As I turned to the Northwest, I finally relaxed and let out a long sigh. My new philosophy is to enjoy the situation. I’m not at work, I’m out having fun. If I have to stop at an airport along the way, so what? I’m aviating!
I didn’t have to stop though. I soon saw Space X ahead and as I passed airport after airport I was just enjoying the flight. I had to stay low, so I was watching closely for towers and traffic, but I had no issues. As I got close to Ranger, the ceilings were dropping a little. I pulled up radar on my phone and saw there was a good-sized storm just East of the field. I spotted a large private field and figured if it got bad I would just head there. Soon Ranger was in sight though and I was on left downwind for 19.
When I landed, Jared came over to greet me. He said I had arrived just in time. A friend of his was coming in with his C-47 and could only stay for lunch. As I started setting up my campsite, I saw it heading in. What a sight! He did a low pass for us and entered the pattern. Funny how he used as much runway to land as I did! It was a beautiful plane inside and out.
A couple of guys showed up in a 140, then soon after the C-47 took off, Bo arrived. We had three 140s tied down together! It began to look as if we would be the only planes to arrive as the weather deteriorated. Out of a storm popped a 172 though and he dug trenches to his tie-down spot next to Bo and later a Harmon Rocket arrived, then a Maule. The Rocket sunk to his wheelpants and had to be towed in! Poor guy ended up removing his wheelpants the next day to dig out all of the mud.
We had good meals and a good time hanging out as usual. I think Bo and I might have been the only ones awake when we finally decided to turn in. Something about beer helps me sleep well!
It rained sometime around 3AM, but not for long. The field was usable Saturday morning, but soft and muddy in the ramp area. Not bad, but once my shoes were wet I was thankful I’d remembered my flip-flops!
It would rain off and on Saturday morning and the ceilings were very low. Occasionally a plane would make it in. One was very scary as I saw him and pointed him out to Bo. Before Bo could see him, he went back into cloud in a bank, then would pop out a couple of more times before appearing on downwind. Eventually it did lift and the guys from Viper Airshows were able to put on a show for us and all I can say is Wow! These guys are good. We even had two 140As come in, Brandon was one of them and it was good to see him again. We had a total of 5 140s which was pretty good since all weekend there were only 12 planes. We would have had at least two more if Ed and Vic hadn't had such bad weather at their airports.
As the day progressed, Bo and I were trying to decide if we could make it home. He was heading North toward Dallas and I was heading South toward Austin. We finally decided to take off and see what it looked like. We had a backup plan of Stephenville for BBQ if all else failed. It was rough flying and a few times I wondered what I was doing, but it would go from rough looking clouds and pouring rain to blue skies, then back again!
I had a horrible head-wind and knew I’d have to stop for fuel. I landed at Gatesville. It’s a nice airport they recently fixed up with a new terminal and fuel pump. The hangars at the end of the runway screw up the wind though and sometimes make it a challenge to land there. This day would be no different. I had to wrestle the plane down and was ready to rest for awhile. Then I couldn’t get the fuel pumps to work! Great. I was soon back in the air again heading toward Temple. Winds were 21 gusting to 27, but they were 150, so straight down runway 15 and I had a very nice landing. It was still fun though. Every time I would flare, it would pull me back into the air. I finally just did a very minimal flare and set it down nicely.
About 40 minutes later I was back at Taylor and on the ground. I was exhausted, but I at least unloaded the plane and piled all of my camping gear in the corner. I would return Sunday to hang it up to dry!
Not a bad trip. Too bad some people were just socked in. It poured rain in San Antonio and anyone even close was trapped. Had I waited any longer I don’t think I would have made it out either. Thanks to Jared, his Mom and Dad, and all of the volunteers. Great event and I'm looking forward to the next one in October!
We’ve got Fort Parker in about two weeks. See you there!
Jack "Fly-In Reporter" Fleetwood