Tuesday, 28 June 2011

HWY 94 WEST...

Sunday June 19th, 2011

The weather is not playing along. Despite our best efforts and early departure from the Motel 6 we find ourselves back there at about 3pm and checking back into our rooms from last nights. Wind, Wind, Thunderstorms and more wind. Time for a rest, and after 8 days of flying, waiting, flying, and a bit more waiting a bit of rest is actually good. Laundry, a bit writing, phone calls, connect with family and hope that tomorrow will be a better day, ...weather wise.

Monday June 20th, 2011
 The Yellowstone River

"Montana"

Airborne at 06:10 and some nice morning flying! Hans is on the first shift and we switch up after about 45 minutes. The Yellowstone River below us and Highway 94 beside us we are cruising west. Not fast, but sufficient at 4500' and a bit of a headwind. After another 30 minutes or so Hans is getting uncomfortable in his seat ....brauch a WC!  or something like it is coming over the intercom. You need a what? ...already! We just took off! Okay, push "Nearest" on the 296 and the winner this time around is Hysam, MT for a brief Morning P-Stop. A quick little snack, granola bar and chocolate served on the cowling and we are off again westbound for Billings. It's again getting lumpy and bumpy and its only 8 am. I somewhat expected this and it is actually not as bad as I recall from previous trips east of the Rockies. The only problem we are a lot lighter than the Cessna 172, 180, Tripacer, etc. that I've been in before. But we are still making good time. Just prior to entering the Billings Zone, we contact approach and get a new Transponder Code to pass by along the north side. About halfway through the zone a desperate look from Hans' face is reaching me ...not again?! Yup, better go right now!!! NOO, you are not!! We can't just disappear of the radar and I am not about to declare an inflight..., make that a "coffee related liquid disposal" emergency. "Hans, you better clench and breathe for a few minutes longer...
And just about that time the controller calls with an "...Frequency Change approved, have a nice day!"
Nice day my ass... Out comes the power, and down we go into a freshly seeded Alfa Alfa field somewhere northwest of the airport. There is no longer time for a nearest search on the 296, nearest right now is right below us! Turn into wind, flare, nose down, stop ...and Hans has already departed the Aircraft and is providing valuable nutrients to the fresh grass. Walking back to the still running aircraft he's got the biggest grin yet on his face. Would it not be for knowing any better, one might think he just picked up and RV10  ...it's that big!!!
Back in and on the Headset comes the concerning question; "We gonna get outta here?" Good Question! With the Altimeter showing 4200', being on Turf, Grass and 2/3 fuel, this might be interesting. And in order to get into wind it is uphill. NICE!
We taxi to the bottom end and attempt the take off into wind diagonally across the field, almost, come one, nope, better abort while we have the room. Back down to the corner we go again, add some flap and bring it to full power on the brakes. Let'r run and the nose comes up and with a couple of hops, a bit of a gust we are flying and barely clearing the fence on the other end. Not much of a climb rate, but also nothing in the way, no trees, no power lines, no houses. Thanks God for that, because the little bird is labouring up to altitude. Finally back up to 4600' I release the flap and there is no gentle way of doing that. No long Johnson bar to release slowly and with my still sore elbow they just plunk themselves up. The according Nose drop sends Hans on a nervous Jump, sorryboutthat... got to get used to them things!
Another half hour of flight gets us in Columbus, Montana and to "Uncle Sam's Cafe", the local hang out, alternate Police Station and "Pilot Lounge".
Breakfast in good company at 10:30 and with the winds trying to pull the sock of the pole, it is time to fill up and await the afternoon. No better place than Columbus for that. It was chosen after a discussion with a fellow Luscombe Owner in Miles City and we have to admit ...great choice!!! Beautiful new airport building (see Photo) and Hardin, the local A&P let us use his internet to see the radar and flight briefings ahead. Where ever we look wind, more wind and a few disturbances, remnants of an unstable airmass. Oh well! Hurry & Wait again!

 The "Wolterman Memorial" 

 If you get stuck...

...this is the place to be!!!

By 18:15 and with the winds dropping to a more manageable 10 to 12 knots we decide to give it a try to see if we can get up to Big Timber. We get the answer pretty much one climb out when the winds push us back down into the Yellowstone River and we desperately try to get some heights. This is not going to happen. Full Power, nose up high and I can barely maintain altitude, never mind climb more than a few hundred feet. Time to blow for a hasty retreat out of this mess and return to Columbus. Now this was a horrid 30 minutes of flight. Winds, gusts, up, down and sideways and we are playing with altitude and temperature.
After a brief discussion we decide to check in for the night and hatch a new plan. After some discussion we agree that it may be best to go across the Rockies solo and meet up again in Missoula. Now that only leaves a means for Hans to get to Missoula. No Bus from Columbus, not even a stop, so we drive back to Billings in the Courtesy Car.  Finally and shortly before midnight I am back in Columbus and heading for Bed. Flying by 05:30, this will be a short night! Not really the best plan for the possibly toughest leg ahead, crossing the Rockies!

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