Julie and Earl's Excellent Adventure

November 11, 2009

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July 26
Julie and Earl's Excellent Adventure

The Cardinal's cross-country to Oshkosh

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The clock closed in on noon, and the cumulus clouds were building, but it was time to pack up the Catch-A-Cardinal and head north to EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh.

Of course, we'd head west, and north, and west again before gaining a straight track to the show. Such is often the nature of summertime flying in the boomtown bowling-alley midsection of the country.

The three weeks up to our July 19 launch had been spent with the folks at Air Wrench addressing minor squawks, and Precision Avionics Specialists' team finishing the autopilot testing and nav antenna installation, with just-in-time hardware help from Freeman's.

With the airplane in fine flying form, and Earl Clements, owner of Air Wrench, signed on as my crew chief, we secured our rollaboards and snack coolers with bungees in the cargo area.

Clements had wanted to get his pilot certificate for a long time, but like many of us, got stymied by the demands of life and building a career as a maintenance inspector and technician, and caring for a family. Still, about three years ago, he earned his private ticket, and now is part owner in a Cessna 172. He'd flown into Fond du Lac for AirVenture, but never into Oshkosh's Wittman Regional Airport, and he looked forward to doing more cross-country flying.

Weather the weather
Like most summer afternoons, this one was serving up pop-up thunderstorms in the Atlanta area. We took off with the anticipation that we'd avoid visually what we could, and always have a place to land if we couldn't pick our way through comfortably.

Well, our first leg wasn't that long - a cell west of Atlanta's Hartsfield/Jackson Airport threatened to squeeze us between its bolts and the surface area of the Class B airspace, so we ducked into Coweta County in Newnan to sit tight for an hour. After that, we headed west and north toward Huntsville to end run around a line of storms sitting on the Tennessee-Alabama border. With a turn north over Moontown airport (and a wave to friends below) we were in the clear to head north toward Lewisburg, Tennessee, where we got quick fuel service from Big D Aviation.

The dual Garmin GNS 430Ws worked in concert - we kept one dialed into the current flight plan, and one with KOSH in the destination so we could count down our total headway toward the goal. I find this technique not only entertaining, but useful when picking around convective activity. You're often faced with a choice of directions to modify course around weather, and having the final destination on display helps you strategize.

I used the GPSS mode on the Fifty Five X to lighten the workload - with this function engaged, the autopilot takes input directly from the number-one 430 and steers you through turns in the magenta line without any knob twisting. Not a big deal in day VFR operations, but a great help in single-pilot IFR. The good news? It works like a charm.

We pointed toward Owensboro, Kentucky, knowing that's about as far as we could get - if we were lucky. A massive line of thunderpower was barreling through Illinois, and might beat us to Kentucky. As you can see from the pictures, we made it, watching the progress out the windshield as well as with the GPSMap 496 we had on board, which I think holds a special place in Clements' heart. Couldn't agree more. I vividly recall life before datalink weather, and I'd rather forget it.

The lineman at Mid America Jet scrambled the Cardinal into the executive hangar with lightning speed - inspired by the growing fireworks outside. Let's just say that the cab ride to the hotel was far more epic than the flying had been. We were in the midst of a gully-washer.

Dawn of a new day
The next day we found we'd placed ourselves far enough north to be squarely in post-cold-front territory - in the clear, with cool temps and a bit of a headwind. So we fired up and stayed relatively low for the rest of the journey.

We made a brief stop at Sterling, Illinois' Whiteside County Airport for fuel and to set up another cool event to take place next week. After Oshkosh, we plan to fly the Cardinal out west to Alva, Oklahoma, for its date with Vantage Plane Plastics and Aerodesigns, where the airplane will get its new interior. Along the way, we're going to make several stops, starting at Sterling and then alighting at Green Castle, in Oxford, Iowa, and at Bloomfield Municipal Airport, in Bloomfield, Iowa, on August 2. The next day, August 3, we plan to stop at Olathe, Kansas, and Siloam Springs, Arkansas. We'll have more details next week, but if you're near any of these locations, please come out and see us. We'll coordinate with the local FBOs for our ETAs, and it's all weather-dependent.

The arrival
Since we came into Oshkosh on Friday, July 20, we almost had the Fiske Arrival to ourselves. In fact, this was the first time I recall actually chatting with the controller at Fiske - seems they were having problems with the Oshkosh ATIS and asked pilots coming in to help them troubleshoot.

We scored a right base to Runway 9, and touched down about 1:30 p.m., two very happy campers with a fine-running and super-flying Cardinal. The ground ops waved me over to Orion Flight Services, with whom we'd arranged shelter for the precious Cardinal until we put it on display on Sunday, July 22. Toby Aramark, Orion's head honcho, and his efficient line crew greeted us with smiles all around - and a grave sense that they were in the calm before the storm. The airshow is an incredibly busy time for the FBOs on the field - Orion brings in extra crew from Chevron-affiliated FBOs around the country to help with staffing, along with extra trucks. They meet the challenge head on.

Soon, the Cardinal was put to bed alongside some serious corporate hardware in one of Orion's executive hangars, and I could relax and look forward to talking with everyone at the show about your airplane.

There's still a chance to come see it, in front of the Big Yellow Tent, through Sunday, July 29. Dan Gryder, of the AvNet, and I are hosting a forum with Darren Tillman of Power Flow Systems on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the tent...and we hope to see you there!

- Julie K. Boatman

E-mail the author at julie.boatman@aopa.org.

FEATURED CONTRIBUTOR
Flight1 Technologies
Jim Rhoads of Flight1 Technologies leads a hard-working team of developers in producing a variety of flight simulator software for desktop PC applications, including Microsoft Flight Simulator. Recently the company made its first foray into instructional simulation software with the release of the Avidyne Student Simulator, an application that allows students and pilots new to the Avidyne Entegra integrated flight deck to practice procedures on their PCs.

Rhoads' team spends months building the aircraft add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator that have replicated each of the sweepstakes aircraft over the past few years. This year's Catch-A-Cardinal model debuted at Sun 'n Fun with an early version; you can fly the Catch-A-Cardinal at the Big Yellow Tent at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh from July 23 through 29, with a download available. Call 877/727-4568 or visit the Web site.