My Texas Homecoming Tour By Steve McDonald
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Ever since I got my private license in 1976 back in my home state of Texas, I have dreamed of owning my own airplane and visiting friends and places from my childhood. This last January my dream began to come true with the purchase of my RV-4, N52MR.
I started planning my first big cross-country trip back in June 2002 for the last week in September. September weather is usually great (except for a few scattered hurricanes) and my airplane is VFR only. I invited my friend Vern Darley. I was glad to have the company since I planned to fly from Falcon Field just southwest of Atlanta to Burnet, Texas on the first day.
I awoke on Tuesday the 24th of September to a low overcast sky. A quick check with the weather briefer gave the following report; 900 overcast and 4 miles with BR. That means 'baby rain' to me and a ceiling that just isn't going to cut it for my VFR only RV. Since the weather briefer called for marginal VFR by about 1300 local we decided to go to Vern's house for lunch and look at his RV-6A project. Sure enough at about 1230 the ceiling came up some and we took off for the airport. Some of you trusty old fighter pilot's used to fly with a GIB [ guy in back ]. I did better than that with my trusty VIB [ Vern in back ! ].
We started at 1306 local and took off at 1315. It was a two pilot job almost all the way to Jackson, Mississippi, my first fuel stop. I flew, and Vern read the sectional to check for towers and airports. GPS made it easy to navigate. I never would have believed 26 years ago I would someday navigate 'by satellite'! Our first leg took 2 hours and 9 minutes, 301 nm, and an average speed of 139 kts. Not bad for a fully-loaded RV-4 with the little 150 horse engine. The next leg was in to Angelina County airport in Lufkin, Texas. This was my first landing in Texas since 1979 in a small airplane. It wasn't very pretty in the strong gusty winds left over from the storm Isador, but we did walk away from it. We enjoyed showing the RV-4 to a Boy Scout troop out on a field trip. The last leg was a short 1.2 hrs to Craddock Field in Burnet, Texas, complete with real nice folks and the cheapest fuel of my trip at $1.80 a gallon. To bad I can only carry 30 gallons!
We spent the night at my good friend Sam Willson's house and had some great fajita's. The next day I took Vern to the Austin Bergstrom airport. Vern had been based here in the Air Force in one of his many previous lives. I was sad to see him go since I knew I would have to read my own sectionals from now on. Later that day I took my friend Sam flying in my RV-4. He had a great time It was the first time he had flown with me since our freshman year in college.
Thursday morning I launched off into a beautiful Texas sky on my way to Bourland Field in Fort Worth. It was so blue it almost hurt my eyes. Dick Bourland runs the small airport and is a retired American Airlines Captain, having retired off the 747. Since I work for Delta, we swapped some airline war stories. I stayed Thursday night in Fort Worth with another friend from high school and college. We went to downtown Fort Worth for dinner. The downtown area has been restored in recent years and was very nice.
I left Friday morning for the short flight to Denton Municipal. The weather way now absolutely beautiful with light winds. I spent Friday with my mom visiting and catching up and got a good nights sleep. Saturday morning dawned to another great flying day; perfect for my brother Scott's first RV-4 flight. Scott definitely has the flying bug and already lodded a few hours in Cessna 152's. He could not believe the performance of my RV-4 and would not believe me when I later talked about my dream of a 180 c/s I would like to someday install. I also gave my other brothers two kids rides. Laurel, eleven, went first. She loved it and said she was going to get her own airplane some day. Next came Wynn, nine, and now the youngest passenger to ride with me in my RV. Scott couldn't stand it and ask for another ride. This time he video-taped the whole flight. We watched it later at a big family get-together that night.
Sunday morning I got up early for the long flight to Georgia. I was not looking forward to this day because I was afraid I would be bored to tears. It turns out that the world is a lot more interesting at 5500 feet than at 35000 ! I made it back to Falcon Field in two legs with a total flying time of 5 hours and 20 minutes.
The totals for my trip were: 15.1 hours flown, 128.9 gallons 100LL, $307 for fuel. Zero for hotels and almost nothing for food due to the generosity of my hosts. My memories are priceless.
I've heard it said that you can never 'go home again' and this is probably true for many, but you can go sure visit, if you have an RV !