Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Flying Across America - Part III

Another day, another few states to check off.

While things were still relatively cool, we elected for an early start.  We'd fuelled-up the night before so once we'd snagged a lift the few miles back to the airport from the hotel, done our pre-flights and repacked our chattels, time for the off once again. The goal for today was to get into Texas, preferably as far as Dallas but otherwise over the border somewhere.  Planned route was Weedon Field, Eufaula (AL) to Demopolis (AL), from there to Hawkins Field, Jackson (MS), to Shreveport Downtown, (LA) and finally hitting Dallas Executive (TX) where options were very good for hanger space overnight and a decent hotel nearby.

Demopolis must have been about the smallest airport we hit all trip, but had the essentials of a) 100LL fuel, b) a bathroom and c) water (for the pilots).  Of course, at each stop we also got an updated weather briefing and checked the charts so we knew what to expect, where, and when.  And just as importantly, we took the opportunity to un-knot ourselves from holding the controls or generally being stuck in a very small space for hours on end.  (I wanted to do as much of the flying as possible and so Wendy got the short end of the stick by having to handle charts, airport directories and GPS systems - plural.  More of that in a minute.)

Demopolis Airport Terminal!

Somehow or another, we managed both to make good time (a tailwind helped) and avoided any hint of bad weather.  The ground rolled away beneath us and, unlike what we were going to be seeing the next day, remained fairly green, lush and interesting.

Plant For Processing Something, Somewhere In Mississippi

I mentioned the need for more than one GPS?  Turns out the installed unit in the helicopter had two issues: one expected, one not.  As is common, the Garmin unit in the panel had information loaded for the south-eastern part of the USA, hardly surprising given that's where it was based. Even so, it looked like we could get routes through to about mid-Texas, but not much further.  Wendy was already on top of the problem because she'd seen it before and so had borrowed a Garmin 496 to bring with us.  This turned out to be a double bonus because we found that, after the first day or so of use, the panel system's display washed out, rendering it almost invisible.  Golden rule?  You can never have too many backup GPS platforms!  (I had my iPad with me which was the second line of defence.  Trust me - charts are great and remain indispensable, but for basic navigation then nothing beats being able to follow that magenta DTK line!)

Maps Doing One Other Thing GPS Can't: Being A Sunshade!

By now it was becoming a very long day.  Having reached Shreveport, crossing the Mississippi River from Louisiana along the way, we'd already been in the air 6.4 hours, the last leg alone being 2.5 hours long.  But, Texas was calling!  (I think it said "moo", but couldn't be sure.)

One final push saw us complete the Shreveport to Dallas Executive leg in a further 2.1 hours.  Ultimately, the fact that the weather was clear with no convective activity in the area sealed it - there just aren't that many windows to fly a whole day in this part of the country in July without encountering thunderstorms and so we elected to make full use of the daylight and benign skies.  However, the FBO at Dallas Executive was a very welcome sight, as was the Hampton Inn a few miles away!  8.5 hours air-time is quite tiring, but we'd made real progress and were cracking-on a treat.  Time to get some sleep.

No comments: