500 and gained a couple knots of ground speed so stayed there. The remainder of the trip was spend at 160-170 mph groundspeed, 2350 RPM, and 10,500′ MSL. This worked nicely and, from a fuel perspective, put home base easily in reach with a two hour forty-five minute leg.
It is interesting to me how boring cruise flight is from way up high. I really enjoy seeing the ground zipping by and you don’t get that when 1.5 miles above the ground. I MUCH prefer lowing altitudes as the sight seeing is so much better!
Landing at home base was uneventful. Daisy cuddled right into her hangar and gave me a warm kiss goodnight!
Total time for the return trip was 6.2 hours. Total time for the outbound leg was 5.2 hours.
Thank you God for beautiful weather and a safe, uneventful flight! I never did find the time to go on some local flights and explore Missouri but it was still a great trip!