Thursday, August 15, 2013

Catching Up, Catching Colds, & Visiting Family In NW Arkansas

This year's annual inspection went really well.  A few minor squawks and the Piper Turnbuckle AD
to deal with, but it was done in a few days and I didn't have to sell one of my kidney's to pay for it!  It was scheduled and completed during the week after Independence Day so we could ensure the use of the plane for our travel plans at the end of July and first part of August.

The first trip was to Treasure Island, Fl, but Kristi & I both got colds 2 days before we left so I was obviously grounded and we loaded up the car and drove instead.  It didn't help that we had to stop at the hangar to get the beach gear out of the plane that I had pre-loaded.  Nonetheless, we had a great week and our colds cleared up early in our stay.  I did have to make the obligatory statement during the drives there and home that " You know we'd be there right now if we were flying!"

After a few days back in our own beds and in good health we loaded up the plane to visit family in Siloam Springs, AR.  As much as having a plane gives us tremendous flexibility in schedule, this time of year the heat and thunderstorms dictate an earliest departure as possible.  My wife is awesome and had us all packed and out the door so we could be in the air headed west before 0800.

We had a smooth and easy flight into Meridian, MS at Key Field (KMEI).  Meridian Aviation still has to be the best FBO for us.  How could you not enjoy complimentary ice cream, popcorn, and hot dogs as well as decently priced fuel?  The service is always amazingly efficient too.

I think we were on the ground for less than 30 minutes and with the heat already in full effect at 1000, we launched for the last leg to Siloam Springs, AR (KSLG).  The weather had cooperated all morning and we cruised at 8000 feet while only passing one little buildup just west of Little Rock.  After 6 hours in the plane we made an uneventful landing and arrived to our eagerly awaiting family standing by on the ramp.

We had a great visit and even managed to explore some new places.  For one adventure, four of us (Kevin, Eli, Abby, I) flew over to Drake Field (KFYV) in Fayetteville to check out the Arkansas Air & Military Museum.  Most of the aircraft and military vehicles they have on display are still in fully operational condition.  It was really neat to enjoy the mix of general aviation and military aircraft.  My first memories of planes and flying was with Frontier Airlines that served Manhattan, KS when my dad was stationed at Fort Riley.  It was neat to see all the memorabilia on display.

They even had Sam Walton's first plane he ever owned; a 1947 Erocupe.  Later when we visited the Walmart museum, I got to see a short film on his use of aviation with regards to the operation of Walmart.  I didn't realize he was quite the avid pilot and had amassed more flight hours than the pilots he eventually had in his corporate flight department.  Early on he used his plane to scout for potential store locations while he observed traffic flow and home densities in various towns.  Eventually he used flying to make surprise hops with vendors and buyers to impress them with the "full" Walmart parking lots as they cruised around and discussed business.  It was very interesting to say the least.  I was hoping I could find the video on line, but no joy.

They had three hangars full of aircraft and vehicles.  The museum also had a good size militaria display in some of the airport's old terminal buildings.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a good display of US Merchant Marine items from World War II!

Saw this posted in one of the hangars.  It's an ad for new Lycoming IO-360 series engines from 1982.  Don't you just wish you could get a factory new engine for that price now?!?!?!?!

The other thing that I found interesting was all the old silk souvenir scarves put up on display.  Most of them had poems to moms, wives, and girlfriends.  I asked my dad about them, but he never heard of them.  He only remarked that they had to be quiet old since a lot of them that were from "camps" either no longer existing or have been name changed to "forts" for a long time now.  These two are from special places in my life.  I was born in "Fort" Rucker and spent my toddlers years in Fort Riley.

Out on the ramp they had few static displays of some Air Force and Navy jets as well as another Huey Cobra.  You can park right on their ramp next to the main museum hangar and it is open every day of the week.  When we departed, the University of Arkansas is straight our from Runway 34 so we flew over and took a pic of Razorback Stadium for our cousin Landon!

On another day we went to the city square in old town Bentonville to meet up with some more family and visit the Walmart Museum which is located inside Sam Walton's first  5 & 10 Store.  They had a neat collection of all kinds of items and historical Walmart displays.  They even had Sam Walmart's office preserved and his old Ford truck.  We took advantage of the family gathering and our cousin Nikki was kind enough to do a family photo shoot for us (see family pic at top).

After a great few days visiting family and celebrating my wife's birthday, it was time to head home.  The plan was still the same so we were up, packed and out of the house at 0600.  We pre-flighted and loaded the plane in the still morning around sunrise and were wheels up by 0700.

As we climbed over the fog filled valleys, I checked in with Razorback Approach and picked up or clearance to Key Field in Mississippi.

The morning sky gave way to some spectacular views from both above and below.

Thought this was interesting; you could see the clouds ahead that were associated with the stationary front as depicted on the XM weather.

Crossing the mighty Mississippi and some more interesting landscapes.

We made good time in to Key Field.  Quickly fueled with avgas, ice cream, popcorn, and hot dogs again, we loaded up for the last leg home.

We cruised both legs home at 7000 feet.  As we progressed eastward, some of the clouds were starting to build higher than our altitude.  I asked for a climb to 9000 feet, but there was an active Military Operating Area (MOA) above me so we just got approval for minor deviations in track instead to avoid the buildups.

A few controllers later we were directed to descend to 5000 feet for traffic which of course then required numerous deviations to stay out of the rising cumulus that would have definitely caused an uncomfortable ride.  After about 15 minutes of slalom flying the the cloud valleys we were finally allowed to climb back to 7000 feet just in time to beak out into relatively clearer air.

Since we were now direct for home again, I decided to check the XM weather to see what things were like back in Arkansas.  Good thing we left when we did!

So after 6 hours in the plane we were safely back in Jacksonville.  Only thing left to do was pick our dog and go home!

Two of my favorite discussions/quotes from this trip:

On descent into Siloam Springs, Abby asked me," If we had driven our car to make this trip, how long would it take?"  I told her we would have probably done in in two days and it would be about 18 hours in the car.  To that she responded," Oh yeah, I'm all about this plane!"  This was a nice change for me since my kids, even though they enjoy it, don't fully comprehend how lucky we are to have a plane and they usually  remark that they want to "go in a jet."

Next one came from Mary.  I can't remember what she said when we landed at Key Field, but after making a really smooth landing, in a pretty stiff crosswind at Siloam Springs, she immediately asked," Did we crash?"  Geesh, thanks Mary!


  1. Looks like a great family trip! I love finding new aviation museums and that one looks quite extensive. What's up with the attitude of their Piper Cub? Simulated soft field landing gone wrong?

    Nice shots of the clouds as always - my favorites are the morning pictures with sunbeams and ground fog. Absolutely gorgeous!

    Why, oh why, is there not an FBO near me that provides free ice cream???! You are living the good life, my friend!

    Your daughter's conclusion about loving the airplane is one my daughter recently reached when we cancelled a flight to TN. As a new instrument pilot, the notion of hand-flying six hours in the soup with high potential for thunderstorms after an exhausting week seemed like an awful idea. After the 12 hour drive, she commented that she wanted to fly next time because that long trip made her butt hurt!

    And finally: your wife got the entire crew out the door for a departure time before 0800? She IS awesome!

    Glad to see you putting the airplane to good use. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Chris. I meant to ask about the Cub, but forgot. The pics of the clouds never really do it justice. I want to play some more with the Gopro and see how that comes out.

  2. Your blog is an inspiration. Traveling with the family via GA is an awesome thing. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Nothing beats family travel by air! Looks like a great trip and awesome pics as always.

    I do not enjoy the "slalom flying", it's exhausting. Glad you got back to clean air and direct home. Love the girls comments, I'm glad I had swallowed my ice tea or I would have lost it on the keyboard/ think you greased it and you get a "did we crash?" still laughing.


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