Elaine and Rudolph Fly Cross Country
Back to Blakesburg!
For the past several years my husband Tom and I head out to Blakesburg, Iowa for their Labor Day weekend Fly-in, flying the twin Cessna T-50 Bobcat…..a round-trip distance of 1764 miles. In the Bobcat, this usually takes one day with a fuel stop somewhere in Indiana.
This year I decided to fly Rudolph, my 1947 Aeronca 7BCM L-16A (military Champ), hoping to arrive either late Wednesday or early Thursday - - - Tom would be flying out Wednesday with the extra camping gear. I departed our farm in Harford, PA (PS50) on Monday afternoon with about 7 KTS on the tail, landing at Clarion, PA (AXQ) 2:38 hrs. later. After refueling and scarfing down a left-over hot dog from Sunday’s Young Eagle Day, my next stop was Medina, OH (1G5). One hour 30 minutes later I landed, and decided to park the airplane before running out of daylight. Up with the tent and out came the coyotes howling at midnight (almost a full moon).
Departing Medina, the next stop was Auburn, IN (GWB) which took 2 hours; then another 2 hours to Dwight, IL (DGT). This airport is owned by David and Jeanne Constantine and sits smack in the middle of a working farm surrounded by corn and soybeans; two wide runways make a perfect “T” – 1,900’ of grass for the N/S runway and the E/W runway measures 2,800’ x 100’ of grass with a 25’ strip of paved surface available for use. I had 2 more hours of daylight but it was such a beautiful area I opted to stay for the night. Taking the courtesy pick-up into town I did some sight-seeing and ran into 2 fully-restored Route 66 gas stations – right on the original Route 66. Dwight is known for its large publishing industry and the local train from Chicago to St. Louis makes 3 daily stops in the beautifully restored railroad station. The town has that cozy 1950’s feel to it and I enjoyed the visit. Plus they let me sleep in the office on the couch; I didn’t have to put up my tent overnight…..no coyotes.
After breakfast with the Constantine’s and as soon as the morning fog lifted, I headed west with tail winds – my groundspeed was 89 mph – and landed an hour and 10 minutes later at Monmouth, IL (C66). My husband had stopped there a day earlier and let the FBO know I would also be stopping for fuel – a local pilot that used to fly the L-birds in Korea was there to greet me when I landed to take photos of Rudolph and share some of his experiences. Leaving Monmouth, I landed at Blakesburg in the early afternoon – flying 10:45 over 882 miles.
Beautiful weather and good friends at Blakesburg – to me that’s what flying Cross Country is all about. This was the year of “Corporate Wings” showcasing company airplanes – the Bobcat flew for Berghoff Brewery and Tom was front and center, as well as the Lockheed Electra (which is featured in the upcoming film “Amelia” starring Hillary Swank). We stayed to the end of the fly-in, camping at night and enjoying the coyotes in Iowa (now a complete full moon!). At the Sunday night awards I was shocked to be called to the stage to received the “people’s choice” award from the Arizona Chapter of the AAA, having given up hope of winning with all the beautiful airplanes….and even more stunned to learn the Iowa Chapter also picked Rudolph as their favorite. I’ll have to wait for that award, as they FORGOT to buy one!
After “goodbye hugs” and promises to return next year, I started home flying with a buddy in his gorgeous 1930 Waco RNF. My Champ was a bit slower so I took the lead, heading for Dwight, IL after a fuel stop in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (MPZ). Headwinds dwindled our groundspeed to about 66 mph and with rain ahead we stayed overnight, getting a second tour of Dwight in the courtesy pick-up.
After the morning fog cleared Tuesday, we tried to fly to Miller (C40) below Ft. Wayne but had to divert to Peru, IN (I76) after flying only l: 37 hrs due to low ceilings and rain. Peru is the Circus headquarters of the US and is the hometown of Cole Porter. AND the local motel had a washer and dryer for my clothes. Wednesday had us sitting in the terminal until 2:30 PM when the ceiling FINALLY lifted – we split up and I headed NE into headwinds. Around Ft. Wayne I hit horrible clear-air turbulence that shoved me sideways about _ mile and 40 degrees off course – all I could do was throttle back and ride it out – quite unnerving to say the least. I thought my wings were going to come off. Seneca Co. airport in Tiffin, OH (16G) was the farthest I could fly in that turbulence and since they had room in the hangar I put Rudolph away for the night. Great airport, they actually use a Stearman for tailwheel endorsements. 3 beautiful collie dogs and one huge labrapoodle greeted me in the terminal and the courtesy car got me to a local motel. I was wiped out after flying over 2 hours in that turbulence.
Thursday started out smooth, until Youngstown, Ohio where I hit mist, low ceilings and that dreaded turbulence again. 2 hours 25 min later I landed at Grove City, PA (29D) with a crosswind so bad I had to slip almost to the surface, land then and taxi with the right wing totally deflected. Again a hangar was available and I rented a car and drove home – I could come back later and pick up the Champ.
It rained the next several days but Monday (September 14) was beautiful so my husband and I drove the rental to Grove City, got in the Champ and had (normal) tailwinds home. Total time was 12 hours 14 minutes and 891 miles – all in all a great trip – I got to meet new friends and new airports. Even with all the turbulence and weather issues, flying over the beautiful countryside in a slow airplane is still the best!
by Elaine Huf