by Harry Wiebe

Harry's Plane and accommodations at ClintonI can’t recall the exact date that I decided my 2004 flying adventure but I do know I was glad I took the time to think it all over. My original intent was to fly to Oshkosh as many of my friends from the Springfield Flying Club attend this event on an annual basis. They drive because they have a tremendous shopping appetite and only a C130 Hercules could transport all their goods  home in one trip. My motive was not shopping, but flying. I waited till 2004 because I was still in the process of working on my 150. Prior to last year, GPSU was in need of new paint and some necessary avionics. Now that these goals had been achieved, I started thinking quite seriously about Oshkosh but there seemed to be something missing. Just going to Oshkosh is fine for some people but I’m going on vacation and I need something more. It was about that time that I was surfing the net and came across a Cessna 150-152 website that looked very interesting and after exploring it I decided to inquire more about the organization and its membership so I sent an email to the membership coordinator. In no time flat I got a response from Lori Colunga and I liked what she had to say. My plans were coming together and the Clinton Rally was just what I needed to top up my vacation. Now for some dreaming and planning. I was actually getting quite excited and I looked at my calendar to see what time frame I needed from work to accomplish my dream. This was in early 2004. I had not yet joined the Club but the planning was going ahead anyway. I joined the organization in May and from that day there was no looking back. Being an EAA member and a Young Eagles pilot, I checked out the EAA website for Air Venture 2004 and with the assistance of the  EAA trip planner I started planning my trip. By the end of June my planning was complete and reviewed about 100 times. My departure would be July 22.

July 22, 2004 came quickly and I was excited. My plane was already fuelled and the oil was changed and my wife’s blessing I left the house at 6:30AM. The sky was cloudy and the ceilings were barely VFR so I called the FSS for a briefing. It was not good!  A slow moving front was tracking from the southwest to the northeast between Lyncrest CJL5 and the US border. The word was call back at 10:00AM. In the mean time I left my flight plan information so it was ready when the weather cleared. It was at this time that I loaded my camping gear and as I was securing the gear with bungi cords, a bungi slipped put of my hands and I heard a snap! I could only imagine what happened. It sounded like Plexiglas! I looked up and noticed a hole the size of my hand in the right rear window. I was frantic! This couldn’t be. I’m going on vacation. I will fix this and go no matter what! I reached for duct tape. I taped up the hole and it looked terrible. This will never do. I still have time. The weather is still down so I will re-think this and see if I can come up with a better temporary repair. I found the piece of Plexiglas on the hangar floor and fortunately it was only one piece. I was able to put it back in place and with some better tape I was able to secure the piece in such a way that the repair was safe and I would be able to continue on my way. By now it was 10:00 AM. The window was fixed and I was on the phone to then FSS. The report said the ceiling was still down but improving. Call back at noon. So I waited. Noon came and I got the all clear from the Winnipeg FSS and I was good to go. The next step was to call US Customs at Pine Creek Minnesota (48Y) to make them aware of my pending arrival and I also had to call Princeton Minnesota FSS for a transponder code to cross the border. The transponder code to cross the border is a post 9/11 initiative to track inbound light aircraft into the US. It was 12:30PM, my flight plan was activated and I was on my way and it felt good in spite of my earlier misfortune. I called the US Customs on 122.8 ten miles north of the border and the Officer met me at the ramp at 1:15PM. After showing the Officer my identification, my pilots license and filling out the required form and handing the Customs Officer $25, he gave me a sticker to indicate that I had paid the homeland security tax and that it was good for 1 year.Harry's Airplane C-GPSU

I was now 1:45PM and I was on leg 2 to Detroit Lakes. The flight plan was filed to Mankato Minnesota My dual GPS’s were confirming what my charts showing, I was at 3000 feet ASL with visibility of 10+ miles in haze and with a 25 MPH breeze at my back KDTL was a short 1 hr 20 min flight. My stop for fuel and doing the walk-a-round took 30 minutes and I was on my way again. I still had some wind advantage and the visibility was getting somewhat better. The temperature was about 80F and I could see some convective activity happening in the distance. But one deep blue cloud after another was missing me until I reached Hutchison. Something major was happening between Mankato and me. I did see a clear spot between the two systems and I was tempted but as I got closer this clear spot was disappearing and moving off to the east. I turned back to Hutchison and called the FSS. I was informed that the two systems had merged and that there was considerable wind and rain happening in the Mankato area and that it would be about 90 minutes before the system would pass and be safe to proceed. I waited the prescribed time and with an all clear from the FSS I was on my way. I arrived in Mankato at 7:10PM. Because of my late start that morning there was not enough daylight left to continue on to Clinton so I elected to stay in Mankato. The Holiday Inn was a fine place to rest up, as it would be a while before I would sleep in another comfortable bed again. I had my supper and caught up on my log books and crashed at 10:30PM

Morning came quickly and after a good breakfast it was off to the airport and on my way to Clinton. Mankato is a busy airport. There must have been about 30 aircraft movements from the time I arrived till I was in the air, which was about 45 minutes. I was in the air at 8:45AM. Only 243 statute miles to go. There was no longer a tail wind but more of a cross wind from the south so my time enroute had to be calculated to coincide with my flight plan. The leg from Mankato to Waverly Iowa was quite busy meaning there was lots of air traffic especially in the Mason City area. The chatter on 123.0 seemed never ending. I arrived in Waverly Iowa at 10:00AM for fuel only to find out the FBO had run out of 100LL that morning and the next shipment wasn’t due in a few hours. I could wait or continue on to Independence just about 35 miles east pretty much on my Clinton track. I measured my fuel and determined I had sufficient fuel to make it. Off I went to Independence and 45 minutes later with full fuel I was in the air again for last leg of 90 miles. As I got closer I listened for Clinton chatter and it wasn’t long that I heard some. There was something going on and it sounded interesting. As I got within 20 miles I could see something that looked like an airport but I couldn’t believe it. Runway 03/21 sticks out like a sore thumb when approaching from the west you can see this airport for miles. I arrived at 12:30PM and with in 10 minutes I was parked next to 40 other 150’s. Next it was off to the telephone to close my flight plan. Part one of my vacation was a success.

Now it was time to register and meet the people. The reception was great. The people were friendly and up beat about the occasion and all talking 150 language that I understood very well. Since I hadn’t eaten since 7AM I was rather hungry so I was directed to the big hangar for pizza. After lunch it was time to unpack and set up camp. This was the first time in 25 years that I camped under the wing and it felt good. The rest of the day was spent mingling and eating and discussing each other’s 150’s.  Saturday’s events were the highlight of the weekend from the bottle dropping and egg-dropping contest to the short field take off and spot-landing contest. These events were carefully and safely staged on runway 03 with the traffic being directed by Air Boss Stephen Mayotte. Occasionally room had to be made for incoming traffic especially when a Citation called in. It is rather difficult for a Citation to do an approach at 80 so All our contest traffic had to go around or hold or get off the runway. This was all done in a safe and efficient way. The bottle dropping contest and the egg dropping contest were not to be taken lightly. The plastic water bottles were custom designed in such a way that they had wings like a 150 or fins like a torpedo. They all achieved their objective of hitting the ground, some in Iowa and some in Illinois. The egg-dropping contest was another issue. This was absolutely hilarious as all the teams had to wrap a raw egg with the available material, stuff it into a 6X6 box and then drop it from the airplane. Ingenuity was the key here and I firmly believe all the teams had at least 2 P engineers on staff since all eggs stayed intact except one, which cracked. Later that evening at the Gala Banquet the contest winners were chosen and the “Clyde” awards were given out. What an evening! The food was excellent. The hosts the organizers did an outstanding job making the evening a memorable success. What a way to wind up a great weekend! After the supper an announcement was made for all those interested in continuing on to Oshkosh on Sunday to meet and discuss the procedures for the worlds busiest airport and study up on the special 30 page Notam. Six people met. Dennis and Phyllis Raddant, Wayne Westerman, Nick Wener, Vera Martinovich and myself. Dennis and Phyllis were driving while the rest of us would fly. Since Oshkosh is a big place with many people attending Air venture, Dennis and Phyllis decided it would be a good thing if we met at the Museum on Monday night and we would all go out for supper. It sounded like a plan.

Sunday arrived and the four of us met around 10AM and decided to leave just after noon. As the Notam suggested, extra fuel was recommended incase we had to hold in the Rush lake holding area, we decided to land in Portage (C47) for a fuel stop and do one last review of procedures. The flight to Portage was one of the prettiest flights I have ever done. The sky was clear with a few clouds and the 125 statute mile flight over the rolling Wisconsin countryside with its farms, rivers and lakes were only eclipsed by the picture perfect location of the small airport in Portage. It almost seemed nostalgic as we landed and taxied back to FBO only to have a bright yellow Stearman land runway 04 and join us at the pumps for fuel. It was around 2PM now and time for the final leg to Oshkosh. Needless to say we were pumped, as this was a first for all of us. We departed in the same order as we had landed. Vera, Wayne and myself first followed Nick. The 54 miles seemed like 10. We were busy keeping each other in sight and in no time we spotted the Ripon water tower. Since we had the current ATIS we now had to monitor Fisk approach on 120.7 to see where the ATC controllers were going to put us. Once you are past Ripon look for someone to follow and listen for further instructions. The air traffic control spotters and will identify you by type and color and you will respond once you are identified by rocking your wings. From now on all you do is listen and respond. Once you reach Fisk you will be directed to the runways in use and the entry to the pattern. In our case Nick and Vera were given a 45-degree right base to 09 while I was asked to turn 080 degrees and follow the road east of Fisk past the interchange and left base to 36L. I was split off from the group because a Bonanza had slipped between me and Wayne and since the Bonanza was much faster, with me being out of the way gave him more room to land on 09 with Wayne following the Bonanza. I thought I would never see the group again but after taxing a couple miles, I was parked 2 planes over from Vera in general aviation parking. Now we were there and I was glad everything had gone safely.

From here we all went our own way. I met up with my Lyncrest group and carried on. There were 20 in total in our commune. Everybody chipped in for food and helped out with the cooking and cleanup. We usually didn’t get through supper before it was time for show and tell. It was an enjoyable time sharing our experiences of the day. As I said earlier, Oshkosh is a huge place and the best way to get around is bicycle and most of our group had a bike except me. It’s hard to get a bike into a 150 so I walked.

Club Members Oshkosh Dinner Rendezvous; Dennis & Phyllis Raddant, Vera Martinovich, Wayne Westerman, Harry Wiebe, Nick WenerSince Air venture didn’t start until Tuesday, Monday was spent familiarizing myself with the area since this was my first trip back since 1980 there weren’t too many things the same any more. Monday evening the six of us from Clinton met for supper at the Granary Restaurant and enjoyed the rest of the evening sharing our experiences. I can’t say that I would have done anything different on my vacation to this point. Making friends with people who love the sport of flying as much as I do was one of the most enjoyable times in my life. We will certainly do this again.

Tuesday came along and it was time to get down to business and see the sights and products the aviation world has to offer and believe me there are all kind goods for all types of aircraft. The main thing on my agenda was my rear window for my plane. It wasn’t long before I came across the Plane Plastics venue. As I was familiar with them from previous orders, I ordered the window and had them forward it on to Winnipeg. My shopping was pretty much done. And so was Tuesday. It was time to make it back to camp and enjoy a cold drink or two or three. In my case it was three as I had walked many miles.

Wednesday. With shopping out of the way, it was time look at airplanes, lots of Airplanes. There are acres and acres of aircraft. All types from ultra-lites to military hardware. Mt favorite aircraft are the Classics.  These vintage aircraft are responsible for general aviation, as we know it today. Barnstorming in old round engine aircraft, Cubs Champs T-craft, Luscombes, Cessna 120/140’s and so on many of which are still are flying today except these models on display have been restored to better than new condition. What a site to behold and so many of them. You really have to go there to experience this event. The Air show started at 4PM and carried on for close to 3 hours. I have been to many air shows but the variety you see here is seen nowhere else. I get dizzy just looking at these planes and pilots tumbling through the air thinking how much longer before their heads come off. It’s exciting to watch but this is definitely not my type of flying.  Wednesday was more of the same. More planes more vendors and more people. I wandered about the homebuilts and the warbirds that day and later that afternoon back to the air show line for another show. Wednesday evening I was thinking about my departure for Winnipeg. My original plans had been to leave for home on Thursday July 29th but I was persuaded to stay longer. Ok, but I’ll leave Friday. Thursday came and the weather looked not to good. It was raining off and on and there was no ceiling so any flying was IFR.. so some of our group and myself decided to visit the floatplane base. It was a relaxing day because leaving was out of the question. Later that afternoon I took a walk to the Museum. What a beautiful place. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to spend the afternoon. There was so much to see from all era’s of aviation.

Friday came and I decided to it was time to go but again, the weather was an issue. I was ready to go by 8:30AM but the weather Gods said wait. So I waited. At 9:00AM I called the FSS and they told me the weather was clearing slowly and to call back at 10:00. I called at 10 and I was given an all clear but it sure didn’t look like it because it was still all cloudy.  I could see blue in the west and that was where I was going. I started up the airplane and got in line. By the time I was cleared for take off ½ hour later it was clear at the airport but a mile south of runway 27 there was a solid wall of fog right down to the ground. I still had a clear line of sight in the direction I was headed and that was all that mattered. I was on my way. The winds were light and variable out of the southwest so my ground speed was about 85 kts. Next stop was Eau Claire. I arrived in Eau Claire at 12:30. The sky was 80% clear with scattered cloud at 4000 feet and by now a fairly stiff breeze out of the west. It was time for fuel; check the weather and flight plan the next leg. I called the FSS and they informed me that the Brainerd weather was not good. There was a slow moving front in the area with a ceiling of 300 feet in rain. I decided to night over in Eau Claire as the weather system would be gone by morning and the forecast for the rest of the trip looked good.

 Saturday arrived with solid overcast and ceiling of 400 feet. This to was to be expected with cool mornings and relatively high humidity. It takes time for the sun to burn off the cloud so I waited till 10AM. By now VFR was in effect and I was on my way. It was Four hundred and forty miles to Winnipeg. Next stop Brainerd then Bemidji then the Canadian border at Piney Manitoba and the last leg of 85 miles to Winnipeg. The flight plan was filed to Pine Creek Minnesota with an arrival of 2:30PM. I was giving myself lots of time, as I would be making two fuel stops and also the mandatory visit with Canada customs. One never knows how long the stops might be so I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t be late. For the first 100 miles I had a 15-20 kt head wind and in places the clouds hadn’t yet cleared all the way although I was still within the VFR limits. After that it was sunshine all the way with a 20 kt cross wind. This too was a beautiful flight. Minnesota certainly has lots of lakes with lots of cottages at least as far as Bemidji. I stopped there for 1 last fuel stop and to advise Canada Customs I was on my way with an estimated time of arrival. I departed Bemidji at 1:00PM. From here the landscape changed. Gone were the lakes and cottages and all you could see for miles was bog. There was a time where I thought if for some reason my engine decided to die, I would have no where to land as there were no roads within gliding distance.  It was only a thought and the plane never missed a beat. I arrived at the border at 2PM ahead of schedule but that was ok. I wasn’t late.  I tried calling the Customs Officer on the radio but got no response however he heard the airplane and walked across the road to meet me. After 20 minutes of answering questions and reviewing paperwork, I was on my way. By now it was quite hot and windy and I could see in the northwest some dark blue Manitoba sky and that means a thunderstorm is in the works. I wasted no time, as I am not a big fan of this type of weather, especially when I am in the air. Fortunately I made it with 10 minutes to spare before the rain started. It was exactly 4PM. And I was home safe and sound.

What an experience. This for me has been a trip of a lifetime. As a private pilot from the Canadian prairies seldom venturing past the 200-mile limit this certainly was a good experience in planning, decision making and executing as planned. The entire trip worth all the effort and expense because the rewards of meeting and making many new friends far exceeded it. All my experiences with the American people in the service industry were top notch and made my trip that much more pleasurable. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! And I am already looking forward to it.

Harry Wiebe, Winnipeg Canada

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