Another biplane XC advice thread - Memphis to Connecticut

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Dana, Feb 21, 2017.

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  1. Feb 21, 2017 #1

    Dana

    Dana

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    Time for another biplane XC flight advice thread. As I mentioned elsewhere, I recently bought a 1982 Starduster SA-100 (single seat). I haven't flown it yet, but in April or May I plan to fly it from Memphis, Tennessee, home to Connecticut, 1000 miles. Unlike Glenn (freerangequark)'s planned Chicago to Sacrement trip, I don't have to cross any really high mountains. The trip is about twice as long as any cross country I've yet made (but I didn't have GPS back then). I'm debating whether to use the old Garmin 196 that came with the plane, or Avare on my smartphone. Avare is superior to an old grayscale GPS, but the Garmin may be more reliable with its external antenna.

    The plan is for 5 legs of roughly 200 miles each, or a little under 2 hours at the planes 115 mph cruise speed. I'll be camping out with the plane at each overnight stop. I've tried to pick airports where I can walk to a restaurant. The tentative plan is a more or less direct route, starting from M01 in Memphis and continuing across Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, a tiny corner of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, southern New York, and into Connecticut. Most likely I'll spend the morning of the first day familiarizing myself with the plane, then fly the first leg in the afternoon, with two legs on each of the next two days. Or I may leave the next morning and have a shorter day the last day.

    The airports and route I've tentatively picked, subject to change based on advice, are:

    M01 to M91 (Springfield, TN) Might be a crew car available to get dinner according to Airnav.
    M91 to I50 (Stanton, KY) Looks like the airport is within easy walking distance to town.
    I50 to W22 (Buckhannon, WV) Hotel and food within 1 mile.
    W22 to 58N (just east of Harrisburg, PA) restaurant 1/2 mile away.
    58N to SNC (Chester, CT, my home base) on more familiar territory here.

    This route avoids most troublesome airspace... I'll pass through two TRSAs, which are optional as far as communication with ATC goes, then the Allentown class C which I can go over above 4400', and skirt NYC to the north (familiar territory).

    Any advice from people along the route is welcome...

    Dana
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  2. Feb 21, 2017 #2

    bmcj

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    Being an unfamiliar plane (to you), I'd also look at what airports offer maintenance services in case you have any mechanical issues. I'd also see which airports have easy approaches, plenty of excess runway, and suitable emergency landing areas nearby for the same reason. The plane looks like it's in good shape, so I doubt if you'll have any problems, but having those contingencies accounted for in your planning can give you some peace of mind, especially when the plane is unfamiliar.

    Allow a little extra time for admirers from among the local airport residents. They will want to see and talk about your plane and trip, and maybe want to show you their plane. You can be an ambassador for Stardusters, biplanes, and Homebuiltairplanes in general. If the airport doesn't have a courtesy car (many do), someone there will likely offer you their car or offer to give you a ride and maybe even a home cooked meal. I saw a lot of this kind of thing on my long cross countries.

    Also... most of all, HAVE FUN!!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  3. Feb 21, 2017 #3

    Victor Bravo

    Victor Bravo

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    As a long time participant and "official" on HBA, you have a pretty good size chip to play if it is needed. Kind of like Don Corleone and the undertaker. "Some day Bonasera... and this day may never come..."

    Godfather-Bonasera-funeral-home-after-Sonnys-death.jpg

    Basically I suggest that you take a poll, or dedicate this thread, to seeing which HBA members are anywhere near your route home, and are willing to be on standby in case you have any mechanical or XC related issues. There is a whole lot of HBA "infrastructure" and resources across the US and other countries. No reason why you should not have some of that available. I'm guessing you will also have people offering couches, home cooked meals, workshops, hangars, whatever. The soaring fraternity and the Taylorcraft fraternity do this to my personal knowledge. (One of my T-craft forum guys put me up in his home in Anchorage... twice... and took me out on a local sightseeing flight I will never forget.) I'll bet my last dollar that the Luscombe people and the Stearman people do it. So why not the homebuilt airplane people?

    Adjusting your flight route to take advantage of this, and having five or ten phone numbers with you, will add a huge amount of confidence and security to your flight, even if you never have to use it.

    As far as the GPS stuff goes, I have to throw my hat into the Avare/tablet side of the debate. Seeing your accurate position overlaid onto a real full color sectional chart is a HUGE comforting thing when you are over unfamiliar terrain and airspace. It's more than just follow the course line home. It's seeing airspace boundaries and never worrying if you are going to blunder into someone's backyard. It's seeing the next four or five airports along your route. It's seeing your actual ETA in real time responding to the winds aloft at that very moment. IT's knowing that your fuel burn and what's in your tank are plenty to get you to your next stop. Or not, and realizing you have to divert to an alternate LONG before it gets stressful. That's the kind of stuff that keeps your head screwed on straight on this kind of flight..
     
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  4. Feb 21, 2017 #4

    BJC

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    Agree with all of the above, especially the use of HBA contacts.

    There is an "Airport courtesy car" app, but I haven't used it recently. It may still be active.

    I've found that small airports will let you keep an experimental biplane in the maintenance hangar at no charge.

    Does avare have towers? I would want a moving map that has current obstacles, and would beg, borrow, or steal one.

    If your new airplane has a fuel level sight gauge similar to mine, you may find it really easy to see the fuel level on the ground, but almost impossible to read it in flight under certain lighting conditions. Putting a piece of white paper behind the tube and or having a small LED flashlight can help. Once familiar with the airplane, flying on engine run time works for me.

    Enjoy the trip.


    BJC
     
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  5. Feb 21, 2017 #5

    TFF

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    Call all the planned airports ahead and make sure there is gas. Plenty of airport managers will hide they ran out of fuel or the pump is broken for a day or two , instead of putting out a NOTAM.
     
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  6. Feb 21, 2017 #6

    Toobuilder

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    I'd make the first leg significantly shorter than the theoretical "optimum"... Perhaps an hour at most. Will give you a chance to check the airplane over and verify fuel burn. My first leg with the Taylorcraft saw me land with the cowl streaked with oil from the breather and an airspeed indication stuck at 90 MPH on short final. Extending the breather tube with some rubber hose and cleaning debris out of the pitot tube fixed both issues, but it did hurt my schedule. Often times a cross country flight will uncover a different set of problems than those found with some local touch and go action.
     
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  7. Feb 21, 2017 #7

    Little Scrapper

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    Dana, I have 2 friends who still fly with the 196.

    It would be great if you posted live updates over the course of the trip. Some photos as well. That would make for a great and fun thread, assuming you have a smart phone. Sounds like a fun trip.
     
  8. Feb 21, 2017 #8

    Kevin N

    Kevin N

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    These kind of trips are adventures. I would use a GPS that is easy to see and you are familiar with. There is always unplanned stops and diversions in these adventures. I'm sure you will plan well and keep all your options open. Don't forget that one thing that works great on these trips. CASH, lots of it.
     
  9. Feb 21, 2017 #9

    Monty

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    Sounds like loads of fun. I'm jealous!!

    I second Toobuilder. Make the first leg a short one, and land somewhere with a maintenance operation/FBO. When I flew my EAA bipe from St. Louis back home, it failed to crank at the first refueling stop. The guy I bought it from had been making local flights only, and had it on a trickle charger. Plus he never used the nav lights. I had the nav lights on so people could see me. Fortunately there was someone at the airport to give me a jump. Kind of hard because the battery was behind my seat. I also had a friend fly up with me in a 172. I let him navigate and communicate on the way back. I didn't want to worry with that while familiarizing myself with a new open cockpit airplane. You have more time in one than I did then, so you should be fine. My battery was almost dead when we got home and I had to land NORDO. Fortunately my wingman could tell the tower what was going on. I could receive, but not transmit. I was using a borrowed motorcycle helmet and in ear headset. The slipstream coming off the canopy was trying to suck my head off the whole way home. Now I have proper head gear! It takes a while to get used to the blind to the front landing approach. Give yourself some time and permission to do as many go-arounds as you need to be comfortable. Feeling for that last foot can seem like forever, and the sinking feeling when you drop it in 4 inches feels like ten feet at first.

    I was REALLY glad I had a wingman.

    Have a great flight and post updates!
     
  10. Feb 21, 2017 #10

    Pops

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    Dana --Before you get to Buckhanon,WV, its just a small turn to your left as you pass Charleston, WV to my field at 2WV3. 3150' grass runway and I'll feed and put you up for the night if you want. No av-gas but 91 non-ethanol auto fuel a couple miles away.
     
  11. Feb 21, 2017 #11

    TFF

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    The 196 still has a market in the gulf helicopter flying. Although the oil rig helicopters have IFR gps' many use the mono color screen because it is visible in the Sun. They still update them with new data down there. I would be running both at the same time.
     
  12. Feb 21, 2017 #12

    BJC

    BJC

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    I have a friend who drove his Model T to work. I consider my 196 a clunky museum piece.


    BJC
     
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  13. Feb 21, 2017 #13

    Kevin N

    Kevin N

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    Thats funny. All you tools think the 196 is ancient. I think its high tech. I'm still using a Magellen 315. Goes forever on 2 AA batteries. I still fly finger on chart sometimes and they haven't moved any of those towns. State aviation maps rock, most are free.
     
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  14. Feb 21, 2017 #14

    Dana

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    Avare doesn't have towers or obstructions in a database, but it displays the actual sectional chart, so you can see what's there.

    The Starduster has a cork and wire fuel gauge... with a waterlogged cork.

    I have a sight gauge in my Fisher, with an orange floating "Piper fuel ball" in the tube. That makes it really easy to see the fuel level under any lighting condition.

    Good point. I do intend to fly the plane for an hour or two locally to get comfortable with it before setting out.

    Thanks, I may well take you up on it.

    Good point, I never thought of that. The smartphone screen can be hard to see in bright sunlight.

    They haven't moved the towns, but airspace has changed. As near as I'll be to DC and other "keep out" airspace, current information is a good thing. Fortunately database updates are still available, and the Garmin software looks to be very similar to the 60Csx I used to use for flying.

    Dana
     
  15. Feb 21, 2017 #15

    Little Scrapper

    Little Scrapper

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    I remember when you use to be cool.

    Lol
     
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  16. Feb 21, 2017 #16

    Little Scrapper

    Little Scrapper

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    That's a good offer, and fun!
     
  17. Feb 21, 2017 #17

    N8053H

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    You may want to post your planed route. Some may jump in their airplane and join you for a few miles along the way. Just a thought.

    Tony
     
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  18. Mar 5, 2017 #18

    Dana

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    One aspect of my trip got simpler... when my brother in law heard about it, he immediately offered to fly me down to Memphis in his RV-8, meaning I don't have to schedule an airline flight and hope for good weather; he's flexible and so and I so we can leave on short notice when there's a good weather window. He'll probably accompany me as far as my first stop before heading back to his home field near Utica, NY.

    I'm going to do a mix of pilotage and GPS navigation, following roads where feasible and using airports as waypoints in case I have any trouble. Right now I'm looking at:

    M01-TGC-HZD (first short hop) 110 miles
    HZD-M02-M91-GLW-AAS 200 miles
    AAS-IOB-DWV-I18 120 miles
    I18-2WV3 (hi Pops)-4G7-CBE 170 miles
    CBE-N6B-58N 125 miles
    58N-4N1-SNC 230 miles

    Of course none of the above is a hard plan, depending on how I feel and what the fuel consumption looks like, and I don't know when on the first day I will start, depending on how long it takes me to get comfortable with the plane and set to leave.

    I plan to use my 7" Android tablet with Avare as primary navigation... I bought a bluetooth GPS for it, something I've wanted anyway, which should alleviate any concerns with getting a signal. The 196 will be backup, and of course I'll have paper maps, too. I downloaded raster maps from the FAA website, pieced them together in Paintshop, and plotted them at the appropriate scale. I'll cut them into strips to make them easier to handle in the open cockpit if necessary, and by piecing them together with overlaps and plotting them that way I only have to handle one piece on any given leg. Today I made a custom kneeboard specifically designed to hold my tablet.

    People who routinely fly long cross countries will probably be amused by my level of concern and planning, but it's the first long (multi day) cross country I've flown in 30 years, and in an unfamiliar open cockpit plane to boot...

    Dana
     
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  19. Mar 5, 2017 #19

    Pops

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    Cross country in an open cockpit sure makes it harder. Just give me a heads up. I was based at I-18 from 1980 to 1996 if I remember correctly.

    Dan
     
  20. Mar 5, 2017 #20

    Toobuilder

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    The more planning and prep you do is inversely proportional to the need for that level of prep. Here's hoping your flight borders on boring... Which is my standard of success on long cross countries.
     

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