by Hung Pham

Hung Making a 2004 Short Field Contest DepartureLiving in Topeka, only 300nm from Clinton, I try to attend the National Fly-In each year. Having missed Clinton 2003 due to work schedule, I eagerly awaited Clinton 2004.

My plan was to depart on Friday morning, and return on Sunday morning. As the date drew near, I kept a close eye on the weather. At first, things were looking great. The forecast was calling for thunderstorms Tuesday thru Thursday, and partly cloudy Friday thru Sunday. However, the thunderstorms coming from western Kansas were moving more slowly than expected, didn't arrive until Friday morning, and it was going to rain thru Saturday.

Friday morning, with the ceiling at 1500' AGL, I took off at 7:00AM, hoping to beat the storms. After 5nm, I ran into low clouds and had to return to the field. I was unhappy, because if I had made it another 40nm, it would've been OK the rest of the way. I went home and moped around, kept checking the weather. At 10:00AM, there was a break in the storms, and the ceiling went up to 2500' AGL. I rushed to the airport, and was airborne by 10:30AM. Once away from the storms, the flight was acceptable. I cruised at 3500' MSL, between a scattered layer at 3000' and a ceiling at 5000'. I had to constantly look for breaks in the clouds, in case I need an emergency descend, but the ride was very smooth. After 2 1/2 hrs of flight, I made a fuel stop at Fairfield, Iowa. Taking off again, I arrived in Clinton at 2:30PM.

After I landed, a voice came on the radio "38H, are you here for the fly-in?". It was from Air Boss Mayotte. I replied "Affirmative, this is Hung". A "Welcome Wagon" golf-cart came rolling out from the FBO. On it were Gordon Ellis and several other volunteers. Together, they helped me park and secure the plane. Looking around, I saw about forty Cessna 150/152s parked in neat rows. Ah!, I feel at home already.

Kirk, Charles, Jeff, Matthew, and Wayne, trying to fix the alternator on Wayne's plane. I went to the FBO to register then started walking around to check out things. On the apron, five guys were crowding around a plane with the cowling off. They were Kirk, Charles, Jeff, Matthew, and Wayne, trying to fix the alternator on Wayne's plane. I didn't ask why there was a cut-up Root beer can on the ground, but I knew that can was made of aluminum ;). I stopped by to greet everyone, watched for a little bit, then went to the flight line to take pictures.

Around 6:00PM, I joined the crowd at the hangar to line up for dinner. The local Aeroclub was offering steak dinners. It was a delicious meal and really hit the spot because I hadn't eaten anything since leaving Topeka. While eating dinner, I met Greg, Bryan, Ed, and several members that I had "talked" to on the forums. After dinner, people in the hangar were divided into to 12 teams to prepare the packages for the egg-drop contest. Each team was given a raw egg, a cardboard box, and packing material which was picked at random. The teams settled down to design and prepare their packages. It was a lot of fun watching creative minds at work. After the packages were finished and turned in, people started heading out to their hotels or tents to settle in for the night.

Saturday morning came early. Kirk and I rode in together on the shuttle van and decided to team up for the bottle-drop contest. Each team consisted of a pilot and a bombardier, and would drop 3 empty water bottles in 3 passes. Airboss Mayotte gave the briefing at 8:00AM, outlined the contest rules and pattern, and reminded everyone to have fun but be safe. Afterward, we headed out to the flight line, got our planes started and lined up for takeoff. There were six planes in the bottle-drop contest and they were launched at 45-second intervals. After all the bottles were dropped, we came in and made a practice landing for the spot-landing contest.

In the afternoon, I participated in the spot-landing and egg-drop contest. There were 12 teams in each contest. Under the direction of "Plane Handler" Jeff Davis, we got our planes staged in front of the FBO. Sitting in my plane, surrounded by 11 planes, rocking from the prop wash, I was a reminded of a scene in "Midway" when the planes on a carrier were getting ready to launch on a strike mission. Well, our mission was much less dangerous, just dropping a package and trying to land on a 80-ft section of the runway. All the planes returned intact and nobody was hurt, although there were some exciting moments when a Learjet and a stubborn Maule tried to merge in with the contest planes.

Clinton Fly-In 2004 Wingman Trophy Hung and Kirk's Bottle Drop TrophySaturday evening, we all gathered at the Best Western Inn for the award banquet. The buffet was good as always, and conversations flowed freely. Royson emcee'd the event and Airboss Mayotte presented results from the contests. Surprisingly, all the eggs survived the drop, and only one had a slight crack because the rubber band around it was too tight. The winner of the egg-drop contest had to be decided by popularity. Kirk and I won the bottle-drop contest, we got a nice trophy for that. Royson hosted a trivia game where the participants wrote a little-known fact about themselves. That was fun. We had people who had sat in David Letterman's chair, who has a Cadillac in their living room, who flew for the CIA in Vietnam, etc. The banquet ended around 9:00PM, everyone had a good time, and many people went home with prizes.

Sunday morning, after fueling up and saying goodbye to several members, I took off from Clinton at 8:30AM. With clear sky and a 20 kts tail-wind, the return trip was a delight. I flew non-stop for 2.5 hrs and arrived in Topeka at 11:00AM. It was a great trip and I'll be ready when Clinton 2005 comes around.

Hung Pham
1980 Cessna 152 N4938H
Topeka, KS (TOP)

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