East Coast Trip Report 2003

by Paul A. Rosales

Flying to every state in America has always been a life-long dream of mine turned into a goal when I received my Private Pilot license in 1979. For the last two years, Victoria and I had been telling people that we’ve flown to 42 states, including Alaska. We have a large map at home with pins marking every airport we’ve landed but it lacked pins in 8 states: Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and Hawaii. Here’s the prop-card we've displayed at fly-ins for the last two years;

I knew that unless I was related to ‘Earthrounders’ Dick Rutan or Jon Johanson, Hawaii was not going to happen...I’d be happy with landings in 49 United States of America :-) We’ve flown over Connecticut and New Jersey but didn’t have time to land so we don’t count those two. As Victoria puts it, you either have to take something (buy gas) or leave something (use the restroom :-) for the State to ‘count’ and get a pin in the map. With 3 days in the vacation bank, I planned a Thanksgiving week trip that would take us from California to Maine and back in 10 days (Nov 21-30). Since the purpose of the trip was to land in our last 7 states then ‘high-tail’ it back home, we were unable to build in any visiting time (stay a day or two at each stop) for friends. We did plan to overnight with a couple of friends along the way and have Thanksgiving dinner with my Stepdad near Tulsa. Now I know that many of you are thinking that 10 days might not be enough time but I can assure you that with GOOD WEATHER and flying an RV, 10 days is more than enough time to fly from the west coast to the east coast and back :-) Worst case planning for our trip was 3 days to fly from California to Washington DC, 3 days to fly to the 7 New England states and 4 days to fly home. I've been using EAA's free-to-members Aeroplanner for all flight planning but am also using AOPA's Jeppesen-powered flight planner on occassion. I’ve learned many things over 1000 hours of VFR cross-country flying in our RV; First thing is that no matter what you plan, you will fly to where the weather is good, regardless of the ‘plan’. Second, I’m pretty comfortable using (flying with) weather forecasts for a 3-day period but anything after that is subject to change. Third, we find that putting 6-7 hours on the hobbs is (comfortably) enough flying for one day. Our preflight weather showed that leaving early Friday morning would have us overnighting in Grove (near Tulsa) and landing Tangier Island (near Washington DC) by Saturday night. The weather outlook for Sunday was forecast to be clear for us to fly to our 7 remaining states. The straight line distance from Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay to Sanford, Maine is ~400nm, not far at all in an RV so 7 states was doable in a day if we chose to! We departed Rosamond (L00) Skypark (50nm north of Los Angeles) at 7am on Friday morning and contacted Joshua Approach then Los Angeles Center (ZLA) for flight following. In lieu of filing flight plans, I ALWAYS use flight following when flying cross-country. Once we reached our cruise altitude of 9500ft, our true airspeed showed ~155 KTAS with a groundspeed of 210 KTS, WOW!!!!. We landed for fuel at St. Johns (SJN), AZ after 2.2hrs of smooth-air flying, normally a 3hr leg.

We continued on flying south of Albuquerque eastbound...

towards Dalhart (DHT), TX at no less than 205 KTS landing 2.1 hours later. We had lunch at our favorite on-field diner (6 booths, 4 stools) and relaxed inside the FBO on the couch next to the Bonanza and caught up with the day’s headline news;

We then departed on our last leg for the day landing Grove (GMJ) after 2hrs. I was enjoying the 200+ KTS airspeeds that I just had to take a picture. Distance, Bearing and Track is displayed on the left with ETA, ETE and Groundspeed (in Knots) on the right;

When making calls for landing at Grove, a gentleman got on the radio asking if that was a ‘Vans RV’ he’d heard...Yes indeed! He said that he owned an RV and asked if he could call me after landing and talk ‘RVs’, no problem! Les Featherston (who I did not know) called to let us know that he owned an RV and enjoyed meeting other RV’ers. He asked if we could stop in to his personal grass strip located near Mount Vernon, MO. I told him that I was trying to make it to the East Coast in 2 days from California and wouldn’t have time. I did get his phone number (and LAT/LON of his runway) and told him that we could probably stop in on the way back. After landing Grove, we called our friends Gary and Connie Trippensee, former neighbors at the Rosamond Skypark, now retired. We hangared the plane for the night then went into town for dinner, our treat of course.

Stats for the first day: 6.3 hours on the hobbs from California to the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, yyessiirree! The trip to Grove normally takes about 8 hobbs hours (10 hours by your wristwatch but we saved 2 hours)...I could get used to 200+ KTS in no time! We spent the night at Gary and Connie’s, then departed Grove Saturday morning for Tangier Island with a planned fuel stop in Kentucky. We started out over a scattered layer that eventually went away.

By the time we’d found a working fuel pump at Lebanon-Springfield (6I2), KY 3.0hrs later, we’d already tried fueling at Grayson County (M20) and Taylor County (AAS), KY. Definitely got Kentucky well ‘pinned’!

We continued on towards the East Coast, and landed for fuel at Tappahannock (W79), VA. Check out the BIG water tower located near the runway!

We then flew the last 15 minutes over-water to Tangier Island (TGI), then flew down the runway before landing to let Grace, the owner of the Sunset Inn Bed & Breakfast know we’d arrived. By the time we’d made a circle around the island and landed, she was there to pick us up in the ‘limo’ golf cart :-) The hobbs showed 2.7hrs flight time from KY, and we saw 195 KTS groundspeed along the way.

We’d made 4 fuel stops with a coast-to-coast trip time of 12.0 hours since leaving Southern California :-) I was really happy with that but I knew that we’d have to ‘pay-up’ with headwinds on the way back... Sunday morning, we awoke to hazy skies with a high overcast. Grace made a super breakfast for us then we were on our way. After adding a quart of oil (to make 6), we turned north for the short flight to Sussex County (GED), DE. The terminal building was very ‘grand’ looking, almost like a big, beautiful house though the chain link fence installed in front of the building looked useless.

From Sussex County, we flew the eastern seaboard coast overflying Atlantic City and some sort of boat-community nearby;

We landed at Lakewood (N12), NJ where we found numerous planes (with similar N numbers) belong to various flying clubs.

We visited with folks for quite awhile as it seemed they didn’t get very many homebuilts flying into Lakewood, let alone any from California, so I took the time to share all I could. It was nice visiting here! And now came time for the most special leg of our entire flight, flying through New York City, along the Hudson River, at 1000’ MSL! Several days before leaving on our trip, I called someone who was based near NYC and whose name I found in the RV White pages. I had purchased a TAC for New York, and I wanted to ‘pick his brain’ on anything and everything I could about flying up the river. He was very helpful, and with this call and my map, we were ready! We departed Lakewood, which is ~45nm south of La Guardia, under hazy skies and then flew north across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. We monitored the requisite frequency and flew at 1000’ MSL. We reached the Lower Bay, which lies between Staten and Coney Islands and continued north flying past Brooklyn and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge thus entering the Upper Bay on the Hudson River.

Even flying at 120 KIAS, things start to come into view really fast! Over Governor’s Island, we had the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on the left and the Brooklyn Bridge on the right!

The frequency was VERY BUSY with people making position calls of which I had no idea where those places were (79th street Bridge, Liberty State Park, Holland Tunnel etc). Victoria took pictures while I looked real hard for other aircraft! Off our right wing, we saw the Ground-Zero of the Twin Towers. It was a ‘somber’ sight to see after having seen so much destruction on TV, September 11, 2001...

The skyline of New York is like no other skyline I’ve ever seen in my lifetime; so many tall buildings in such a small geographical area. It almost didn’t look real... As we continued up the river, we caught up to a tour helicopter, also flying north, and I let him know I’d be passing off his right-side. We saw the Empire State Building followed by Central Park; no mistaking that big, open area with the lake in the middle!

Moments later, we were flying over the George Washington Bridge, very impressive :-)

As we flew farther north along the river, we could see the buildings getting smaller and smaller and eventually turning into homes;

The floor of New York’s Class B airspace finally rose to 3000’ MSL so we turned direct Meriden (MMK), CT and started a slow climb until we were clear of the Class B airspace. Arriving to Meriden, we didn’t see the airport until we were on top of it as it was located parallel and below a small ridge line.

We landed, visited the ‘facilities’ then continued on towards Sanford, ME. As we flew clear of Hartford’s Class C airspace (pic below), Victoria started a conversation on her family as her father grew up in Attleboro, Massachusetts, not to far from Providence, Rhode Island...Rhode Island...then something ‘clicks’ in my brain...RHODE ISLAND!?!

Here I was on a trip to land in 7 states and I’m flying past Rhode Island towards Maine! I checked the GPS and sure enough, I’d scrolled one-to-many waypoints in the flight plan and missed my Rhode Island stop! A right-90-degree turn had us flying parallel to the CT-MA border, and we landed at North Central (SFZ) airport in Pawtucket, RI about 12 minutes later :-) Almost blew that one!

We’d planned on staying the night in Pawtucket, but I got to thinking that it sure would be fun to say we flew from Southern California to Maine in 3 days :-) We topped off the tanks, flew the last 45 minutes with a setting sun around Boston’s Class B to Sanford (SFM), ME. After landing and taxiing to the FBO, I shutdown the plane and unbuckled my seatbelts as Victoria noted the hobbs (now at 16 hours total trip-time). As I stepped onto the wing, I immediately noticed black oil running down my side of the plane in an unusual ‘flow pattern’ that reached all the way back to the tail. A quick look of the underside showed even more oil, YIKES! In less than 5 minutes, there was at least a 6" diameter pool of oil that had dripped off the tail tiedown hook. As the sun had just set, I knew I wasn’t going to be doing much troubleshooting then (it got cold real fast!). I walked into the FBO and explained to the lady behind the counter we were far from home with ‘massive’ oil leak (well, it looked massive :-) She asked what kind of plane it was, and I told her that it was an ‘experimental RV-6A’... "Ohhhh, we don’t work on experimentals!" was her immediate reply. It took a few moments to assure her that I probably could fix it if I could see where the oil was coming from and that I’d come in to ask if I might be able to borrow some solvent to clean it up. She directed me to her husband who was very busy with a plane that had a flat tire somewhere on the airport. I was eventually able to use something called ZEP or maybe DEP solvent but I had to use it right then and there as they were going to be closed the next day. So I pulled the plane towards the hangar, pulled the cowl (by flashlight), and proceeded to ‘clean’ the plane with this ‘solvent’. I found out quickly that this solvent was nothing like the solvent I get in California...This stuff worked about as good as using a pressure washer with soap and water, but, heck, beggars can’t be choosers! While I was cleaning, Victoria was renting a car they had available. I cleaned up the plane best I could see (in darkness using a flashlight) then we pulled the plane back to the ramp, loosely attached the cowl and tied it down. By this time, it was really cold, we were really hungry so we drove to town for a steak dinner at a steakhouse called The Steakhouse, in nearby Wells. After dinner, we drove back towards the airport to the Super 8 that was right out the airport gate and got on the phone to Rick Gray and Gary Sobek. Not yet knowing what was wrong with the plane, I asked them to checkout the RV White pages and see if there might be an RV’er nearby who could possibly help us out. Nick Knobil’s name came up so we gave him a call. Nick then tells me that there is an RV-6A based at Sanford and is owned by Carl and Pat Beatrice, the same ‘Carl and Pat’ who I’ve met at Van’s Homecoming. Hey, wait a minute... Carl and Pat live in New Hampshire. I even had their cell number listed in my cell phone as I told them (at Van’s Homecoming this year) that we might be flying there way later in the year. I put Carl’s number into my cellphone right then and there on the ramp at Van’s! We had planned to call them later that evening to let them know we were in Maine, and that if they didn’t have any plans the next day (Monday), we could stop in to see them in New Hampshire. The oil leak threw all our plans out the window, and I had no idea they based their plane in ME even though they lived in NH. What luck :-) A 9pm call to Carl had us catching up on the last few months then planning to meet at 8am the next day. Carl was ready to drive 30 miles one-way to come take us home, even though it was getting late. I thanked him very much but told him we were settled in for the night (thanks again Carl for the offer!).

We met Monday morning and pulled our plane to his nearby hangar. A check of the dipstick showed we’d lost about a 1/4th quart of oil, and I’ve been told it only takes a few ounces to make a mess on a plane. We then started the engine (cowl off), and Victoria immediately saw oil dripping from the rear-baffle mounted oil cooler. Inspection revealed the oil cooler was leaking from somewhere within. With the ‘culprit’ now known, there was nothing more to do other than remove the oil cooler, have breakfast then wait for Van’s to open to order a new oil cooler FedEx overnight, which we did. Then it was time to play 'tourist' so.... We drove to nearby Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, places we’ve heard about so many times over the years President’s Family has a home there. I’d have to say that Kennebunkport is one of those ‘quaint’ places you see in the movies. We walked around Kennebunkport and checked out all the little stores and shops.

Here's something new to me, but then again, I'm from California...Boats are 'shrink-wrapped' for the winter!

I bought a wooden sign ‘Kennebunk Town Limits’ that will one day hang in our yet-to- be-built Rosamond Skypark home. I’ve been collecting souvenirs like this from all over the country, and my favorite is a highway mile marker: ‘Key West, Mile 0’. We returned the rental car then rode home with Carl to his home in Greenland, NH which is located near the old Pease Air Force Base, now Pease International. We treated Carl and Pat to a nice dinner at their favorite Chinese Restaurant then returned home for an evening of hangar flying (Carl is a retired airline pilot and Pat is Commercial rated). Here's a picture of the Beatrice's and their house;

Tuesday morning, I was able to help Pat with some computer questions she’d had, and even found her Christmas Card list of addresses which she thought was lost. The oil cooler arrived about 11am, and we had it installed, the plane fueled and airborne by 3pm. We departed with Carl and Pat as a flight of two, and after a short photo session, said our goodbyes and turned the plane towards Concord (CON), NH.

We landed behind a State Police Blackhawk Helicopter and stepped inside the FBO to check the weather map. We then departed for the landing in our 49th State at Mt. Snow (4V8), Vermont. It had taken less that 3.5 years to fly to 49 States in our RV, and I made sure the landing at Mt. Snow was great one. There was snow on the ground, and it was COLD so we didn’t spend much time on the ground. We fueled the plane then took a picture to mark this very special day! You can now call us 49’ers from California ;^)

From Mount Snow, we flew on top of a scattered to broken layer of clouds that extended about 60nm to just the other side of Albany, and it was quite a beautiful site to watch the setting sun and night lights appear as we approached Binghamton (BGM), NY. We’d put about 3 hours flight time in the plane from Sanford to BGM.

Landing at Edwin A. Link Field in Binghamton had special meaning to me as I’ve been traveling to Binghamton on the airlines about once a year for the last 18 years. In the early years, I couldn’t tell Victoria that I was traveling to Binghamton, home of Link Simulation. ‘Link’ was famous for building the nations first-ever flights simulators, one of which is beautifully displayed in the airport lobby;

‘Link’ provided the flight simulators that our F-117 pilots trained on during the 80s at Tonopah, NV and still supports the simulator now located at Holloman AFB, NM. I was (and am) fortunate enough to work in F-117 Avionics and traveled many times to Link, in secrecy, to help with F-117 flight simulation checkout prior to releasing it to the pilots. I can honestly say that I have thousands and thousands of hours ‘flying’ the F-117 fighter! After getting the plane put away for the night and getting a rental car, I took Victoria to my favorite restaurant in Binghamton, Cortese, family owned and operated for over 50 years! After a fine Italian meal, I ordered (as I have always done) 3 pizzas to be half-baked, then frozen for pickup the next day. Wednesday morning, we stopped to take a picture of the Broome County Courthouse. We also stopped back at Cortese (the cooks are there at 5am to start making pasta...) to pick up the frozen pizzas and take pictures of the Cortese sign and the (F-)117 address on the door;

We then ate breakfast at my favorite breakfast place, The Spot Diner.

We packed up the plane, taxied out, took a picture of the snow surrounding the airport. The only snow we’d seen on the trip so far was the snow on the ground between Albany and Binghamton, and the snow on the ground disappeared soon after takeoff.

We departed BGM for Grove City (29D), PA (2hrs) where we knew we’d find $2/gal fuel. Grove City is home to Artisan Wendell August, maker of fine aluminum, bronze, pewter and sterling silver pieces. From Grove City, we continued on to Kokomo (OKK), IN (2hrs) where my college buddy Scott Deyoe lives with his wife Chari and their 4 ‘ABCD’ kids: Alexandra, Brittany, Christina and Diana. On arrival to OKK, I called my friend who brought the whole family out, and I gave rides to family plus 3 neighbor kids.

That evening, we baked then ate the New York pizzas I’d flown in special ‘Air Delivery’. We settled in for a night of relaxing in front of the TV watching movies. Thursday morning, we were supposed to depart for Tulsa for Thanksgiving Dinner with my Stepdad but the weather finally caught up to us; overcast with light snow flurries. The plane was tucked away in a rented T-hangar, I called my Stepdad to let him know we were ‘grounded’ then we spent a wonderful Thanksgiving Day in Kokomo with the Deyoes. Friday morning had more of the same though the TV said this was caused by the ‘Lake Effect’ off Lake Michigan. No problem, we spent another fun day with the family. Saturday morning, the overcast was high enough for us to depart west past Lafayette towards Champagne-Urbana where clears skies opened up. From there, we turned southwest overflying St. Louis;

We continued on and landed at Cuba (UBX), MO for fuel, a 2hr flight from Kokomo. Our Flightguide noted the runway as ‘ruff’ but we could see that it was in great shape.

We are still flying and happy with our Airchart Topographic Atlas. The Atlas has all the WAC charts for the entire USA and also includes charts for all Class B and Class Cairports. Flying across one page in the book equals about an (RV) hour's flight time, and we never worry or wonder if we have the right map onboard :-)

Remembering Les Featherston from the week before, I called him and let him know we had time to stop in and visit. The LAT/LON coordinates he gave me for ‘Rebels Bluff’ were right on the money, and we landed on his very-well-kept grass runway about an hour after leaving Cuba. The runway is 'covered' by the shadows of the trees;

Here are some pics looking down the runway (12/30) from both ends;

Les’ house can be seen through the trees on the right side of my plane in the last picture;

We visited and enjoyed his company for almost 2 hours, and I can tell you that Les, a retired airline pilot, would very much enjoy visits from any and all RVs who’d like to stop in to say hi! You can find Les at Rebel’s Bluff;

His strip is located ~2 miles north of Mount Vernon (2MO), Missouri, not far from Joplin. Honest, stop in to say hello to Les and his wife Lynda if you are flying that way! After leaving Rebel’s Bluff, we landed at Cleveland (95F), OK, about hour later. My Stepdad was there to pick us up in no time, we drove into Tulsa for dinner with him, his wife and his brother. We had an EXCELLENT dinner at the Silver Flame Steak House then visited at home awhile before heading to bed. Sunday morning, I checked weather and TFRs and saw our route would be 'severe clear'. Following a BIG breakfast, we departed Cleveland for Borger (BGD), TX (1.6hrs), another nice place to stop for fuel and take the courtesy car into town for lunch if you’d like to!

We continued on, with no headwinds all day I might add, to St. Johns (SJN), AZ (2.6hrs) for our last fuel stop and flew the last leg home to Rosamond, 3hrs. Total Hobbs time was ~38 hours traveling ~5000nm, and we talked to the following Approach/Center controllers (in order): Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Vance, Tulsa, Kansas City, Springfield, Memphis, Evansville, Indianapolis, Lexington, Huntington, Charleston, Washington, Potomac, Patuxent, Dover, Lancid (actually Atlantic City but that’s what we kept hearing!), New York, Providence, Boston, Albany, Binghamton, Elmira, Cleveland, Youngstown, Toledo, Kalamazoo, Indianapolis, Terra Haute, Champagne, Kansas City, Tulsa, Vance, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles

With MANY thanks to Van of Van's Aircraft, here's the new map of where we've landed in less than 3.5 years, all flown in an airplane we took time to build at home :-)

You are going to LOVE your RV so keep poundin’ them rivets! Paul & Victoria

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