Super Cubbin’ across the country at 1,500 feet can be pure joy, but with headwinds, heat, or turbulence it can be downright miserable—if you allow it to be. At times like these, attitude is the key to happiness.
After launching on a ferry flight from Carbondale, Illinois, to Gulf Shores, Alabama, in AOPA’s Sweepstakes Super Cub, my groundspeed settles in at 82 knots on what is already going to be a bladder-busting long leg. Behind me was another successful AOPA Fly-In, and the mission now is to have this beautiful yellow Super Cub in position for the final AOPA Fly-In of 2018. The good news is, the event is still weeks away, and I hope I won't need all of that time.
OK, mental game on. On the positive side, the Super Cub is flying direct in the early morning smooth, cool air. And, it is moving forward over the ground, albeit slower than I’d like. Thankfully, there’s not an interstate below me for cars to remind me of how slow I’m going.
Zooming in and moving the map on the Garmin Aera 660 removes the groundspeed (out of sight, out of mind?), and I focus outside. Patterns emerge in the farmlands and ponds, delighting my imagination like cumulus clouds did as a child. Ponds take the shapes of butterfly wings, a tulip, an electric guitar, a molar, and a rabbit.
Barges waiting for towboats all but clog the middle of the Ohio River just before it merges with the mighty Mississippi River, muddy and gorged from rain. Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet along my route at the Mississippi River. I’ll be crossing three of those four borders in a matter of minutes. Retired U.S. Air Force pilot Brian Shul’s stories of flying the SR–71 Blackbird come to mind, particularly the one in which he crosses Nebraska in seven minutes. I grin as I think about crossing these state borders in about the same amount of time. Granted, the SR–71 would cross this exact area in a few seconds, but at this moment, in my mind, this slow "yellowbird" feels as cool as the Blackbird.
While flying along the Mississippi River, two sandbars in the middle tempt me to take a little diversion with the Super Cub, but I stay on course (after all, I have promised each of you that I will take good care of your airplane, and I intend to fulfill that).
Sometimes the highlight of a ferry flight is the fuel stop—you not only get a chance to stretch your legs and meet some interesting folks, but sometimes you can take part in shenanigans. Such is the case in Tupelo, Mississippi, where two avid AOPA members immediately recognize the sweepstakes airplane and cook up a practical joke.
One gentleman texts a photo of him with the airplane to his son, also a member who immediately recognizes it. The dad sends another message, stating that that I’m there to deliver it to a winner in Tupelo (an evil joke, I know!). Two seconds later, the son calls. The dad giggles with delight as he switches off his phone, stating he’s going to wait until I’ve taken off to break the news that I was just passing through for fuel.
It’s as if a switch flips after leaving Tupelo. Temperatures increase to the mid-70 degrees Fahrenheit, popcorn cumulus clouds develop, and steady chop ensues. Now is the real test, as I stare down a three-hour leg. I’m not sure if I can pacify myself with mental games.
First, I need to take care of the warm temperatures in the cockpit. If I climb higher above the cumulus, I’ll find cooler, smoother air, but my headwind will nearly double to 14 knots. The cabin air vent and small air opening on the front left window are already open, circulating the air, but that isn’t enough. I open the Super Cub’s large photo window, letting fresh air rush into the cabin. Securing my hair in a ponytail, I feel like I’m flying a convertible. Another point for the positive mental game.
As I approach Gulf Shores, the turbulence subsides, headwinds vanish, and the Super Cub reaches nearly 100 knots groundspeed. What could have been a daylong flight of misery over boring terrain instead is a pleasant memory-filled adventure thanks to the right attitude.