I awoke at 4:45am and did my usual morning routine with a few added bonuses of the Jimmy Stewart Airport which include a morning shower and a television. Flipped it on and what did I get: Rocky I. All Rocky wanted to do was "go the distance." And go the distance he did against Apollo. And my morning plan was the same. Go the distance...to home.
But before I could go I ran out to the plane to check the surfaces. I set my handheld radio to wake me up on the frequency which gives the airport weather information. The temperature and dew point being -3 and -5 respectively in Celsius, I was afraid there may be some frost on the wings and sure enough there was. So I started scraping it off with a little plastic tool and made slow progress with the growing light to the east. Shortly thereafter, Boyd and Joanne arrived with big waves and smiles and Boyd soon came out in the golf cart with a ladder, deicing spray and a huge role of paper towels. Freddy was soon clear and ready to go.
First though, I had to see Boyd's plane. A Noker tail dragger with fabric covering for the wings. It was a very cool plane that Boyd had done much rebuilding to. There were few gauges and what ones there were, were very cool: needles that went counter clockwise, and an altimeter that only goes to four thousand feet with the needle in a fixed position - the back circle moves instead of the needle. A very cool plane.
Then I was off with many thanks to Boyd into the early morning sun. Departed from Jimmy Stewart airport and over the radio Boyd passed on some good advice: Remember, if you get to the big blue ocean, you've gone too far. It turned out to be the most peaceful flight of the whole journey. I had worked hard the night before so that I'd have next to nothing to do while flying except to keep my eyes outside. The Pennsylvania hills and ridges and valleys were extraordinary and there was a bit of haze in the air with the early morning sun made it a majestic morning of flying. Soon I will have the pictures to show it.
I continued on over New York, its Hudson River and into Plainville Connecticut where I landed, called home to say I was near and to report my ETA.
Soon I was off again flying the 45 minute leg back to Norwood Memorial Airport. I did not really want to be ending the trip, but time and high expense of aviation gas were saying it was time. On the way to Norwood I saw and avoided the restricted airspace around Gillette stadium, where endless cars were on their way to a Patriots football game. Soon I was in contact with Norwood Tower and they told me to fly in on a left downwind for runway 28. This would put me very close to tower which is exactly where the welcoming committee would be. Mom had a handheld radio with her so they could all hear me call in to the tower. And sure enough, as I came over the tower I looked down to see many wavers. I gave my best rock of the wings, continued the downwind leg which is parallel the runway, got to the numbers and started the descent from 1000 feet up: pulled out the throttle a bit, pulled out the lever for the carburetor heat, slowed the plane until we were under 100 mph, then added some flaps to increase the descent rate and slow the plane down further. Turned to the base leg and added the second 10 degree increment of flaps, and then turning final, I lined up with the runway added the last notch of flaps and landed Freddy nice and smoothly onto the runway. We were back safe and sound.
I made my way to the parking spot, and as I shut down the engine, the committee arrived. Mom, Dad, Lol, Tots (the owner of Freddy), Jock, Court, Collette and Perri! Fantastic. Before I could get out, there were many pictures taken and then a rug with airplanes sewed into it was laid down for me to step on to in lieu of a red carpet, they said. Hugs all around and a picture of everyone with the plane. So wonderful to have them all there.
Everyone took a look inside the plane, and then it was quickly unpacked and tied down in its familiar spot. Everyone soon had places to go, so I went over to the plane one last time (at least on this trip) and gave Sir Fred a well deserved thank you for taking me so far in such safety and in such style. It was hard to leave my partner tied down. It was like trying to tell a dog that you're going for a run without him. They don't really understand, but that makes them always ready. And so Fred will wait for a bit, with full tanks, for our next adventure. And with that Mom and I drove back to Sherborn.
The trip was 19 days total, 13 days of flying, 26 legs, close to 60 hours in the air, and over 5,000 miles flown. From the air I saw rivers, valleys, mountains, monuments, towers, lakes, reservoirs, windmills, farms, fires, cities, towns and dwellings among other things. I saw the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, New Jersey and Rhode Island. On the ground I met many fabulous people - friendly and welcoming - and realized there is a great community of pilots and airport folks around the country who take great pride in their planes and their airports, no matter how small, and most importantly, they do a wonderful job of looking out for each other. It was one of the most unexpected aspects of the trip and it started the very first night in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. And so many of the people away from airports were so great too. With many wonderful people did I share my meals with along the way. I think it was only that one night in southern Colorado, did I eat my dinner alone without any one to talk to. Hoping for years to fly like I did, and finally fly it I did.
Thanks to all of you for reading and for all of your interest. It really means a lot and it is wonderful to feel supported by so many friends and family. I can never feel lonely knowing how many of you there are out there. Potential lonely times cease to be lonely because I know people will read about them and be right there with me. I get much enjoyment from sharing my experiences with you. So thanks again, and enjoy the pictures that will soon be out there.
Ben and Fred (N7202G)