I am now in striking distance from home. I’m in Carrollton, Ohio and there is no pilot lounge, so I’m in the cockpit, but that’s just where I like to be on what might be my last evening of the trip.
This morning I left Madison, Wisconsin just ahead of a dark rainstorm that was approaching from the northwest. I was very happy to take off and hit 125 knots on my southeast course. Going east, I lose time to the time zones, but I make up for it with tailwinds usually.
I flew past Chicago, watched on radar as always with the FAA’s Flight Following service. And after about 330 nautical miles I landed at Green County Airport near Dayton, Ohio. Once I landed, someone came out to greet me. I asked what’s the easiest way to get to the National Air Force Museum, that someone told me about while I was west-bound…The courtesy car, of course! I told him, I’d top off my gas tanks when I was back, and he said he’d do them while I was away at no extra charge. Green Co., they don’t mess around.
So to the museum I went after a quick lunch stop. And four the next four hours, I walked around in amazement looking at favorite plane after favorite plane. The F-16, T-38, X-29, Mercury/Gemini/Apollo spacecraft. You name it, it was there. All the ex-presidential Air Force Ones, helicopters, balloons, rockets, it was incredible. I got to sit inside cockpits and do a virtual reality space walk. The whole afternoon made me very happy I am a pilot! Incredible aircraft. The smell inside the Air Force Ones reminded me of submarines. It’s the same smell, not sure if it’s the metal, the paint, the wiring, or what they use to clean the vehicles, but it’s the exact same and it makes my blood move a little faster. I was wondering how would I chose between an aircraft and a submarine…and I decided I would split the difference with a spacecraft. I bet they have the exact same smell.
Then it was on to find my home for the evening. I landed at Coshocton, Ohio but their office was closed and they had no self-service fuel, so I took off without turning off the engine. Onto Carrollton where I know they had fuel. There was no one here as usual, so I checked out the local area, discovered there was no pilot lounge, but found some outdoor electrical sockets, then went for a run. Since it was dark by then, I ran on the four thousand foot runway. I ran looking at the runway lights and then up at the stars and lingering clouds, thinking, I just came from there! It sometimes feels like I’ve been spending as much time up there as I do down here. I ran down the middle of the runway, my arms spread, smiling to myself.
So now in the cockpit, I’ve had my dinner of a granola bar, a banana, a carrot, hummus, triscuits, raisons and cheese. Running a little low on provisions, but the voyage is almost done. My records need organizing – I keep track of the airports that I visit, so I know which ones I should visit again. And I keep records of my flights, not just in my logbook, but more detailed notes of fuel costs and usage, miles flown, time in the air.
And I’m not quite ready to be home yet. I love these trips. I love the unknown, I love how I never need the checklist, everything makes sense and there becomes a certain rhythm and familiarity from flying everyday. I love it. Man and beautiful Freddy flying machine.
An instagram friend suggested the Air National Guard is always looking for experienced pilots…makes me wonder. I love the sense of mission, the purpose. Still hoping for space.
But for now I’ll soak in Freddy’s smell which is still the same and as stimulating as it was almost 30 years ago when I was in junior high. A few more flights to home and I’ll soak in those too. Got to organize my little spaceship now. Goodnight!