After selling the Arrow we were lucky to find a plane that meets our needs fairly quickly. We bought N424RM which is a 1977 Piper Lance. It was located in Salt Lake City, Utah, so plans for another long cross country flight began. After a terrible set of flights on Delta Airlines, I finally made it to Salt Lake City on Wednesday evening. I was lucky enough to have my Mom join me on this adventure, so after meeting at the airport we went and had dinner at Red Robin.
After dinner we met with N424RM's pilot/representative. He kindly let me look over the plane and get the POH/AFM out so I could study it at the hotel. Luckily he is a CFI so we made plans to meet the next morning for a checkout in the Lance. The checkout was fun and I enjoyed flying out to the west of Salt Lake City while I got used to the plane and did some slow flight, stalls, and steep turns. We did some touch and goes at Tooele (KTVY) and even though the Lance is pretty much just a larger version of the Arrow, my landings were so much better right off the bat!
With the checkout and purchase complete, I picked my mom up at the hotel and we went back out to the airport to get the plane ready for our departure early Friday morning. We loaded up and organized the plane a bit and then worked on the cleaning the windows. Priority was to ensure my "photographer" had clean windows for our flight home!
We left the plane at Million Air for the night. They filled my O2 bottle and helped me out Friday morning by letting me return my Hertz rental car with them instead of back over at the commercial terminal.
We took off from KSLC at 0710 and followed Interstate 80 through Parleys Canyon as we climbed over the Wasatch Mountains to our initial cruising altitude of 11,500 feet. As we passed Park City on our right we could see the Olympic Ski Jumps, Bobsled Tracks, and other facilities as well as some hot air balloons. We proceeded NE towards Fort Bridger, then E to Rock Springs and Rawlings, and continued to pretty much follow I-80 to the east side of Cheyenne until our first fuel stop in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming (82V).
Pine Bluffs is in the very SE corner of Wyoming and surprising enough has a filed elevation of almost 1000' HIGHER than KSLC! The self serve fuel was cheap and after using the restrooms and stretching our legs, we departed for Kansas City, which would be our overnight stop on this trip home. While watching the weather on the Garmin 496, I noticed that there were some overcast cloud layers being reported west of Kansas City, so I called Columbus Radio (FSS) and air filed an IFR flight plan. As soon as I switched over to Denver Center, they had my clearance in the system and we were cleared IFR in to Wheeler Downtown Airport (KMKC), located on the Missouri side of Kansas City .
We did manage to dodge and fly through a few clouds enroute to Kansas City, but luckily all the severe convective weather remained well north and south of our track. We had an uneventful visual aprroach and landing into KMKC and taxied over to the city's self serve fuel tanks to top off so we wouldn't have to do it in the morning. We tied down at Hangar 10 who gave us a ride to our hotel. We unpacked and rested a bit before dinner. My Mom and I had a nice walk down to the Plaza area of Kansas City and she treated my to a great steak dinner at the M&S Grill!
After a good night's sleep, we were up early and back to the airport for an early morning departure. I got my clearance and we were wheels up by 0730 heading for our fuel stop in Savannah, Tennessee. The route was clear and smooth. According to the XM Weather, we wouldn't see any weather until just before Savannah (KSNH). As we approached the airport we flew through some low cloud layers and flew the GPS 19 approach breaking out at 1900' AGL for another uneventful landing. Apparently we had just missed the rain.
We topped off and even added some oil for our final leg home to Jacksonville. After a short break, I called FSS and got our clearance out of KSNH for home. In the 45 minutes we were on the ground at SNH, the weather went from almost no thunderstorms east of us to numerous small cells enroute and growing. I have to give my mom some big kudos; she experienced quite a lot of stuff during these two days and handled them very well. One bit of advice that helps: give your passengers a heads up on what to expect before, during, and after a flight. Surprises aren't fun.
I had initially filed for 7000' but quickly ended up at 11,000' so we could remain on top of most of the weather. This also made the towering cumulonimbous clouds, thunderstorms, easier to spot and divert around. The controllers, as usual, were great to work with and we were pretty much allowed to weave our way around the weather as needed all the way to Jacksonville.
It was a calming feeling to make that initial check-in with Jacksonville Center and the JAX Approach controllers. We were cleared for the visual approach into Rwy 14 at Craig (KCRG). We flew through a little rain on final approach, and the passing rain shower had left an interesting visual mark on the runway exactly halfway down. We landed N424RM and taxied her to our hangar that is now her new home!
Kristi and the girls came out to get us after we landed and spent some time looking over our "new" plane. Kristi and Abby both liked the big club seating in the back and Kristi really liked the rear door that makes it much easier for passengers to get in and out of the plane. Of course the really big feature we are excited about........the plane has air conditioning!!!!!
Well, she got us home safe and sound. In two days we flew almost 1700 miles in 12.5 hours of flight time. I look forward to cleaning her up and getting to know her better. Hopefully we'll be making our first family flight in N424RM very soon!
My Mom also wrote her own blog entry. You can read her article to get her perspective on our trip here: Travel Writer Rants and Raves