From Oregon to Iowa
By: Trudy Lary
I bought my plane last year in June 2001, right after I soloed. Then I got a bright idea in my head, since I have my own plane why don’t I fly to Oshkosh, WI and stop at Clinton, IA on my way to Oshkosh.
So I began to plan my first cross-country flight. There was a small problem about some mountains between Portland, Oregon and Clinton, Iowa. So I picked up Sparky’s “Mountain Flying” and started to read and study the Great Falls sectional.
To prepare to fly over the mountains I did some practice flights around Mt. St. Helens and Crater Lake to see how my plane would fly at 9,500 ft. Also I decided to take 3 entire weeks off so I would have plenty of time to sit out any weather.
John and I left on July 13, and flew up to Bellingham, WA to drop off my cat and dog at my parents house. On the way to Bellingham we decided to stop at the Bremerton airport. I talked to the local CFI’s about my route over Snoqualmie pass. The local pilot informed me not to follow the road too low. There was a hairpin corner that quote “Eats a lot of pilots”. He suggested I fly 2,000 ft above the pass, which I was planning on doing anyway since I read Sparky’s book.
We left Bellingham on the morning of July 14, flew south then turned east to began our crossing of Snoqualmie pass. Luckily we started the climb about 20 minutes before and was almost to 9500 ft. when we began to cross the mountains. The flight over the pass went smoothly and we where almost finished when John said “Well the worst is over, I can see eastern Washington”. At that point I said “What about that knife edge ridge”. All the sudden the plane dropped 500 ft in a downdraft. Since it was the last major mountain all was well and we landed in Ellensburg.
The next stop was Coeur D’Alene, ID, we landed and taxied over to the expensive looking FBO. Someone ran out and hand signaled us into a parking spot. After we shutdown, a twin flew in and the lineman brought out a small red carpet. Somehow, they must of forgot the red carpet when they saw the 152. Well two dogs came out of the twin and on to the red carpet.
The next morning I talked to some local pilots, who informed me the best way over the mountains to Glacier Parks is a straight line. I told them I was in a 152, and they said just climb out and head straight. Well I figured I’d be circling Sandpoint for about 1 hour before I was able to clear the mountains. Also what about emergency landing areas. I went with my original plan of following a valley and climb, then turning north when I had enough altitude. The flight over the second mountain range was beautiful and uneventful, we landed in Kaspispell, MT.
We hiked around Glacier Park for 3 days, if you ever get the chance, visit the park, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The hike up to Swiftcurrent pass and on to the firelook out is one of the best day hikes I have ever been on.
Back at the airport, I decided to go and talk to the local “bush” pilots to get their advice about crossing the last bit of mountains. I decided to follow highway 2. Highway 2 is on the southern boarder of Glacier Park. The “bush” pilot at the airport said “Let me tell you a BIG hint, don’t fly if the winds are above 35 mph.” Hmmmm, I was wondering if this advice meant that I could fly if the winds were 34 mph. Of course if the winds are 34 mph on the ground, the wind at 9000 ft are probably 100 mph. Luckily common sense took over, and I stuck with my original plan I made before the trip.
We flew over the last mountains and made it to Cut Bank, MT. I was now clear of all the mountains, and could relax a bit. Ever since I took up this trip I had been worried about crossing the mountains in a 152. We spend the night in Cut Bank and left the next morning, stop in Mobridge, ND and make it into Clinton around 8PM on Friday night.
I found if I followed these basic rules for myself, flying over the mountains was a lot easier.
1. Only go if the wind is 15mph or less at the altitude you are planning to fly (Hey I’m a chicken)
2. Clear below 12,000 (especially true if I’ve never flow the route before)
3. Fly early in the morning
Other things I learned on my trip.
1. Always expect really high gas prices if someone runs out to your plane with 2 orange sticks and a red carpet.
2. Fly into Oshkosh was a lot scarier than flying over any mountain range
3. You really can spend a week at Oshkosh and not get bored. I had a great time at both Clinton and Oshkosh and if you can get the time off I suggest you fly to both.