On this flight I was hauling 1,000 lbs of snow in a Grumman Goose G21A from John H Batten Airport (KRAC) in Racine, Wisconsin, to Warwood – Martins Ferry Seaplane Base (WV43), near Wheeling, West Virginia. That’s right, a half-ton of snow! The challenge was that with that much weight I could only carry 140 gallons of fuel or 41% in each tank.
SkyVector said it was 358 nm straight from Racine to Wheeling. I needed to make a delivery and I needed to make it there quickly so I chose to fly using GPS. I figured with 41% full of fuel I had a range of 375 nm. I was sweating the whole trip, but I made it with 4% fuel to spare.
I flew at 5500 feet in VFR conditions. Flying GPS isn’t a challenge, but watching the fuel burn was nerve racking. I kept adjusting the prop and mixture to get the maximum amount of forward movement for the least amount of fuel burn.
There is an interesting story behind this adventure. Somehow I read a Twitter post from @saugatuck that was an ad for the Saugatuck Visitor’s Bureau. I Googled it and it looked like a cool place so why not fly there. There isn’t an airport at Saugatuck, but there is one 10 miles south in Holland, Michigan – Tulip City Airport, KBIV. I used SkyVector.com for my charts to plot a course from KOSH to KBIV.
I chose to fly my favorite airplane, Beech Baron, for this trip. It was a short 150 miles from Oshkosh across Lake Michigan to Holland. Once over the lake the weather wasn’t exactly VFR, but no ATC was online to stop me.
My route was fairly simple. I flew direct to the FAH VOR at Sheboygan, Wisconsin, then via V510 to MKG, near Muskegon, Michigan. Then south along the Michigan shoreline to the Pullman (PMM) VOR.
I planned to do a few approaches into Holland and the first approach was the VOR-A using PMM. I had plenty of time and fuel so I went for the full procedure approach. Over PMM I timed 1 minute out bound on a heading of 180 Then I flew a heading of 135 for 1 minute, followed by a procedure turn to heading 315. Then I turned north to track the 180/360 radial of PMM until I was over GRADS intersection, the missed approach fix. There is a hold at GRADS so I did a couple 1 minute legs on the hold before completing the approach.
At the minimum descent altitude (MDA) of 512 feet I went missed. Pulling up I turned left back to the 360 radial from PMM. Once over GRADS, I executed a teardrop entry to join the holding pattern again. I flew couple circuits in the holding pattern before coming in on my final approach – circle to land runway 26.
Over all the flight was easy. The weather was as expected, kinda muggy. I was able to visually pick out the inlet at Saugatuck so I consider my mission a success.
For this adventure I’m on a mission: I’m headed to Michigan via Oshkosh, WI (KOSH). My problem this time was choosing an aircraft with enough power to make it over the 12,000 foot peaks of the Rocky Mountains and have enough fuel to make it to Oshkosh. For kicks I chose the Douglas DC-3. That’s right, the old gooney bird. It might be old. It might be ugly. But it has a fairly long range, and it’s not afraid of mountain climbing.
My flight plane from SkyVector.com was a follows – this is all I used, honest:
KASE ASPEN-PITKIN CO/SARDY FIELD
343° (355°T) 13nm 5.2min DBL RED TABLE (113.0 DBL )
020° (032°T) 39.7nm 15.9min RLG KREMMLING (113.8 RLG )
056° (070°T) 91.9nm 36.7min GLL GILL (114.2 GLL )
065° (078°T) 176.5nm 1h10.6m LBF NORTH PLATTE (117.4 LBF )
056° (067°T) 213.4nm 1h25.4m SUX SIOUX CITY (116.5 SUX )
061° (070°T) 139.8nm 55.9min MCW MASON CITY (114.9 MCW )
075° (081°T) 79.5nm 31.8min UKN WAUKON (116.6 UKN )
073° (078°T) 79.2nm 31.7min DLL DELLS (117.0 DLL )
060° (063°T) 58.5nm 23.4min OSH OSHKOSH (111.8 OSH)
KOSH WITTMAN RGNL
SkyVector estimated this flight to take 5 – 7 hours. Well, let’s just say I made it through about 5 hours before I started getting restless. I kicked it up to 4x a few times between the last few VOR.
The flight was pretty cool. The DC-3 was fun to fly once I got my antique navigation legs back. I flew at 17,500 feet. The weather was fair but I had to keep both hands on the yoke. It tended to drift and rock in 1 kt cross winds; simulators aren’t perfect I guess.
The mountains weren’t really a problem. I went straight north out of Aspen and I crossed the Rockies near their northern end. The fuel was lean and I tried to keep the climb within specs. I think my climb was a little less than 120 kts at about 500 fpm. I say “about” and a “little” because the needles – like the turbulence – were all over the place.
Once we got it leveled off at 17,500 the rest of the trip was smooth. We went from one VOR to the next, using the GPS as “situational awareness” and just to check we were headed in the right direction.
When the main fuel tanks read 20% I switched over to AUX tanks. That happened somewhere over Iowa. The AUX tanks hold about 200 gallons. That took us near Oshkosh. I think the AUX tanks were 20% when I was on final.
I did one missed approach on RWY 36 with a closed traffic (VFR) loop back to 36. At this point in a 6 hour trip I wasn’t much for challenges so I just asked for landing on the second run. I landed safe taxied to the fuel point and promptly shutdown the engines. So much for the beast known as the DC-3. This adventure was in the books and my next trip across Lake Michigan was the one I was looking forward to.