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Flying

Flying back from Jackson Hole

Forgot to post about flying home from Jackson.  Not too much to report.  We did fly all the way home in one day.  We filed a flight plan to go nonstop, but by the time we got near Pendleton, OR, we both needed to stop for a potty break.

Pictures from the whole trip are here.

Flying to Jackson Hole

Since before we started building the airplane, it was a dream to fly to Jackson Hole.  My parents have a house there, I’ve been there many times to visit, and it was the site of my first “small” airplane ride, in a Piper Chieftain, back in 1993.  During a couple previous visits years ago, I’d rented a Cessna 172 to fly around there to check out the amazing scenery, but I’ve always wanted to actually fly there from Seattle.  Compared to driving, it’s a 4 hour flight instead of a 14 hour drive, and flying on an airline would require changing planes in Denver, which means a longer trip than just flying ourselves, so there’s actual utility in flying ourselves, too.

We decided to take a week-long vacation around Labor Day.  Due to a birthday party Sunday afternoon, we couldn’t leave until later Sunday, which probably wouldn’t leave us enough time to fly all the way to Jackson comfortably, but we wanted to get at least over the Cascade Mountains to avoid being stuck under one of those marine layer low overcasts the next morning.  As such, we left around 2:30 Sunday afternoon.

Lifting off from Paine Field

Crossing the mountains and flying across eastern Washington was uneventful.  As we approached Baker City, Oregon, we saw some weather ahead.

What the weather looked like on the XM Weather radar

 

What the weather looked like out the window

Fortunately, this was isolated and a slight deviation to the south gave us just a few rain sprinkles.  After crossing the Blue Mountains and getting into Idaho, things were clear the rest of the way.  We decided to stop in Caldwell, Idaho (near Boise) to get some gas and figure out the plan the rest of the way.

Final approach to the Caldwell airport

 

Getting gas in Caldwell

We figured we would have just enough time to get to Jackson Hole before it started getting dark, but since it was our first trip there, we decided not to push it and just stop for the night.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do the best job planning for the overnight stop.  We tied the plane down and ended up having to walk a little over two miles to a hotel (a nice Best Western with free WiFi and breakfast).  Kelly was a good sport about it.

Route of our flight from Seattle to Caldwell

The next morning we had a quick breakfast and went back to the airport, eager to get going.

Ready to leave Caldwell

Leaving Caldwell, we headed east, staying a little south to maximize our time over hospitable terrain.  For the most part, this puts us near I-84 and the Snake River.

A familiar sight: the Snake River

After about an hour, we could tell we were getting close–the Tetons are hard to miss.

Approaching Teton Valley, with the Tetons behind it.

 

Flying through Teton Pass (between Teton Valley and Jackson Hole), looking north towards Grand Teton.

 

Great view of the Tetons just before landing.

Here’s a video of the landing:

We made it! A dream fulfilled.

 

Second leg of the flight

Taking a short break

After getting tied down, we were ready for a relaxing week.

All pictures from the trip are here.

Folding Bikes

Kelly’s dad got her a folding bike for her birthday, and he was nice enough to give me a matching one as an early birthday/Christmas present, so now we have some ground transportation!  We decided to try them out on Orcas Island one Saturday.  Here we are with the plane tied down and ready to go.

After we went back to the airport, we sat in the grass and watched the airplanes come and go for a while, before heading back home.  You can camp on the grass right next to your airplane at Orcas, so we’ll definitely be back to do that.

The rest of the pictures are here.

Flying to Westport, Washington

Finally time for a real trip!  The weather was supposed to be spectacular for the weekend, sunny and fairly warm, so we decided to head for the beach.  There are tons of airports on the coast, so we decided we should go somewhere neither of us had been, and Westport seemed to be as good a place as any.  It’s a small town on the coast, on the south side of Gray’s Harbor (just south of Ocean Shores).  About a mile from the airport is Westhaven State Park, with a couple nice beaches, so we loaded up the plane and headed out.

It took less than 40 minutes to get there, with a slight tailwind.  Here’s the plane after we tied it down.  As you can see, the ramp is packed!  There are about 20 tiedown spots, but we were the only ones there.  I thought this was weird, since the weather was great and we weren’t that early (about 10 a.m.).

Here we are looking like big dorks, with our beach chairs on our backs.  We packed a lunch and some other stuff, not really knowing what the place would be like or what we’d feel like doing.

Kelly insisted I include this picture.  Not sure what I was doing here, really.

Toes in the sand.

A nice surprise: we ran into an old friend of Kelly’s, who was surfing with some friends, so we hung out with them for a while.  After a few hours and some lunch, we headed back to the airport.

Kelly got this picture of the airport, as we turned northeast to head back to Seattle.

We passed just south of the Olympic Mountains, which made for a nice view.

Flying over Hood Canal.

Kelly has mastered long-arm photography.

Lastly, we flew over our house for the first time, on the way back to Paine Field.  It was the first of hopefully many great trips.

All pictures here.

Tulips

I’m a little late in posting this, but I did much of the test flying between the Arlington and Skagit airports, during the height of the Tulip Festival.  I didn’t get great pictures (was generally too high), but here’s a view I often got from a few thousand feet.

Sandbaggin’

As I mentioned previously, part of flight testing is flying at different weights and centers of gravity.  I used sand, which was cheap, easy to get, and pre-measured in 50 or 60 lb. bags.  It can be messy, though, so if I was going to do more extensive testing or test multiple airplanes, I think I’d find a better solution.  It worked well enough, though.

Here’s a picture of a few bags strapped into the rear seats.

Kari’s Visit

Kelly’s sister, Kari, came to visit a couple weeks ago.  These days, no visit is complete without a tour of the airplane.  Here’s Kari trying to figure out how to fly back to California.

Kelly’s First Flight

With the 40 hours flown off, it was time for Kelly’s first flight.  We both took Friday off from work, and the weather was beautiful (warmest day of the year so far and not a cloud in the sky).  We went to Jefferson County airport in Port Townsend for breakfast at the well-known and excellent Spruce Goose Cafe.  We then went to Arlington to have our propeller dynamically balanced (reducing vibration which reduces fatigue on both the airplane and its occupants).  After that, we headed back to Paine to conclude a great first flight day.

More pictures here.

Phase 1 Complete!

“Phase 1” is the testing phase.  For a certain number of hours (40 in our case) after certification, the airplane is restricted: can go only 50 nm from the home airport, no passengers, daytime only, VFR only, and no flying over congested areas.  You also have to test the airplane to ensure it has no dangerous handling characteristics (at different weights and center of gravity positions) and to also figure out how it performs (e.g. best climb  and descent speeds).  Well, I’m done with that now.  No more flying sand bags.  Time for Kelly to get a ride.

Quick Update

It’s been a really wet spring, so haven’t done as much flying as I’d like (have I complained about that before?).  The weather is starting to get better, though.  Sunset is after 8 p.m. now, so plenty of time to fly after work these days.  I’m up to about 14 hours now.

The other day, an V-22 Osprey did a touch-and-go at Paine while I was waiting to take off.

My sister, Catherine, and her boyfriend, Colin, were in town last weekend, so we had to check out the plane.  They look happy here, but Catherine said she’d need a bunch Xanax to be able to fly in it.