The Southeast Triangle
Up to now, I’ve only made a small handful of short trips. Three down to Sebastian to fix a fuel leak, move the hydraulic dump valve and to talk with Scott Swing about painting the plane and Justin about interior. The only other trip was to head up to Smyrna, TN so that my old A&P/IA could show me any tricks on doing the inspection on the Continental IO550. All of these have been only about two hours away and Ann has only been on one of those trips (to talk with Justin about the interior).
Since Ann had a business trip that was going to have her away on her birthday and I didn’t have anything planned, we decided to do our first long trip. Panama City, FL to Dallas, TX (couple days of business meetings) to Chicago, IL (fun for the weekend) to Nashville, TN (one business meeting) and then back to Panama City.
I spent some time making sure everything on the plane was ready and on Monday we got up early to be at the airport and in the air by about 8:00 so we would be in Dallas by noon. That right there is significant. If we were still in the Cessna, it would have been a tad bit different.
In the Cessna, we would be looking at about 4:45 in the air. That means two stops. Not for fuel but to accommodate Ann’s “two hour rule”. She didn’t like worrying about not drinking too much liquids and having to deal with unplanned stops. So she created the “two hour rule”. Occasionally, she allow an exception if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes more, but otherwise, it’s a hard rule. And it’s a good one. Life is much easier when you’re not thirsty most of the day and you get to wander around small airports.
Another (new) thing we experienced is the significantly smaller baggage volume available in the Velocity as opposed to the Cessna. The Cessna 182 is like a flying Ford Explorer. There’s TONS of space inside. Between the baggage compartment and the back seat, you can fit massive amounts of stuff in that plane. And with the 182, the general rule is: If you can fit it in, the plane can carry it. Meaning it’s almost impossible to overload a 182 unless you’re carrying lead.
The Velocity is more like a Porshe 911. Yeah, it’s got 4 seats and baggage compartment, but there’s no comparison to an SUV. It was made more challenging in that Ann had about three days of business during this eight day trip. So we were jamming stuff in the baggage area, back seats, floor, etc. It was pretty messy looking.
For this first day of the trip, we would only be making one stop. I chose Vicksburg, MS because they have cheap fuel and it’s about halfway. We took off around 7:45 and climbed up to 6,000′. Where we encountered a 15-20 knot headwind that would be with all the way to Dallas. After stopping in Vicksburg, I added 20 gallons of fuel and wandered around while Ann took some phone calls. Then it was back up for a short 1:40 hop into McKinney National Airport.
And what a nice airport it is. Big honkin’ airport with one of those big fancy FBO’s where they pull your rental car right up to the plane after you park. Which I discovered is a little different when you’re rockin’ a Velocity. The line guys get a little confused when they are marshalling you into a parking spot. So I ended up stopping a bit short and we pulled it in the rest of the way. After unloading the plane, Ann went to take care of the rental car paperwork while I stayed with the plane for about 20 minutes answering questions. ATP has a flight training operation there so it seemed like every student walking by wanted to look and ask questions.
After a couple of days in Dallas (actually Plano), we were off to Chicago to spend the weekend with a very good friend, hang out in the hot tub, and partake in great food and some adult beverages. Ann of course went shopping… I did too, but my shopping was at Berland’s House of Tools. In Panama City, if you want high quality or specialty tools, online is the only option.
There was a front moving through on the day of the trip. Clear skies but howling winds. Fortunately, they were blowing out of the south which would give us a 40 knot tailwind and be straight down the runway at every airport.
So we blasted off of McKinney at 8am. Got vectored around Dallas for a while and we were then at 5,000′ making about 240 knots over the ground for our first stop in Lebanon, MO. Approach and landing was… interesting. Once below about 4,000′ it got bumpy. So I used a modified Millin Approach. Andy Millin has a fixed gear Velocity and if he needs to get down fast, he slows down, deploys the speedbrake, pulls the power to idle and holds about 90 knots and gets a 3,000 foot per minute descent. I don’t have a speedbrake, but I do have landing gear that’s pretty draggy. So I was able to go from smooth air to landing pretty quick and limit the time in the bouncy stuff.
That was a timed stop as Ann had a one hour call that she had to take so we planned our departure to arrive at the appointed time. After the call and taking on 20 gallons of fuel, we were off to Chicago. After takeoff I trimmed for Vy and got above the bumps in about 2 minutes.
About 100 miles out, I got the usual (and expected) “we have an amendment to your routing, advise when ready to copy.” Like always, it was just a minor detour (you can see it on the map) so no big deal. As we began our descent, Chicago approach asked if I could “maintain that speed”. I responded affirmative. He then told me he had a Piper also heading to Dupage and that if I could keep up the speed, he could get me in before the Piper and not have to slow down. Okay. Usually I’m the slower one so it’s nice to not be that plane for a change. Then it got a bit more unusual (at least to a long time Cessna driver). Typically, Chicago approach is busy and they don’t have a lot of time for idle chitchat. But the controller then asked what speed I was indicating. I responded “187 indicated and 205 true.” He then asked what my fuel burn was. I replied “12.6 gallons per hour”. He came back with “You can’t beat that.” Nope. You certainly can’t.
After landing, I dropped Ann off at the Taj Mahal (what the locals call the main terminal at Dupage) so she could get the rental car and then I taxied over to the east side of the field to Travel Express. Back when I first got the Cessna, I rented it out at Dupage with Cougar Aviation. Travel Express was one of the other outfits on the field. They were much bigger and did charters using turbo prop and jets. One of the instructors I used while getting my instrument rating is a check pilot there and he was kind enough to help me arrange to have the Velocity put in their big hangar. That was a huge relief since it’s not exactly water tight yet, it’s freakin’ cold up there now and I haven’t even thought about dealing with pre-heat.
After a nice long weekend, we made the drive down to the airport from Barrington, loaded up the plane and were airborne just after 7am for the 2 hour flight. Ann had a meeting near Nashville at 11am so the plan was to get there with enough time to get the rental car, and drive to the location. I had called Lynn, my old A&P/IA and since he was going to be around that morning, I would taxi over to where he was on the east side of the field and we would go to lunch.
The original plan was to spend the night in Smyrna since Ann didn’t think she would be ready to leave until 3pm. I haven’t flown the Velocity at night yet so I didn’t want to deal with that issue just yet. but she called after Lynn and I got back from lunch and said if she got back by around 2pm, would be be able to get home tonight. In the Velocity? Heck yeah! It’s a damn time machine!
So we lifted off from Smyrna, TN at 2:30pm and we were driving out of the airport at 4:30pm.
Total distance traveled: 2,000 nm
Total time enroute: 9.8 hours
Which works out to 204 MPH for the trip!
Now two of the three legs had tailwinds. And one of those were epic tailwinds.
But still, not bad. Not bad at all.
I’m glad we did this trip when we did and before paint and interior. Because we discovered a couple things.
1) That my nose oil cooler NACA diverter doesn’t work… at all. The Chicago-Nashville trip was COLD!
2) We have to come up with some in flight storage solutions.
Experimental is the name of the game.