1940 Air Terminal Museum blog

Ranger fly-in trip report

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Filed under: Blog entry (Home Page), Raffle plane trip reports by Blair

Saturday, May 29, 2010, Blair McFarlain and I flew the museum’s 1958 Cessna 172 raffle plane from Hooks Airport (DWH) to Ranger, TX (F23) to sell raffle tickets at the Ranger Fly-in and Airshow.  Drew Coats and fellow museum volunteer Gene Bursick also flew up in Drew’s 172.

We started out flying as a flight of two airplanes, which basically tells ATC that you’re going to fly in formation and only one airplane will get a squawk code and talk to to ATC.  The other plane flies in somewhat close proximity and just listens in on the ATC channel.  We weren’t flying in close formation, but we planned to stay within one mile of each other and maintain visual contact.  This all worked well at the beginning with me working the radios for our flight, Blair flying the raffle plane, Drew flying his plane, and Gene hanging on for the ride.  But, shortly after takeoff, we figured out that we made a mistake in our pre-flight formation briefing.  We did not specify the airspeeds we would be climbing at, nor did we brief the power settings we would be using in cruise.  So, Blair and I climbed at a much slower forward speed than Drew did, so he and Gene wound up leaving us in the dusk.  Before we knew it, we were 3 miles in trail.  No harm, though.  Drew just called up ATC, told them he lost visual contact with us, and asked for an individual squawk code and flight following as a single ship.  ATC then confirmed that we still had them in sight and told us to maintain visual separation.

This worked out well for the rest of the trip.  Once we leveled off in cruise, we were at a faster speed than Drew, so we caught up quickly and we both kept an eye out for each other.  Blair and I switched off on who was flying the airplane, and I stayed in control of the radios.  The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful, except for a couple of notable things:

First, after we passed College Station, TX, there was a lull in the radio traffic.  I keyed up the radio and said, “Houston Center, Cessna eight-five-foxtrot, do you have time for a question?”  They replied that they always had time for our questions (we had just asked them about an abandoned airfield a few minutes earlier that didn’t appear to be charted as abandoned).  I told him that we were raffling off the airplane that we were in to raise money for The 1940 Air Terminal Museum and it could be his for $50.  I said that I could give him the phone number if he’s interested.  He called back and said, “When you put it like that, how could I resist?”  So I gave him the phone number and he said he’d call and get one!

Second, near Waco, TX, there’s the small town of Crawford.  Just outside of Crawford is a ranch owned by former President George W. Bush.  When he became president, a Prohibited Area (airspace you are not allowed to go into) went into effect over the ranch up to an altitude of 5,000 feet.  Well, we were at 6,500ft. as our cruising altitude, so we got to fly directly over the top of his ranch.  We didn’t really see anything – just a couple of buildings in the middle of the woods, but it was still pretty cool to fly directly over the top of the Bush Ranch.

Anyway, we made our way up to Ranger and I made the requisite calls on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.  There was surprisingly little traffic there when we arrived, and we came right in and Blair made a nice landing on the grass strip.  We had beaten Drew there by a couple of minutes, and I guess our timing was perfect because there was significantly more traffic in the pattern for his arrival than for ours.  We told the first marshaller we came to that we were the raffle plane for the museum and that we were supposed to park in front of the hangar.  He radioed ahead to his buddies and we were guided right into the proper spot.

The fly-in itself was a lot of fun and very successful.  There were probably close to 100 planes there of all different types – anything from powered parachutes and trikes to a Beech 18 with tri-gear and everything in-between.  There was a gorgeous Cessna 195 that was parked right next to us (and I mean right next to us – there were less than three inches separating our wingtips.  I had a brief discussion with the marshaller about that one).  I told the owner that he had to move his airplane – he was making ours look bad by comparison! j/k 😉

We set up shop and started selling tickets.  Gene (the selling machine) led the charge and got quite a few sales.  At around 1:00p, the field closed for an airshow, and Drew, Gene, and I retired to the hangar to have some BBQ and chat about the raffle and museum stuff.  Blair stayed outside near the flightline and worked his camera shutter to the bone.  Right around 3:00p, the airshow ended and the airport re-opened.  Everyone ran to their planes and thus started an exodus of biblical proportions.  Planes were taxiing out and taking off left and right!  Blair’s poor camera couldn’t catch a break!  It was quite the show.

We stuck around, selling tickets to the stragglers until around 5:00p or so.  We then packed up and loaded into our planes.  Once again, Blair was in the left seat as PIC for this leg, and I was in the right seat working the radios.  We didn’t even try the flight of two thing this time, as we were parked so far from each other.  Blair made a very nice soft-field takeoff and we took up an almost due-east heading to go to Stephenville (KSEP) to fuel up before heading back to DWH.

For the flight to Stephenville, we took up a cruise altitude of 3,500ft.  We decided not to use flight following for this leg because of the short distance (only 30nm or so).  We cruised along, over the top of a windmill farm in that area, and enjoyed the 80-deg outside air temp at that altitude.  You know you’ve been REALLY hot on the ground when 80-deg at altitude feels nice!  We got to SEP, overflew the airport, and circled around to enter the downwind leg of the pattern to come around and make our landing.  As we entered the pattern, we heard Drew calling that he was in range, and we heard a flight of two aircraft call that they were coming in behind us.  I had heard this flight of two calling when we left Ranger as well, so we weren’t the only ones who decided this would make a good gas stop!

Blair made another smooth landing and rolled to the end of the runway as the heat coming off the blacktop caused us to float pretty far before touching down.  We taxied in to the ramp and parked in one of the spots there as we weren’t sure if the fuel was self-serve or truck.  Turns out, it was self-serve.  The flight of two that landed behind us was a Cessna 140 and a Christen Eagle, and they taxied right up to the pumps.  We hooked up the towbar and pushed our plane over there in time for Blair to grab his camera and get a couple good shots of Drew’s landing.  We struck up a conversation with the pilots in the flight of two, and it turns out it was a father, son, and daughter-in-law.  The dad had flown the Christen Eagle all the way from Prescott, AZ to attend this fly-in with his son and daughter-in-law, who live in the area.  They were some nice people with some beautiful planes.  We chatted as they topped off their tanks, and we lent them a hand with pushing their planes around in front of the pump.

They fired up and took off, and we filled up our tanks as well.  After we were topped off, Blair and I loaded back up into the plane, this time with me in the left seat as PIC and Blair in the right as SIC and radio operator.  We taxied out, did a run-up, and held short of the runway since the local jump plane had just announced jumpers away.  Unfortunately, the landing zone was behind us, so we couldn’t see when they landed.  After a couple of minutes, we figured we were safe, and the jump plane said that they should be on the ground by now, so we launched out with caution.  We climbed up to 5,500ft. and had a nice and smooth ride back to DWH with air temperatures of about 60 deg, which felt awesome after being on the ground in 95 deg heat all day.  The flight was largely uneventful, save for my window popping open a couple of times.  After the third time or so, I figured out how to latch it properly and it wasn’t an issue for the rest of the trip.

We descended for our landing into Hooks and when we got down to 2,000ft., the temperature difference was noticeable.  We called Hooks in sight and ATC told us to contact the tower.  We contacted them at about 13nm out, and they gave us a clearance to land at 10nm out since we were #1 to the field.  Another plane actually called in on a 10nm straight-in approach before we got to the field, but thankfully they were far enough out that we were able to land before them.  I did my first landing in this airplane, which turned out pretty good.  We turned off on the high-speed taxiway and were cleared to taxi all the way to our parking area.  Here’s the video that Blair shot of my landing:

All told, we sold 21 tickets, plus the one to the Air Traffic Controller from Houston Center.  It was a great day of flying, and thanks to Blair for the great rides up to Ranger and over to Stephenville, and for the greeat insight into this particular plane on our flight to Hooks.  Thanks to Drew for the opportunity to go, and to Gene for being such a great salesman.  I can’t wait to do it again sometime!

BTW – I have to say that this airplane is sweet!  It is one of the most perfectly-rigged airplanes I’ve ever flown.  When you get up to altitude, you just trim it out and let go – it doesn’t drift or lean or anything.  The winner is going to be one happy camper!  Get your tickets by calling the museum today!  713-454-1940.