I’d joined the 182 partnership in May 2019 and was formally checked out in July, but the airplane still felt a little unfamiliar. I wanted to stretch my legs with a nice, long cross-country. I even had a mission: I was going to fly from Maryland to Missouri pick up Opal, a dog that would be joining my family.
Frederick, Maryland, to Fredericktown, Missouri, is 650 nautical miles in a straight line, or a little more than five hours by Cessna 182. I planned to head to Sikeston, Missouri, and stop overnight there. The next morning, I’d zip over to Fredericktown—just 55 nautical miles from Sikeston—collect the dog, and fly back to Maryland. Breaking up a long trip over a couple days is one of many ways you can manage risks associated with flying—in this case, the risk of fatigue from trying to do too much flying in one day.
Another way to manage risk is to share flying legs, so I asked a pilot friend to come with me. Ferdi Mack and I had flown AOPA’s Sweepstakes 172 from Camarillo, California, to Frederick, Maryland, in 2015. We get along great in the cockpit, and Ferdi has a ton of experience in 182s. I also wanted his take on flying behind a constant-speed propeller—something that still seemed a bit unwieldy to me.
We launched on September 9 into perfect weather, and the 182 hummed along over the Pennsylvania and Ohio landscape. It’s a joy to fly a well-trimmed airplane in smooth morning air, no autopilot needed, and just a light touch on the yoke to keep you headed in the right direction. We stopped in Portsmouth, Ohio, for French toast, bacon, and avgas.
We landed at Sikeston in late afternoon. The day was warm; the pattern was quiet. The FBO gave us a ride to our motel, and then we walked about a half-mile to Lambert’s Café for dinner. Lambert’s is your one-stop shop for “throwed rolls” and barbecue; the wait staff will literally pitch hot rolls across the room to diners. In the gift shop I found a T-shirt with an airplane on it. The woman at the cash register said the Lamberts still have that airplane, which looks to be a Piper Cub.
The next morning’s flight from Sikeston to Fredericktown was only 25 minutes. We touched down at H88, A. Paul Vance Fredericktown Regional Airport. Like many small-town GA airports, the name is longer than the runway. It was quiet here, too. The airport attendant was curious as to why we were there. When I explained, he said, “Long way to come for a dog.”
It was a long way to come for a dog. I could have made the trip without general aviation—but who wants to drive 14 hours one way? Instead, I made it an enjoyable flight in the 182, working with the Aspen primary flight display, managing the constant-speed propeller, and keeping an eye on the cylinder head temperatures with the JP Instruments engine monitor—another new-to-me gadget. I got to play with the autopilot and the StormScope, although since this flight the partnership removed the StormScope and installed a Garmin G5 backup attitude indicator.
And Opal, the dog? She traveled like a pro in the back seat.
There’s nothing like a long cross-country to explore an airplane’s idiosyncrasies. If you can find a mission to complement the trip, even better—but by all means, take the trip anyway.