Tuesday July 04, 2006
Ahh... the vagaries and uncertainties of the weather. For the past 3 days the weather has been a carbon copy, with the winds steadily prevailing from the south. Would've been nice if that had held one more day. Instead a weak front moved through producing thunderstorms overnight between Wichita and Topeka, and changing the prevailing wind, which now came from the northeast. Funny isn't it? That's the direction I needed to fly to Topeka.
After hearing the new weather report I added 3 gallons to the upper tank. Good thing I did. Instead of taking 2 and a half hours as it would have with a southerly wind, the 133 mile flight from Wichita to Topeka took 4 hours 36 minutes. There were 1 3/4 gallons left in the bottom tank.
After receiving clearance to land from the tower at Billard airport (TOP), I put down on the turf between runway 13 and the taxiway. Packed up the chute, contacted the tower to receive clearance to taxi to the ramp, and parked Voyager in front of the FBO. As I walked in a man named Bill held out a phone to me and said it was channel 13. Rather surprised, I spoke with the reporter, who made an appointment to come out to the airport later in the day with a cameraman.
Turns out Bill had heard me explain to the tower about the trip, and without prompting had called the TV station. He intends to call the rest of them tomorrow, as well as the radio and newspapers. Topeka is going to be a good media stop.
Michael landed in Emporia (EMP) because of fuel constraints, and was greeted by a few PPC pilots. How they knew he (or I) may have been landing is unknown. Probably a coincidence. Emporia is on the original list of airports for the trip, but because we're so far behind schedule the decision was made to go directly from Wichita to Topeka. It's never easy to skip a scheduled stop, but sometimes it has to be done. Regardless, Michael enjoyed meeting and speaking with them, and then he and Rusty headed for Topeka.
Back to today's flight: After lift-off the air was smooth and ground speed ok. Ahead I could see the tail end of the clouds from the front that had moved through, blowing to the east. An hour later I approached a narrow band of broken clouds, and climbed over them. (Climbed to 4,000 msl.) Same thing happened again a while later.
Now the wind had changed, and was coming from the northeast. A direct headwind. My ground speed varied from 15 to 20 mph, and I wondered if I had enough fuel to make Topeka. I approached a thick bank of clouds, and couldn't see the other side. I'd no choice but to drop below the clouds, which had a ceiling of 1,000 agl. The good news was that at the lower altitude the headwind wasn't as strong, and my ground speed "perked up" to 20, sometimes 25 mph. I had to stay "underneath" for almost 2 hours. Truthfully, flying under the thick clouds was a bit depressing. It was very humid, and although I knew it wasn't going to rain, it sure felt like it.
Finally, about 20 miles from Topeka, the clouds became broken and the sun peeked through. The wind had now shifted and was coming from due east. I realized at that point I'd be able to make Topeka. When I contacted Billard tower the ATC asked me to advise him when I was over Topeka. Looking ahead I saw my flight path would've take me right over the state capital dome, and I decided it would be prudent to detour to the west, around the city. I radioed the tower of my intention to detour, and he asked I advise him when I reached the west end of the airport. Which is exactly what came to pass.
After finding a place to park the RV and trailer, Voyager was put in a hangar and I changed into the "official" flight suit. A few hours later the reporter and cameraman from channel 13 arrived and did a great interview. It aired at 10, and will be posted here in a few days.