Sun 'n Fun + Key West, FL - 4/2002
On April 6, 2002 my friend Paul and I took off in a Cessna 172
for Lakeland, Florida to go to the 2002
Sun 'n Fun Air show,
one of the biggest air shows in the country. This trip involved
overnight stays in Needles California, El Paso Texas, San Antonio
Texas, New Orleans Louisiana, Bainbridge Georgia, Lakeland Florida,
and finally Key West, Florida as well as Del Rio Texas and San Diego
California on the way home. All of the pictures are now available as
well as a trip narrative. We made it home on April 18, 2002 4:45 PM!
Friends Mike Shiflett and Ed Craddock, the organizers of the
trip, flew this trip in their Lancair 290, also known as "The
Quick Trip Statistics:
57.3 Hours of Flying, ~5122 Nautical Miles, ~475 Gallons of 100LL
AVGAS (Averaged 8.15 gph), 11,000' Highest Altitude flown, 161 mph
highest cruising ground speed, 100 mph lowest cruising ground speed,
460 MB of pictures taken, $2,251.08 Plane Rental, $1,278.07 in Fuel
($2.45 average per gallon), $108.96 in Ramp Fees, $1,358.28 in
|Day 1 (4/6/2002)
||KRHV (San Jose,
CA) - KBFL (Bakersfield, CA) - KMHV (Mohave, CA) - KPMD
(Palmdale, CA) - KEED (Needles, CA) Weather had forced us up
high, 9500' and we ended up staying in Needles, CA instead
of Laughlin, NV.
KRHV - KEED
|Day 2 (4/7/2002)
CA) - P33 (Cochise, AZ) - KELP (El Paso, TX) Great
Tailwinds, Lots of Turbulence, Crosswinds from Hell, Chasing
KEED - KELP
|Day 3 (4/8/2002)
||KELP (El Paso,
TX) - KJCT (Kimble Co. Junction, TX) - KSAT (San Antonio,
TX) Strong Winds Again, High Turbulence.
KELP - KSAT
|Day 4 (4/9/2002)
Antonio, TX) - 6R3 (Cleveland Co., TX) - KNEW (Lake Front,
New Orleans, LA) Turbulence, Engine Choking due to
Carburetor Ice, Great Scenery, Friendly Folks at Cleveland
KSAT - KNEW
Orleans, LA) - KBGE (Bainbridge, GA) Scud Running All Day,
Near Mid-Air Collision with Military Helicopters, Really
Really Friendly Folks in Georgia.
KNEW - KBGE
(Bainbridge, GA) - KCTY (Cross City, FL) - KLAL (Lakeland,
FL) Had to split up today with Jim to go IFR with Mike, and
Jim went with ED in our plane. I Co-Piloted the
Mosquito (Lancair 290) with Mike as PIC, and Jim did some
PIC IFR practice with ED in the 172. Ended up only being a
little bit of IFR. We finally made it to the air show though
Sun 'N Fun Pics
FL) - KMKY (Marco, FL) - KMTH (Marathon, FL) - KEYW (Key
West Intl., FL.) The flight over the keys was great.
Overcast at 2500' though made it hazy and murky.
KLAL - KEYW
|Day 8, 9
having fun in Key West
||KEYW (Key West
Intl, FL.) - Palm Beach at 500' off the coast and Formation
Flying with the Lancair- KPHK (Pahokee, FL) Unscheduled
Precautionary Stop due to minor oil leak and low oil
pressure (2.5 hrs maintenance) - PFN (Panama City, FL) -
KNEW (New Orleans, LA) at night in low visibility over
water..... Overall a 10 hr. day...
KEYW - KNEW
Orleans, LA) - KGLS (Galveston, TX) Scud Running, Moved out
to coast for clearer weather, very poor visibility at KGLS -
KDRT (Del Rio, TX) by way of THX Vortac to steer clear of a
65 mile wide T-storm over San Antonio.
ATC Dialog of the Trip:
This is after talking with Flight Watch for a while and
returning to Flight Following...
N737CL: "Houston Center, Cessna 7CL, 4500 over THX Vortac
back with you."
ATC: Cessna 7CL, you still alive?
N737CL: "Cessna 7CL, yeah, we just tried several
different things to navigate this Thunder storm."
ATC: "Are you still able to maintain VFR?"
N737CL: "Yeah 4500' is VFR, quite choppy though."
KNEW - KDRT
||KDRT (Del Rio,
TX) - KLRU (Las Cruces, NM) - KAVQ (Marana, AZ) - KIPL
(Imperial Co., CA) - KSAN (San Diego, CA) One of the most
Turbulent days ever, and 10.7 hours of flying. First landing
at a Class Bravo Airport. Involved 4 instructed 360's in
the traffic pattern while waiting for jets to land. This was
the longest day by far ~12 hours total travel time.
KDRT - KSAN
||KSAN (San Diego,
CA) - KPRB (Paso Robles, CA) - KRHV (San Jose, CA) Another
bumpy day. Quite fun taking off from a Class B airport.
"Cessna 7CL, you are #2 behind the 737, caution wake
KSAN - KRHV
It all started as a suggestion by fellow flying friend Mike
Shiflett to join him and his business partner Ed on his annual trip
to the Sun 'n Fun fly-in in Lakeland Florida. After some convincing,
we realized the opportunity to fly across the country with two
experienced pilots was too good to pass up! We both got our private
tickets back in October, and such a trip seemed like a good way to
build some practical experience outside the predictable environment
of northern California. We had no idea what an understatement that
would turn out to be!
The trip was planned to run from Saturday, April 6th
through Wednesday, April 17th. Mike and Ed would
drag along in their 165-kt Lancair, while we had the cherry of the
Nice Air Cessna 172 rental fleet N737CL. Once you got past the duct tape
holding parts of the interior paneling together and the bare-bones
avionics, it really wasn't a great plane. It managed to get us there
and back though with only a little engine trouble!
The overall plan for the trip was to depart
from Reid-Hillview in San Jose on 4/6 and make overnight stops in
Laughlin, NV, Austin, TX, New Orleans, LA, and Lakeland, FL. After a
few days at the fly-in, the goal was to venture down to Key West and
have some Sun n Fun of a different nature!
Mike and Ed had to leave a day later, so we
took off on the 6th as planned with the idea of meeting up in Texas
the following day. The flight from Reid-Hillview over the Tehachapi
Pass was uneventful, with none of the turbulence we were warned
about, and we had a beautiful sunset as well. Things got a bit more
interesting after we had ventured out into the blackness of the high
desert at night and the fuel gauges drifted towards empty. Even
though we were okay time-wise, the second-guessing set in and the
uncertainty had us looking for the nearest airport which turned out
to be Needles, CA. And yes, we adjusted our personal minimums for
fuel after that.
The next morning when we fueled up, we had 8
gallons left. So we actually just made the 45 minute reserve
requirement, even though the fuel gauges read empty in flight.
For the next three days, weather forced
changes to our itinerary: a big front was working its way east
across the southern US and holding us up. Day 2 involved flying from
Needles, CA to El Paso, TX with a fuel stop in Wilcox, AZ at Cochise
Airport. We had a direct crosswind of 12 to 15 knots at Cochise, and
winds of 18G35 in El Paso. At Cochise, after landing the wind was
skidding the plane sideways and causing the wheels to shimmy, and
although the winds were pretty much down the runway in El Paso,
taxiing turned out to be rather challenging. At one point while
taxiing, a gust started blowing the plane sideways across the
taxiway and Jim had to kick it into the wind to avoid something
nasty happening. And yes, we adjusted our personal minimums for
winds after that.
Day 3 took us to San Antonio, TX with a fuel
stop in the greater metropolitan Junction, TX area at Kimble County
airport. The previous day's theme of high winds in general and heavy
direct crosswinds at the fuel stop persisted into Day 3. At Kimble
County, a gusting direct crosswind gave Paul a nice center line
landing but then some gusts came and a weathervane ensued
followed by a quick trip off the runway and back. San Antonio turned
out to be a lot of fun though! Mike arranged a tour of the FlightSafety facility there (A place he is quite fond of now after
his Citation training), then off to the River Walk for food and
Day 4 made for a nice trip to New Orleans, LA!
Besides a bit of engine choking from carb ice, the flight from San
Antonio to New Orleans Lakefront airport by way of Cleveland, TX was
smooth. After an excellent dinner at the Gumbo Shop, we headed out
to sample the night life. The first stop was a visit to the
birthplace of the hurricane, Pat O'Brien's, which Paul seemed to develop
a fond taste for! Next, we visited some other bars, and finally a blues
club. Happily, the hotel was just a short stagger home from there.
Needless to say, Paul did not feel so hot the next morning forcing
Jim to fly the leg to Bainbridge, Georgia.
The weather just kept going downhill from
there. Day 5 involved scud running from New Orleans all the way to
the bustling metropolis of Bainbridge, Georgia. You are probably
wondering why we stayed in Bainbridge, Georgia. The stop was to
allow Mike and Ed to investigate a crop dusting business there. The
constant light turbulence was particularly hard on Paul, who was
still a bit green from the night before. Somewhere over Mississippi,
just after flight following had been terminated, a pair of military
helicopters blistered across our path about 300 below, which helped
us to stay awake for the rest of the flight!
This brings up a point about flight following.
We were using it for the entire trip which was very helpful and made
up for not filing flight plans. It was not feasible to file a flight
plan for the daily flying we were doing because we had so many legs,
unscheduled stops, weather and terrain detours, and we didn't want to
be rushed. Not to mention we probably would have forgotten to close
the flight plans far too often. Flight following was also useful for
navigating through the different airspaces and restricted areas
along the way. For the most part, ATC would hand us off to the next sector,
but in some cases there were gaps in radar coverage and wed have to
go off flight following for 10-20 miles and then contact someone
else. The above incident occurred during one of those 10-20 mile
The folks at the Bainbridge airport were
exceptionally friendly, generously sharing their
politically-incorrect views on certain colored minority groups and
loaning us a pickup truck for the night.
On Day 6 we finally reached Lakeland, FL! A
low ceiling at Bainbridge forced us to switch crew around and go IFR
in both planes, but the flight into Lakeland was otherwise a breeze.
It was interesting though to have two planes on final for the same
runway, a converted taxiway in this case, with both having different
touchdown spots. Sun n Fun was fascinating. Besides air shows
involving current military planes (F16, F117) and old warbirds (F86
and P51), as well as numerous acrobatic shows, there were static
displays of a broad spectrum of GA. Some of the more modern
airframes were particularly intriguing such as the Lancairs and the
Cirrus planes. If you wanted to buy or research anything to do with
aviation, it was there.
Finally, the high point and turning point of
the trip, Key West! The flight from Lakeland to Key West was fun,
but a bit bumpy till we made it to the gulf coast of Florida and out
onto the water. Flying over the water and the Florida Keys was a lot
of fun with plenty of nice scenery. It was especially nice to be
instructed by Navy approach to fly under 500 3 miles off the coast
through there airspace. Key West was a delight. We rented scooters
for the three days we were there, which made getting around easy and
fun! The weather was nice, the food was great; especially the Key
Lime pie, seafood, and Cuban food.
Departure day turned out to be one of the more
eventful flying days. We departed Key West and decided to take the
scenic route up the Florida east coast and flew at 500 feet just off
the beach for much of the way right up the Keys, past Miami, Ft.
Lauderdale, and Palm Beach. We turned inland just after Palm Beach
on course for our first fuel stop near Tampa. That plan changed
however when approaching Lake Okeechobee we noticed black spots on
the windshield and streaks of oil on the cowling, along with
dropping oil pressure. I just love that NRST button on the Garmin
195! It took us to Pahokee about 8 minutes away. About 2 hours later
we were on our way, after the mechanics fixed a leaking case bolt.
The weather got worse later on that day, with scattered
thunderstorms, clouds, and poor visibility. There's nothing like
flying over water at night in unfamiliar territory with poor
visibility in a duct-taped, leaking rental 172! New Orleans;
however, once again greeted us warmly that night.
The next day was fun, flying from New Orleans
to Del Rio Texas. After more scud running from New Orleans to
Galveston TX, we had to take a long southerly detour to avoid a
monster 65-mile-wide thunderstorm which topped out at 55,000 feet.
Reports said it was throwing baseball-sized hail in San Antonio. The
thing looked like a giant nuclear explosion; a perfect
example of the textbook anvil. We ended up making it around the
T-storm at 4500 way south of it. From that point on, the turbulence
became increasingly fun. Del Rio, TX was no special place to be at,
but a necessary stop.
The following day was the longest of the trip,
with 10.7 hours on the Hobbs. Mike and Ed parted ways at this point
and flew all the way back to Reid-Hillview. We picked San Diego for
an overnight stop. We flew from Del Rio to San Diego's Lindbergh
field with fuel stops in Las Cruces NM, Marana AZ, and Imperial
County CA. The flight into San Diego International was not exactly
relaxing, due to the numerous clouds and layers that seemed to
congregate at our assigned altitudes. SoCal approach was real
helpful and granted requests for lower. Lindbergh tower had us do 4
left 360s for sequencing and managed to slip us in between a couple
of passenger jets. The turbulence this day was exceptionally strong
over the desert and high terrain. Mike and Ed actually told us it
was so bad for them that they landed in Phoenix to inspect their
plane. Also, note for future trips, Jims Air, the only GA FBO at
Lindbergh field, was horribly snotty and unhelpful.
Of course, for the last flight home the
following day, the weather just wouldn't let go: we had to battle 30
knot headwinds and light-to-moderate turbulence for the entire
inland portion. The slow nature of the trip up California forced
one fuel stop in Paso Robles.
Overall it was a fantastic trip. We learned
more flying in two weeks (particularly dealing with weather) than we
would in two years in sunny California. Although, flying a rental
rattletrap 172 probably wasn't the safest or fastest way to go, it
definitely added a good measure of adventure. Riding a turtle across
the US once is enough though; the next long trip will involve
something a bit faster and better equipped. And many thanks to Mike
Shiflett for acting as both "Julie the Cruise Director" and den mother