Travels with Rocky - Wednesday, 26 June 1996

Rocky the Luscombe

I got up early and headed out to the airport. Jim from the hotel gave me a lift to the field. Rocky took a half-quart of oil, and I made sure that the chipped brake pulley was set so that the cable bore on an intact portion. When I sumped the fuel, I found that the mix of 80 octane and 100LL in the tank came out pretty much clear! It smelled like avgas, though, and evaporated quickly, so it was obviously not water.

I took off from Wynkoop heading for Moraine, Ohio (I73) into a glorious day. Clear skies, light winds on the ground and a nice tailwind aloft gave a groundspeed of 90 knots. I can live with that, since Rocky's usual cruise is 75 kts. This was a nice, easy flight with a good view of Wright-Patterson AFB and the Air Force Museum in the inactive portion of the base as I passed south of Dayton.

At Moraine, I didn't see any windsock, but a wind tee indicated runway 26 so I set up on a left downwind for that runway. As I turned base I finally saw a windsock, which was indicating runway 8! I went through with the approach anyway, but it was a wasted effort. With the tailwind's help I overshot the runway, so I went around and repositioned for a downwind for runway 6. This time the approach went well and I made a decent landing. Rocky had a lot of oil on him, but still had a good amount in him so I didn't add any. One of the folks at Moraine told me that the wind tee didn't work well, and the winds had been pretty variable that morning.

From Moraine we were off to Huntingburg, Indiana (HNB). The weather was still gorgeous and I enjoyed the scenery as we flew. One nice thing about flying in the midwest is the huge number of possible emergency landing areas. All those fields!

At HNB I saw a line boy waving flags at me as I left the runway, and since there were no major signs of life at the other FBO I followed him in. At first I thought this was a mistake, since the hangar seemed to have no facilities or other signs of life. However, after the line boy directed me through the doors at the back of the hangar I found a very friendly facility.

Jasper Flight Services went out of their way to make me welcome. The manager offered me a Coke out of their refrigerator, and then gave me the keys to the crew car and directions to town so I could get lunch. Very friendly people, very nice, especially considering that I bought one quart of oil and less than 10 gallons of gas. Rocky finished off the quart I had opened that morning, which was not good. His oil consumption had gone from a quart every seven or eight hours to a quart every three or four. This is barely acceptable, according to the engine manual, but definitely not normal. I made a point of keeping an eye on this for the rest of the flight. Other than the high oil consumption, though, Rocky was still running just fine.

From HNB we headed off to Paducah, KY (PAH). I wanted to set a lat/long waypoint in the GPS to make sure I stayed out of Evansville's Class C airspace, but I forgot to do so before I took off. In trying to figure out how to do this in the air, I ended up so far south of course that the Evansville airspace was never a consideration! Fortunately, the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers make for very good checkpoints, even in the haze of the midwest. Not that it was bad -- I had over ten miles visibility, when I fully expected to have three to five. Huntingburg also marked the transition to the central time zone, so I reset Rocky's clock. One less conversion to worry about.

Paducah had a big FBO obviously geared to big bizjets, King Airs, and such, but they still took care of Rocky and me. The fuel nozzle stuck open, so Rocky got some fuel spilled on him. I took advantage of that to wipe off some of the oil that was also covering his cowling and belly. Rocky took another half-quart of oil here, so it was becoming obvious that he needed some work. From past experience I figured he had stuck rings, which would cause a lot of oil blow-by but no major problems, so I decided to keep going with a close eye on the oil consumption and engine performance. Pulling the prop through also gave me a quick check for compression, so if it went away I would know. After I started him at HNB, I also checked for oil vapor spraying from the breather, but didn't see any. That was a symptom last time, but not this.

Arkansas was the next leg, from Paducah to Newport (M19). By now it was getting hazy, with clouds over central Arkansas, but Newport was clear. The visibility was down to six miles, and there aren't many useful landmarks in this area so the GPS saw a lot of use. As I was leaving PAH I was called as traffic to an arrival, who said they had me on TCAS. I popped off and told them that I was a non-transponder bird, so whatever they had on TCAS it wasn't me! After an hour or so on course I noticed that I was fairly close to the top of the haze layer, so I climbed to 4500 to see if I could top it. It was a bit higher still, and I didn't want to go up to 6500, so I levelled off at 45. Below me I spotted a bright yellow crop duster finishing up a field, and watched him for a bit as I passed.

Newport has a lot of runways, almost all closed! I had a bit of right crosswind as I landed, but not too bad. The FBO was closed! Turns out they're a strictly 9 to 5 operation, and I got there about 5:30. I scrounged a tiedown spot and called the rent-a-car after-hours number. The agent's mother answered the phone, and said they had no cars! It had been a busy day, and the agent had even tried to rent out his mother's car, but she wouldn't give it up. She called her son to check, but definitely no cars available. She then gave me the number of the local cab company, and they came right out.

The cabbie showed up with his wife and kid in tow. He was showing her how to work the meter and get the day's receipts from it. They were nice folks, and took me by a bank with an ATM machine before heading over to the motel. I got the impression that this was almost the only ATM in town, so we're definitely not talking metropolis here. I got a room at the Days Inn, and the cab fare was about nine bucks. Cheaper than a rental, at least. The hotel was right behind a Bonanza steak house, so that took care of dinner. By now I was fairly tired, so off to bed.

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Roger Ritter
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Wimberley, TX 78676
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