Flying distance from Topeka to Clinton is about 300nm. We launched at 7AM Saturday. We cruised at 3500', OAT was a comfortable 75F. The SW tail-wind was great. Airspeed was 95 kts and ground speed was 115 kts. We could've made it non-stop if we had full fuel, but that would put us at 35 lbs over gross; so we took off with 3 hrs of fuel. Made a fuel stop at Trenton, MO. The local fire department is in charge of the pump on weekends. Call them on the phone and 10 minutes later a guy drove out in a fire truck to help you. Certainly was unusual.
Resuming the flight, it was smooth as glass. Visibility was 10 miles, in light haze. About 20nm from Clinton, the vis got really poor, 2-3 miles at best. We got there in the middle of the flying contest. Having read the briefing that Steve Mayotte sent me, I flew to the SE of the airport before entering the left pattern for Rwy 21, to avoid the contestants in the right-hand pattern. CAG Mayotte put the contestants in Alpha Hold and cleared us in. We touched down at 10:30AM.
By the time I got settled in, the AM flying contest was wrapping up. I was asked to be part of the PM contest, assigned to "Black Flight" along with 5 other planes, my call sign was "Black One". I believe Jessica Braddock was "Black Leader". CAG Mayotte started the briefing around 12:30PM. I listened to the briefing while eating my lunch; my bombardier was busy preparing the items to be dropped.
At 1:00PM, Black Flight assembled on the flight line for taxiing out. There was a moment of chaos because the planes in our flight were parked all over the place. After some position-jockeying, we lined up in single-file, checked in, then taxied out to the launch position at the departure end of Rwy 21. After a quick run-up, Black Leader was launched. I taxied up to the launch position, gave the CAG a salute, watched his hand counting down "Five..Four..Three..Two..One". I firewalled the throttle and off we went.
I had some concerns about the 45-second spacing, but that turned out to be not a problem. The real problem was trying to spot my leader in all that afternoon haze. After Black Leader made her bombing...uh "delivery" run, it was our turn. Dropping down to 300' AGL, I tried to fly along the centerline so my bombardier could drop the soda bottle which had no wind-drift. Quickly after that, I steered to the left side of the runway so he could drop the streamer and the parachute, which drifted a lot with the wind. Black Leader made a perfect carrier trap and I heard the CAG complimented her for setting a good example for the rest of the flight. I called the ball and made my approach. Coming in, I had some excess speed, so I did some slight Dutch rolls to kill the momentum. Approaching "the fence", I pulled back the throttle, and the plane touched down. The next thing I heard was "You're dead... Taxi to parking". I must have landed just a little bit short of the 1st wire. As we later learned at the award banquet, 80% of the contestants landed short. I don't feel too bad now.
We took off Sunday morning at 8AM. The ride was still smooth, but we were paying back with the head-wind. Airspeed was 95 kts and ground speed was 75-80 kts. OAT was 80F at 4500'. Not wanting to bother the Fire Dept guy at Trenton, we elected to stop at Kirksville MO for fuel. They were having an "Oshkosh discount", with 100LL for $1.98/gal. In the air again, we headed for home. OAT was now 85F at 4500'. The ride was smooth until we started the let-down. Below 3000', it was bumpy as hell. The ASOS said wind was 150 at 16, gust 22, temp 100F. My passenger said he was glad we didn't have to endure that bumpiness for the whole trip. Coming in to land on Rwy 18, I had to fight the gusty wind with power and rudders, but the landing was surprisingly soft. We touched down at 12:30PM. After putting the plane in the hangar and made a quick cleaning of the windscreen, we headed for home where it was cooler. My passenger already asked me if he could go again next year. That's a good sign!
Hung Pham N4938H Topeka, Kansas