by Ed Figuli

  What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2005 • Ed Figuli

“Clinton traffic, Cessna five three Quebec, flight of two, five miles east for a left base runway two one low approach”.  And one year of anticipation is now a reality.  The 2005 Cessna 150-152 Annual Fly-In is on! 

Planning for my trip started the day I returned from the 2004 gathering.  Vacation is hard to get at a power plant where only one person in my job class can be off at a time.  Two friends stepped to the plate and helped out by covering on their days off.  It doesn’t hurt that they have numerous pictures of their houses from the air courtesy of yours truly.

The original convoy from Pennsylvania and western New York was supposed to include four aircraft.  Two pilots dropped out and it was up to Tom Kozel and I to make the trip from Pennsylvania.

 Two friends of mine from Slatington who missed out on their vacations were looking for something to do and someplace to go so Ed Maffei and Tony Piotrowski decided to head west.  Tony has a Cessna Skyhawk XP and was reasonably sure that he would be welcome with a plane of the same manufacture as the 150/152s.  Ed Maffei on the other hand flies a Stinson 108-2 and thought the only way he would be fed was if he put “Cessna 153 ½” on the cowl.  Words cannot describe how humorous I found that.  The Slatington Air Force, joined with the Pottstown-Limerick Wing to form the Keystone State Composite Squadron. 

Departure for Clinton was scheduled for July 20, 2005.  Ed Maffei and I were hoping to have wheels up at 0600 but someone was running late (yours truly) to the airport and we didn’t get off the ground until around 0730.  We had to wait out ground fog in Central PA anyway and by the time we got to Somerset, PA the skies had cleared around the airport.  Tony decided to fly ahead to our second stop at Marion, OH and wait for us.  Tom Kozel got off the ground at Pottstown at around the same time and ended up meeting Ed and myself around 10am in Somerset.  The next leg to Marion was smooth.  We met up there with Tony and took the courtesy car into town for lunch. 

The planes we were flying were a pretty interesting mix.  Tony’s Hawk XP is a Cessna 172 with a 195hp engine that cruises at around 130 kts.  He also has a Storm Scope and can see lightning activity out to about 200 miles.  He flew lead for the trip.  Ed and I have equally matched planes.  His Stinson and my Texas Taildragger both cruise around 105 kts although he will burn about 3 – 4 gallons per hour more than me.  Tom Kozel has a stock 150 with a climb prop.  The routine for the day after Marion went something like this.  Tony would fly lead, check weather and let us know what looked good for routing.  Ed and I would follow about 20 miles back and get into the next airport about 10 to 15 min after Tony.  Tom, well Tom would get into the next airport 30 – 40 min after Tony, 20 – 25 min after Ed and I, land his plane, get out, stretch and we would be asking him if he is ready to go.  For all his discomfort he was able to log more time in the air and burned less gas than the rest of us.

Our next stop after Marion, Ohio was Vermillion County Airport in Danville, Illinois.  This kept us south of the Thunderstorms that were brewing in Northern Illinois and Indiana.  What made this stop interesting was the P-51 Mustang rebuild shop.  They had three projects in one hanger where they take each plane down to the bare ribs, make any repairs necessary and then rebuild the plane from the ground up.  In the adjacent hanger was a pristine P-51D.  This plane was immaculate.  I begged them to take my 150 in trade but they told me my plane was worth less than the avionics alone (there was an original gun sight installed).  I’m still not complaining.  Woodstock gets plenty of attention wherever we go.

 Figuli and Maffei lead a flight of four into Clinton on Wednesday Evening

The last leg on the way out to Clinton was smooth.  No clouds to speak of but a hazy layer that restricted visibility into the setting sun.  Tony was the first on the ground calling himself the lead aircraft of Figuli’s Raiders.  Ed and I formed up for a formation fly-by down runway 21.  True to form, Tom “Tail End Charlie”, taxied up 20 minutes later in time to tie his plane down and then head off to the early bird dinner.  The dinner at Hillside Stables Restaurant was the best recipe after a long day of flying.  After dinner getting to the hotel room was the best cure for Midwestern heat and humidity.  We flew 717 miles in 12 hours.  Clinton is Go!

The Slatington Air Force (minus Tom Kozel ) Enjoy a well deserved cool one, at the Hillside Stables

Thursday was great.  Pretty much spent the day hanging out at an airport in Iowa watching planes arrive.  Making new friends and seeing old friends from previous years was great.  After bugging Lori all morning for my registration she put the Keystoners to work setting up the main hanger with tables and chairs.  The skydiving was fun to watch.  Kirk Wennerstrom (with Newton’s and nylon’s help) did a great job of getting back to the ground in one piece.  Later in the day there were the requisite fly-bys.  Seeing six or seven Cessna’s (and a Stinson) roaring down runway 32 into the sunset was fantastic and fun. 

Friday morning and I found myself out on the flight line dodging Nerf Attacks and watching the spot landing contests.  I quickly learned the safest place on the field during a Nerf Attack is next to the big blue trash can that doubles as a target.  There weren’t to many pickles getting close to the barrel.  When Ed Maffei said he wanted to drop some Nerfs and try his hand at the spot landings I offered my services as bombardier/navigator.  Our six passes resulted in a 33 foot package delivery and one good landing.  The next flight I was flying and was able to get little closer on the package delivery and only one landing in between the lines.  I guess what I really need to do is figure out how to get my three point landing to happen between those lines.  I could never figure out if it was the tailwheel or the mains that would hit first.  The Luau Friday night was great.  Our Egg Drop Soup team packaged up our little egg and waited for the best on Saturday.  More high and slow speed fly-bys and then back to the hotel for a swim and some sleep.

A problem that we found on Friday during the first contest was that the plan for the Air Boss wasn’t going to work from the ground for a couple of reasons.  The Air Boss’s ground station wasn’t powerful enough to overcome all the other traffic on 122.8.  The squadron leader had a lot to do with keeping his flight flying at the proper spacing and altitude.  Incoming traffic was not aware of what was going on and where other planes were.  While there were no close calls on Friday there was some confusion about who was where and who should do what.  I talked with Royson about this and suggested that we fly at 3000 feet to give advisories.  One person would work the radio and the other would keep an eye out for traffic and fly the plane.  As it turned out… I found out that my Navy nuclear power training (where I learned to communicate, stay calm, and retain the big picture) and 21 years of flying gelled together to produce a pretty good Air Boss.

Ed refuels for another FAC Mission

My initial goal was simply to advise traffic of what was going on.  Nothing more.  As the first contest got underway it became obvious that keeping everyone informed of who was where and doing my best to sequence arrivals into the airport was part of the job.  Unfortunately weather arrived from the north and shut the contest down as conditions dropped from VFR to 600 feet overcast and one mile visibility.  Everyone was able to get on the ground and wait out the storm.  After lunch we launched again in clear skies.  First up was the egg drop.  Even from 3000 feet I could see that the Egg Drop Soup team came through and delivered one very intact egg.  This is two years in a row I’ve been on a winning team.  I guess I have a soft spot for eggs.  After the egg drop it was back to the landing and package delivery contests.  For those who were listening on the ground I will say that as much as it sounds like I’m busy it was actually a lot of fun.  I enjoy dynamic situations that require constant thinking, plotting, planning, diplomacy, communications and of course, FLYING.  The inbound pilots responded well and really stepped up when asked.  All the pilots in the Sierra flights did a great job of following the plane in front, rocking the wings and helping get the transients in and out of Clinton.  I appreciate the compliments from those who were involved.  I’m glad that I was able to help out.  Thank you Royson for acknowledging this at the banquet Saturday night.  I am looking forward to doing this next year. 

The banquet.  Ed Pataky.  There is no better choice for an MC.  He did a great job and heck… even picked my name for one of the airplane models.  Many thanks to Robbie for the AWESOME video.  This is another great example of how the fly in has grown up.  I’ve been amazed at how many different talents arrive and contribute to the fly in. 

The flight home Sunday was pretty straightforward.  Tony and Ed left early Saturday morning during the gale that blew through Clinton so it was Tom Kozel and I heading east to the Keystone State.  One of the good things about heading east on Sunday was the tailwind.  After departure I was showing a ground speed of 143 kts to our first stop at Marion, Indiana.  The flight to Washington County, PA was pretty smooth under an overcast layer and we were kept south to the Columbus area of Ohio by some thunderstorms moving in from Cleveland.  Tom and I parted ways at Washington County and the leg back to Slatington was the best of the trip.  An overcast layer at 20,000 feet, visibility at about 40 miles, a slight tailwind and I think I went a little over an hour without touching the yoke.  The air was soooo smooth. 

After landing at Slatington I sat at the gas pumps for about 20 minutes while I decompressed from the weekend.  I thought about the planes, the trip, the Nerf package deliveries, the spot landings, being Air Boss, the evening fly bys, and most of all the people.  What made this trip great was the people.  I am very honored and very proud to be a member of the Cessna 150-152 Club.  I cannot wait until next year.  Thanks to all for a great weekend.

Ed Figuli

The Cessna 150-152 Club and Cessna 150-152 Fly-In Foundation are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. Chicago, Illinois

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