San Diego to Lock Haven, 2003
by Len Buckel
I normally go to the Sentimental Journey every other year. This was my year to go. This year will have the worst weather that I have seen on these trips since 1986. In addition to the clouds and rain, we will be on the wrong sides of the high and low pressure areas for most of this trip.
East one: Gillespie to Deming
I left Gillespie Field on Wednesday, June 11th. My first fuel stop was at Tucson-Ryan AZ airport. (If I don´t have a head wind, I can make it there. If I have a head wind, I have to stop at Casa Grande, AZ to refuel.) The leg to Ryan took 4.18 on the tachometer. From Ryan to Deming NM took 2.30 on the tachometer. I usually stop for the night at Deming. The FBO will put the Cub in a hangar and the motels are inexpensive. This only made for 6.48 hours on the tachometer today but I plan on making it up tomorrow. Many times we encounter isolated thunderstorms between Tucson and Deming, but none this time.
I have been asked how high I must go on this trip and I had never really paid attention to that until a couple of years ago when I decided to get the answer. There is a ridge between Tucson and Deming where I gradually climb to 9,500 feet to clear it. The climb is so gradual that I had never been aware of how high I had went in the past. This year as I approached this ridge, I picked up an updraft and let it go up to 11,900. I had been doing a ground speed of 104 MPH at 9,500. From here, I started a gradual descent for Deming and indicated a ground speed of 111 MPH for most of the way.
East two: Deming to Cleburne
On Thursday, June 12th, I flew from Deming to Sweetwater TX adding 4.77 hours to the tachometer. On the leg, 68 miles west of the Newman VOR, I was at 6800 feet and crossing the ground at 93 MPH. I went to 7,500 feet and was doing 99 MPH. After turning towards the south at the VOR I started slowing down. I was soon doing a ground speed between 62 and 65 MPH. Sweetwater was where they trained the WASPS during WWII. A nice airport with not much traffic. From Sweetwater, I went to Cleburne TX where I was stopped by HUGE thunderstorms. They were coming from the northwest and it looked like they were going right through the Dallas- Ft. Worth area. The Sweetwater-Cleburne leg only put 2.09 on the tachometer. I got a motel, as it was apparent that I couldn´t go any further this day. Only a total of 6.86 added to the tachometer today.
East three: Cleburne to Butler
On Friday, June 13th, I had to wait until about 10:30 to leave the Cleburne airport. The tail end of last night´s thunderstorm was still working over the area where I had to go. My next waypoint was the Terrell, TX airport so I couldn´t leave until the thunderstorm had cleared it. I got to Terrell and turned north as I was going to stop in Missouri to visit my sister and the daughters of my deceased sister. My first fuel stop was at Claremore, OK, the home of the Will Rogers Museum. This leg added 4.55 to the tachometer. The next leg took me to Butler MO adding 2.24 to the tachometer. Today´s total was 6.79.
East four: lay-by
I visited with relatives on Saturday, June 14th. This was probably the only clear day that I saw after leaving Cleburne, TX.
East five: Butler to Huntingburg
I left Butler MO on Sunday, June 15th and had only gone a short distance when I encountered weather. At 3500 feet I was indicating a ground speed between 61 and 64 MPH. I had to stay low and finished this leg at Mt. Vernon, IL adding 4.47 hours to the tachometer. I refueled and continued east getting as far as Huntingburg IN before being stopped by weather. Out of Mt. Vernon, I was doing 74 MPH at 1500 feet. This leg added 1.52 to the tachometer. Only 5.99 hours this day. I refueled and tied down the Cub.
This is not my kind of airport. Most of the planes here are corporate type jets. I needed an oil change, but true to form at this type airport, I cannot change my oil but they would do it for me the next day. I said, No thanks. They loaned me a crew car and I gathered up my dirty laundry and took it with me. I checked motels until I found one with coin operated machines. I stayed there and did my laundry after eating supper at the restaurant next door. On these trips, I only eat the evening meal. This does make it bad if stopped at night at an airport without transportation. In the past I have had two soft drinks for supper on more than one occasion.
During this portion of the trip there was a weather system that appeared stalled over most of the central and eastern part of the country. It seemed to just sit in place and rain.
East six: Huntingburg to Lock Haven
The next morning, Monday, June 16th, I again headed east. My original intention when leaving Missouri was to go east until I came to a point on my normal route to Lock Haven. This was going to be at Falmouth, KY, but it was raining so hard and the ceilings were so low that I got on top and headed more to the north as it was supposed to be open in that direction. I had Flight Watch dialed in and was hearing pilots being told that numerous airports in Kentucky and vicinity were closed because of "standing water." I was trying to get to Circleville OH after it became clear that I couldn´t get to Falmouth. Circleville was being reported as clear. As I continued on, the clouds under me started getting higher. I was soon to 11,500. I carry enough fuel that I can usually get to better conditions. After a while it became apparent that the way the clouds were getting higher, it wasn´t going to get better.
I finally called Flight Watch, told them where I was, and asked for the nearest clear airport’. It was north of Cincinnati. I was south of Cincinnati and had to cross the Cincinnati TCA to get to it. The top of the TCA is 10,000 feet but I was that high already. I started over at 10,500 trying to stay to the east as much as possible to stay away from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport. I was looking down and occasionally seeing an airliner coming out of the clouds and wishing that I had a transponder. Fortunately none were coming my way. They came out several miles west of me. Before I got to the broken area, I had again been to 11,500 on the altimeter. I don´t know what the density altitude was, but the Cub wasn´t climbing that well there.
After getting north of Cincinnati, I came to broken areas and got down lower. I never got to the airport that Flight Watch had advised as open as there was another open to the east. I had plenty of fuel so I continued on to Middletown, OH. I had 2.92 on the tachometer for this leg. There were about six DC-3s sitting in front of the main hangar here. I asked the line boy if they flew them. He said "every day." I asked what they hauled and he said automotive parts. I left Middletown and continued under the clouds. The ceiling wasn´t very high but I had enough for clearance above me and was about 200 feet above any tower or obstruction listed on the Sectional. I flew this way for a while and then the ceiling got higher and I was in a light rain. As I continued on the ceilings started to get lower. Finally the clouds were on the tops of the ridges and the valleys were so narrow that I didn´t want to fly in them. I picked an airport just a little bit to the left of course and headed for it. I checked the Airport Guide and it is listed as unattended’. Well, no supper tonight. I hope that I can tape up all the holes to keep the mosquitoes out! I got to the airport, announced down wind’, base’, and just as I was about to turn final, I saw a light spot under the overcast.
I aborted the landing and headed for the light spot. It led to a larger valley across the next ridge where the ceiling was much higher. I then went direct to Washington, PA where we have friends, made during these trips. Tachometer time on this leg was 3.27.
I refueled and took off on the last leg to Lock Haven. I leave and fly south of Pittsburgh to clear its TCA, then angle up over Indiana, PA. Indiana, PA is the birthplace of Jimmy Stewart, who owned a J-3 Cub for a long period of time. The airport there is named after him. We landed there in 1986 with a driving rainstorm and a very low ceiling! From there we go to Clearfield, PA and then to Lock Haven. The tachometer time on this leg was 2.53 hours. The tachometer time today was 8.69 hours. The total time from Gillespie to Lock Haven was 34.81 hours tachometer time.
Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford