The Flight of Passage

Finally, after years of planning, I realized my life-long dream to fly across the US very much like the Buck brothers did in the book I named my site after. This June, my 11 year-old son Alex and I spent 10 days, 30 flight hours, and over 3,000 nautical miles going Westbound from our home base in Indianapolis. We crossed the Rockies twice, flew over some of the most beautiful parts of the US. Out flight took us through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Kansas. We flew along the entire south rim of the Grand Canyon and visited from both the ground and from the air America’s premier National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands.

The first milestone of this year was to finally finish my Instrument Rating. I have been chipping away at it for years but I finally decided that it would be a must for such a trip if I did not want the weather to be a major obstacle. As luck would have it, the weather for the trip was absolutely perfect the entire time and I flew 95% VFR conditions. But, the IFR ticket sure made me more comfortable, especially whenI knew I was under radar coverage and had contact with ATC.

Other than getting the IFR rating, I made sure that the aircraft was in pristine shape and it did not need an ounce of maintenance. I went through it with a fine-tooth comb, took it to Jeff (my mechanic) for an once-over. Rotated and cleaned all plugs, changed oil and filter, performed emergency gear extensions, check pressure in all struts and tires, removed cowling and checked for leaks, checked belts tension. I purchased a set of spare tires and tubes and actually took a main tire and nose tire with me (plus tubes) based on a recommendation of my IFR flight instructor who has experienced being stranded in a remote location where the shop did not have the tires in-stock (who has them anymore anyway). Took a full set of tools, safety wire, jack supports, common fasteners, etc. Of course, you CANNOT leave home without the Duct Tape! Also took an inflator and a small AGM battery to power the tire inflator.

As Murphy law would have it, the trip went COMPLETELY uneventful; I did not even have to break-out my screwdriver. But, I am a believer that this was due to fact that I have taken the extra precautions.

Other equioment: couple of flashlights, portable O2 system (thanks Mike!), O2 meter, full set of camping gear, couple of knives (one always within reach in cockpit; in case of crash you can free yourself from the seat belts). The only thing I took but did not use was airplane tie-downs  and pieces of plywood to put under tires when parking on the grass. Otherwise, everything was needed and worked great.

I should also mention that I STRONGLY recommend having some sort of real-time weather system in the cockpit. I use Garmin 496 with XM – works great. With ADS-B implementation and the iPad WiFi receivers on the market, you should get an ADS-B receiver UNLESS you have a weather radar or XM. The “heartland” of America ALWAYS has weather, and being able to see the weather as you cross the middle of the States is VERY comforting.

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