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Bandit Trip Report....Bama to Boise and Back, got the T-Shirt....  
by Rob 'Smokey' Ray

7/14/03 - I just got home last week from my annual RV trek west, 57 hours in 14 days, 23 states. Here is a blurb...

One Armed Bandit

There I was, flat on my back, in the ops tent at Base X, getting ready for another night combat mission in the F16 over Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. My wingmen and fellow Rv'er, Ned "LinchMob" Linch , Mark "Slim" Culpepper and Brian "Wolfman" Wolf and I were discussing what we were going to do when (and if) we got home. I planned a long RV XC to my usual place, The Idaho Backcountry and my favorite strip (classified) up there. Slim and Wolfman wanted to go to Waco for the RV fly-in and I decided to make my route go through Waco enroute. As it turned out, my other F16 wingman and Maule owner Tim "Over" Turner wanted me to tag along when he flew his Maule M4 to Alaska the same week. Wow, ferry a Maule to AK, fly the RV to TX then CA then ID too!?!" I'm in"! 
I rolled "The Bandit" out of my hangar at MGM, filled it to the brim with 87 octane MoGas laced with Marvel Mystery oil and CD-2 and cranked her up for the 1st leg:

Day One: 425NM to 4F2 (Panola City, Tx) then on to Dallas to visit my buddy Rick and his family. 
Day Two: Dallas to Austin for a wedding
Day Three: Hangar the Bandit and jumpseat to GEG (Spokane) to hook up with Over.
Day Four: Jump in Maule and head to AK via Penticton BC, Ketchikan and Cordova.
Day Five: Explore Southeast AK
Day Six: Jumpseat back to TX
Day Seven: Dallas to Waco for the RV fly-in.
Day Eight: Dallas (F69) to Alamagordo, NM to visit a friend. (Via Olney)
Day Nine: Alamagordo to French Valley CA. (Via Casa Grande to visit family)
Day Ten: French Valley R&R...
Day Eleven: French Valley to Cameron Park CA (to visit friends)
Day Twelve: Cameron Park to Mtn Home, ID (Via Marysville for Lunch with USAF buddy and kids) RON at "Chuck" Norris' home.
Day Thirteen: Mtn Home to Johnson Creek for a week in the backcountry.

Note: I have been flying the Bandit to Idaho for the past six years and landed it at my favorite ID strip when it had just 51 hours on it in 97'...I love the place.


USFS Strips visited this time with my buddy Rob "Chuck" Norris, Dale Stanley, Wally Baum and Mike Carpenterio: 

Johnson Creek, (5200')
Smiley Creek (elevation 7200')
Castle Creek (6300')
Strip X (favorite fishing and all around place on earth)
Sulphur Creek(5400')
Indian Creek(4300')

Day 20 was both happy and sad as I launched for MSP to visit my kids......

I took off from McCall after refueling and traversed the Backcountry at 11.5 monitoring the "mountain net" 122.9.  Passing Cabin Creek I heard someone call a go-around at JC then reported an ELT. I queried the aircraft and immediately started the SAR going.  Having been around a couple of these in my life, (two in OIF with bad guys) things usually deteriorate fairly quickly, time is critical. 

This one, as it turned out, hit close to home.

From 80nm away, I relayed to Boise FSS all the info (GPS Frequency Database Rocks!) on 122.55, phone relaying through Salmon FBO to get a Life Flight launched and using a Cessna above the crash site (thanks 69 Papa whoever you are) for relays. I was able to establish a comm link to get help moving quickly. (The same way we do Combat SAR's)  As critical time elapsed two helicopters finally showed up, effected the locating of the crash and removed the deceased victims.  From eyewitness accounts, time was not a factor in the rescue. Little did I know at the time that the three people involved had been camped right next to me at JC for 3 days. The Dad and the two small boys playing all around the Bandit and shaking my hand, their Dad offering me beers....

Mountain Flying is not inherently dangerous, but terribly unforgiving of any mistakes, neglect or inattention to detail. In this case, a turn around in a narrow valley after a go-around spelled disaster in an underpowered factory built airplane and three people won't be coming home, two of them small children.  If you want to fly in the mountains but are a flatlander, GET SOME TRAINING! Lori Macnichol at Mountain Flying LLC runs a great course, and is a friend of mine (www.mountaincanyonflying.com).  Even if you have experience and have some doubts, take the course just to meet Lori and get the lowdown on High altitude techniques. 
Nuff said.

Day Twenty: Mccall to FCM to spend July 4th with my kids. (via Sheridan WY, Willmar, MN)

Day Twenty-one through Twenty-Five R&R in MSP.
Day Twenty-Six FCM to MGM (via GRE) for self-serve fuel. 

All in all a great summer romp with some awesome pictures. I still plan on Oshkosh this year and maybe the Bahamas in the fall...thanks to all my friends for making it a great summer vacation after being a desert rat for three months...

Rob "Smokey" Ray