Birds of a Feather Join in the West!
The 2018 Ercoupe National was going to be held in Las Cruces New Mexico. This is a rare opportunity as almost all the National Ercoupe gatherings are in the Eastern part of the country. Most of the events would amount to three or more days of cross country just to get there from where I live.
I made plans to do this trip as soon as when the registration was opened. As a bonus we were told for an additional fee we could land our Ercoupes at the Spaceport there! Of course I signed up for that and paid my fees! Woodstock at a Spaceport! I would have an entry in my logs that was a chance of a lifetime!
When I came up with this plan it seemed like I had some time to get some experience doing longer cross country flight in Woodstock. I started looking at different routes. I knew I had at least on handy thing. I have a hangar in AZ where I could keep Woodstock till the actual convention. So I had some flexibility as to when I could decided to fly down to Mesa, AZ. It looked to be a simple half day cross county from FFZ to LRU. So I had a plan to make a plan. It looked like I had time to prepare. Also at the time I was working for a company that had offices near my AZ hangar. So in theory I could winter in AZ and enjoy flying Woodstock in AZ while working out of the AZ office. Ah, if only life lined up with our plans! But let’s summarize what I hoped would happen in late October 2018. (my thinking middle 2018)
I would take two days to fly Woodstock from Auburn Airport (S50) to Falcon Field (FFZ)
Visit my family in AZ, celebrate my birthday, have the FFZ airport folks inspect my hangar (they require an inspection at least yearly to make sure you aren’t storing explosives,fire arms or running a crack lab in your hangar, all things that have happened at FFZ), eat some great New Mexican style food (a theme for the trip I hoped)
- Fly Woodstock from FFZ to LRU
- Hang out with Ercoupe owners for a couple of days.
- Land Woodstock at the “Spaceport” and see amazing stuff.
- Fly Woodstock back to FFZ and drop it off for an excellent winter flying season in AZ
- Take a commercial flight back the Seattle after a little more time with my family.
So it should have looked like this:
Well, that all looked to me like a great week of aviation and South West adventure! Also I’d finally get to meet all these Ercoupe owners I’ve gotten to know via social media and see how Woodstock compares with the other birds in his flock!
Yes, you have plans, good luck with that!
So how close did the plan end up matching what actually happened? Several things needed to work out. The first curve ball was that job I talked about. As the summer progressed it was clear I would be seeking other employment. The company I worked for is an awesome company but aspects of working there just weren’t working for me. This meant it was no longer clear that if I got Woodstock down there I could leave him there. The weather in and around Seattle that time of year made a flight back not so certain. Weather would turn into a major factor as the universe rolled out my fate. Still, even though I was looking for a new gig I could still be flying and I could sort out the details of getting Woodstock back or figuring out how to be down in AZ for the winter. That goal still remains as something to do in the future. But I could still fly during the summer to get more comfortable flying Woodstock cross country. Right?
Summer in Seattle is always perfect for flying, right?
2018 again was a record fire season on the West Coast. We had multiple days where it was IFR conditions in Seattle from smoke. 2018 was not going to be the year where I racked in the hours flying. Add to that I was late getting Woodstock annulled so he was grounded till late June. Here is what Seattle looked like during the day for weeks in Seattle (yes, that is the sun!):
So the smoke did finally clear in August. The first day I went to fly Woodstock I agreed to a simple 30 minute flight to Tacoma Narrows airport for lunch where I learned that my transponder no longer worked! That I covered in the previous blog post. As a result I did not get to fly to the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum the first weekend of September. I had hoped that would be a good warm up for my trip south later in the year. So far not going well.
A Job Appears!
The good and bad news was soon I did line up a new job! Yay!! The bad news was I likely wouldn’t have enough vacation for more than a long weekend for the trip down. That was still possible but since I had not cracked the “how do I spend the winter down in AZ with my plane” part of my plan there was a risk Woodstock could end up down in AZ while I was back in Seattle. The good news is that the new job made the finances of the transponder upgrade feasible. So there was that.
In the mean time I realized that I was also in a position to do something new and unique. I have been attending the Reno National Air Races every year since 1984. But I had decided to skip 2018 as it was clear there wasn’t going to be any fast planes in the unlimited class. However there was going to be a Bell P-63 there and that would be a once in a lifetime chance to see one of those on the course. Also a friend had recently acquired a Cessna Citation and had made a comment that he was always looking for a reason to fly it. I had another friend who had never been to the Reno Air Races and I thought hey, we split the fuel and the tie down fees three ways it may not be that bad!!
So it looked like my next aviation adventure would be around experiences how “high rollers” get places! This would be a VERY not Air Woodstock experience. I have looked into flying Woodstock to Reno and it turns out I would spend almost as much time as I do when I drive. And I do love to drive and if I drive it less likely to get stuck somewhere because of weather (OK, to be fair I have been snowed in while in Reno trying to return from the races).
Reno Bound! Odds on my numbers please! Yes, I’d love another cocktail!
So we booked rooms at the Silver Legacy and I made arrangements to take a long weekend off to go to the races! It was a very interesting experience. First of all I ended up flying right seat in the Citation. Wow! I was surprised at how cramped it is in the Citation, especially for the pilot and copilot. My friend Sameer impressed me with his professionalism! If he wasn’t a rock star as a software dev I know he could easily be flying any major carrier on the planet. I certainly would not hesitate fly with him.
Here are the three of us biz jetting our way to Reno:
I wish I could say that I have tons of amazing stories from the air races. Not really. The P-63 was a sight and this year the F-1 class was won easily by a paraplegic pilot who built his plane himself! He was definitely one of the heroes that week at Reno. Here is Justin Meaders’ Limitless racer:
Here is “Pretty Poly”, that P-63 I was talking about:
So that was Reno behind me. I still had sorted out the transponder. I did finally get that figured out as I talked about in the previous blog. And darned if it looked like I could fly down. I also sadly learned that the contract I was on at my current employer was not as I was initially told long term and I may not have to be in Seattle through the winter after all. If I had to be unemployed it was about as easy to be in AZ as compared to WA. So maybe Woodstock in the Sonora Deserts for winter could be a thing. So back to flight planning. Could I do it? What would the trip look like? Time to dig out my new EFB programs on my new tablet and see just what the trip would look like.
Given the length of telling this arc of the continued story of life with Woodstock I’ll close out part one here. In the next entry I’ll share my flight planning experience and discuss how I finally settled on the route I chose. We can walk through it. I can not claim to be a “seasoned” cross country pilot so I’ll try and share the experience I had at first and how I finally decided how to go about “eating a car”.
Then I can get to what really happened! Here are a couple of images to tease you to come back and read the rest of this adventure
So blue skies and tailwinds till “Flew the Coupe! – Part 21 – Woodstock , Deserts, Hurricanes, Green Chilies and SPACE! Part-2”