Frasca 2006

Frasca 2006

created June 25th, 2006

The trip up on Friday was fairly uneventful until about midway, when I climbed to an altitude "slightly" higher than 12,500' to get over what appeared to be an isolated ridge of clouds.

I barely made it through a blue notch in the clouds before it closed in, and when I got to the other side it was almost solid "broken" clouds below me. There were holes in it, so I could get down, but it was so hazy I couldn't see much on the ground but an occasional glimpse of a metal roof or something. That didn't bother me much, because AWOS stations ahead were reporting broken and scattered, so I knew it was going to clear up eventually, and I had something like 3 hours of fuel remaining. Still, this is the way crash reports start out.

And at least I wasn't alone up there. That's when the GPS started flashing a "?" for my position, and I realized that somebody on Fort Campbell was scrambling GPS again. Now what do you do if your engine quits and you don't even know which way to go to get to the nearest airport, and you have to drop down to 1700' just to get out of the clouds? I had a sectional out and had an idea of where I was and what my course ought to be, but that's not nearly as nice as being able to punch two buttons and be guided directly to the closest airport by the "trusty" GPS. After about 10 minutes, the GPS found itself again, and I dropped down from 10,500' a few miles out from MWA and slid right into Larry's airport.

Next morning Larry and I took off from MWA and flew up to C16, in a fairly uneventful trip until the last few minutes. We had departed in some foggy/cloudy conditions, and it just got thicker as we approached Frasca.

AWOS stations were reporting scattered or broken near Frasca, so we knew it was going to be better, but the stuff under us went all the way down to 1700' in places.

A few miles south of Champaign we were at something like 11,500', and found a little valley we could drop down through. Only problem was the valley was too short short to make it through without circling, and too narrow to circle in. That led to some interesting "aerobatics", and a few uncomfortable minutes dropping like a rock (engine idling, full slip, real tight turns) down into the hazy scud below. But we dropped out at something like 3000', and slid right into Frasca with no problem. This probably sounds worse than it was, but it was "interesting", and educational! This is one of those situations where if your engine quits, you're in trouble, but we both had lots of fuel and weren't working the engines very hard, so engine failure was fairly unlikely.

The Corvair engine forum was fun, except that I hadn't prepared a thing since Bill Clapp said he was going to do it instead. Turns out he was stuck in TN due to weather, so when I got there 10 minutes before it was to start, I found out I was giving it after all. It was rather impromptu, but I think it turned out OK. Mark Jones was also on hand to help out with the discussion. (Photo by Ed Janssen...Thanks Ed).

There were a lot of folks interested in the KRs and the Corvairs. Here Mark Jones explains some of the details of his Corvair engine installation.

Larry Flesner talks contruction techniques with KR builder Eric Pitts.

Bill Clapp arrived before lunch, in typical fashion, with a high speed flyby that got everybody's attention.

Here's how Mark Jones flies cross country...with GPS terrain displayed on his laptop. I've been working on something similar, but true "daylight readable" displays are still in the $3000 range. One of these days they'll come way down in price and I'll have one, but for the moment I think I'll by a bright laptop to hold me over, and do it somewhat like Mark does. I'm still researching the possibilies though.

The weather channel was displayed on a big screen TV in the cafe, which is where Jones was when he decided he needed to go to beat the weather, and I decided I was probably going to spend the night in Tennessee somewhere.

Bill Clapp's plane drew quite a crowd, as usual.

Here's Bill Clapps engine (you've seen it before), but this time with the front starter setup. And here's an idea I wish I'd come up with, the dipstick accessible through the air inlet duct. All the KR guys spent some time doing the show-and-tell thing with their birds, and I got to walk around and look at the neat birds that flew in.

I even had time for a Quickie while I was there! How about flying on 18 horsepower?

Here's the simple homemade canopy latch on a Cassutt Racer.

Frasca field has an intersecting grass strip.

The builder of the gorgeous EZ explained to me how the wheel pants were the most difficult thing on his plane to get right. His final solution was to attach them directly to the gear leg, with no connection to the axle.

Most were total "cream of the crop", whether tube and fabric, composite canards, and even a couple of Sonexes. I really like that size of flyin, because it only takes three minutes to go from one end of the place to the other, people are easy to find just by looking around, you get to spend a few minutes talking to just about everybody there, limonade and ice tea were 25 cents a cup, lunch was only 5 bucks for brats, chips, and a drink, and there were plenty of places to sit, whether inside or outside. I plan to make this one an annual deal.

Coming back I first climbed to 11,000' trying to get over the clouds, and at that point couldn't see horizon in any direction (just cloud tops extending upward, and I knew they were still climbing), so I figured I'd give up on that idea at the outset, based on past experience. I dropped to 3500' and that's about where I had to stay the rest of the way home. Larry was dropping back into his airport, and we were able to talk on the radio even though we were 100 miles apart. Not bad for home made antennas and Larry's handheld radio!

I headed back home at about 2PM, throttled back to "fairly slow" because I wasn't in a big hurry to meet the rain that I'd seen on the radar, and because I didn't want to have to stop for fuel. North of Nashville I started dodging rain showers, and eventually got down to about 1500' as I got closer to home. I flew way out of my way to avoid a really heavy downpour, and ended up flying in the rain for only about 5 minutes during the whole trip. I don't like flying that low, but I have to admit it was a real blast!

Since I was approaching my airport from the northwest (which I never do), I couldn't find my airport, even though it wasn't really all that hazy, and the GPS was telling me it was straight ahead and 30 seconds away. I banked, and sure enough, it was right under me. This place is always hard to find though. I now know what is meant by "scud running". All around, it was a great trip.

The weather really made it interesting and "fun", and I really felt like I was now a better pilot when I rolled the plane in the hangar with 262 hours on the meter. The trip back took exactly three hours to cover more than 400 miles (with diversions around weather), doing an average of 140 mph airspeed while throttled back to about 3050 rpm burning about 3.8 gallons per hour (except for the long useless climb), at around 70% power. I landed with enough fuel for another hour of flying, and I only have a 16 gallon tank. It was another great KR time machine flight. I told my wife it was "educational", and she said she wasn't sure she liked the sound of that...

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