Oct 2017 My Flight of Self Discovery
I just returned from a whirlwind, solo flight RT from Indianapolis, Indiana to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas. Once there, my Decathlon and I circled the enormous metroplex, 180 miles +/-, and poked ourselves in and out under the Class B Airspace as we saw fit. Ground covered; approx 1,700 statute miles in 3 days.
My decision to fly to Texas Monday afternoon came out of nowhere and was totally spur-of-the-moment. It was not planned and was brought on by a single text message I received the day before that included this picture.
Or at least I thought I forgot about it. But the next day that picture kept popping to mind – the beautiful sunrise, the flat Texas landscape, the pretty t-tailed Lance …. and how lucky he was to be flying across Texas. By late morning, thoughts of me flying around Texas started coming to mind but I kept pushing them away. I had stuff to do this week. Important stuff – haha!!Â And I’d signed up for a RAF STOL class in Illinois on Friday/Saturday that I was very excited about. No way was I taking off and flying to Texas on a whim.
Forward ahead to 2:55 p.m., and my bag was packed, WingX updated, course charted, Decathlon pre-flighted and I was climbing out of MQJ southwest bound. 🙂 My thought. “OMG, what in the world am I doing??!!”
Reflections on my flight:
- Doing the same old thing is easy and comforting. It takes guts and gumption to fly out of my box. Truth is, I can fly 75 – 100 miles away from home base and it’s no big deal. But a seriously long cross-country takes planning and confidence. Glad I did it!
- Flying. I still have moments of fear after all these years. I’m the first to acknowledge I don’t have all the answers. I keep current, read up and fly often. But still, my palms can sweat approaching a new airport. I’m edgy leaning the engine waiting to hear it run rough. I don’t relax until I’m at my altitude, on-course, have it level, prop, rpm & mixture set (doesn’t matter if I’m leveling at 2000′ or 8000′). A loose wire causes my oil pressure gauge to jump around – so does my heart rate. I am NOT a super pilot, I just love to fly!
- A 1,700 mile cross-country is just a bunch of small hops, connected. I really love flying cross-country but in unfamiliar territory my immediate goal is to get to the next airport in front of me.
- I don’t have to follow the pink line. One of the benefits of being solo and PIC is going wherever I want on my own schedule. On this trip, it was incredibly empowering to decide on-the-fly whether I’d land at this airport, or that airport.
- Facebooking made this trip spectacular. A few quick and simple Facebook posts, usually airborne, opened doors for me all the way there and back. I stayed overnight with Facebook friends who saw I was on my way and offered up accommodations. People fed me, drove me, entertained me and made it an awesome adventure.
- When you’re traveling alone, talk to those who surround you. At my Walnut Ridge Airport stop I found myself alone in the body of a retired Boeing 737, now “The Parachute Inn Restaurant”. On my return flight I had Kennett, MO set as a refueling stop but luckily I heard someone reporting downwind for Walnut Ridge Airport. Cool! I remembered they have a restaurant and museum on the field. I scrambled, veered to the N.W and was soon on the ground. Fuel is a little pricier but I was willing pay the difference for an “experience” and boy, did I get one! Not long into a conversation with a gentleman and his wife, I discovered much. She was a pilot who had done most of the flying that day and he was a retired U-2 pilot who flew secret missions for the CIA. You truly never know who’s sitting right across from you.
- I trust myself, my airplane and my abilities. I fly often. I fly in a variety of wx conditions. I listen to other pilots and learn from their experiences. I read what I can and participate in continuing education when possible. Stay current. Stay engaged. I can do this ladies, and so can you!
I made it back to Indy Thursday evening for our EAA Chapter 1121 dinner Meeting and plenty of time to get to the Havana, IL RAF STOL class on Friday. Unfortunately, the RAF didn’t get the numbers needed so it was cancelled. If you’re in the midwest and interested in a STOL class, they tell me Spring of 2018 it will happen. Havana. Illinois. STOL. Be there!