Florida Trip Report 2001

by Paul A. Rosales

Friday (11/23/01) Hello All! Victoria and I took off this morning from Rosamond (L00), CA for a trip to Florida. I have an Astronaut friend who I used to work with at Edwards, my first job out of college (1984), and he invited Victoria and I to watch him launch on the Space Shuttle Endeavor next Thursday night, 7:55pm (hopefully, weather permitting). He'll be living on the International Space Station (ISS) until next April! I originally planned on a commercial flight leaving next Wednesday (and bought tickets), but with September 11th and all that followed, I figured "...just take 2 more days vacation and be gone the whole week including the Thanksgiving weekend..." So I write from Arlington, TX as we arrived after a LONG day of avoiding weather. The 2 hour flight into Payson (PAN), AZ was clear, with about 10 knots tailwind (170 knots groundspeed). Enroute to Payson, Flightwatch told me that my route to Albuquerque (ABQ), NM - Tucumcari, NM - Amarillo, TX, Wichita Falls, TX into the DFW area would keep me VFR....Well, we had breakfast (and fueled) at Payson then a quick call to Flight Service told me that 'VFR across NM not possible'. We left Payson and flew north 20 minutes to Montezuma Skypark where RV-6A owner Marvin Manley lives. He allowed us the use of his computer to get a good look ourselves, which showed my route fine except for possible mountain obscuration NW to NE of ABQ. Let's go look...Almost correct except obscuration was from NW to E! Oh, oh! A wall of clouds east of ABQ! We diverted south towards White Sands, NM and fueled at Carrizozo (Q37), NM which is just north of Alamogordo, NM (home of Holloman AFB and the F-117 that I work on). We landed 2 hours after leaving Payson, and the wind was blowing probably 30+ knots down the runway. We fueled then took off using less that 300 feet of runway (whoa wind) and headed east towards Lubbock. I climbed to 9,500, and we were seeing TAS of 160 knots on the airspeed indicator, and I had to take a picture of the GPS....222 knots, WOW!!! We held this for awhile but eventually 'slowed' to 210 into Abilene and into the DFW area. At those speeds, we would have crossed Texas from the panhandle to the eastern border in 2 hours :-) Due to the delay at Payson, we arrived after dark to Fort Worth and am glad that I put in the artificial horizon (along with 35 hours night logged in the RV, 80 total night). Flight time for the day was 6.5 hours, even with the zig-zagging. Looks like we'll be here all day Saturday and may be able to get out Sunday morning to Destin (DTS), FL near Pensacola (on the panhandle). No problem staying as we have many friends (both RV and personal) that live here in the DFW area. No hurry either as the launch is not until next Thursday. Ok, I just wanted to check in. I'm telling you; Keep poundin' them rivets! I'll check back, Paul Sunday (11/25/01) Hello All! After spending a day (Saturday) visiting friends in the DFW area, and allowing the weather to clear east, Victoria and I took off this morning from Arlington (GKY), TX and continued east. After 2.5 hours (168 knots TAS), we were on the ground fueling at Griffin Memorial Airport (M24), just north of Biloxi, MS. Not a cloud in the sky and a highlight was crossing the 'mighty' Mississippi River :-) We picked up the Gulf coast just east of Biloxi and flew along the coast at 1K AGL, very cool! We were cleared through (Navy) Pensacola Class C and continued along the coast past Hulburt Airfield (USAF Special Ops base) and landed at Destin-Fort Walton Airport (DTS).

Had I topped the tanks at Arlington before leaving (we had used ~8 gallons flying around Saturday), we could have made the 3.5 hour trip non-stop. As always, we used flight following with Dallas/Houston/Polk/Baton Rouge approach (or Center). Flight time from California so far is ~10.5 hours with 1.5 hours tomorrow to get to Tampa/St. Petersburg. I bought some fuel in Midlothian/Waxahachie (4T6), TX for $1.40/gallon!!! The 'graybeard' who came out to fill the tank says '....mighty fine paint job ya' have thar'....you ain't from 'round here, are ya' Ok, we'll check back later on! Paul Monday (11/26/01) Hi All! Victoria and I continue our week vacation to Florida and spent Monday with friends in Fort Walton Beach which included a visit to the coastal community of Seaside. For the movie buffs out there, this was the setting for the Jim Carey film "The Truman Show". And for the first time in our lives, we got our feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico and walked along the most beautiful 'white' sand beach we've ever seen. The sand was so white and so fine that it reminded me of the sand I've seen at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Here I am with our friend/host, Tanya.

Planning our arrival to Clearwater at sunset (so we could watch it occur at 5:38pm), we departed Destin/Fort Walton Airport accordingly. We took off ~4:15pm for our ~1.5 hour flight to Clearwater, which is on the 'Gulf' side of Florida, near Tampa. Well, it turns out that Dallas, TX and Fort Walton, FL are in the same time zone, Central Time....Say WHAT!?!?! The change to Eastern Time occurs just east of Fort Walton, so our 4:15pm takeoff was really 5:15pm! We used flight following along the coast and out of the Eglin/Tyndall AFB MOAs (which were both very busy...F-15 country...) and at one point we were given some 'IFR sounding' routing: "RV-8PV, climb 5 thousand 5 hundred heading 0-9-0 to intercept the Panama City 2-8-3 radial direct Cross City..." WHOA! All that 'radio training' I've received from SoCAL Approach and Los Angeles Center kept us on-track :-) We watched a great sunset as we were cutting the corner of the Florida panhandle, 10nm offshore eastbound over the Gulf.

Once 'feet dry', turned south and landed at Clearwater Airpark just after 6pm. We watched the night lights of Tampa/St. Petersburg come on and that also a beautiful sight! Tuesday, we plan to give rides to our Clearwater friends, and I'll also get to have dinner with a 30+ year friend from high school. Wednesday will hopefully take us to Treasure Coast Airpark (FL37) near Vero Beach to visit with RV-6 owner Bernie Kerr. We then plan to continue on to Daytona Beach Wednesday night, landing at Spruce Creek to visit/stay with a teacher friend I used to substitute for, Barbara Rodriguez. Thursday is 'Cape Kennedy' day then, weather permitting, we'll watch the Space Shuttle launch on Thursday night. We are keeping our fingers crossed there are no delays! We'll check back later on, Paul PS: I'm hoping to try to sample some '3-mile Island Hot' hot-wings at the ORIGINAL "Hooter's" founded right here in Clearwater :-) Wednesday (11/28/01) Hello All! Victoria and I departed Clearwater, FL this morning (Wed) after giving a couple of rides to our hosts which included a tour around the Skyway Bridge connecting St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

We then flew along Clearwater Beach south (they too have some awesome white-sand beaches) and then east over Tampa Bay at 1000 feet to avoid Tampa Class B and McDill AFB. We landed at Peter O'Knight (TPF) airport, where you approach over the bay. The airport is located right next to downtown Tampa.

I gave a ride to Scott Reviere (and his brother) who are finishing up an RV-6A. We then flew 'coast to coast' in about 40 minutes landing at Treasure Coast Skypark (FL37) located South/SW of Vero Beach. The runway was real grass (keep the nosegear up!) which was a first for Victoria and I :-)

Bernie Kerr, RV-6A owner, and his wife had great lunch waiting upon landing! Our plane was also ready for an oil change which was completed in minimum time with help from Bernie and RV-6Q builder Gabriel Ferrer. Bernie provided the oil and 'Gabe' pulled the new filter off his new engine for me to use :-) I offered $$$ but they wouldn't think of it...A tour of the skypark via 'electric golfcart' followed. When writing the hobbs down for the oil change, I noted we've put 20.2 hours on the plane since leaving last Friday :-) Gas has been CHEAP all the way here, and I see we've spent about $300 in gas thus far. Our airline Tix were $450/total, so for an extra $200 (in gas by the time we get home), I'm figuring that's worth flying ourselves! We took off about 5pm, and using flight following (Miami Center), was given the following routing "RV-8PV, proceed northbound along Highway 95 at 2 thousand, 5 hundred to avoid both Orlando Class B and Kennedy Restricted Airspace" so we flew "IFR" and got a glimpse of what we think was the shuttle in the distance. This flight also ended after watching a beautiful sunset.

This was followed by a 'greaser' landing at Spruce Creek. This place is HIGH DOLLAR, VERY 'ritzy' skypark located SW of Daytona Beach, and underlies Class C airspace. We taxied around the main taxiway in hopes of finding my Daytona Beach friend and saw some IMPRESSIVE planes in open hangars: many Warbirds, Lears, Citations, BIG twins (DC-3s and the likes). I'm (the little'runt') parked next to a Citation at Transient parking...It was great seeing the Rodriguez's there to greet us! I'm told Residents include Mark Martin and the Dale Earnhart families. We also got to see the 25K square foot home that John Travolta was essentially evicted from as the residents were tiring of the noise from his Boeing 707! We have a long day tomorrow starting at 11:00am at the Kennedy Space Center and hopefully ending with the successful launch of STS- 108, scheduled for a 7:41 liftoff. Then we're back to Spruce Creek for the night and some 'creative' shuffling to get the rental car back Friday morning: Victoria will drive the car to Daytona Beach International Airport while I fly there, and somehow, I'll find a way to get her to an FBO (which I don't know...) where I can pick her up and we can start flying home :-0 I'll check back tomorrow night, Paul Friday (11/30/01) Hello All! As a result of a problem of sealing a hatch or the likes (resulting in two delays on Thurs/Fri), the launch of the space shuttle has been moved to December 4th. Thursday, after the launch was cancelled, we spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center. We had the opportunity to meet Astronaut Story Musgrave after he gave a great talk!

I've used up all my vacation and sadly cannot even consider trying to stay another week as that is what it would take to watch the launch (IF it launches on Tuesday) and get home...We were VERY bummed at hearing the cancellation news, so, what else to do... LET'S GO FLYING! And flying we did! We topped the tanks then got a discrete from Daytona Beach Approach on the ground using a cell phone. As I start to roll, somebody on the radio says... 'Have a good flight,...Paul'. Who, I have no idea...We flew west then south around Orlando (MCO). Bernie Kerr told me they had cheap gas at Okeechobee (OBE) we we stopped there for $1.62 gas. Continued on towards Miami (MIA) then over the water along the Florida Keys, at 1K MSL, all the way to Key West :-) Can you pick out the private skypark here in this picture?!?

It was about a 2-hour flight from Daytona Beach to Key West (EYW). We had lunch onfield, and I bought a sign for the hangar I'll one day one "Mile 0, Key West". I'm telling you, we are COLLECTING on all those DUES we paid for 3000hrs+ spent over every weekend for 5 years, building a SLOWbuild kit...in the blazing heat of the Mojave Desert...with no air-conditioning....

We departed Key West International at 3pm and fueled at Marathon (MTH), the only other public airport on the Keys (20 min flight). We 'cut' the corner of the Keys and flew over the open water for a bit which put us just west of Miami (MIA) Class B then on towards Orlando Class B. The edge of the Space Shuttle restricted zone was right next to Orlando so I was flying a northern course (355deg) to avoid it. The controller asked why I was flying north when Spruce Creek was Northeast, and I replied "I don't want to get up close and personal with an F-15 :-)" He chuckled then said "Proceed direct on course and I'll keep you out of trouble" Controllers are GREAT folks! As we approached Disney World, I wish that I had a camera that could take a 180deg picture as we watched the sunset over the left wing and the moon-rise on the right wing happen at the same time...WWWWOOOWWW...It don't get much better! Another night landing (what's with that?!?) and BIG RV-grin! We start flying home Saturday, with takeoff set for 10am EST and fly back to Pecan Plantation Skypark, near Fort Worth, TX (we'll be staying with Claudia and Martin Sutter). We hope to arrive before dark, about 6pm EST. This accounts for 6 hours of flight and two stops (if you stop, it's an hour from the time you think of it till the time you are back in the air, at altitude and airspeed...) Weather is looking great for our route of flight as well. I'll check in tomorrow night, hopefully from Texas! Paul PS: I called the P-51 guy twice and left messages..... Saturday (12/1/01) Hey y'all! We arrived safely to the DFW area this evenin' from Daytona and er' fixin' to fly home tamorra'! We took off from Spruce Creek this mornin' and fueled in Donaldsonville (17J), GA (that's Joe-Ja). We enjoyed the southern 'drawl' talkin' with controllers from Joe-Ja to Lousi'ana :-) From there, west to Jackson (4R3), AL for bathroom break and on to Dowtown Shreveport (DTN), LA where we stopped for lunch. We asked about an airport car (no joy) but they did have rental cars for $5.00/hr, 2 hours max. Across the river from Shreveport is Bossier City where they have gambling. I'm sure the casinos are subsidizing those cheap rental cars! We avoided the gambling halls and had a great cajun- style meal in downtown Shreveport.

We continued west back towards Pecan Plantation at Grandbury (0TX1), TX not far from Fort Worth where we are spending the night with Claudia & Martin Sutter.

Remember the RV in the living room from early RV-info packs from Van's? That's Martin sitting in the plane. Martin also did the testing for the Sensenich prop for the 180hp engines. A group of RVs are going to Spinks (FWS) Airport (not far from here) for breakfast then we will try to be enroute flying home at 8am Pacific time. I'm guessing this should put us home by dark. It's a GREAT feeling knowing that we had breakfast in Daytona Beach, FL and dinner near Dallas, TX. We'll see y'all back in California tomorrow! Paul Sunday (12/2/01) Hello all! It's a WONDERFUL feeling to think that yesterday morning (Saturday), we were in Daytona Beach, Florida and tonight we are home in California, coast to coast! BIG RV-Grin goes here :-) Last night, we had a nice dinner/evening visiting with Claudia & Martin Sutter (RV-6 with 1700hrs), and this morning, we filled the tanks with, are you ready....$1.25/gallon fuel at Pecan Plantation (0TX1)! Now I REALLY know what the markup is on fuel!?! We then flew a 2-ship to nearby Spinks Airport (Fort Worth) and walked over to the 'Cracker Barrel', a first time visit for me. Breakfast was superb, and with a full stomach, we departed the DFW area about 8am Pacific Time. We flew west directly over Abilene Int'l and Dyess AFB (with B-1s on the ramp...I thought I'd have to go around), past Midland/Odessa to Andrew County (E11)Airport, TX, about a 2 hour flight. We fueled and continued on to Saint Johns (SJN) Airpark (AZ) landing 2.5 hours later. I highly suggest to anyone heading east to make SJN you first stop as they consistently have 'cheap' gas, which I bought today for $1.75/gallon. Last year on the way to OSH, it was $1.85/gallon. We had planned DIRECT Andrew to SJN but a quick call to Fort Worth Center showed the White Sands Missile Range 'Hot' (on a Sunday?!?). We diverted NW over Roswell (NM) to Corona VOR then west to SJN. I was hoping to get home before dark and the GPS showed this would work out, if we continued on without stopping at SJN (no-can-do). When we were 30 minutes out from SJN, I 'firewalled' the throttle and picked up 15 minutes. Victoria timed me and we were only on the ground just over 13 minutes so we arrived home at 5pm (sunset), for about a 9-hour day. Winds varied from 5 knots into NM increasing to 20 into AZ and 30 knots into Rosamond. The 'icing' on the cake was that when we got home, there was a beautiful broken layer above (I was at 6500), and with the sun setting, I climbed above the cloud deck and flew above it for about 20 minutes....this is something that cannot adequately be put into words to fly amongst the clouds as the sun glows above the rim of the highest cloud...I was truly enjoying a 'spiritual moment'. We landed at Rosamond (3 hours after leaving SJN) and put the plane away having added 43.1 hours to the hobbs since leaving the Friday, Nov 23. We hadn't eaten (other than snacks) since breakfast so we went to the Rosamond Golden Cantina Restaurant. We'd no sooner sat down for dinner when the cell phone rang, and the last person I'd ever think of was on the phone: Carl Walz, our Astronaut friend who is poised (again) to launch this Tuesday night! What a GREAT surprise! He wanted to know how our trip was going, and he didn't know that we had flown home (I WISH that I had the vacation to stay!). We talked about 10 minutes, and I was amazed he thought of us! Thank you for calling Carl :-) Our plane performed perfectly, and it has now flown us to 26 states (5 new ones this trip) with landings at 17 airports we've never been to. Now back to the real world and long days and two jobs....NO COMPLAINTS here!

Keep poundin' them rivets: It's all worth it! Paul & Victoria
UPDATE: Carl Walz finally returned to earth aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on Wednesday, June 19th, 2002 as one of two USA astronauts breaking a NASA space endurance record of 196 days! Carl also now holds the U.S. record for cumulative time in space with 231 days. The shuttle diverted to Edwards Air Force Base, and I was able to drive out to watch it land, VERY COOL!

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