SportHawk From Texas to Clinton

By: Wayne Westerman

The trip to Clinton was my first long cross country in the Sport Hawk. As usual I had a number of new experiences and learned a lot. It has been decades since I have flown low. In planning for the Clinton trip I found that the winds at 3000' had a strong westerly component while the winds at 6000' and 9000' swung around to the east. By staying at 4000' I was able to enjoy a tail wind component of 15 to 20 knots for the first half of the trip.

 After a quick fuel stop at Ponca City, OK I climbed up to 5500', to find cooler temperatures. At 5500' the tail wind component of the winds aloft was completely canceled, but there was no headwind either. We were doing what we were truing. East of Kansas City I climbed to 9500' to get above some fair weather cumulus that were beginning to build. My experience told me that it would be very rough below the cumulus clouds and several hours to go I did not relish being abused for the rest of the trip. As forecast I encountered a 5 to 10 kt headwind. About 150 miles west of Clinton the tops of the cumulus exceeded my 9500' cruising altitude and I decided that with a little over an hour left in the trip it was time to descend and just deal with the turbulence. I cinched up the straps and let down to 5500' to get below the bases of the clouds at around 7000'.

To my delighted amazement it was as smooth as silk below the cloud bases. I suppose that it had something to do with the fact that God had decided that the color of this land should be green rather than brown. The temperature was even comfortable at around 72°F. After 7:15 easy hours of flying and 8 hours elapsed time I landed at Clinton having flown 943 statute miles at an average speed of 129 MPH (112 kts). 

Maybe by the next Clinton shindig I will have learned to land without smacking the fan tail of the good ship Catywampus. I am looking forward to the attempt. I regret that In the meantime I must make this post posthumously. After a spectacularly unsuccessful bombing run I was "killed" on landing by striking the fantail of the aircraft carrier Catywampus at Clinton. 

 I want to express my great appreciation to Royson and Lori for their fine efforts in organizing the fly in. Rex, Sara and Bruce deserve special thanks for all of their efforts in coordinating all of the many, many details. Rex went an extra mile or so on Thursday evening by having a Bar-B-Q for the early arrivals. There may have been some hitches in the plan but the folks in charge made them transparent to the participants.

Well, many of us did see the shower tent blown up on top of the maintenance hanger; I am pretty sure that was not planned. Steve Mayotte deserves a special thank you for his efforts in organizing and running the flying events. Too bad that Steve was so busy with his CAG duties that we didn't get to see how he could perform the fiendishly difficult task that he designed:-) 

Everyone involved made a special effort to make the fly in interesting and enjoyable. The transportation was superb, the best of any I have experienced. The awards banquet was well turned out (and somewhat romantic when the lights failed). There was plenty of hanger flying, A/C comparison and general camaraderie of like-minded folks.  It was a joy to have the opportunity to meet so many of the people that I have met  on the forum. I must admit that in most cases that my mental image of their physical appearance was in error. The thing that impressed me most what that I did not meet one "Jerk" at Clinton, amazing. What a great bunch of people. My only regret what that some of the club members could not make the fly in. There are still many that I have not met. All in all the Clinton Fly In must be scored as a rousing success by any standard of measure. Thanks to all involved.

Weather-wise, the return trip was a different story. The forecasters told me that the winds at 3,6, 9 and 12 would be out of the southwest with a headwind component of 12 to 25 kts. They were correct. At all altitudes from 6500' to 12500' the head wind component was 20 to 30 mph. Due to my slow progress I could not make Ponca City for a fuel stop. I landed in the 97° heat at Chanute, KS for $1.99 fuel pumped by a cute blond line girl, a cold coke and a package of cheese crackers. Climbing back to 8500' I found that I was still in continuous light chop with a 18 kt headwind. I decided to try it at 10,500'. At 10,500' the headwind was about the same but the ride was smooth and cool, 57°F. It was soon clear that unless there was a drastic wind shift another fuel stop would be required. ???, OK was very near my route of flight and would provide a comfortable fuel buffer for the last leg into Midland, TX. Upon landing at ??? I found a 100°F deserted airport. There was one of those now abandoned flight service stations, which was open and provided a clean rest room. After discerning that there was no one about on a Sunday afternoon I taxied to what looked like self service fuel pumps about a quarter mile from the empty office facility. Sure enough it was a credit card self service pump. After reading and rereading a long string of complicated instructions and a couple of false starts I got the fuel flowing and toped off the Sport Hawk.

 It was a blessing to be back in the air and climbing to a cooler level. This time I had to climb up to 12,500' to get above the chop. It seems that every time I landed that the top of the convection layer moved up a thousand or so feet. I got out the O2 bottle, stuck the canella up my nose and settled down to watch the GPS tell me that we were getting nowhere fast, about 100 to 105 MPH. I arrived in Midland 10:15 elapsed hours and 9:40 flight hours after leaving Clinton. My average speed was a smooth 100 MPH for the entire trip. One of the things that I observed, I had lots of time to observe, was that after burning off around 20 gallons of fuel the indicated airspeed would increase by around 5 MPH. My airplane is speed sensitive to loading. A 6% reduction in weight yields a 4% increase in speed. Without Oxygen the last leg of the trip would have been miserable. Another thing that I learned is that 1000 miles with favorable winds is a comfortable if long one day trip for the Sport Hawk. With head winds a 1000 mile trip is too long for one day. It is possible to fly nearly half way across the country VFR and not encounter inclement weather or talk on the radio more than a couple of times. I now have flown my "new" airplane for around 60 hours and am getting to know her.

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