Phil Simon and Jerry Bassler: The Last 12 of all Lower-48 United States

Build Partners Phil Simon and Jerry Bassler of San Rafael, California first flew Sonex# 492 in February 2006, and have since flown many long cross countries in the aircraft. On July 21, 2008 the aircraft touched-down in Maryland, completing Simon’s goal of landing their AeroVee-powered Sonex in all of the lower-48 United States!

“Our Sonex is the perfect airplane,” writes Phil Simon. “Lots of fun to do basic aerobatics in (loops & rolls) and enjoyable to fly cross country in. The little AeroVee engine is bullet proof… Building the Sonex & the AeroVee were two of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”

Trip Stages:

July, 2008: The Last 12 of all Lower-48 United States

  • NE12, Flight Report Day #1, July 03, 2008Took off much later than I wanted, at 0740 instead of my goal of 0530, and regretted it all day, as I was flying in much warmer air with more turbulence.

    FSS briefed me that due to forest fires in the Sierras there were two TFRs right across my planned route of flight. One just south of Blue Canyon Airport (BLU) with the top at 10,000 and a second one just north of Blue Canyon with top at 8,000′. Lots of smoke everywhere and difficult to see much of the ground. My choices were to deviate around the TFR but I would be flying across the Sierras with out I-80 in sight for an emergency landing, so I decided against that and instead elected to climb to 10,500 to top the one TFR.

    Landed at Reno Stead and got fuel. Density altitude was 7,500′ when I departed at 1039.
    This was two hours too late and it was getting warmer and bumpier by the minute. I was fighting high CHTs all day, the OAT was really warm and if I kept up the speed to get more cooling, my climb rate fell off. It was really hot at cruise altitude (97 degrees at 7,500′).

    Flew to Battle Mountain and stopped for fuel. They have a fire fighting base there with a loading crew on duty full time all summer. They have two GIANT turboprop crop dusters modified for fire fighting. These are low wing with the wings 6′ off the ground and the pilots climbs up a ladder on the fuselage side to get in the cockpit. It must be a thrill to fly those beasts! If they get a bigger fire they bring in the larger bombers. The density altitude was 8,000′ when I departed ABM at 1324. I had a tough time getting the mixture right on the take off roll due to the field elevation and the high temperatures. I‚m sure the workers at the Fire Base got a kick out of my departure.

    Landed in Elko, NV, for the night. I remember when several airlines served Elko. But now the tower is closed and they only get a couple of smaller turbo-prop commuter airplanes for service. Outside of town there are miles of roads and building lots scratched out of the dirt, but the boom never arrived and now it is all undeveloped except for a very few isolated homes. I could see that there is still snow in the Ruby mountains just east of here in the Humbolt National Forest. It was almost 100 degrees on the ground, and when I knelt down to hook up my tie downs (low wing aircraft) the asphalt was burning hot on my bare knees.

    Got a room at the Stockman Casino, an old time casino that has seen its better days. But the room was only $44, and it has free Wi Fi for my computer.

    This holiday (July 4, 5 & 6) is the national Basque Festival in Elko, which I am just going to miss. They are having Basque Games: weight lifting, wood chopping, weight carrying competition, Basque dancing and intermountain Sheep Dog Exhibitions.

    I went to the Starr, a family style Basque restaurant, for dinner. It opened at 5 PM and when I arrived at 5:30 it was packed with a 45 minute wait! I got my name on the list and then walked around. Elko, is an interesting place. lots of Basque driving around in white shirts with red bandanas or white shirts with green printing.

    Elko, has legal brothels just a block away from the Starr. I took some photos of “Sue’s Fantasy Club” and the “Dancing & Diddling” place.

    Dinner “family style” in a Basque restaurant means; A half loaf of fresh baked Basque bread; soup in a bowl with enough for three, serve yourself. Then salad (enough for three) then the entree (giant) along with baked beans (you got it – enough for three) and vegetables (3) spaghetti (3) and french fries (3).

    When I left two hours later it was still too hot and there were two dozen people standing around waiting to get in.

    Tomorrow I’ll get to the airport at 0500 and try to be off at 0530 with first light while it is cooler.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12, Flight Report Day #2, July 04, 2008I took off at 0530 today, a big improvement as I was able to cover some ground, and then quit before it got too bumpy. It is getting light about 5 AM, so tomorrow my goal is to get airborne at 5 AM, and quit around 12 or 1 PM.

    Had a good flight from Elko to Wendover (ENV) except for about 10 seconds of really bad turbulence about 15 miles NW of Wendover. I had following tail winds of 20 to 30 MPH the whole flight, but on the ground at ENV it was blowing out of the east and I was on the west side of some mountains and must have flown into some real turbulent air. I was buckled in tightly, but my box with 10 lbs. of charts flew all around.

    Wendover is where they trained the B-29 crews in W.W.II, and they have a nice military museum there in the office. Even have photos of them training waist gunners by having them shoot at a moving target which was mounted on top of a moving jeep behind an embankment, as their guns were mounted on another moving jeep moving in the opposite direction.

    After gassing up I took off east and started climbing to reach 10,000+ to clear the Salt Lake City class B airspace which is right in the way of my following I-80. There were clouds above and I got up to 9,500′ and then got several massive down drafts of over 800 FPM down, which I couldn’t out climb and lost altitude. I stayed out of their class B and talked to SLC approach. I eventually got high enough and flew over the front range of the Rockies, past Park City, Wanship, Coalville, and Echo Reservoir where I-80 turns eastbound again. Then on to Evanston- Unita (EVW), Wyoming for fuel. They still have the same old airport dog that was there in 2006 when I stopped there.

    Most of Wyoming’s airfields have elevations of over 7,000′ and on a summer day the density altitude can be quite high. But once I landed at EVW I knew that the worst was over as is all down hill going east as each airport is a little lower that the previous one (except for Laramie at 7,272′. However, there was one last challenge – taking off from Evanston. The density altitude when I took off at Evanston (OAT 81 degrees) was 9,600′. That is a long take off roll and I’m glad we have some better (more plys) tires on the wheels.

    I flew past Fort Bridger, which isn’t much to look at, and then past the “Inter Galactic Airport” which has a 5,800′ dirt strip out in the middle of no where (but rumor is that is where Virgin Galactic will locate their space flights. However, they have a LOT of construction to complete! Then past Rock Springs, where the AWOS reported lightning to the east. I spent a few miles detouring around some Virga and finally got past the cloud and back to nice weather.

    It was now starting to heat up and I had to climb to get some cooler air to help with the CHTs. Once again there were some big down drafts but there was always a big updraft following it so I could regain my hard gained altitude. I fortunately had wonderful tail winds all day, at least 20 mph, but sometimes 30 MPH.

    I usually stop every two hours to stretch, pee and buy 8 gallons of gas. Rawlins was two hours from Evanston, but the line boy at EVW told me that Rock Springs and Rawlins are crowed and it is hard to get a room. This is due to a large influx of crews for oil and gas well digging (since the price of oil went up it is worthwhile for them to dig more wells). Rawlins isn’t much anyway so I decided to fly right past it and set my sights for Laramie which was a 2 hr 40 min. flight with the great tail winds.

    Laramie is 7,272′ and the AWOS weather was reporting a density altitude of 10,000′. I was glad that I was spending the night. Tomorrow I will take off early in the AM when it is cool and I won’t have to worry about the density altitude. The elevations start to get lower the further east I go, so hopefully I have made my last take off under those conditions. I had oil leaking out of the engine cowling when I landed and I removed the cowling to see what was going on. My Sonex partner Jerry and I had just installed a new $27 oil air separator from Aircraft Spruce and not really tested it. It is just an empty cylinder and was blowing out oil from the return line which we vented overboard. I will have to live with this until we get the Sonex back home and we can remove the oil air separator, cut a hole in the back, and stuff it full of Chore Boys scrub pads, and then close up the hole. Our old homemade oil separator worked much better than this new one.

    My canopy padlock bit the dust at Laramie, but I was able to borrow the Cowboy Aviation FBO courtesy car and go buy a new one. Since Master Locks moved all their manufacturing down to Mexico, the locks have never been the same!

    Well, the hard part of the flight (crossing the Sierras and Rockies) is over with. The rest of the flight will be at much lower altitudes with only thunderstorms, tornados and flooding to be concerned with. If ll goes well tomorrow I should land in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and maybe even make it into Missouri.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report Day #3, July 05, 2008I departed Laramie with first light and immediately had to climb to get over the high terrain just to the southeast. I had forgotten how high it is and was glad that the early morning air was cool and not 90 degrees as it had been yesterday afternoon. The air was smooth and I had 30 MPH tail winds.

    Once I was past Cheyenne the elevations really drop off and I was happy to know that the rest of my journey will be at decent altitudes. Continuing south east I soon entered Nebraska and a short time later a small detour south of I-80 brought me to the northeast corner of Colorado and the Julesburg airport /drag strip (7V8).

    My Flight Guide mentions that the runway is used for drag racing, I didn’t see any activity and landed but was greeted by a bunch of unhappy guys waiting to run their dragsters and wondering what I wanted. It turns out this is the biggest race of the year in this region. They were pleased when I turned around and immediately departed. I did a 90/270 and did a high speed low pass over the drag strip since it didn’t qualify as a “Sporting TFR” and headed the few miles back into Nebraska. After a stop at Chappel’s Billy Ray Field (CNP) to add some oil, I continued eastward. This is really easy flying as both the highway and the railroads go east west and all the airports are located along this line.

    I stopped for fuel and a meal at North Platte. This town is a large terminus for the railroads and west of town there are a large number ot tracks where I guess they assemble trains. LBF is a big airport (a W.W.II field) with no airplanes or traffic. My Sonex was the only airplane on a huge parking ramp. They have a good restaurant with fair prices so I got a great breakfast. I like the FBO here as they are the “FBO of the Plains.” As you enter the lobby there is a life size wooden indian, and on the wall a large mural of the great plains and herds of buffalo.

    The woman working there told me that North Platte is the birth place of Buffalo Bill and there is a park with all of his memorabilia and the barn where they first put on the Wild West Shows. There are some photos of him, and also a lot of photos of Indians on all the walls. I had my photo taken with Lew, the stuffed Buffalo head they have mounted.

    I guess I took too long at the drag strip and at Billy Ray field, and eating, (and there was a one hour time zone change), because when I took off it was quite warm and getting hotter. The quality of flying went down hill. When I took off I ran into a 10 MPH head wind at 1,000′ AGL, so I climbed higher and found no wind at 4,500′ and a 7 MPH tail wind at 5,500′, so I flew this leg high. Even at 5,500′ it was too hot. My Dynon EFIS sent me a message that the “temperature limits were exceeded” and turned itself into a black and white instrument instead of a color one. I was having trouble leaning the engine and it would miss every so often. I figured that it was just too hot for a little plane and so cut the flight short.

    I know from experience that in the summer I need to start very early and stop around 12 or 1. I finally threw in the towel at Kearny (EAR) about two hours shy of where I had hoped to get in Iowa.

    The Kearney airport was a military field and has acres of concrete, a long runway, and a beat up FBO which had seen better times. A tornado went through the town and the airport a few weeks ago and took the roof off one of the old hangars.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report Day #4, July 06, 2008Got to the Kearny (EAR) airport before 5 and was ready to go before it got light so I taxied out to the end of the runway, shut down and waited for a few minutes. When it was light enough I was off for Shenandoah, Iowa.

    This was the best flight I have had in a long time. It was very smooth and I could fly low, as the elevation here is low. I got briefed that the winds were better a little higher so I actually cruised at 3,500′ and the tail wind was almost 30 mph at that altitude. I actually knocked about 30 minutes off my estimated time enroute because of the winds.

    I hooked up the TruTrak heading hold (I’ve learned that you MUST hold the aircraft’s heading steady for several seconds before engaging it, or else it will engage with a very slow turn). With this on it is much easier to hold altitude as the plane is a lot steadier than with me hand flying it. All it takes is very slight finger pressure on the stick (a few ounces) to keep altitude. Now I could take photos and fold up charts very easily.

    I crossed the Missouri River and entered Iowa. Shenandoah (SDA – same as Baghdad Int’l!) is in the south west corner of the state and there is still a lot of standing water and mud from the previous flooding. Gas was only $4.50/gal, the cheapest I’ve found so far. I filled up, took some photos and got back in the Sonex to head for Kansas. I knew that I would be fighting headwinds on this leg.

    I took off and suddenly WHAM (!) lots of strong vibration! My immediate thought was that my prop had got nicked. But seconds later my EIS red warning light came on. One CHT (the right rear cylinder) was 535 degrees! Now I thought I was going to lose a valve so I did an immediate 90/270 and landed on the same runway in the opposite direction. I never got above a couple of hundred feet and the total flight time was under two minutes.

    I did a thorough inspection couldn’t find anything. I ran the engine up to take off power (my parking brakes hold that just fine thanks to John Monnett’s brake “doubler” design which we used). Every thing was fine (I looked at all the EGTs, CHTs, etc.) so I took off again. Same thing, strong vibration and the right rear cylinder CHT going off the scale. I did a quicker and lower 90/270 and landed downwind in about 1:30 total flight time. I was the only plane operating at the field so I could land the opposite way.

    Now I thought the worst, I was sure a valve was going and that I’d have to pull the head and get it rebuilt. I called Jerry, my airplane partner and a whizz with engines, and we discussed things. While I pulled the engine cowling Jerry put out an e-mail to local Sonex builders and Ed Palmer phoned me w/i minutes (thanks Ed) and David Koelzer contacted Jerry and suggested that I change the AeroCarb mixture control a small amount (thank you David).

    All it took was 1/4 turn richer on the mixture adjustment. The engine ran fine so I buttoned up the cowling, and did a test flight. No more vibration nor high CHTs.

    What a simple solution to what I thought was a major problem. BTW, we had just leaned the AeroCarb mixture control before I left the Bay area.

    By now the day was pretty much shot, as weather was moving in (a front) so I got the airport courtesy car (I love the Iowa Dept. of Aviation – they put old run out Iowa State trooper cars at all the airports for courtesy cars) and left the plane in their transient hanger for the night and the expected weather.

    Hope tomorrow has less excitement, I’m getting too old for these one minute 30 second flights.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report Day #5, July 07, 2008Today was a really BIG day. I flew east south east from Iowa to Missouri, crossed the Mississippi River and eastward across Illinois, Indiana, crossed the Ohio river and flew into Kentucky. Then turned north, crossed the Ohio River again and flew into Ohio.

    I flew almost 6 1/2 hours and made 8 landings. By the time I got to my motel in New Carlisle (an eastern suburb of Dayton) I was shot and didn’t get this written. I’m taking two days off from flying to visit with Don Gum who has built a beautiful Waiex (A Sonex like my plane but with a Bonanza type “Y” tail.) and to sight see through the three huge hangers which contain the USAF Museum.

    Weather permitting I will leave Thursday to fly north into Michigan. I hope to land at Ann Arbor (west of Detroit) to see the Henry Ford Museum.

    The flight from Iowa to the Mississippi River was absolutely wonderful! It was the kind of flight that we wish we had every day. The air was cool, perfectly smooth and with a tail wind. I flew at 3,500′, a little higher than normal (2,500′ AGL) to get a free boost from a 20 to 30 MPH tail wind. I hooked up the TruTrak wing leveler and enjoyed myself. It was the first time that I wished I had installed a MP3 music system. I was glad that we had changed out the seat bottom foam for two ply Temper Foam. Also, it was great to be able to fly in a straight line and not to have to worry about keeping I-80 in sight as I chose to do over all the rough terrain in the west. Here I could make an emergency landing anywhere as it is all beautiful, green, level farmland.

    All in all this was one of the best legs flying I have had and a big improvement over my adventures of yestereday. It is amazing what just 1/ 4 turn of the mixture adjustment will do! Now if I can just get the new oil air separator to stop venting oil overboard.

    I noticed that as I went east in Missouri that the amount of trees and wooded areas increased. My first landing was at Hannibal, MO, on the western side of the Mississippi River and the home of Mark Twain. The FBO had just installed a beautiful, brand new self serve fueling system. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t read anyone’s credit card. He was not happy as he was losing a lot of business and it was going to be 10 days before they could get to him to repair it!

    Not getting fuel was not a problem as my estimated two hour flight had only taken 1:46 due to the tailwinds and I had plenty of fuel to continue. I took off and within a mile or so was crossing the Mississippi River and entering illinois. There were areas with mud still covering the ground where there had been flooding.

    I planned on flying another hour before stopping again for fuel, but as I was flying past Pittsfield-Pennstone Airport (PPQ), in western ILL, I tuned in their ASOS to get the weather and at the end of the official weather report the local airport manager had added an advertisement that their Av Gas was only $4.43 a gallon, (the cheapest gas yet!). So I made a quick landing and took advantage of the bargain. Its possible that this is done at other airports, but it was the first time I had ever heard the fuel price broadcast along with the weather. I thought that it was very clever thing to do. They got my business even though I hadn’t planned on stopping there. BTW, the airport is very small without even a parallel taxiway or turn around at the runway end. It is surrounded on all four sides by corn fields which were getting pretty tall already.

    Flying across Illinois the clouds started filling in and by the time I crossed the Wabash River and entered Indiana I was making slight detours to avoid rain showers. I went around a big cell and landed at Bradford Grissom Field named after Gus Grissom the astronaut. The line boy was taking flying lessons and wanted to fly for a career so we talked for a while about the pros and cons of various flying jobs and I then gave him my opinion of airline management. That cell I had passed earlier was just arriving so I quickly departed just as the first drops of rain started.

    After crossing the Ohio River (which had lots of barge traffic) I entered Kentucky. No more farm land as it is all hills in this part of Kentucky. I landed at the Gene Snyder airport at Falmouth, KY, which is built on top of a hill and goes from one side of the hill to the other with big drop offs at either end of the runway. One airport that you do not want to land short at or have an over run!

    I then flew to Clermont field in Batavia, Ohio, located on the east side of Cincinnati. This is the home of Sporty’s, and I was amazed at the size of the operation. They operate the FBO, have an avionics shop, a very large flight school (there were students and instructors flying around the pattern in both airplanes and helicopters). The line boy directed me to the retail store which is at the end of a huge warehouse with people filling & shipping orders. I brought in my Garmin 296 GPS and asked to speak with their Garmin expert. He kindly created a custom way point for me using Lat. and Long (which I couldn’t get to work). The sales woman in the retail store changed one of my Sectional charts (Green Bay) at no charge when I tried to purchase a current one. All in all my experience at Sporty’s was excellent.

    I needed that GPS way point entry for my next leg which was going to be to the Andy Barnhart Memorial Airport (3OH0), in New Carlisle, which is a private field and not in the Jeppesen database. I had planned on asking Dayton Approach for a steer to this airport but was going to be unable to do so as my expensive Bose headsets bit the dust going into Snyder Field in KY. I just had them repaired under warranty in March and here they are failing a second time in four months. Arghh! They are going to send a new cord package to my daughter’s house in Conn and I’ll get the new parts next week when I visit her and her husband. They have two attack Scotties whose legs are so short that they can’t walk in deep snow! (I guess they bottom out on their stomachs and their legs don’t reach the ground.)

    The last leg for the day was challenging as I had to thread through a very narrow corridor between the Wright Patterson class C airspace and the Springfield Class C airspace. About one or two miles past that I had to make a 90 degree turn, and fly towards the Dayton class B airspace. This was directly into the sun and I was looking for a 2,000′ strip I had never been to, just under Dayton’s airspace and just a couple of miles from the previous narrow corridor. Things happened fast, but thanks to the miracle of GPS (and the Sporty’s GPS whizz), and Google Earth (where I looked at the field and the surrounding area) it was possible to do a good job. How did we get by before GPS?

    Don Gum met me at the field, and we looked at each other’s planes. He made arrangements for me to put my Sonex in an unused hangar which I really appreciated. Barnhart Memorial airport is a private non-profit flying club and they are not allowed to sell fuel to the public. However, members may get some fuel for guests and Don did so. We went out to dinner and he dropped me off at a local motel quite near the National Museum of the USAF at Wright Field. Thank you for everything Don!

    Now for a couple of well earned days off.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report Day #6, July 10, 2008Wednesday July 9th, I spent all day at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Field. This is certainly one of the premier aviation museums anywhere. It is located on the old Wright Field, a W.W.II triangular field (now part of Wright Patterson AFB). It is housed in three giant hangers and there are several more hangars that you must access by bus. When my feet gave out I watched two great IMAX movies. One about Fighter Pilots and the other on Helicopters. It was a great day.

    Thursday, July 10th, I flew from Barnhart Memorial to Ann Arbor Airport (ARB) in Michigan.

    When I arrived at Barnhart Field they were firing up an old 1930’s (Pitcairn?) Gyro Copter and I watched it fly around for a while. It’s rotors are fabric covered and they rotate pretty slowly. The plane (?) has very small wings and a big radial engine but flies pretty slowly.

    Then I took off for another another perfect flight. Blue skies, smooth air, and a great operating fun airplane. I fly from airport to airport and the GPS is so accurate that usually I pass over the center of the airport. So of course I have to throw in several steep turns in both directions in order to see the field I’m passing over.

    I flew at 1,000′ AGL and enjoyed all the green farmland. In one area of northern Ohio all the fields had flooded areas that looked like hundreds of small ponds. In this area southern Michigan looked just like northern Ohio.

    The woman controller in the Ann Arbor tower told me two times how much she liked my plane so I told her a little about the Sonex. The flight took 1.5 hours and after landing I filled up with 6.0 gallons, right on my average burn out of 4.0 GPH. Ann Arbor is a very nice airport with a convenient car rental agency right next to the FBO.

    I hopped into the rental car and drove to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., about 27 miles away. This is a big place with four separate attractions:
    a.) the Henry Ford Museum (very interesting displays and collections of early home life, agricultural machines, aviation from the Wright flier, to Skikorski’s first helicopter, etc.
    b.) Greenfield Village (this is 90 acres of old time village life, people wearing old time clothing, old cars driving around, Edison’s lab, George Washington Carver’s cabin, etc.)
    c.) A tour of the Rouge factory, (the first assembly plant that Ford built and still in use).
    d.) An IMAX theater.

    Tomorrow is another big day and I plan on back tracking to Ohio, going around Toledo, and then fly along the shore of Lake Erie (under Cleveland’s class B airspace but around Burke Lakefront’s and Cuyahoga’s class D airspaces), then to PA, then into NY.

    I talked to the Buffalo Tower and got instructions on the proper way to fly the Niagara Falls VFR sightseeing route without colliding with one of the many sightseeing helicopters. Then I plan on flying southeast towards the Finger Lakes.

    I may stop at Penn Yan (PEQ) at the north end of Keuka Lake and drive to Hammondsport and see the Glen Curtis Museum or I may continue and stop at Corning-Painted Post (7N1). From there I could drive back 25 miles to Hammondsport and also see the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning.

    I’ve been fortunate with the weather so far. Hope my luck continues.

    BTW, I just learned the following about the auto gyro I saw fly:

    “Jack and Kate Tiffany and the crew of Leading Edge Restorations have completed the restoration of the only flying Pitcairn PA-18 autogiro in existence, originally built in 1932. Experienced antique aircraft restorer and pilot Andrew King was asked to perform the first test flights. After a taxi mishap in mid-June resulted in damage to the rotor blades and top of the vertical fin and rudder, repairs were done and first flights were made on July 10 at Andy Barnhart Memorial Airport near Dayton, Ohio.

    “In a phone interview, Jack Tiffany was ecstatic. “It flies beautifully – slowly, but beautifully,” he effused. Tiffany said that plans were now back on track to bring the exceedingly rare rotorcraft to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008. Look for it in front of the Vintage Aircraft Association’s Red Barn, just south of AeroShell Square.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12, Flight Report Day #7, July 11, 2008I left Ann Arbor and flew south reentering Ohio. I squeezed between the Detroit Class B and the Toledo Class C airspaces, then crossed the Maumee River which flows through the eastern portion of Toledo on its way to Lake Erie. I then flew along the south shore of Lake Erie.

    Surprisingly there are two restricted areas on the lake between Port Clinton and Detroit and they just touch the shoreline, so I carefully avoided them. I am quite curious what they are for. Sandusky Bay sure looks big when you fly across it in a small airplane.

    One thing I immediately noticed is the large number of towers around Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland. They show up yellow on my GPS as I’m flying low. Towers and more towers. I just updated the Garmin obstacle data base before I left the Bay area and it is amazing – they have every tower in the US. I appreciate that when flying low.

    After flying under Cleveland’s class B airspace and getting to the countryside again I noted more wooded areas and fewer airports. I flew to Pennsylvania and landed at the Port Meadville (GKJ) airport. The line boy told me that Meadville is known as “The Tool City” as it is the home of Channel Locks and a bunch of tool and die companies (and a dog food manufacturer).

    I had a 20 MPH tail wind the entire flight even though I was flying low, and I arrived at 17 minutes under my estimated time enroute. After fueling I took off and turned NNE back to the shore (eastern) of Lake Erie and in about 40 miles was in New York state. There is a little area just past where the Buffalo Niagara Int’l (BUF) airport’s Class B airspace ends and the Niagara Falls Int’l (IAG) airport’s Class C airspace starts. Here I had to climb from -2,200′ (under BUF’s B ) to +3,100′ (over IAG’s C). It is getting WAY TOO COMPLICATED to fly around anymore!

    The VFR Niagara Falls Sightseeing pattern is a CW race track circuit at 3,500′. Of course lower clouds were just forming, but I was able to avoid the clouds and other planes, take pictures, maintain 3,500′, and avoid going into Canada’s airspace. Next time I’ll just pay the money and take one of the sightseeing helicopters. Actually, it was nice to get to see the falls fairly well. 3,500′ is still up there, but is a lot closer than 35,000′. It is interesting that the falls are on the north side, but the river is flowing from the south to the north dumping the water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.

    I had been monitoring approach control all the time and heard them warn several flights of rain on my proposed route of flight to Genesee to the east. I quickly landed at Akron (9G3) where the rain had just passed. in fact there was standing water all over the ramp and every thing was still wet.

    As there were rain showers all around I elected to stay the night here. It turns out that the Akron airport is public but is owned by the Christian Airman’s Association. The town of Akron has a population of only 3,000 and a lot of old quaint houses. In the evening they had a band concert in the park. They get 96 inches of snow a year as they are in the Lake Erie moisture shadow. It looks like a pleasant place to live during the Spring, Summer and Fall.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report Day #8, July 14, 2008Vermont is very green!

    I’m in Bennington, VT, Morse State Airport (KDDH). Not too far east of Albany, NY.

    This is the fourth of the 12 states I was missing, only 8 more and I’ll have been to all of the lower 48 in the Sonex.

    Today was a great day with good tail winds all day long. No rain and lots of blue sky and scattered clouds.

    Everything along my route today was woods, and more woods. The farms are areas where the woods have been cleared. There are not too many good places to land in an emergency so I stayed fairly near the highway most of the time. Not too far from Dansville Muni (DSV) I crossed a river (I think the Genesee, but I don’t have my chart with me now) which must have been very large in the past as it has cut quite a deep and wide canyon.

    Staying near the highway was a problem as both Elmira (ELM) and Greater Binghamton (BGM) airports have TRSAs around them. I kept under Elmira’s but decided that I didn’t like doing that as there wasn’t much room between the towers on many of the hills and the bottom of the TRSA, so I started climbing to go over Binghamton’s then thought that I really didn’t want to go that high (6,000′), so I weakened and talked to approach control and he let me through at 4,100′, the top of the airport’s class D airspace. Does anyone else get the same impression that is is getting too complicated to fly around anymore? Maybe it is just an east coast thing as I can fly for days out west without all this monkey business.

    The line boy told me that they get quite a few business jets as Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of fame) is nearby. Not much of an airport, nor FBO.

    The country side is really beautiful here, but I wouldn’t like the winters. Although this area is far enough away that they don’t get the “Lake Erie Effect” (lots of snow).

    The Hudson River just east of Albany looked pretty big even this far north. It was then only a few more miles to Vermont. I selected this airport as it is the closest airport in VT to the Hudson River. Tomorrow I plan on flying down the Hudson River Valley.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 9, July 15, 2008Greetings from Maine. Today I started in Vermont, flew south along the Hudson River Valley to Kingston, NY, rented a car and visited the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, then flew to Mass. landing in Fitchburg, then to New Hampshire landing at Sky Haven, then into Maine landing at Littlebrook. Only 5 more states to go, my total as of today is 43 states in the Sonex.

    I took off at 0700 from Vermont and headed back to New York and flew down the Hudson River. There were a few areas of morning fog hanging over the river, but for the most part it was another great day for flying. I never found any of the big mansions that are along the river, but did come across a huge horse breeding facility with barns and a practice race track.

    The Hudson must be slow moving as there were several areas of green algae(?). I was surprised to see several light houses on the river.

    In less than a hour, I landed at Kingston-Ulster Airport. (20N) which is right on the west shore of the Hudson river and along side the ramp top the big bridge that crosses the river here. The FBO didn’t open until 0900 so I called various cab companies and Enterprise and it was cheaper to rent a car for the day than to use a cab to get back and forth to the Rhinebeck Aerodrome across the river. I did add 6.1 gallons of fuel from their self service fueling dispenser and when I was finished it spit out credit card receipt with a charge in the amount of $545 for 100 gallons of Av Gas! I’m still trying toget that straightened out.

    The Rhinebeck Aerodrome is located only 7 miles away from the Kingston airport so I was there at 10:00 when they opened. I had allotted the full day to spend there, but was ready to leave in 30 minutes. I took photos of all the old planes I was interested in, and walked through the museum, the three storage hangars and across the road to their field where the flying planes are kept. But 30 minutes was all I needed.

    So back across the bridge, returned the car and was back to the airport and ready to take off by 12.

    It is a very short distance into Mass. The terrain was rolling hills with solid trees. Fitchburg (FIT) is a busy airport and when I landed there were three planes in the pattern. There was a cross wind and after I landed and was parked I watched a Stearmean land, and almost ground loop. His wing tip was with in a foot of hitting the runway.

    I then turned NE and flew into New Hampshire. I could see the Atlantic Ocean off to my right. I landed at Sky Haven (DAW). After taking some photos I was off for Maine.

    One of our Waiex builders, Kirk Snader, invited me to visit him. So I landed at Littlebrook Airport (3B4), Maine, which is a private airport. Kirk let me pull the Sonex into his hangar. He is on the final stages of building his Waiex, so we spent lots of time comparing notes and suggestions.

    Later in the afternoon Kirk took me sight seeing. Thank you for your hospitality Kirk and Amanda.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 10, Thursday, July 17thI had a very nice two day visit in York, Maine, with Kirk (Waiex builder) and Amanda Snader. I certainly appreciate their hospitality. Kirk and I traded building information, suggestions, hints and told each other lies. It was quite warm my entire visit (in the low 90s) and Kirk told me that indeed it can get warm in Maine during their 6 week long summer. Thank you Kirk and Amanda.

    I left Littlebrook, Maine, in the morning and flew over the Portsmouth Airport (old Pease AFB) in New Hampshire and then into Massachusetts. Flew to the west of the Boston class B airspace, over Minute Man Airport and straight south into Rhode Island, where I landed at Westerly Airport (WST). Westerly is located in the very southwest corner of Rhode Island very near where New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island all come together.

    The ground crew at Dooney Aviation (one of the FBOs there) was very friendly and let me pull the Sonex into a cool hangar for a while to get out of the heat. They had two dogs there which were very friendly (any FBO that has “house dogs” to greet visitors gets my vote). One was a Whippet and the other a young Boxer. One of the staff took them outside (business was slow and they have a lot of grass area around) and was hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket quite a long distance and the Whippet was off leaving the poor boxer in the dust. I’ll bet he never gets the ball with competition like that.

    After fueling I was off on the last leg for today to Connecticut – past New London and New Haven to Bridgeport Airport (BDR) the old Sikorsky Field. They have a great W.W.II Corsair on a pedestal out in front.

    Flew in five states today and had a total of 2 hours 8 minutes flight time from Maine to Connecticut. This makes 45 states in the Sonex and only three more to go: New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. If all goes well I’ll complete all 48 states on Monday.

    I am staying with my daughter and her husband for the next three days in Stamford, CT. My wife Jan is flying from San Francisco to JFK airport tomorrow to join us, so we will have a nice three day family reunion.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 11, Monday, July 21stToday I landed in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, so I have landed the Sonex in ALL the lower 48 states. Hurrah! BTW, this is not somethig that was easy to do; I’ve really had to work at it. Right now I am in Gettysburg, PA.

    It rained heavily last night with thunder and lightning. But I was fortunate as it was all east of me this morning and going away from my route of flight. I departed Sikorsky Memorial Field (BDR) in Conn. fairly early and headed north west to miss the White Plains (HPN) airspace. When I hit the Hudson River I turned south towards New York City. There were scattered clouds at 1,800′ but the Hudson River VFR corridor is flown at 1,000′ so they did not bother me.

    Once I passed the George Washington Bridge things happened pretty fast. It was staggering to see hundreds of high rise buildings off to my left in Manhattan. On my Garmin GPS obstacle page they showed up as hundreds of yellow obstacles. I identified the Empire State Building but missed the Enterprise which is one of the reporting points.

    The briefing sheet I read (about the proper way to fly the Hudson River VFR corridor) said I was to fly southbound along the west shore at 1,000′ and the helicopters would be at 500′. However, the reality was that the pilot to pilot traffic frequency was clogged up by all the helicopters calling for fuel and discussing luggage. Additionally, I had two of them pull up near me at 1,000′ and then ask each other if the “plane” was talking to anybody. I told them my thoughts on frequency etiquette.

    After passing the Statue of Liberty and crossing the Veranzano Bridge I headed to the southwest and the Princeton New Jersey Airport (39N). Landed, fueled and took some photos then took off for Delaware. I never saw Princeton University (I was dodging clouds) which is too bad as that is the reason I selected that airport.

    I flew down the east and south sides of Philadelphia, passing Trenton, Levittown, and Camden on the right side and keeping out of the McGuire AFB area on the left. Under the southern portion of the Philadelphia Class B airspace I crossed the Delaware River (south of Wilmington) and landed at Summit, Delaware (EVY). This was a busy airport with several planes in the traffic pattern and it looks like a big Repair Station contracting work on large military helicopters.

    Just a mile or so north of Summit is the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal which had some traffic on it. It was a short flight across the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay (actually the Elk River) to the Cecil County, Maryland, Airport just outside of Elkton, MD. This is a very friendly airport (the FBO knew I was flying a Sonex) it turns out that there are two Sonex on the field but I was unable to find out who owned them. This was my 48th state so there was a little celebration.

    BTW all of this flying was done with three Terminal Area Charts and no Sectionals: the New York, Philadelphia and the Washington DC/Baltimore TACs.

    My plan had been to file a Washington DC ADIZ flight plan and fly into Freeway Airport (W00) just under the east edge of the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone, but after speaking with some pilots at Cecil County I abandoned that plan. The reason being that I am not sure my Mode C is reporting my altitude (a requirement for entry) as it was reported to me as being intermittent. I had it checked just before leaving on this trip, but I also broke the antenna off crawling around under the airplane and possibly the replacement antenna isn’t doing the job as well as the old one.

    I left Elkton and flew directly to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, (W05) which is unattended. This flight took less than one hour and I made sure to give the restricted/prohibited area P-40 at Camp David a big detour. Once again I had a very nice flight with good weather and only a couple of MPH headwinds.

    I got a ride into downtown Gettysburg and got a room in time to catch an afternoon Guided bus tour of the Gettysburg National Military Park. This was certainly a sobering experience, but I am glad to finally understand this important part of our history.

    Tomorrow I start heading for Oshkosh. During Air Venture my Sonex will be on display in the EAA Affordable Flight Center in the former NASA Pavilion adjacent to AirVenture’s Honda Forums Plaza. Please stop by and say hello. I will be by the plane for a couple of hours each morning and afternoon to answer questions about Sonex.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 12, Tuesday, July 22ndGot a ride from downtown Gettysburg to the airport from a retired policeman from Maine, Al May, who volunteers at the airport. For an airport that has no services I was lucky to get a ride both into town yesterday, and out of town today. I wiped down the airplane (it rained during the night) and took off for Hagerstown, MD, (HGR) for fuel. I had to take a longer circular route to avoid the P-40 prohibited area. I crossed the Appalachian Trail between Gettysburg and Hagerstown.

    Hagerstown is a fairly large airport with hardly any traffic. Their main runway is 7,000′ long and there are quite a few defense, aerospace and aviation facilities on the field. There is a large Northrop-Grumman facility that does work on military P-3 Oriens.

    After fueling I was ready to head west but it turned out that a line of thunderstorms was west of, and headed towards, the airport. I taxied from the “low rent” area, the self service gas pump, to Rider Jet Services which is a high class FBO for corporate jets and asked if I could secure the Sonex for the approaching storm. The line boy parked me and even put down a red carpet from my plane towards the FBO building! He arranged it very carefully so the “Welcome to Rider Jet Services” faced the plane. When I turned it around so I could get a photo of the carpet and my Sonex he quickly returned it so the writing faced the plane!

    Of course, the corporate jets all got pulled into a hangar, but I secured my Sonex, installed the gust locks and retired into the lounge. Wow, what a place to wait out the storm. After the red carpet things only got better – they had a sleeping room, a TV lounge, a regular lounge, big bowls of Tootsie Rolls and cookies, free soft drinks and snacks, free Wi Fi, etc. The bathroom even had real cloth towels and mouth wash. Shortly a G-5 landed after flying in from Germany and the flight attendant brought in the extra food for the line crew. Ahh, to be a rich person flying around in a corporate jet!

    I had to wait a little under two hours for everything to blow by and was then off headed towards Oshkosh.

    There are a bunch of low mountain ranges that I had to fly over. I think out west they would be correctly called hills, but out here the early settlers called them mountains. I crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, then the Appalachian Mountains, then the Shenandoah Mountains, and finally the Allegheny Mountains. I think the highest point is Backbone Mountain at 3,360′.

    My route was from Gettysburg to Hagerstown, MD, (HGR) to Potomac Air Park (W35), to Greater Cumberland Regional, MD, (CBE), to Morgantown Hart Field (MGW),WV. This was the last of the larger hills. They are now behind me and it should be an easy run to Wisconsin. I continued on to Greene County (WAY), then to Washington County (AFJ), I was now under the southern edge of the Pittsburg Class B airspace. Then west to Wheeling, WV, Ohio County (HLG).

    I crossed the Ohio River and flew north west into Ohio where I landed at Harrison County (8G6) Airport in Ohio. This is a very large coal mining area. There were a couple of kids at the airport who wanted to see the plane so I put them in the Sonex and took photos which I was able to E-mail them tonight. The FBO there has an airdraft painting business and had planes in three hangars getting painted.

    After fueling I continued on to Marion (MNN), Ohio for the night. A very nice FBO (Baron Enterprises, Jim Sayers) loaned me their airport courtesy car to go and get a room. They have an airport dog and two airport cats so they get my vote! Jim allowed me to pull the Sonex into their hangar but suggested that I close up the canopyover night so that I would not depart with an airport cat in the aft fuselage. Thank you for the great service Jim.

    Only 400 miles and a Stationary Frontal system between me and Oshkosh.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 13, Wednesday, July 23, 2008I had planned on an early take off so I could get around Chicago before the day heated up. However, when I arrived at the airport I found 300′ ceilings. I packed up and moved the plane out of the hangar and was all set to go as soon as the ceilings burned off.

    The morning’s activities consisted of playing with Ham Bone the FBO’s Black lab. The staff hides cookies around hangar while he waits out of sight. They release him and within a few minutes he has found all the treats. This is a daily ritual I guess.

    Within a couple of hours some holes started to appear & I taxied out and by the time my oil was 100 degrees I was able to take off. It now was only a scattered layer at about 500′ and I easily topped that. As I flew west the scattered layer burned off and I had clear skies all the way to Wisconsin.

    I flew across the farm lands of Ohio into Indiana, went just north of Fort Wayne, and continued towards Chicago. I was headed for Lansing, Illinois, (IGQ) located right in the very corner of Illinois, just southwest of Gary, Indiana. I stopped for a quick fueling.

    Then I was off for the shore of Lake Michigan, staying between Gary and Midway’s air spaces. I have been looking forward to this flight along the shore of Lake Michigan (just as I was looking forward to the Hudson River VFR Corridor along NYC) and it was absolutely wonderful. I took many photos of the shore and downtown Chicago. I flew past Northwestern University and then turned inland staying out of Chicago Executive’s (old Pawaukee airport) airspace.

    I then flew straight to Baraboo Wisconsin Dells Airport (DLL) in Wisconsin, keeping out of Madison’s airspace. This is a very nice quiet airport located midway between the towns of Wisconsin Dells and Baraboo (home of the Circus World Museum). Only 1/4 mile away from the airport is the Ho Chunk Indian Casino and they run a free shuttle to pick up pilots at the airport. (They also run a free shuttle to take drunks home so they won’t drive.)

    Wednesday is the Seafood Buffet at the Casino and lots of folks were packing away King Crab legs.

    Tomorrow will be my last day flying the Sonex on this trip. There are only 70 miles to go to Oshkosh. I’ll spend the next couple of days cleaning and polishing the Sonex to get it ready to be on display in the EAA Affordable Flight Center.

    My airplane partner, Jerry Bassler, will fly the Sonex back to California.

    I haven’t done the final numbers yet but I am pretty sure that in 14 days of flying, I have flown about 4,800 miles on this trip. Based on the previous 9,000 miles of cross country I have flown in the Sonex, I am estimating that the final numbers will show an average ground speed of 100 MPH (at the lower RPMs I run to be fuel efficient) and the burn will be 4 GPH. BTW, this is 25 MPG (entire trip flown at lower altitudes when possible), better than most automobiles. I’ll be interested in what the average cost for fuel will be.

  • Back to Top

  • NE12 Flight Report day # 14, Thursday, July 24, 2008I got an early start and arrived at Oshkosh 38 minutes after I took off. The air was cool and very smooth. It was a perfect flight. I had out my OSH Arrival Procedures Booklet, even though they don’t start until tomorrow. I was able to fly the whole arrival correctly without any problems.

    There was no other traffic operating at OSH when I arrived. It will be very different in a day or so. The young woman air traffic controller told me that they were operating out of the new control tower.

    I asked to land on 18/36 as I wanted to taxi to the Sonex factory on the east side. When I pulled up to the Sonex facilities John Monnett was the only person there as it was still early. He congratulated me on completing the flights to all 48 states and said they were checking with EAA as they think I am the first pilot operating as a Sport Pilot and flying a Sport plane to do this. Also I am the first to do it in Sonex. You would think this was something important. It is not, but it sure was an adventure!

    I was able to wash the plane outside, and then pull it into one of their hangars to start cleaning and polishing it to get ready to be on display all week.

    In the evening Kerry gave me a ride into downtown to the Univ of Wisconsin where I have rented an non-airconditioned room for the next week. Having been here before I brought along a small electric fan which I keep blowing on me when I’m in the room.

    Tomorrow I’ll be polishing the Sonex all day long.

    BTW, I should have mentioned yesterday that my estimated 25 GPH fuel burn is based on my Sonex at FULL MAX WEIGHT and also flying LOW at 1,000′ AGL. It would be a lot better with an empty airplane and at altitude and leaned out.

Back to Top