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.
This one is a really short adventure. Without navigation equipment the Piper Cub is like a powered glider. I couldn’t go very far and I needed VFR conditions so I could use dead reckoning to find the airport. I looked at SkyVector just to see that it was a straight shot across Lake Michigan on a heading of 270 from Tulip City Airport, KBIV, in Holland, Michigan, to John H Batten Airport, KRAC, in Racine, Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, real-world weather was not VFR and I took off from KBIV in a cold, light rain. That should have been a sign to put the airplane back in the hanger and try again another day, but I didn’t.
I put the Piper on a heading of 270, adjusted the trim, and set the power to max. Up it went to about 6500 feet where it leveled itself. From there on I hardly touched the controls. I just corrected the heading every so often.
When I got to the west side of the lake the weather was worse than the east side. There was a low ceiling – probably 2000 feet – and I was at 5000 feet and descending. I called the airport radio and announced my position and intention. That gave me my position relative to the field so I could guide the airplane toward the field. A few more position calls later and I had airport in sight.
I didn’t hear any other traffic on the radio so I announced “on final” and pointed the nose at runway 22. I think I landed at about 45 knots, and I tried to keep the plane on the runway. The runway had a thin layer of ice on it so I kept steering to a minimum and didn’t use breaks.
Now I can say I flew the Piper Cub and cross that one off the list. Note to self, don’t every fly this plane again, at least not in MVFR conditions.