Thursday 23 May 2013 09:58 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
Somehow or other I seem to have found myself spending most of my time in America these days. Talking to some friends and colleagues, it turned out that I wasn't alone in wanting to do more tailwheel flying. To cut a short story even shorter, I found myself flying to Milwaukee on US Airways last Thursday morning, sitting (as always seems to be the case) next to the largest man on the aircraft, and quietly giving thanks that I wasn't sitting next to the crazy guy on the other side of the aisle, who nearly didn't get to Milwaukee after he threatened to kill the passenger in front of him. After a drive from Milwaukee to Hartford, Wisconsin, and with just over an hour left before sunset, it was time to start the journey back to Maine in a little blue and white Super Decathlon with Joe, my partner in crime.
We decided that we didn't want to head straight out over Lake Michigan without lifejackets, gyros, or any experience of the engine. So we picked a destination that we could reach before it got too dark, called the FBO and took off heading to Valparaiso, Indiana.
The route took us past downtown Chicago at sunset:
and overhead the former Meigs field:
Just after sunset we landed at Valparaiso. The advance phone call to the FBO meant that someone came and tied the aircraft down, and delivered the free crew car right to the plane. And they'd reserved a hotel for us at a discounted rate, and recommended a decent steakhouse. Their fee for all that was the profit margin they got for 12 gallons of avgas.
Joe and the Decathlon, and the free courtesy car:
Next morning was very frosty, so we called in at Walmart to buy some deicing fluid, and snacks for the journey. The deicing took a bit longer than expected, and we had to coax the Decathlon to life after its first night outside a hangar in years - or possibly ever. Eventually we got underway, and headed East towards Cleveland, and Port Meadville in Pennsylvania.
On the way we passed the Goodyear Blimp, heading West:
Then spotted the only clouds of the trip over Cleveland:
At Port Meadville we decided that we would aim for Binghampton, New York, for the night. Although the Decathlon is equipped for night flying, neither of us really wanted to try landing at night before getting a bit more used to the aircraft.
Here's the view from the back seat . As you can see, Joe is in shirt sleeves in the front, while I froze from the knees up in the back, and roasted from the knees down. We have some work to do on draft exclusion!
We passed a very secluded private airport on a hilltop, near to a very large house:
Then passed Harris Hill Gliderport, near to Elmira New York. It is the birthplace of gliding in America, and home to the National Soaring Museum:
After an overnight stay in Binghampton, and more de-frosting in the morning, we headed East for the last 300 miles back to the Atlantic coast of Maine. It was my turn to fly, so I got to enjoy the warmth of the front cockpit (and a banana for breakfast) while watching New England slide by below:
We soon were passing the mountains and lakes of New Hampshire:
And a rather nice fly-in community called Windsock Village, with a 4000ft grass runway:
Around lunchtime, we delivered the Decathlon to its new home in Brunswick, Maine.
Rather a fun trip! The weather was as perfect as November can be, The flight planning took all of 15 minutes, and was mostly of the "make it up as you go" variety, and the Decathlon is a hoot to fly. Not as easy to land as my Jodel, unfortunately, but I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon!
Here's the route (more or less), courtesy of skyvector.com
A lovely report, Adrian, and cracking photos.
No pictures of the Finger Lakes?
It reminded me of a few Taylorcraft cross-country trips from North Hampton NH to Oshkosh, so I know some of your stopping points like Porter Co, Valparasio, and even Windsock, which was very VERY private in 2002-ish.
Interestingly, North Hampton NH has the same frequency as Northampton Sywell...122.7
(it's Unicom of course)
We were a bit south of the Finger Lakes. We'd tried to find a place to stay around there, but every hotel we called was full and in the end we decided to head to Binghampton before it got too late.
Looks like a lovely aircraft for you to keep your taildragging hand in.
I presume this might turn out to be a regular route to commute between your works in both Maine and Superior in Wisconsin? But rather than use the Decathlon, maybe this is where the Mooney or a company PT6 ship may come in
Cheers for the trip report.
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