The Longer Flight Home
It took me longer to fly home than it did to drive up there.
Pretty much every pilot has made this joke when battling a strong headwind, slowing your progress. It would have been quicker to drive! Cars are passing us on the highway! Usually it’s not true, it just serves to illustrate how slow you’re going. Except in this case it was true. It took me 7.5 hours to drive from Texas to Kansas City, and 8.1 hours to fly home.
The seller was kind enough to host me for the few days I was in Kansas City. The ride to the airport that morning was very quiet. I was thinking about my journey ahead, a long cross-country home in an old warbird I just bought, if I weren’t nervous that would have been a bad sign. The seller was quiet I guess because while I was looking forward he was looking back. The airplane had been with his family for 18 years since restoration and I was only the 6th person to fly her. I knew he was going to miss the plane but he also had a big red 450hp Stearman in a nearby hangar that would no doubt ease his pain.
Side by Side Stearmans
Yes I had a headwind, but the weather was crystal clear with great visibility and blue skies and that’s not bad for July. My biggest impediment was the propeller. It was obvious now the prop was set for a climb setting, not a cruise setting. I could take off quick but had to cruise slow, more on that another time, it’s pretty interesting stuff.
Heading south along the Kansas/Missouri border I learn more about the plane. I can’t believe I bought this thing and now I’m flying it home, just like that. I let her climb to 2800 feet. I was shooting for 2500 but she seemed happier at 2800 so I let her be. She’s been doing this flying thing way longer than me and since it’s a new relationship I let her have this one. My first stop is Pittsburgh, Kansas. Here I learn another lesson – you can’t just get gas in a Stearman. Before I’m even out of the seat a gentleman rides up on a bicycle. “I thought I heard a round engine go over head.” We chat for a minute before the call of nature is stronger than staying to chat. I get some help fueling the plane and pushing her into the shade of a nearby hangar. I grab the crew car and head downtown for lunch. Picture a quaint small town downtown and that’s where I was. Belly up to the lunch counter at the diner (a lunch counter! How cool!) for a grilled cheese and Coke and it’s back to the airport. The winds have started cooperating at my intended fuel stop (no more crosswind) and I launch for Chandler, Oklahoma.
The flight to Oklahoma gives me another couple of hours to get to know this old girl. I wiggle the stick and see the ailerons respond instantly. Turn my head around and make the rudder dance left and right, this is neat. The engine is running smooth as can be and it’s obvious she is happier when she flies a lot. After I’m home I learn that sitting for a couple of weeks makes her pretty cranky. Only cure is to go flying! The view from the back seat is pretty limited when you want to see what’s in front of you. Where you are and where you’ve been, good, where you’re going? Not so much. Every once in a while I make a gently turn to the left or right, just to take a snapshot of what’s out there. Using ForeFlight on my iPad makes navigation a breeze.
Love an Open Cockpit
It was hot on the ground in Pittsburg, Kansas, over 90 degrees, but at 2800 feet (she really is happy there) it’s much cooler, and with the breeze of being in an open cockpit I was quite comfortable. Seeing the world from an open cockpit biplane is visceral. There is no window or windshield between you and the rest of the world and that, for whatever reason, makes everything appear even more real. It’s like looking at the world in hi-def.
It’s even hotter in Chandler, and I’m tired. Before I even get out of the plane I down a bottle of water. I grab another from the baggage bin and a quart of oil for the engine. Water is gone before the oil is poured and it’s time to fuel up. I need to get back in the air where it’s cooler! It doesn’t take long for admirers to show up. A couple of mechanics from the local shop walk over and ask to take pictures. We chat a bit; I answer questions about radial engines. Anyone learning to be a mechanic these days will never lay their hands on one, which is a shame. The winds are favorable at home too and getting into the evening hours it’s calming down.
I launch for north Texas. I cross the Red River and know that I’m getting close. Yes, my iPad and ForeFlight know exactly where I am and how far and how long to home but just look outside. Big yellow wings, all four of them! Carrying you over the Red River from Oklahoma into Texas, this is flying! Having secured a hangar the month prior I had friends meeting me to help put the plane away. She moves pretty easy on pavement when you’re by yourself but I had a patch of grass between the taxiway and the hangar. I like it, a little yard for my hangar and it’s a shame if those tires don’t get some grass under them, but it was hell for putting the plane away without a tug. I at home 11 hours after I left Kansas City, with 8.1 hours of flying to get home. To think, this was just the start!
VISIT OUR SPONSOR for Training DVD's, affordable headsets, cable adapters, headset parts, LED strobes and lights, and more! They cover ALL EXPENSES for iFLYblog.com to keep it coming FREE to you FOREVER!
Subscribe to the iFlyBLOG Mailing List to get the latest blog posts and news to your E-Mail instantly! PLUS TWO FREE eBooks!