Friday, December 3, 2010


Mountain Home, Arkansas
Flown:  November 27-29, 2003
Aircraft:  Cessna 182 - N92844
Approximate round trip mileage: 1,298nm
Approximate flying time:  11:48

This, like the trip to Show Low, was a trip to see Brig's Mom and Jake, who had now moved to Mountain Home, AR.  Nearly all of our previous trips were taken in warmer months, this one was over the Thanksgiving Day weekend in November.  When we arrived at the airport in Longmont, we were greeted with sub-freezing temperatures and frost all over the airplane.  This was during the time when I had the airplane outside on the ramp, not hangared.  We learned our lesson and shortly thereafter were once again in a hangar.  After spending way too much time scraping ice off the airplane, we finally were ready to get going.  We should have known better though, as the airplane was so cold that the battery had little life in it and it gave us one chance to start the engine.  It didn't work.  I called my mechanic Jayme, but it was Thanksgiving Day, and he wasn't in the area.

We got lucky when a pilot walked by and offered his assistance.  He went down to his hangar and got out his battery charger and jumper cable.  He also put some air in our tires.  After plugging his jumper into our airplane it started right up.  With a wave, and later a Christmas card, we were on our way.  Our problems weren't quite over yet though.  The flaps got some melted ice down into them and froze in the down position after takeoff.  Raising them wasn't working, but they would go lower, which that wouldn't work on the long trip ahead.  I was about to abort and come back around and land as the flaps went all the way full without retracting.  Right then I remembered a trick Jayme had shown me before and up the flaps came.  Finally, we were really on our way, about two and a half hours late.

On our flight everything worked pretty decently, although we thought there was a problem with our new intercom system.  Turns out it was probably cold and it corrected itself.  The battery recharged itself in flight and caused us no further problems.  Our first stop was in Manhattan, Kansas.  It was pretty deserted there, but we used the restrooms and fueled up.  Our airplane problems weren't quite over yet.  While sliding my seat forward to let the kids in the back, I slid it right off its tracks!  Turns out this is the normal way to take the seats out, but we didn't know that and thought we broke it and were in a bad way.  My trusty pilot assistant/flight attendant Brigette fiddled with it and fixed it, otherwise I was going to be flying from the right seat and her sitting on the floor!

I picked Manhattan as a stop as it was good weather there and marginal afterward.  From there we could take a look at how it'd be for the next leg to Arkansas and file IFR if needed.  The weather wasn't too bad up until Joplin and Springfield, then it would get a little dicey.  We took off and got flight following from Kansas City Center in anticipation of later needing an IFR clearance.  As forecasted, after Springfield the overcast thickened and lowered.  We got an IFR clearance but only needed it for a small time to get through the overcast and set up for an approach into Mountain Home.  Mountain Home, by the way, was not our first choice for landing in this area.  We wanted to go to a fly in resort called Gastons, which was just a little west of Mountain Home.  It's a grass runway right next to a hotel and fishing destination.  But the weather was not good enough to consider going there.  It was pretty dark and misty under the overcast, we even got a little snow in the clouds.  Gaston's was hard enough to find in perfect conditions and land on grass.  In this weather, no way.

So it was on to Mountain Home/Baxter County Airport.  It was easy to find and we didn't need an IFR approach after all.  We had a late Thanksgiving meal then headed for our motel room.  The kids stayed up late both nights keeping the lady at the desk company, talking and making popcorn and hot chocolate.  We drove around the area the next day, did some geocaching in the middle of nowhere, and froze pretty good doing it.  We did get around to seeing Gastons, from the ground though.  The runway really is nothing more than a long grassy area.  There were a couple airplanes parked there though.

On the morning we were to leave we had breakfast at Brig's Mom and Jakes, they then followed us to the airport and watched us take off.  It was a clear day, but windy on the ground at our next three stops.  First it was Neosho, Missouri for a touch and go.  Then Miami, Oklahoma for another.  Our next stop we did a landing in Kingman, Kansas.  Gas was cheap there, but like so many airports that weekend, it was pretty deserted.  On our flight back to Colorado we stayed fairly low, only 6,500' above sea level, which is about 3,000 feet above the ground in Kansas, but only 1,500' above the ground the closer you get to Denver.  I was hearing about terrible rides above us, moderate to greater turbulence.  We were too low most of the way to get flight following from Kansas City or Denver Centers.  We got a really smooth ride down at those altitudes though, otherwise it'd be a long and bumpy flight home.

This trip knocked out a few key states, as they'd be hard to hit on our big trip that was upcoming, namely Arkansas and Missouri.  I had an idea that sometime in the future I'd try to land at some nearby states alone and I even toyed with the idea of doing touch & go's in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois after leaving Arkansas.  But the rides were supposed to be bumpy, and doing that would add at least a couple hours to a  long flight day.  Had I known that right after this trip we'd start planning to go on our 31 state trip together the following June, I'd gone ahead and landed at those 3 states.  As it turned out, we had to go out of our way to hit Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee on the day which turned out to be the longest and most grueling.

This trip to Arkansas was important as it further got the kids, and us, used to long flights and long days.  The new intercom system made all the difference in the world.  The kids watched DVD's on our laptop, but we decided a dedicated DVD player was the way to go and soon got one.  The only other thing missing for really long trips was an autopilot and some kind of in flight weather system.  Both of which we got before our next big trip, the one to Michigan, Maine, New York, Washington, Florida, Louisiana, and home.