Piper vacation the voyage home

After an enjoyable stay in the great weather of Southern California, it was time to return home. We got up on Friday morning, July 1st. at about 6:30- 700. This was particularly wonderful for me, as I had made several trips to SoCal over the last two years. Most were commercial and that flight leaves ONT at 0600, which means being at the rental return by 0500 so you can get to the Smurf check-in before your flight.
On this trip we had a "leisurely" drive to ONT. Got off U.S. 60 at Haven took it North to Jurupa then followed it West to the entrance to Atlantic Aviation. Pulled up to their door, put the luggage on the cart and headed to the plane. I needed a quart of oil and they had a rule which permitted them to sell me the oil but I had to put it in. They let me borrow their filler tube and got the level back where I wanted it. The plane was fueled that morning before our arrival and was ready to go.
I turned the prop and 35M responded like the wonderful plane she is. Called clearance delivery and got the expected circuitous routing out of ONT. Climb to 2000 then direct PDZ then Banning Pass, BLH, VICKO then KRYN. As I was taxiing out to the two miles of runway, ground asked if I would like an intersection take off. I said sure. A brief exchange and I had 3000 feet in front of me, more than ample to take off that morning. I was quickly handed off to SoCal and given new instructions, basically removing all prior restrictions and headed directly for the Pass.
Banning Pass is an interesting route, it is used by most, if not all, VFR traffic between Palm Springs and Western locations. The Pass can be mildly active or it can be brutally rough. This morning it was as smooth as glass. I passed this on to the Palm Springs App controller, who told me that the day before everyone was reporting it as very turbulent.
Shortly California was a fading memory. The Salton Sea was retreating behind the right wing and the desert tan of California gave way to the same for Arizona. We finally reached VICKO which is an intersection West of PHX and turned SE toward Tucson. The morning air had been cool and smooth, but as we neared Gila Bend (GBN) a few light chops were starting to make themselves known. Finally we crossed the ridgeline into the Tucson area and were handed off to Ryan tower in quick order. Told to expect 24L, I was instructed to fly the canal, took me a minute to find it but I understood the intent when I did. I realized I was real fast and high, so nosed it over and pulled the throttle back, it was getting noticeably hotter on the OAT. My wife always critiques my landings and I was batting 1.000. Once on the ground it was really hot, and that does not describe the heat fully. Decided not to eat but just fuel and go. Got off the 104 degree ground as quickly as possible, using 32 for the departure runway. Climb was slow and the bumps were getting bigger. Soon the bumps were light to moderate turbulence. Tucson and then Davis-Monthan AFB slid by under the left wing, veered a little to the right for mountain clearance and we were on our way again. Next fix was Cochise then direct to Columbus and finally 5T6 Santa Teresa NM. As we flew along I pointed out to my wife that the country of Mexico was just off the right wing.
Flight following gave way to CTAF at 5T6, density altitude was again quite high and I liked the fact they had recently extended the runway to 9500 feet. My wife thought it was another great landing, I thought otherwise. Too little on the flare, three point touchdown, well at least I put it down slow and soft. Got off the runway and got temporarily lost, went to the museum and had to back track to the FBO. I called a guy I met on the AOPA board who had PM'ed me. He gave me some local tips about the departure. Spent the night with family.
Saurday was a beautiful morning, Santa Teresa had its first rain in months the night before all two hundreths of an inch. We filled the tanks, self announced and took off. Clear of the pattern, I called El Paso approach told them I wanted flight following to OUN with a stop in Lubbock for fuel. I said the locals told me I could go around the South side of the mountain if I kept the smoke stacks to my right. They cleared me over downtown (and their airport)and confirmed the stack location was correct. As it was early they were busying pushing and landing SW's fleet of 737s. Did several traffic spots over the next several minutes, including one on take off roll just in front of my left wing. He lifted off and turned to the north. Approach notified me the Restricted space was unavailable below 11-5 and I was at 9500. Performance in the Archer is not great at the higher altitudes so I deviated to the East. We flew on and I commented that the town to the North was Artesia, NM. I was assigned TDY there in 1969 with SAC's 1st Combat Evaluation Group. The air was smooth and cool. Albuquerque Center asked me about my transponder working and had me Ident. Went through the not receiving code routine. I told them they were the only Center who seemed to have this problem and recounted the story from my Trip that Almost Was on this board. He finally said it was probably his equipment. Finally we approached KLBB.
I started the descent as usual. About 7500 I started into the turbulence and the lower we got the worse it got. Finally got lined up and landed on 17R. I keep looking for 17L but Lubbock has yet to build it. Actually it does exist the threshhold is South of the E-W main runway. But with two very large runways 17L's 2900 X 75 feet make it look more taxiway than runway. Aero Lubbock is a good FBO which I have used before and they took good and quick care of us on this stop. By this time I was also noticing the building CU's. I knew there was a Convective Sigmet for the area. The bases were forecast to be 10-5 but I was close enough at 5500 that 7500 seemed it would put me in them. I deliberated on whether or not to convert the FF into an IFR just to get above the constant turbulence. We were now talking to FTW Center. Center lost a radar in my sector and could not see me at that altitude. The controller discontinued FF and told me to squawk 1200. He advised that I might have better luck once I got close to Childress. I listened to a lengthy conversation with the controller about another pilot's plans at Possum Kingdom that weekend. It got very funny by the time it was over. I was glad there were no frequency police on the frequency to complain. Once we crossed the Red River into Oklahoma, radar contact new txp code. I was able to get up to 7500 but was only minimally better ride. I had reached the point that I was ready to land from the constant pounding of the turbulence. I told Center that I could not call it severe but it was definitely moderate on steroids. FTW became Oke City Approach about 60 miles out. They were pleased I already had the ATIS and the AWOS from OUN. I was told to expect 17 at Westheimer. AWOS had the winds calm and he temp of over 100 degrees, densit altitude was 3900 feet. (Field is 1180) I thought I get home and after all of the airports which had 6 thousand, 7 thousand and over 9 thousand feet DA none had that on their automated reports. The systems all said check density altitude but none gave the value.
Handed over to the tower, I was told to enter right downwind for 21. OH, OK. I was midfield on that approach and called for a wind check. 180 at 10,would I like 17. I declined. At that point 10 knots 30 off the runway was a piece of cake, 5 more minutes in that turbulence was the greater of the two evils. I turned final, landed and rolled out to the end of 21. As I turned off of the runway onto Echo I saw that my FBO had opened my hangar doors. What a beautiful sight. We taxied over, emptied the plane and the line boy put her up for me. That was two weeks ago tomorrow. It has been over 100 degrees everyday since we got back except the day it was 99. We are looking forward to our next Piper adventure. I think Galveston sounds good and its only three hours away by Archer.mini_Over-KELP-South-of-Franklin-Mtns.JPGmini_Short-final-21-KOUN.JPGmini_On-final-21-KOUN.JPG


  • Thanks for the story, William. I haven't ventured more that 300 miles from home, but your narratives have given me the hankerin' to stretch my wings and see the country! : )

    Galveston is a reasonable destination. You can find a nice bed-and-breakfast in one of the old Victorian homes there, or a hotel on the Seawall with an ocean view. The two nicest beachfront hotels are The Galvez (for historical) or The San Luis (for somewhat more modern).

    New Orleans is also within easy reach of you, and of course that's a fine place to visit as well. Spent a great Memorial Day weekend there this year. Stayed in the Place D'Armes in the Quarter...very comfortable room for a reasonable price, considering the location.
  • I hope, and encourage, you to do so. Long cross country flights are wonders unto themselves. Whether you are crossing the deserts and mountains of the West or the prairies and navigable rivers of the Midwest it is all beautiful from the air. We went to middle TN a few weeks ago. We left in the morning, got where we were going did what we needed to do and was home before we could have driven there. Saw the flooding along the Mississippi and the barge traffic.

    So fire up the prop and head into your own air adventure. Good Luck and smooth skies.
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