November 11, 2009
May 31 - The firefighters and airport manager at Kirksville Regional Airport (IRK) in Missouri had the barbeque fired up to start off the Memorial Day weekend, but they weren't expecting the 2001 AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza to come flying out of a blustery rain squall late on Friday with me, Associate Editor Steve Ells, at the controls. Since the weather wasn't cooperating, it was getting late in the day, and the staff at Aerospace Systems and Technologies Inc. in Salina, Kansas-the next stop-wasn't going go to start installing the TKS ice protection system until after the Memorial Day weekend: Hello, Kirksville Days Inn.
My early morning launch for Salina was delayed because of thick morning fog, which was followed by a large slow moving thunderstorm that decided to roost over the airport for nearly two hours, laying lightning bolts in all quadrants. By the time I took off at 3:30 p.m. the weather had improved but the low had brought a lot of moisture over the Midwest. This required low-altitude cruising and detours around isolated black-bottomed clouds that were shedding off rain showers.
The airplane flew beautifully. With the power set at 2500 rpm, wide open throttle (27.3 inches MAP) and leaned 80 degrees lean of peak at 10,500 feet during the leg from Kirksville to Salina, the true airspeed was more than 180 knots. Cylinder head temperatures were very cool (300-330) and fuel consumption, as reported by the J. P. Instruments EDM-800 was 15.2 gallons per hour.
The Garmin GNS 430 and 530 made navigation easy as they painted a bright purple line toward each waypoint. Lightning discharges (isolated late afternoon buildups) could be instantaneously displayed on either screen by moving a knob one click. It was great fun.
Editor at Large Tom Horne was to pick up the airplane and head to Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK) in Maryland for the AOPA Fly In and Open House on June 2. You can take the opportunity to visit AOPA headquarters, see the Sweeps Bonanza, and enjoy the daylong aviation event. All the details, including fly-in procedures, can be found on AOPA Online.
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