Flying Across America

Promoting General Aviation

Flying Across America - We did it!

23 days ago, we left Dunnellon airport in central Florida to fly to the Atlantic ocean, and then cross the country to Catalina Island in the Pacific ocean, abeam Los Angeles. We flew over plains, deserts, mountains and two oceans in a Cessna 150 and met incredible people along the way.

We’re now back at our starting point after a total of 31 flights and 62 hours 50 minutes of flying. This trip was a life changing experience. We got exposed to many different aspects of aviation, and did our best to promote General Aviation and pass the passion along.

Getting home was a very intense moment and many different emotions are colliding. We’ll certainly need a couple of days to realize that this journey really happened. It feels like we left Florida years ago, but it also feels like everything happened in a snap.

We will get some rest over the next days before Vincent flies back to Europe. We will also organize the drawing for our raffle and inform the winners directly. We’ll continue to post here about the trip and what we intend to do afterward to continue promoting General Aviation. This flight across America was just the beginning… But for now N512R is back in her hangar, and we’re enjoying a long night with no wake-up planed for tomorrow morning.

N512R back in hangar

Best of day 22: Pensacola and the Blue Angels

We had more tailwinds today flying from Baton Rouge to Pensacola. We plan our flights using a very conservative 70 knots ground speed and we were in the 90 to 100 range for the whole flight. This changed a 3 hours flight into a 2 hours 20 minutes one. Weather was not optimal but manageable.

We met with our lead supporter there at the airport and he took us to the Naval Aviation Museum, on the Naval Air Station. The museum covers naval aviation from its very beginning to today. It is full of aircraft, helicopters and unlike many museums, touching them is encouraged. It is even possible to climb in many cockpits. This is a treasure cave for kids and big kids.

Naval Aviation Museum

As many military museums, this one contains some extraordinary pieces. There is a space capsule on display. Not a replica, a real one that flown in space. Pensacola is also the base of the Blue Angels. The whole city supports the Blues and the museum has a static display of the formation.

Blue Angles in formation

There is also an IMAX cinema theater in the museum showing a movie about history of flight from the Wright brothers to the Blue Angels. Seeing these jets taking off and climbing aggressively and flying in close formation on the giant IMAX screen is a breathtaking experience. There is also a scene of Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO). The rockets look small and innocent but when they fire up the aircraft is literally skyrocketing.

Last but not least, there is no admission fee at the Naval Aviation Museum (except for the IMAX theater).

Best of day 21: Tailwinds

We had great tailwinds today flying from Georgetown to Baton Rouge. Since we cleared the mountains we can also fly at lower altitudes where we get better performance. The combination of these two factors resulted in great ground speed today, saving us time, fuel and money. We even hit the 100 knots mark on the GPS and this was not in a descent.

100 knots!

We have been great winds all along our journey so far, except when flying from Santa Maria to Las Vegas. The normal wind pattern at these latitudes calls for winds out of the west. The tropical storm Alex disturbed this pattern and we had tailwinds when flying towards Catalina Island. This was a great help and now that Alex and tropical depression number 2 are gone, the usual wind pattern is restored. Having tailwinds both ways on a flight across a continent is quite a luck and we hope this situation will continue for the two next days.

Tomorrow we’ll fly to Pensacola to visit the Naval Aviation Museum. This is, amongst others, the home of the Blue Angels. More about this visit on the blog tomorrow. Our supporters there promised that there will be no junk food but fresh sea food on the coast.

The next day we will eventually fly home. This is your last opportunity to enter our raffle and win prizes. Each mile purchased until we complete our flight has TWO chances to win. Yes, double chances to win if you buy miles now.

Best of day 20: Scud running to Georgetown

Weather was much better today than yesterday. We departed Big Spring shortly after 8am. There were some low clouds around but enough clear sky to climb on top. There are windmills in this area and we kept an eye on them while climbing.

Windmills in clouds

We cruised on top for forty minutes, with a great tailwind. We did hit the 90 knots mark on the GPS a couple of times. This did not last for the whole flight to Brady - our fuel stop between Big Spring and Georgetown. There was a layer of clouds at our altitude and it was not sure that we could find a hole to descend later if we were getting on top. It was time for some scud running…

The minimum safe altitudes along our route were in the 2.200 to 2.700 feet range and we had to cruise between 3.000 and 2.700. We had a good look out for terrain and other obstacles. A couple of towers looked awfully high, but we were well away from them. We did reach Brady after one hour and forty-five minutes. Our goal was to reach Georgetown at 11.45 to be there on time for our planned speech at the Georgetown Airport Aviation Safety day.

Scud running

Thirty minutes after landing, we were rolling again, ready to take-off towards Georgetown. The visibility was better and there was no need to get on top or fly at minimum safe altitude. Just normal VFR flying. We did reach Georgetown after one hour and fifteen minutes and landed on runway 18. Our taxi to AeroCentex - the FBO hosting the TXAA event of today - was a bit… erratic. We missed the taxiway leading to their ramp and had to turn back. We did eventually arrive during lunch and many participants were on the tarmac, waiting for us. We’ve never had so many cameras pointed at us at the same time. One of them was Jo Hunter, the aviation photographer behind futurshox.net. Jo connected us with Jay Carpenter, the secretary of the Texas Aviation Association which became our host on this stop. Thanks to both of them for making this stop possible.

After eating a sandwich and a cookie and answering a lot of questions about our project, the meeting started again. We had the opportunity to speak for fifteen minutes, explaining what we do and how different it is to fly in Europe and in the United States. Even if the aviation system is not perfect here, it offers a great degree of freedom and it is the responsibility of each aviation enthusiast to protect it. We passed this message to the 50+ persons present today with the hope that they’ll realize how important it is to protect General Aviation.

Tomorrow will be a long day, we fly to Baton-Rouge again. We have great friends there and we could not find a lot of support in Lafayette. Georgetown to Baton Rouge is almost a five hours flight, so we need a good rest and will start early tomorrow. If you want to win a prize from our raffle (Cessna pilot kit, Windtee t-shirt, ForeFlight Mobile or PDFPlates subscription, amongst others) buy miles today using the yellow buttons on the right hand side of this page. Each mile bought gives you two chances to win a prize. You can buy miles until our arrival in Dunnellon only - take your chance now!

Best of day 19: More rain and diversion

We did not reach Georgetown today as we expected but we progressed towards East. We’re now in Big Spring, Texas, three hours away from Georgetown. The day started in Cavern City with rain and low visibility. We spent the morning at our hotel and when the rain stopped we walked back to the airport. A 2.5 miles walk along the road with our bags because no shuttle was available from the hotel or from the FBO…

The weather situation was improving but not as fast as we wanted. Our goal was to reach Georgetown, five hours away. We finally left Cavern City at 2.30pm trying to reach Midland or San Angelo. We had a smooth ride at 5.500 feet with a good tailwind. But before reaching Midland we were in front of a large precipitation area. The approach controller informed us that it was 15 miles long and three miles thick and that two Cessna 182 were flying VFR on the other side. But this rain storm was so dense that it was not possible to fly through.

We flew northbound along the rain until it was possible to resume our navigation. The next airport on our route east was Big Spring and we decided to land there to check the weather and buy fuel before continuing towards San Angelo or Georgetown. A massive storm was developing East of the airport and an immediate departure was not possible. The flight from Cavern City was only two hours long but because we changed time zone, it was already 5.30pm. The weather radar was showing precipitation along our planned route to San Angelo and beyond, moving towards the airport. Once again, it was safer to change our plans and stay where we were for the night.

We will try to reach Georgetown tomorrow on time for the Aviation Airport Safety Day, where we are supposed to share about our trip. We’ll do our best but safety is the first priority. Preaching for General Aviation in front of a crowd corresponds to one of our goals with this project and we’d love to take this opportunity, but this will not affect our decisions tomorrow. See you in Georgetown… hopefully.

By the way, don’t forget that the drawing for our raffle is approaching. All miles bought from now until our landing in Dunnellon will give you a double chance to win. Yes, two chances per mile - use the yellow buttons on the right hand side now to get chances to win big!

Double chances to win big - Buy miles now

This is the last week of our flight across America and our big raffle is approaching. We will give away a pilot kit from Cessna, Windtee tee shirts, ForeFlight and PDF Plates subscriptions, and a lot of other prizes. Each mile you buy from now to the end of our trip gives you two chances to win. Use the yellow buttons on the right hand side now to buy your double miles.

Double miles

Best of day 18: Good bye mountains, hello rain

We’re in Cavern City, New Mexico. For the first time in this trip we did not made it to the planed destination. We expected to be in Midland, Texas but we had to divert because of weather. After taking off from Dona Ana, we climb towards El Paso. It was quite windy so we did non crossed the mountain range but flew over the city. ATC vectored us through El Paso class C airspace for traffic and a some point the wingtip was almost in Mexico…

Everything was fine until we crossed the Guadalupe Pass. This was the last mountain range on this trip, the terrain from here to Florida is as flat as a pancake. But with the low pressure system over the gulf of Mexico bringing a lot of moisture inland the rest of our trip across America will not be easy. Our plan was to fly to Midland via Wink. After the pass, we were flying above a scattered layer of clouds which was becoming more compact by the minute. ATC reported precipitation between our position and Wink and we could see some convective clouds farther away. It was time to get under the clouds before being trapped above.

We spiraled through a large hole and continued to fly towards East but we soon entered in an area of rain. Continuing towards Wink was no longer possible in safe VFR conditions. We flew along the raining cell for a while, which was also in the direction of Cavern City, a possible alternate destination. When we saw that it would not be possible to fly around the rain, we decided to go there, at least for lunch.

The situation did not improve in the early afternoon. A massive thunderstorm developed just east of Cavern City blocking our way. After hanging out at Chandler Aviation for a while, we decided to spend the night here and try to fly to Georgetown tomorrow. This will be a long flight, and it’s not sure that it will be possible, but we’ll do our best. We are invited to speak at the Georgetown Airport Aviation Safety Day on the 10th and this will be a great opportunity to promote General Aviation and share information about our trip.

Safety remains our first priority and we won’t take any risks to make it to an event or a specific destination. We’re both tired and this also played a role in the decision to stay here overnight. We will see tomorrow how the weather look like and continue towards east as possible.

The double miles week continue while we fight with weather. Any mile you buy before the 14th of July gives you two chances to win in our raffle. Use the yellow buttons on the right hand side to buy miles now and support General Aviation.

N512R and N512RJ

Look at that, N512R and N512RJ - The “J” stands for Junior

Double Chances to Win Prizes - Buy Miles Now

Best of day 17: In the desert, you can’t remember your name

The departure out of Sedona was incredible. The rocks and canyons around the airport are impressive and climbing between them was very cool.

Departing from Sedona

After that, it was all about desert, mountain, headwinds, turbulence and trying to climb and maintain 9.500 feet. The flight from Sedona to Safford took us two hours and fifteen minutes. Crossing one mountain ridge after the other, being shaken in thermal turbulence and in mountain waves.

The stop at Safford was short and tense. Cumulus were developing on the ridges west of the airport, and we thought that the same could happen along our route. The combination of high elevation and high temperatures resulted in a very low climb performance and we had to decide if we wanted full fuel or not. Because of the developing weather we went for full fuel. The take-off roll was approximately 1.500 feet long, and the climb rate during the first minutes was barely positive.

After passing 4.000 feet and reaching colder air the performance increased. At least until 8.500 feet. Flying east we wanted to cruise at 9.500 feet but we never really achieve it. Some updrafts took us as high as 10.000 and downdrafts had us down to 8.500. This was in continuous turbulence, and the two and a half hours of the flight to Dona Ana (5T6) seemed to last forever. Our ground speed was in the low 70’s. The only positive part of flying in these conditions was the almost unlimited visibility. We could see some mountain ranges from more than 70 miles away. We spotted our destination airport from a distance of 30 miles.

Being on final, 30 miles out, with the GPS predicting an en-route time of 30 minutes was kind of depressing. The airport seemed very close but it really took us half an hour to reach it. Probably the longest final ever. We kept the approach high until very short final to avoid being caught in downdrafts we could not counteract with our limited climb performance. The runway at Dona Ana is long enough to land a bit long…

After four hours and forty minutes of flights, we were welcomed by the team of Blue Feather Aero. This FBO and flight school is the perfect example of what the General Aviation community is. Their primary goal is to serve and develop General Aviation. Most of their staff have at least a private pilot license and fly actively - even the line staff. They offer all possible services in family style. Spending time there talking with Mike and the rest of the team was really great. Mike told us about his own southwest cross country flight from here to San-Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. Click here to see pictures from this cross country trip. Blue Feather Aero has been very generous with us, offering fuel, food and a courtesy car. We could not resist to the temptation of driving across the New Mexico - Texas border to get a Texas BBQ…

Tomorrow’s leg will take us from Dona Ana to Midland. We’ll cross the Guadalupe Pass, east of El-Paso again, and then leave the mountains behind us. After Midland, we’ll fly to Georgetown the day after tomorrow and be there on the 10th for the GTU Safety Days. More about that soon.

We keep an eye on the weather situation in the Gulf of Mexico. A new low pressure system is developing that has the potential to become a tropical storm or even a hurricane. Let’s hope we won’t have a bad surprise during the last week of our trip. We prepare another surprise for you, which will be online very soon…

Best of day 16: Grand Canyon and Sedona

This post comes to you from the garden area of the Desert Rose Bed and Breakfast in Sedona, Arizona. This is the best place from where we blogged during this trip. The Desert Rose is minutes away from Cottonwood airport and it was a 20 minutes drive from Sedona Airport. We enjoy the Arizona sun and the luxury and modernity of the Desert Rose. Having WiFi in the garden is really cool, not to mention the waterfall… If you plan to spend some days in the area, this is the place to stay. And request the special rates that apply to all our patrons.

After taking off from North Las Vegas, we got vectored through their Class B airspace, almost directly over Nellis Air Force Base. A fighter jet took off directly below us while we were taking pictures. We hoped to see it climb like a rocket in front of us, but it kept a low altitude before heading back towards the city or the base.

Fighter Jet

Our flight towards East then took us directly over the Grand Canyon area. There are a lot of helicopters and flights operating in and out of Grand Canyon airport so we maintained 9.500 feet and avoided flying directly over the canyon. Even from distance, the canyon is impressive and it’s hard to describe…

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

After clearing a couple of mountain ridges at 9.500 feet, it was time to descend in the basin where Sedona is located. This approach is not the easiest one to fly, and it probably more tricky than Catalina Island. The runway is located on a plateau above the rest of the valley - which is similar to Catalina - but there are also lots of rocky formations around. The right-hand downwind for runway 21 ends in a wall of rocks. Turn base as soon as the rocks look too close.

Red rocks around Sedona

We captured the approach and landing on video, expect them to be uploaded shortly. From the ramp it’s not easy to see that the airport is on a plateau because of the surrounding mountains. If you plan to fly into Sedona be careful with the performance of your aircraft. The airport’s elevation is almost 5.000 feet and the temperatures can be in the high 110°F range in the afternoon.

Tomorrow we’ll fly to Dona Ana county aiport at Santa Teresa (5T6) to visit our supporters at Blue Feather Aero, an FBO and flight training organization. This will be a long day, so it’s time to get some rest and enjoy the facilities of the Desert Rose bed and breakfast.

Desert Rose Bed and Breakfast in Sedona