Flying in the USA has been as satisfying as doing a Tim Tam Slam – using that delicious chocolate biscuit as a straw then shoving the whole thing in your mouth. If you grew up in Australia you know what I am talking about. For the uninitiated, you have a lot to learn – see HERE (these guys loved it!)
To bring it back to pilot speak, spending some time in the USA was a great change from flying over water and only spotting land on the horizon near the end of the day. It has also been easy to work with the controllers here who make life so easy for a pilot.
From a technology standpoint, there is radar coverage almost everywhere, they always have a pretty good idea of where you are and can provide handy information like weather updates and terrain ahead of you. For those following my flight via radar, you know exactly what I am talking about. These assets are great for when you need critical information such as during the following exchange:
“Memphis Centre, VH-IBC, Is this the Mississippi River below me?” To which I got the reply “Yes sir, the miigghhttyyy Mississippi”
…. I love the USA nationalism and their accents.
The journey leaving California was simple and delightful. Not having to use the ferry tank nor the HF radio (you can read about those in my previous blogs here and here), the flight became a ‘normal’ flight again and I got to just sit and enjoy the scenery (yay, I have scenery again). I mean, flying over water is beautiful too, but after 13 hours of “Hey look… water. Hey look at that too… more water,” the novelty can wear off.
The flight from California was only around 3 hours and I got to land in a pretty cool place too, Las Vegas, where it was a toasty 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius)
Despite my initial joy at being back over land and not needing ferry tanks, the leg from Las Vegas to Texas was not as enjoyable as I had anticipated.
I needed to take off carefully from Vegas due to a high-density altitude and the high temperature.
EDIT NOTE: On a hot and humid day, an aircraft will accelerate more slowly down a runway and needs to move faster to attain the same lift as the normal expected performance. The aircraft will also climb at a slower rate. The short of it: A pilot needs to account for these factors and pay close attention for a safe departure in high-density altitude.
After a successful take off I climbed to 9500 feet and made my way out to see the Grand Canyon. Following the slow climb out due of Vegas it was quite nice to get to altitude and cruise along.
From there the first of my ‘monuments’ was ahead of me. Yes I had already flown over the outstanding Pacific Ocean, but flying over the Grand Canyon was incredible, and those who watched the video on our Facebook page will agree to that.
From there however the flight wasn’t the fairytale every pilot hopes for on each flight. The heat made it incredibly bumpy and at times difficult to create enough lift to stay in the air due to downdrafts and a high-density altitude. I had to put the aircraft in a climb configuration to maintain altitude a couple of times and watch the cylinder head temperature very closely to make sure the engine stayed cool enough.
Landing in Fredericksburg was a relief and I really enjoyed my stay there. I kind of wish I had some more time there. The Hangar Hotel was awesome to stay in and I loved the WW2 theming…and of course being able to park my plane outside my room!
The next day I roared into the skies for a beautiful flight up to Nashville, Tennessee. This time the flying was smooth as silk and it was a bit cooler as I headed into the lush green central mid-eastern states.
Crossing the Mississippi was very cool and the controllers weren’t too busy at the time so we’re up for some questions and a chat. After landing in Smyrna airport (around 30 minutes drive from Nashville), the tower controller asked where the plane was from, and with a feeling of satisfaction I told him that I had flown this all the way from Australia. It is amazing to look back and see how far I have really come, but I’m staying focused, as it is still a long way to go until I’m home.
From Nashville I made my way to Niagara Falls, the last stop on the USA leg of this trip. It was a nice short flight to a cooler area. My next flight today (Friday July 22 – landing on Saturday July 23 in Australian time) saw me fly over Niagara Falls, (so watch for the video!) en route to St. John’s in Canada, where I landed not long ago!
As always, if there is anything more you would like to know, send a question and one of the team or I will get back to you!