Mississippi Chapter 99s hosts an educational and fun weekend in Biloxi, MS, then Terry takes off for a once in a lifetime adventure. Read on ...

September 26th: Home to Biloxi - the long way around: I have never been known for taking the direct route - well, flying, anyway - and this trip to Biloxi was no exception. I left home the beginning of September and headed north for a little family time, leaving after being frozen out by a cold front that arrived the day after I did. TemperaturesSheriffTour/2013fall99s1.jpg plummeted from a toasty 90 degrees to a morning low of 42 degrees. It was time to head south. The good news was that it was now fall and the corn mazes should be out. After departing the MD/DC area, I spied the first maze. It was not particularly complicated but it was interesting none-the-less. As I continued south the sky got hazier to the point where the camera could focus on nothing more than the aircraft window. Other mazes appeared in the distance but being on a flight plan with poor visibility, I had to give up the idea of maze chasing for the day.
I made a quick stop in Rowan County, NC for fuel and to visit my brother for lunch and to give the schmutz (a/k/a "low IFR conditions") in Marianna, FL a chance to clear. The forecast called for a 1600 hrs. clearing and the trend seemed to be favoring the forecast, so I departed with a planned 1600 arrival. NC was dotted with layers of clouds. I was fortunate to be riding right on the tops of them for the journey through the Class B airspace to my turn on course toward Marianna. But soon the clouds drifted up to greet me and I was enveloped in the 500' thick layer of IMC the remainder of the trip to Marianna.

Below my flight level was not much better. I was in and out of the clouds and decided on the GPS 18 approach in to Marianna even though the weather was reporting overcast at 2400'. ... I had to get to 2400' first. I opted for the full approach and logged one in the books with ease, breaking out well above minimums but somewhat below the 2400' ceiling reported by the AWOS. I was greeted by Bill and a few other airport regulars. Bill had remembered me as "the air racer" from my previous visits. I suppose it did not hurt to be SheriffTour/2013fall99s2.jpgsporting that large 11 on the tail either. He gave me the courtesy car for the night and I headed off to the hotel for the evening.

Morning came with the typical fog that envelopes the pan handle area. I have not spent too much time in this area so a little morning exploration was in order. Very close to the airport, I stumbled on the Florida Caverns State Park. While the cave tours, gift shop and museum were closed upon my arrival I was able to hike around the various trails and see the flora and fauna that the park had to offer. There were canoes available to paddle through the river that runs 1/4 mile through a cave. I though better of wandering off and doing that by myself when no one knew where I was. After a few relaxing hours, I headed back to the airport to wait for the ceiling to lift for my VFR trip to Fairhope.

By 1300, I was able to make the hour long trip to Fairhope, AL under the ceiling of 2000'. I remained relatively low and enjoyed some scenery in a part of FL that I do not usually see, dropping out of clear skies by the time I was in AL. I wandered about the quaint town of Fairhope for a bit and had dinner at the Blue Gill Restaurant - I so enjoy the seafoodSheriffTour/2013fall99s3.jpg in the Gulf states.

With business behind me, I was finally on my last leg to Biloxi Thursday afternoon. The sky was clear and the short 30 minute trip called for a coastline flight. Again, this is a part of the shoreline I had not before flown in spite of coming through this area frequently. I was either on an IFR flight plan or headed too far on shore to enjoy the Gulf. I was greeted by Ellen upon my arrival at the airport. It was great to see Ellen and the 99s again. Our hotel was right on the beach although we opted for the "more scenic" - and less expensive - street view. But the Mississippi Chapter accommodated our sea SheriffTour/2013fall99s4.jpgseeing desires by hosting a hospitality suite on the water side, complete with food, fun and friendship. With over 40 99s filtering in for the evening we had a chance to chat with friends and get the scoop on other happenings around the 99s Chapters. After my board meeting in the evening, we settled in early, ready for a full day Friday.

September 27th - What a whirl-wind of a day: One look at the schedule and I breathed a heavy sigh as I could see I was going to be up long past my bed time. We had a 0800 start (that part was not an issue) to meet in the parking lot to load up for a trip to the Airforce Base to visit the home of the Hurricane Hunters. This potion of the trip had my attention from the beginning. I love looking at weather and I figured that these guys would have some of the most awesome stuff for weather. I was not disappointed.SheriffTour/2013Fall99s5.jpg

Major Kaitlin Woods, a weather geek turned Hurricane Hunter, started with a power point on hurricane hunting to knock your socks off. The crescendo was the tour through the WC130J sitting on the ramp at the Airforce base. The pilots are treated to the latest and greatest of both weather and navigation equipment in the cockpit and are often referred to as button pushing pilots (I have heard that somewhere before). We had a little dropsonde demonstration and got a group photo in front of the aircraft. Then we visited their simulator to see where the bulk of the recurrent training takes place. It was pretty awesome to be "sitting on the runway ready for take-off" in the comfort of your air conditioned simulator! SheriffTour/2013Fall99s6.jpgFollowing the sim was the demonstration of the ATC training for military base assignment. The volunteers staged a mock ATC environment to demonstrate conflict resolution and traffic flow in general.

Our next stop was Infinity Space Center for a museum tour and lunch. We were free to wander about the ground and play with the hands on exhibitsSheriffTour/2013Fall99s7.jpg and learn a little about the space program before heading to Stennis space Center to learn about rocket construction and see $1.6 BILLION in rockets sitting in storage. Holy cow!!!!

If all of this was not impressive enough we headed for our last stop of the day to Shade Tree Airport. Did we see C130's? Rockets? Super-fancy, super-fast aircraft? No! We saw aviation as it was in yester-year: Stearman, T-6's and Cubs... and I took my first ever Stearman ride. Was it ever cool. I think my pilot, Jay, was trying to talk to me but I was off in la-la-land enjoying the fresh air of the open cockpit while lumbering around with the radial music in my ears. Our day ended with a huge buffet dinner and the movie Pearl  in the open air theater at the airport.

SheriffTour/2013Fall99s8.jpgOur Saturday 99s business meeting went well - especially for a meeting. We had a great group of ladies who took to the business at hand with a twinkle in their eyes and smiles on the faces. The times passed amazingly fast - especially for a business meeting. Released from servitude for the afternoon, we wandered about the town for lunch and shopping before the evening banquet and another ate night.

September 29th - "Dodje-ing" the storms:  With a cold front marching across Texas I knew that my next leg westward would not be a picnic. The storms had held together pretty well through the night and large violent cells were in my direct to path. With a little patience and a lot of luck I was able to avoid the worst of the storms. Starting out at 4,000' to avoid the clouds and actually see what was coming, I was sitting pretty: a little tail wind and not so many bumps. I knew that I had to enjoy whatever push I could get because once I crossed the line, I was looking for a forecast 20-30 kts headwind. Not long out of Gulfport, ATC radioed that I would be lost to radar for the next 130 nm if I did not climb to 6,000'. While this would not ordinarily have bothered me, the next 130 nm was the heart of the storms cells as painted on the NEXRAD and I wanted the radar coverage to get any assistance for storm dodging. I climbed to 6,000' and lost my boost, dropping 10 kts in the process.

As I rounded the corner at MLU, ATC gave me a good heading to avoid everything. I had only hit a small amount of light rain for a bout 30 nm of the trip but neither then rain nor the bumps were bad at all. I pulled out the iPad and picked up the DODJE4 arrival into Fort Worth. Sweet. Although I spent 2.7 hours staring at the inside of a cloud, this arrival got me to CAVU as I started to descend into KFTW.  All and all a good leg considering the mess painted on NEXRAD. I can settle in for a while before the AOPA Summit begins.

SE Section Meeting photos

Southern Cross: For nearly a week I knew this day would come. I have been holding my breath hoping that the weather and other earthly forces would not act in concert against me. Today I was to fly a DC-3 owned by the Greatest Generation Aircraft Museum. I am in Fort Worth for the AOPA Summit this week. My good friend, Jim R, and his compatriots at the SheriffTour/DC31.jpgMuseum made me an offer that I could not refuse - an AOPA Pilot Experience flight, piloting the DC-3. "Heck yes!" was my only response. And then the wait. As of last night the weather looked good, the planets were properly aligned and I was so excite that I could not stand myself. I had to calm down so I could sleep.

Bright and early this morning at 0530, I was up studying the numbers. The DC-3 is a fly by numbers airplane and I wanted to be sure that I knew something of what I was doing. I had seen all of the power point presentations and studied the Flight Training manual and reviewed the numbers but I wanted to cement the numbers in my head. I was in the company of another Pilot Experience pilot, David Hast, and his wife, Sharon, plus another pilot who flew a later flight, Jerry. We were all in the capable hands of instructor Jim Terry.SheriffTour/DC34.jpg

We started with ground school, Jim giving us the basics of the Southern Cross and the numbers we would use. I read far more than I needed for this flight but better to be prepared and in the long run, this helped me remember the briefing. (Did I mention that I was excited to fly this airplane?). I had already sat in the cockpit, looked at the panel and found everything that I needed. The throttle quadrant is set up "backwards" (prop and throttle levers reversed) like the Baron  I have been flying so this was a plus at this point. When it came time to fly I gave Dave the option to go first or tell me to go first. He picked me. Yes, yes, yes!!!! I could not have made a better choice myself.

We all climbed in and started the pre-start up sequence and start-up, waking up the giant radial engines that powered the plane. They came to life with a belch of smoke and rumbled the sweetest melody I have ever heard. I was told the plane was loud; and from the passenger compartment, it was but from the pilot seat the noise was simply delightful. Jim and I SheriffTour/DC32.jpgcompleted the start then pre-taxi check list then I taxied out. This airplane has a 95' wingspan and is nearly 65' long. We sit 14' in the air - a bit more than I am accustomed. My Citabria experience has paid off as the taxiing the tail wheel was not an issue at all. The tail wheel is locked in the DC-3 so you steer with differential power and MINOR stabs at the breaks. I managed to hold her pretty good down my version of the centerline. Jim and I did the run-up and we were off. My job as pilot was to gently let the tailwheel rise at 40 kts; do NOT let her fly until 84 kts.; pitch for initial climb to 94 kts then 110 kts and call for gear up and the proper power reductions that are handled by the instructor (or the pilot not flying if I were appropriately type-rated). From there - fly the plane. She lumbered along - low and slow. Unlike the Citabria, it took great amounts of control input - almost exaggerated amounts - to move this gentle beast. We completed the pattern and made a low pass so Jim could give me the visual of what landing will look like being so much higher off the ground. We departed for another run around the patch but this time I was landing.

I was quite pleased that nothing happens fast in the DC-3. There was no rush. Just stay on your numbers, keep your speeds and fly the plane. As we turned for final I was set upSheriffTour/DC33.jpg pretty good again on my version of the centerline - I mention this because Vern constantly tells me I land slightly left of center on a regular basis. I was right where I always am. . . The runway arrived when it should have. I could have flared a fraction earlier but we did not come careening off the runway so I was happy. Then the difficult part of tailwheel - continue flying the plane until you make a full stop. I kept her down the left of center but did need to scoot back over to the right a bit. I held the tailwheel off and DID NOT apply the brakes as instructed. When Jim said: " ... the only thing I cannot fix as instructor is if you get on the brakes and nose her over ..." I paid attention. I want to make sure an instructor can always fix what I mess up. ... no mess up here. With the tail wheel lowered and firmly on the ground, we came to a halt, taxiing off the runway and stopping to switch pilots. Now my face hurt from smiling so much. That was cool.

I remained in the back with Sharon while David took the helm. He did a great job and we all left the plane - usable for others - with a sense of pride and accomplishment. This was a once in a lifetime experience for each of us. I got some great pictures and video of David that I can replay but the vivid memories of my fantasy flight are now permanently etched into my mind. I can sleep easy tonight with the dreams of my most fun day.

DC-3 - Southern Cross Flight Pix

Texas to Tennessee: After a fabulous three weeks in Texas it was finally time to say goodbye. The flying was outstanding as I logged over 15 hours in the Baron plus DC3 time, saw old friends an met new friends. I will be back but for now it is time to head east-ish. The next stop is the annual board meeting for the Air Race Classic.SheriffTour/TXTN1.jpg

VP, Keri Wright, hosted all of the board at her office in Memphis TN. Theresa White ha flown in DFW and accompanied me on this leg of my sojourn. It was great to have "T-n-T" (the 2008 ARC Classic 11) riding again. Although the day was relatively clear, we filed IFR to get out of the busy DFW airspace and get in to the busy Memphis airspace. The in between saw less than 5 minutes of actual IMC and otherwise SheriffTour/TXTN2.jpgsunny skies. Everything was beautiful and green and we crossed the Mississippi River on the descent into 2M8 just north of Memphis.

Keri greeted us at the airplane door as assisted us getting to the hotel. We were out the door for a hike along one of the smaller rivers that dump into the Mississippi. It was good to be moving around again. With the remainder of the board coming in Friday evening there would be no more time to play until our departure Sunday afternoon.

Cabin Sweet Cabin: Theresa and I loaded Wild Mama Sunday afternoon for the VFR trip from Memphis to Spencer, TN. The skies were perfectly clear and a tail wind greeted us as we climbed out from 2M8 to 7500'. We were hoping to see corn mazes and lots of fall colors but there were none to be had until we reached Spencer. We did a little flight overSheriffTour/TXTN3.jpg the area of Center Hill Lake, Rock Island waterfalls and over the cabins. Most of the scenery was still green with a hint of color creeping ever so slowly into the landscape.

SheriffTour/TXTN4.jpgThe nice thing about owning property scattered about the US is that you can be home in lots of places. After a whirl-wind  weekend of ARC meetings it was good to head to the cabin in Spencer, TN. The cabin is always a place of peace, especially with a roaring fire glowing in the fireplace. Unfortunately, Theresa did not get to enjoy the warmth as the cabins were rented Sunday night. We parked the plane and drove into Nashville for the evening so Theresa could catch an early morning commercial flight back to Washington.

Once I arrived at the cabin there was plenty of work for me to do. I always freshen up the look, replace worn items and give the cabin a good go-over. Judy and Daniel do a great job with the day to day cleaning and maintenance but I go over to replace the big stuff. As the week progressed, my jobs came to an end and I was preparing for the arrival of the 99s for the SE Section weekend retreat. We had a great small group of 8 - far less folks than I had hoped but a great group none-the-less. We enjoyed the BBQ at KSRB then came back to the cabin for the bon fire and S'mores. The weather remained overcast for the Sunday morning departure of my guests but al arrived home safely.

As for me, I had planned to remain a few more days before heading west to OKC and the 99s International Board meeting. Checking the weather, I noted storms across my path forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday so I planned for  Monday departure. I probably should have tried to scoot Sunday with high ceilings and headwinds but there was too much to pack and arrange before I left. Monday will have to do.

OKC and Back to FL: OK, talk about getting a bit sidetracked ... this last blog is way over due but I guess life got in the way.

Heading to OKC was interesting. Getting off the ground was tricky an my departure was delayed in part for chatting with another pilot - new and VFR only. He was seriously considering what to do, not wanting to disappoint his passengers, complete the mission, etc. He was clearly not liking life because it was really not a VFR kin dof day. We chatted and I discussed weather with him. He was not familiar with the area and the fact that there were mountains, aliet small ones, that he needed to cross. I left him with what I hoped were some sage words of advice and blasted off into the clouds. (I did hear from him in a subsquent email that he took my advice, remained another night, had a great visit and da fabulous trip home.)

My trip was not as fabulous. Slogging through the clouds and bucking headwinds and bumps the whole way. I could get out of the clouds by going higher I was told byATC but it would be at the expense of another 10 knots and I wa already wondering what my fuel status would be by the time of my arrival. Although I hoped or no delays, it was not be to quite so. Even though no convective activity was forecast, a large storm blew up in my path and I needed to be vectored around. Now I am getting concerned about my fuel status, especially when I hear that planes are being put in a hold coming in to OKC. I was RIGHT THERE at my reserve if I did not have to hold. Then came the happy words: "cleared for the approach". Oh goodie, I am golden now! I made the approach for an uneventful landing to attend the 99s International meeting.

After a few days of meetings, I was ready for home. I have been gone for 2 months and was ready to see my kitty. I got a late start from OKC so I eded up spending the night in Meridian, MS - a great stop, good fuel price, a courtesy car and courteous people. The last leg was a welcomed uneventful event.