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TBUTLER

Flying down the road!

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I hold a private pilots license and have been flying for 12 years. I have never owned an airplane but do love to fly. Since getting my license I have always rented airplanes. When we sold our foundation house and bought the motor home I resolved to continue with my flying.

Renting airplanes while traveling has certain obstacles that have to be overcome. Each new place that I rent requires a check ride with an instructor. This is standard for the industry due only in part to the requirement by insurance companies. So just to get the ability to rent, I'll spend $150 for an hour in a plane with an instructor. If that satisfies the instructor then they will sign me off to rent that particular model of plane. For this reason, I'll try to do this in an area where I can rent a plane several times while staying there. Occasionally if the sightseeing is especially interesting in an area I'll fly just one time to get to see the terrain. Most of the planes available for rent are Cessna 172's with an occasional Piper Cherokee. These are renting for about $100 per hour these days. The rates are for actual engine run time, not for parking. Thus I can fly to a location and have dinner or stay overnight and return the next day for less than $200 in rental fees for the plane.

So where have I flown?

One of my first road rentals was out of the Hemet, CA airport. We took an ugly green and yellow Cessna 152 for a flight over Joshua Tree National Park then on south to the Palm Springs airport. From there we circled the Salton Sea, landing at the Calapatria airport just south of the Salton Sea. Both landings were below sea level! We then continued on over the Anza-Borrego State Park and back to Hemet. We had hiked a number of trails in Joshua Tree and Anza-Borrego parks and enjoyed seeing the terrain from above. Seeing the wind generators near Palms Springs and making the landings below sea level were also interesting things to do.

Later that same year we were staying in Visalia, CA where I rented a Piper Cherokee. We flew over the Sierra Nevada to Death Valley. We landed in Death Valley National Park at Furnace Creek. This is the lowest airport in North America being just a few miles from the lowest point in North America. The Furnace Creek airport is 216 feet below sea level. After eating lunch there we flew east to the Amargosa Valley to see our campsite when we stayed there. Then continuing back over some of our hiking routes in Death Valley we crossed the Sierra Nevada in eastern Yosemite National Park. Flying between peaks over frozen lakes we got a distant view of Half Dome. Then we landed at Columbia, CA where we had been told there was a restaurant within walking distance of the airport. We found the trail and walked to a little Mexican restaurant, had dinner then returned to the plane for a night take off and trip down the central valley of California.

Out of the Montgomery County Airport we flew to airports in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware adding a few more states where I have flown. The restaurant we planned to eat at was not open the day we flew so we simply flew the circuit doing sightseeing.

Staying near Mt. St. Helens in Washington, we have rented a Cessna 172 several times. Once making a sightseeing circuit around Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier and through the Columbia Gorge. Another flight took us south to visit our daughter and son-in-law and his parents in Roseburg, OR. We had dinner with them then stayed overnight before returning to the Kelso-Longview airport where we had rented the plane.

In Alaska I made two flights out of Merrill Field in Anchorage. One flight east to the Matanuska Glacier and then on to the south over the Kenai Peninsula before returning to Anchorage. The second flight was to the southern slopes of Denali to see the glacier fields there.

In spring and fall I return to Missouri to visit our children. At the airport where I learned to fly I have a standing rental agreement and don't have to get a check ride each time I return. The same is true for our winter retreat in Edinburg, TX. This allows me to fly in both locations for less cost and I take full advantage of that. In Missouri we will fly our children and grandchildren for sightseeing. We enjoy flying to any of a number of nearby airports for lunch or dinner before returning home. In Texas we often fly with friends from our RV Park for sightseeing or to visit other locations. We recently spent a weekend with friends at Port Aransas on Mustang Island. Packing light and managing fuel we can fly four adults in a Cessna 172 for a short trip.

There have been other flights, too many to describe all. One of the requirements for maintaining currency is to make at least 3 landings every 90 days. This means that sometime during the summer I must find a place to rent a plane and get at least a little flying in to stay current.

Flying has added a great deal of pleasure to our travels. We get to see the land from a different perspective than most people do.

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We are fortunate to be friends with the Butlers and have taken several plane rides with them. The first a couple of years ago was from McAllen, Tx East to South Padre Island. We landed at a small airport in Cameron County and Took a courtesy car into port Isabell, had dinner there, then returned to car. We then took off and flew up and down the coast and the along the Mexican Boarder over and along the Rio Grande, staying in US territory. I was a great day with a great pilot and good company.

We also tagged along to Port Isabell for an over night there. We able to tour Mustang Island on an over built golf cart.

One more memorable flight was when Tom and Louise visited us in SD. We live near the airport at Yankton. The weather was clear so Tom asked if we would like a plane ride, of course we said yes. Tom got checked out at the airport and the next moring we were off. We made some passes over our home neighborhood for pictures then headed west over Gavins Point dam and west along the Missouri River. We crossed over into Nebraska to view the hills and Niobrara River Valley. The skies were clear, but somehow we starting getting specs all over the windshield. I pointed out that it looked like oil. "Tom agreed, he said that has me a little concerned" Fortunately we had just passed a small landing strip, so using his GPS he turned the plane back and headed for the landing strip. We had about 10 miles to go. I made it my job to watch the oil pressure and temp guage, by this time the windshield was completely covered with oil and the pressure was dropping. Finally no oil pressure, but were only a couple of miles from the landing strip. The engine temp never came up so we were sure we could make it safely and we did. Tom made a perfect landing with the windshield completely coverd. We found out later there was only a pint of oil left in the crankcase, the rest, 5 quarts of it all over the plane. The lost of oil was due an ispection plug not insalled properly.

Plenty of exitement for one day.

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Guest Wayne77590

Y'all are havin' to much darn fun!!!

Sounds like second childhoods.

Great stories - both of them.

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Tom, you need to have a blog so we can follow along with you. Sounds like you know how to travel first class.

Well, OK! I have thought about doing one but worry that I won't be able to keep up with it and keep it interesting. I do a weekly e-mail summary for our kids and mothers while on the road. I should be able to modify that and make it work as a framework. I'll give it a try and see how it goes. Thanks for the encouragement (always the teacher, eh?).

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Wayne77590> regarding you comment….â€Sounds like second childhoods.†Nope, a pilot is like a kid playing at work.

If you folks haven’t been up in a private airplane with a professional pilot on one of mother earth’s gorgeous days, then you need to add it to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

Tbulter> I am a retired military pilot -also FCC qualified as an instructor/examiner pilot in jets, turbo props, pistons, and helicopters. I hold civilian licenses up to an ATP. I have a total of 8700 hours in somewhere around 25 different aircraft. I have owned my own airplane – a Mooney M65. Therefore, I must respectfully disagree with your comment about the green and yellow Cessna 152. Despite the color scheme there is no such thing as an “ugly†airplane. But, I whole heartily and absolutely agree with you that “we get to see the land from a different perspective than most people do.†It is a wonderful experience.

Let’s go flying. I’ll flip you for the left seat.

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SkyKing8,

You really had to see that yellow and green Cessna 152!

With your credentials I'll gladly cede the left seat to you unless you want to give me a lesson!

There have been several changes since my initial post. The FBO at Spirit of St. Louis Airport has gone out of business, another victim of the economic downturn. I'm seeing a trend toward less rentals and more flying clubs. The latter aren't appealing because they require a "dues" which doesn't work for a traveler like me.

In May I got my glider pilot license at Mile High Gliding in Boulder, CO. I'll be back there in September and am hoping for good weather so I can get up and try out the new license. Now a glider, there is a beautiful flying machine. And they are so much quieter than those helicopters or jets! :rolleyes:

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