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Darren S 06-14-2012 10:01 AM

Calgary to New York and back. Write up and video Part 1
New York ? RV trip

Years ago I read about a guy who flew his Beaver RX 550 Ultralight from Southern Alberta up to the Arctic Circle. At the time the ink was still wet on my Ultralight Permit and I couldn?t imagine doing such a trip. I didn?t even know where to begin. My Ultralight training taught me nothing about weather, navigation and radio work. It wasn?t until I finished my PPL that I had a basic understanding about these principles.

I?ve just returned home from the longest and probably the most exciting Cross Country trip I?ve ever undertaken to date. My Dad and I flew in my RV-7 from my home field just outside of Calgary to Washington, DC up to New York and back.

This trip write up isn?t going to be so much focused on our stops and the things we saw, the accompanying video will cover this, as much as it will be on my way of Cross Country flight planning and the enroute decisions I was faced.

I enjoy reading narratives about other intrepid aviators and the predicaments they get themselves it. There is usually a solution and a good lesson to be learned. My way of doing things isn?t going to be agreeable to all who read this. Your comfort level maybe different to mine and that?s fine. Safety is first, in all I do, and not once did I feel out of my comfort zone.

This maybe a bit lengthy, so grab your coffee, sit back and enjoy. Make sure to watch the video at the end.


There are only two websites I use in my preliminary weather planning. The good ole? and The Weather Network gives a rough outlook for the week ahead, and Unisys Weather gives a graphic that shows moisture 5 days out. The Unisys graphic is amazingly accurate. I emphasize this as those who know me know my beliefs on weather forecasts. ?They are accurate 50% of the time?. I don?t hang my hat on anybody?s forecast as it?s nigh unto the impossible to predict weather days ahead.


Most of us are amateur weather forecasters, and we need to be for the safety of our flights, but even the professionals can?t get it right more than half the time?..I think. Just my opinion.

What I really care about is, ?What is the weather doing RIGHT NOW?. Not what somebody forecasts in 6 or 12 or 24 hours.

I recently read a good article by J. Mac Mcclellan in Sport Aviation on weather. He shared something similar about forecasts. He said that it?s ok to take off for a flight if the weather is good where you are, even if the weather is forecasted to be marginal at the destination. Have an alternate and give yourself a way out, but there is chance that the forecasted bad weather may not materialize. So go fly and see for yourself.

So having said that, I usually wait until 5 days out before I even think about planning a route. I look for trends and see if I can ?predict? where a system may be moving.

As departure day draws near I refine my route but it?s always subject to change so I keep my options open.


I use an Ipad 2 (Foreflight and Sky Charts) and XM weather in the cockpit. The XM is new and wonderful, but there are ways to gain the same information.

A good EFIS, Foreflight and SkyCharts are Gods gift to the Cross Country pilot. Those who have used them will agree and those who haven?t tried them don?t know what they are missing.

I Cached the US sectionals in the Ipad before I left so that I can access information in the air without the need for wifi or a network. Foreflight works good if you have a data plan but it costs $$ so I try to get as much information when I have a wifi connection. Most FBO?s have a free wifi connection.

Depending on the weather, I?ll pick my fuel stops in the air. Using SkyCharts and a couple of clicks I can pick an airport with 24 hour Self Serve fuel. With the EFIS showing fuel burn I can easily figure out range and then it?s just a matter of picking a place to stop. Usually 2.5 ? 3.5 hours is a good length.

My thoughts often drifted to those old time pilots who flew the same airspaces delivering mail. Only a compass and a map to guide them, I am amazed they arrived at their destinations. If I didn?t have my GPS I?d be screwed :)

Water, Water everywhere:

In Rice Lake, Wisconsin the decision was made to fly straight over Lake Michigan and not go around the bottom of it. There are guys I spoke to, back at my home field, who knew my intentions to cross straight over the lake, and thought me suicidal. I couldn?t disagree with them more. My airplane doesn?t know what it?s flying over and the chance of my engine failing while I?m in the middle of the lake is tantamount to me winning the 50 Million Dollar lottery or being struck by lightning.

I don?t want to convey an air of cockiness or arrogance but one of confidence. I fly my RV a lot and with full engine instrumentation I know it well. I can dial the engine in to give me the best performance and fuel economy. The EFIS shows me all the engine parameters I want and as long as they are in the green, it?s a go.

We donned our life jackets, for safety, and in 20 minutes it was all over. No sweat. At RV speeds it doesn?t take long. It was kind of cool to see blue water in front, off the right wing, off the left wing and behind us.

First Diversion:

A weather check at the start of Day 2 showed that the rain showers were lingering in NYC. We were to go to NYC first but switched and decided to go to Washington, DC instead.

We left Saginaw, Michigan and picked a fuel stop in West Virginia. The Ipad and the XM were both showing some Marginal VFR condition in the Appalachian Mountains but good VFR beyond that.

There was a little drizzle and low clouds in Eklin-Randolph, WV and the Airport Manager (Dick Cheney ? no not the VP) helped us choose a path across the mountains. With this kind of weather, local knowledge was very helpful.

Dad and I weren?t sure if we were going to be able to cross the mountains, but as stated before, I see nothing wrong with going to ?have a look?, as long as there is a way out or the ability to do a 180 degree turn.

Our trek across the mountains was spectacular. Low clouds but beautiful rolling hills, absolutely gorgeous country to fly over. I kept saying to my Dad that this is Ultralight country. I?d love to jump in one of the old fabric covered birds and fly low and slow over this terrain checking it all out

To Be Continued.................

Darren S 06-14-2012 10:01 AM

Part 2
To file or not to file ?

Here’s another controversial area. To file a flight plan or not ? I’m a guy that likes to stay out of busy areas and not talk to anybody until I have to. You maybe a pilot that likes to chat on the radio all the time and be under ATC control. That’s cool too.

There are some restricted areas around DC and Obamas House, as well as on the way up to NYC. A quick study of the Sectional showed me a path where I could leave Maryland, fly East and then head up the East Coast. Pass Atlantic City to the East, stay out over the water a bit and then head inland. Stay low (1000 AGL) until close to Linden, NJ then enter the pattern and land.

This would keep me out of everybody’s way and other than monitoring the local frequency, I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody other than the local traffic at Linden.

I didn’t file a flight plan or get Flight Following either as I wanted to do my own thing. We were low and within text range with the folks back home. Also the SPOT tracker was giving a rough idea of where we were, so I just sailed along my merry way.

I would however call a briefer to check for TFR’s along my intended route. With US election campaigning underway, there was the potential for the occasional TFR, especially in the DC area.

I was rewarded with probably the most beautiful flight I’ve had to date. It was early morning so the air was calm, the coast line was in full view and at 1000 AGL is was magical. We listened in to Atlantic City Approach and the other fields as we passed plus the traffic was light.

Landing woes

Landing my -7 is usually a non event. After 450 hours in the seat I’ve been through a wide variety of landing conditions. Snow, wet runways, wet grass runways, cross winds, quartering winds, short strips etc….

My approach is 70 Knots IAS, full flaps, 800 AGL on final, nose on the numbers, a touch of power, flare, hold, mains touch, roll out and then the tail comes down. Nothing to it….right ? What happens when you have about 80lbs in the back.

I didn’t do an exact calculation but with my bag, my Dad’s bag, tool bag, tie down stuff and extra oil. It was about 80 lbs. The plane takes off fine, flies the same but the landing flare was different and something I didn’t expect.

Add to this, hot air and sea level conditions. My bad landing started in West Virginia. On approach I noticed the tail of the plane dropping slightly when I pull the power. My sight picture out the front windshield was a little different. When pushed the elevator forward to pitch down, the plane starts to sink further. So in goes more power, now my IAS increases. As a result I would float down the runway a long ways and when it was time to ease into the flare, the tail would drop slightly and I would either 3 point the landing or hit the tail first.

Not horrible, but different than I’m use to.

I was frustrated as nothing wrecks a good long Cross Country leg like a bad landing. I did a few circuits at different airports to see if I could get a wheel landing but it was difficult.

I couldn’t figure it out until in my bed later I realized the baggage weight and different air must be a combination I’m not use to.

Another valuable lesson learnt.

Heavenly protection:

As part of my checklist I always say a little prayer before I take off and after I land. Part of the prayer is, “Flying is privilege and not a right, I respect it as such, please keep me, my passenger and my airplane safe”.

Now if only I could find someone to lend me an Ultralight, maybe now I can give the Yukon a stab :)

I hope this has been beneficial to some. Hope you like the video too. It’s posted here

See ya in OSH in 38 days !!


tc1234c 06-14-2012 10:44 AM


Tried to play your video and got the following message:

"This video contains content from WMG, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds."

Missed you at Linden but have a picture of your airplane (mine is the yellow one at the background.

MarkW 06-14-2012 10:55 AM

Message on desktop computer
This video contains content from WMG, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
Sorry about that.

flyboy1963 06-14-2012 11:15 AM

you're doin' all the right stuff!
excellent in every way! ( wish I had taken my dad for a flight!)
Where is the grass strip you're departing from?
...nice write up, but can you tell us a bit more about how you use all the gadgets...the skyview? the garmin, the iPad, the Spot etc. for those of us that don't have a lot of electronic stuff.
nice video too! ( luckily I can see and hear it fine, here in the lawless northwest!) :)

Darren S 06-14-2012 01:40 PM

WMG content !! What the heck is that?? Sorry about that fellas. The video is the best part.

When I get home I'll do my best to rework and re-upload the vid. It's the music choice. One song is a Frank Sinatra song and the other is "Empire State of mind by Jay Z/ Alicia Keys. It's edited to coincide with the song but I'll fix it one way or the other. I spent too much time working on it:)


and yes I will share a few more thoughts on using technology in the cockpit.

tkatc 06-14-2012 02:54 PM

Use instead. Yes, they do have copyright infringement policies but they are not as stringent as youtube.

ADVFlyer 06-14-2012 04:30 PM


Originally Posted by Darren S (Post 669199)
New York ? RV trip

Years ago I read about a guy who flew his Beaver RX 550 Ultralight from Southern Alberta up to the Arctic Circle.

Hi Darren,

That was me. (It was a fun adventure, like all long cross country flights...)
I enjoy your videos (including this one). Hope to see that part of the country some day.
BTW, I've been to Linden but they didn't have a Tim Horton's there;) Good pie and coffee, though:p

Keep makin' those vids.


Darren S 06-14-2012 04:52 PM

Hey Joe,

I met you once at the Lethbridge airshow. Sorry I forgot your name. Dang impressive feat that Yukon flight. You told me to go get my Private License to learn Cross Country navigation, and I signed up the following week:)

Glad you liked the vid. I just signed up with Vimeo and am going to attempt an upload when I get home. I have to share this one with my US pals.

This trip was the best.

Thanks tkatc for the suggestion.


777Dave 06-14-2012 07:05 PM

Great writeup and video(worked perfectly for me), thanks for posting!

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