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Trips

Jackson Hole 2016

We did our 6th annual family flight to Jackson Hole. The weather was great, aside from a 1000′ overcast on the west side of the Cascades for our departure and similar weather on our return–yay instrument rating! We had some moderate turbulence again between Boise and Idaho Falls taking the direct route (just south of Sun Valley). From now on, I think we’ll swing down south, following the interstate and the Snake River, as there’s generally less turbulence. Here are some pictures.

 

 

 

 

Pictures from our 5th Annual Family Flights to Jackson Hole

 

2013 Cross-Country Trip Day 15: Heber City to Seattle

We’re headed home!  The trip has been great, but after a couple weeks, I think we’re all ready to be back at home.  We had about an hour to head north before reaching the familiar central valley of Idaho.  We headed north, staying east of the mountains to stay out of the Salt Lake Class B airspace.  We’d intended to do a fuel stop at Nampa, Idaho (outside Boise), which we like, but Cooper was still sleeping as we approached, so we decided to keep going to Baker City.

Baker City airport is beautiful

Baker City was very nice, including full-serve fuel for the price of self-serve.  We relaxed for a little bit, but our eagerness to get home meant we were ready to jump back in the airplane.  The rest of the trip was very familiar from our trips to and from Jackson Hole.  No clouds, until we approached Seattle (go figure!).  The ceiling was high, so after a few minutes in the clouds and a visual approach, we were finally home.

Mission accomplished!

The log

Day 15 Route

Day 15 Route

Previous: Day 13: Santa Fe to Heber City

Trip overview

2013 Cross-Country Trip

Kelly and I had been planning this trip for almost a year.  The goal was to fly from our home base in Seattle to Lake Martin (north of Montgomery, Alabama) the weekend after Memorial day, for a family reunion. We also have good friends that live in the Boulder, Colorado area. Why not do a big “road trip” in the airplane? The trip would be really long—probably about 30 hours total, much longer than any flying trip we’d ever done. Also complicating matters is that we were bringing our almost-one-year-old boy, Cooper. The trip wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a success. The weather was relatively good and we had no mechanical issues. We didn’t always make it to our planned destination each day, but we had the flexibility in our schedule to accommodate changes. Cooper was amazing, considering he’s 1 year old and was asked to sit in a noisy, sometimes hot airplane for 33 hours.

Day-by-day writeups:

Keys to success for this trip and other suggestions for flying with a very small child:

  1. Flying as early in the morning as possible. It’s cooler, smoother, and the density altitudes are lower. We didn’t always take this advice, and we paid for it.
  2. Aligning flights with naptimes. Though he doesn’t sleep the entire time like he used to, he did sleep for much of the trip. Our routine on flying days was to wake up, feed him a bottle in the hotel room, get ready and head to the airport, load up, feed him some more food, then take off just in time for his morning nap.
  3. Keeping legs short. We aimed for 2 hour legs, but by the end of the trip, we were sometimes doing 2.5 hours or even a few minutes longer. The little guy is happier when he gets to eat and move around every few hours. It makes the big people happy, too.
  4. Having many “no flying” days.  The flying itself can be fatiguing, but to an even greater extent, the unpacking the airplane, traveling to the hotel, unpacking, packing back up the next morning, traveling back to the airport, re-packing the airplane cycle gets old and tiring.  We ended up flying only 8 of the 15 days–the other 7 days were a welcome break.
  5. Being willing to land short of or beyond the destination. We always had a planned destination at takeoff, but we were willing to land early if necessary (e.g. too bumpy). One time as we were approaching our fuel stop, Cooper was still asleep, so we continued to the next airport. The controller had a good laugh when we advised that we were changing destination “because the baby is still sleeping”.
  6. Staying flexible on days. Though we wanted to be in Montgomery for the start of the family reunion, we had the attitude that it was okay to be late or to miss it completely. We also built buffer in the schedule to maximize the chance we’d be on time.
  7. Packing an overnight bag (or bags). For the 1-night stops in route, it was great not to have to unload everything and bring it to the hotel.
  8. Not packing everything in bags.  Most stuff was in duffel bags, but we put a bunch of smaller stuff (e.g. diaper packages, formula, wipes) in shopping bags and filled the “nooks and crannies” of the baggage area with those items.
  9. Using full-service airports. We interacted with some wonderful FBOs on this trip. It was great to have the rental car or shuttle waiting for us, and a couple times we had the FBO find us a hotel. This kind of service is really helpful when trying to keep the family comfortable—more important than maximizing savings on gas, which is my strategy when traveling alone.
  10. Being careful about weight and balance. Kelly needed to ride in back with Cooper to attend to his needs. That, combined with a full baggage compartment, made for a very far aft (but still within limits) center of gravity. We carefully weighed everything that went in the airplane and also put his pack-and-play, the tool bag, and the tiedown bag in and around the front passenger seat. This also highlighted the importance of my testing aft CG loading during the flight test period—it would not have been good to do this for the first time with the family aboard.
  11. Sucking it up and buying the good headset. Cooper is now the proud owner of a Bose A20 headset. Though it seems a little ridiculous to spend $1000 on a headset for someone who can’t talk, we thought it was worth it to minimize the chance of hearing damage in the very loud airplane, and he should also be able to use it for years to come.  He has a giant head, so it actually fits him well.
  12. Focusing on flying the airplane and using the “pilot isolate” function on the intercom when necessary. The flights were mostly easy and I enjoyed interacting with Cooper at times when the workload was low, but I needed to keep in mind that my primary job was flying the airplane. For example, as we approached Seattle, there was a solid layer of overcast (surprise!) and Cooper was really upset, so I told Kelly we were entering IMC and needed my full attention, told her to tap me on the shoulder if something urgent happened, and hit the isolate button.

Stats:

  • Days: 15
  • Flying days: 8
  • Hours flown: 33
  • Miles flown: 5263
  • Gas burned: 340 gallons
  • Highest gas price: $6.78 (tie between Little Rock, AR and Heber City, UT)
  • Lowest gas price: $4.91 (Alexandria, LA)
  • Instrument approaches: 1
  • States flown over: 15
  • States landed in: 12
  • Cities overnighted in: 7 (Boise, ID; Erie, CO; Little Rock, AR; Montgomery, AL; Austin, TX; Santa Fe, NM; Park City, UT)
  • State capitals overnighted in: 5 (totally unintentional)
  • Hotels: 7
  • One-year-old birthdays celebrated: 1

Some of my favorite pictures from the trip…

Loading up in Erie, Colorado

Daddy turned off the fasten seatbelt sign.

So sleepy.

Made it to Montgomery.

Taking a break in Baker City on the way home.

The whole trip!

All the pictures from the trip are here.

Kelly also did a non-aviation-related write-up here.

Flying to Texas for Paint

After flying for a year and a half, our airplane is overdue for painting.  Because of some of the peculiarities of RVs and the RV-10 in particular (e.g. plexiglass windows glued into the fiberglass top), we decided to have the RV painting experts at GLO Custom do our paint.  They’ve panted almost 150 RVs already, including several -10s, with great results, so we’re confident they know what they’re doing.  The only downside is that they’re nowhere near Seattle—they’re outside Fort Worth, Texas.  Perfect excuse for a long plane trip!

Last picture together with an unpainted airplane

There are several ways to fly between Seattle and Ft. Worth, but if you draw a straight line between the two, it goes very close to Jackson Hole.  That, combined with the fact that my mom needed a ride from Seattle to Jackson at the same time sealed the deal.  We’d take our usual route via Boise; then, the next day, I’d continue east, toward Cheyenne, then down through central Colorado and straight to Ft Worth.

Ready to go!

The flight to Jackson was mostly uneventful, though clouds in western Washington meant my mom got a taste of instrument flying.  We were in a solid layer of clouds climbing out from Paine field from about 3000’ to 8000’ before leveling off at 9000’ and heading over Snoqualmie Pass.  This provided a spectacular view on top, with Mt. Rainier in the background.  We stopped again in Nampa, Idaho (great fuel stop), before continuing on to Jackson.  There, we landed in a gusty crosswind, which was fine, but after we parked, I was so fixated on installing the gust locks that I forgot to chock the wheels.  With the airplane pointed away from the wind, a gust blew the tail around and toward the airplane parked next to us.  Fortunately I grabbed it in time and my mom put the chocks in.  I won’t make that mistake again.

“On top” approaching Snoqualmie Pass. These would be the only clouds we see on the trip to Jackson

Here’s a video of flying through turbulence in Teton Pass and landing in Jackson.

The next day my parents dropped me off at the airport, and I took off headed east, toward Togwotee Pass (a 9000+’ mountain pass on the east side of the valley).  I saw smoke in the area before departing, but I had no idea the visibility would be so bad at altitude.  The thicker smoke, combined with the sun coming out of the east, meant I couldn’t see well enough to proceed.  After circling and thinking about it for a while, I decided to land and figure out what to do next.  With oxygen onboard, I decided to file IFR at 14,000’ (the minimum instrument altitude headed east) and go that way.  This time, I still couldn’t see anything climbing out, but I was on an instrument flight plan and high enough, so I knew I wasn’t going to hit anything.  The smoke had a definite top around 13,000’, which made for an interesting view up there.  Going on top over the pass, I could see the ground directly below, but not much further out than that.

On top of the smoke, headed east from Jackson Hole

Loving the oxygen

The rest of the leg was uneventful.  After hitting Cheyenne, I turned southeast and ended up landing in Lamar, a small town in southeast Colorado.  It was another good fuel stop, where I also had lunch and stretched my legs a little before proceeding about an hour later.

From southeast Colorado to Texas, the land is very flat and very low, which meant I could get a direct routing.  There were thunderstorms in Oklahoma and north Texas, but they were spread out enough that it was no big deal, and the onboard weather data made avoiding them even easier.  A couple hours and a couple deviations later, and I was in Texas approaching my destination.  By then it was Saturday afternoon, and I didn’t need to be to the paint shop until Monday morning, so I took the opportunity to visit my friends Adam and Monika in the SW Ft. Worth area.  Therefore, I picked the airport closest to their house, which was Bourland Field, a little private strip.  That worked out great.

Right after takeoff from Lamar, got “direct Maverick” which is the VOR (radio beacon) at DFW airport. Sort of boring having your next waypoint 380nm away.

Convection! Clouds! A rare sight in the Seattle area. This is over Oklahoma

NEXRAD weather radar keeping me away from the bad stuff

Parked at Bourland Field

On Sunday, Adam gave me a tour of the F-35 production facility, and I had the opportunity to take him flying while Monika took pictures from the ground.  Here’s a video of the flight.

Monday morning, I made the quick hop from Bourland to the paint shop at Northwest Regional.

Made it! At the paint shop

Flight track visualized in Google Earth

All in all, I flew 1925 miles in 9.9 hours, not including the aborted flight from Jackson and taking Adam for a ride on Sunday. The airplane also landed in two new states: Colorado and Texas. In retrospect, it would have been easy to get Kansas and Oklahoma, too, so probably should have done that. Anyway, the trip was three times longer than my previous longest trip, was a great learning experience, and tons of fun, too!

The rest of the pictures are here.

Next: Part 2 – Picking up the Airplane from the Paint Shop and Flying to Houston

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.