As I was building
the airplane, I knew that I wanted John Stahr of Artistic
Aviation to paint my airplane. The challenge to that is
John is in Eugene, OR, more that 2,500 miles away from central
Indiana. Well, as our Aussie friends would say, "No
worries mate!" I built an airplane so let's use it.
Now I will admit my wife, family, and aviation friends thought I
was a little nuts. However, I decided back in 2012, when I
was diagnosed with pancreatic lymphoma cancer, that I was going
to start exploring this wonderful country of ours while I could.
So I started planning this big trip in spite of concerns.
Following my youngest son's wedding, I decided the timing was
right to start the adventure. This would provide ample
time to complete everything and still make it to AirVenture
(Oshkosh) in July. A look at the weather indicated a start
date of May 20th. However the weather was not cooperating
in Wyoming, my desired route of flight. As a result, I
decided to take a more southern route and then stay a few days
with my sister in southern California. I learned a long
time ago that you have to remain flexible and not fight the
weather. Bad things can happen when you do that.
Packing enough stuff to be away
from home for 3-4 weeks takes some planning. Not only did I need
enough clothes, but I also need such things as tools, an oil change kit,
flight supplies, beverages, snacks, etc. You know, all the important
Where to put it in the airplane
also took some planning. I'm a little weight limited in the back so
the more heavier stuff went into the empty passenger seat and the seat
cushion went in the back.
I also prepared checklists to
remind me what to do upon arrival and prior to departure so I wouldn't
forget when it gets a little hectic. My plan was to text the family
prior to each departure and then again when I landed so they could follow me
as I progressed across the country. As a safety measure, I also
carried a personal locating beacon (PLB) that I could activate in case of an
emergency. This would send out a satellite signal and my location when
On the morning of May 20th, I
rolled the airplane out of my hangar at 5:00 AM and took off. My plan
for the day was to make three fuel stops and try to get as close to New
Mexico as I could and as the weather would allow.
Here I am cruising along over
central Illinois in smooth air.
Before long, I made the crossing
over the Mississippi River into Missouri. My first fuel stop in
Mexico, MO. was uneventful and I quickly resumed my travels westward.
Next stop was planned to be somewhere in central Kansas.
However, I didn't make it quite
that far. Somewhere over Missouri my electrical fuel pump failed.
I noticed it right away as the fuel pressure dropped while the mechanical
fuel pump on the engine did it's best to keep up. Since the engine
countinued to run normally, I decided to continue on to my destination,
where I would stop to repair it. I didn't make it.
While flying south of Kansas
City, KS., the engine stumbled badly twice in quick succession. Not
hesitating, I called up Kansas City Approach and declared an emergency.
They vectored me to the closest airport which was just outside of Olathe,
KS. I landed and taxied up to the nearest FBO to get help.
The good folks at New Century
Air Service pulled me into their maintenance hangar and offered my whatever
I needed to get my fuel pump repaired. First step was to pull
everything from the airplane so I could start pulling up the floor boards so
I could even get to the fuel pump.
What a mess.
After about 3 hours I was able
to get the old pump out. I borrowed a car and drove to the local NAPA
auto parts store and located a replacement pump. It took another 3
hours to get the new pump back in and tested. Since it was late in the
day, I decided to stay the night and get a fresh start in the morning.
Not a good way to start my trip.
The next morning I left bright
and early for Arizona as my goal. I made a fuel stop in the Texas
panhandle and then continued on into New Mexico. As I did, I started
to catch my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains. For a flatlander
like me, these things are always intimidating.
To continue the story, please go
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