by Greg Hopp

Greg Makes a Style & Grace Contest Landing at Clinton 2004I departed my home airport UYF, Madison County in central Ohio at 3:15 PM with threatening WX to the west.  The briefer was not optimistic about my chances to make it to my first point of landing before the WX did.   But I took off, reasoning I could turn around if need be, or land short.

Well, about 35 miles from Frankfort, IA, the clouds were closing in.  I was at 2500' the whole way.  Up ahead I saw some threatening clouds, and to the right under that one, I could see what looked like fog on the ground.  Could have been really heavy rain, but wasn't sure.  But it made me knot up just a tad.  I had a clear shot between the two masses straight in front of me, where my GPS said the airport would be.  It was smooth until I went between the two clouds and the left one kinda gave me a hip check as if to say "I'm letting you thru, rookie."  By that time it was 5:00 pm and I had called the FBO to ask them to wait for me to land.  As I entered the 45 for 27, the drops began, and by the time I was unpacking the plane, it was raining.  The FBO guy tossed me the keys to the courtesy car and said, "you ain't going anywhere tonight, see you in the morning."  With that, he disappeared.  Exactly 2:00:34 on the stopwatch and the Hobbs.

The next morning was bright, but breezy.  I refueled and headed to the NW to my second stop, Pontiac, IL.  The runway was 36, but the winds were blowing pretty good out of the NE.  No problem landing, but I had my fingers crossed as it looked pretty empty at the tiny field and I hadn't called ahead for fuel.  This was around 10:30 am and I again refueled after a short 1.5 hr flight.  Gas was $2.85 per gallon, including a surcharge for not paying cash.

I took off and again headed NW.  The skies were clear, but as I approached Clinton from the East, I had to descend from 4500 to below 3000 to remain VFR.  I had Chicago Center and they handed me off to Quad City Approach, which did a real nice job with flight following.  I flew over the Mississippi River and shortly had CWI in sight and switched to VFR on the xponder and to the CTAF.  Air Boss Mayotte greeted me on the air and I landed on RW 03, where he and his son were very efficient in finding a spot to park my plane.

150 Heavy Makes Chaos of the Contest Traffic Flow

The Fly-in part of the weekend was fun.  My new flying buddy Bryan, who converted to a Piper Warrior, had landed just ahead of me, and was fast at work unloading when I landed.  On Saturday they held the contests, and Steve Mayotte convinced me to do the short field takeoff and spot landing contests.  That was fun, but a Learjet in the pattern took me from waiting in line dead last (so I could follow others on the irregular pattern) to first in line with 11 planes lined up behind me. 

Yikes!  It was quite a sight to see a Learjet landing with 5 Cessna's lined up for miles behind it waiting to land!

Thanks to the Learjet,  Greg is Cleared into the #1 position, with 11 airplanes in Trail.

The WX was mostly cloudy there, but visibility  was good and air was smooth.  I took a solo sightseeing trip up the Mississippi River to see Clinton, which was pretty.  On Sunday, I left in tandem with Bryan in the Piper and another 150  piloted by  Jessica Braddock and Mike Bratton.  We all decided to fly to Morris, IL to a restaurant on the field.  The buffet there was simple, but excellent.  Best I've had!

After that, we said goodbyes to Jess & Mike and Bryan and I took off for his home airport, Portland IN.  We cruised in bumpy air at 5,500 until his son Kevin barfed unexpectedly, earning the moniker "Pukey" for the remainder of the trip.  After that we climbed to 7,500 and found smooth air up there for the rest of the trip.  Unfortunately, there were headwinds on both legs, stretching out the trip to 4.9 hrs out and 4.4 hours back East.  Due to that and the long climb, I averaged nearly 6.5 GPH on the eastern legs.  The legs outbound to the west were more like 5.7/hr because I stayed low.

Midway through IN. we encountered very light rain, but visibility. remained excellent, 30 NM+.  Before leaving Morris County in IL, I called flight service and got the picture.  I found exactly what they told me I would.  I also got the freqs for Flight Watch in the area and when it started to rain, I called them and gave a Pirep.  Then I asked them to tell me about the WX ahead.  The guy I talked to was very nice and said I would find some rain, to which I repeated, I am in the rain at this time, and visibility. is fine.  If you don't, I strongly encourage you to talk to Center for FF and Flight Watch for WX updates.

It is an easy and relaxed affair and they always seem appreciative of PIREPs. While flying, I looked to my left and saw a rainbow, of which I got several photos.  I am not sure if it was a regular rainbow "on the ground" or one that was just surrounding my plane, but it was neat to see.  On the way I listened to pilots who were in a very serious caravan, giving serious sounding directions to others in the group.  They were all headed to OSH. 

Although with optimum winds and planning, the trip could be made with a single fuel stop, I found adding an additional one provided a greater safety margin and made the stress of getting there much more manageable.  Even this old man found two hours very do-able in the Cessna.  I will say that both at Portland, IN and Madison County, which both have runways 9/27, the winds were 02012 and I found the crosswind to be quite a challenge.  I have never been heeled over quite that far with that much rudder to keep the plane straight, but the 150 is so forgiving she took it without complaining.

The entire trip she performed flawlessly.  I would occasionally pull carb heat, but never could get any.  With the newly rebuilt Carb, she just doesn't make ice.  As a final treat to myself, on the last leg, I saw a puffy but thin cloud ahead and at my altitude.  I was going to have to deviate to avoid punching it.  Well, for some reason the plane wouldn't go up or down and I ended up going right through the middle of it, I think ;-)   That was a rush, and boy you can feel it when going through one.  It's amazing.  But this as I said was very thin, I could see right through it to the other side and took all of about 3/4 of a second to go through.

I now have approximately 225 hours and don't want the season to end.  I'm taking my wife to Put-in-Bay soon, even though she doesn't have any interest in flying.  As for long cross countries, just split them up into 100 or 150 mile little ones as Steve Mayotte has often said, and pretty soon you've strung together a worthwhile and memorable trip.

Greg Hopp
Cols, OH

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