Recently I picked up an oxygen system and have been putting it to good use flying back and fourth between Houston, TX and Greenville, SC.
Typically the east bound flights take less than five hours and going west can add as much as an hour. Also, the east bound flights tend to be higher than west bound because I'm trying to take advantage of the winds or avoid them. Even with good tailwinds I usually land half way for a bio break and $4.45 a gallon fuel.
Even though my engine has a carburetor hanging from the oil sump, the dual P-mags allow me to run LoP, which helps with my fuel burn.
Today pretty much the entire US was covered with clear skies and before leaving the office I checked the winds aloft. 15,000 feet was forecast to be going my way at 35 to 40 knots. I thought that if I could get up there, then maybe I would have enough push to make the 720 mile flight non-stop.
Leaving Pearland (KLVJ) I contacted Ellington Departure and asked for flight following, which they promptly gave me and cleared me into Houston's Class Bravo at or below 3,000'. That is what I have come to expect, no big deal.
When Ellington handed me off the next controller asked me what altitude I would like I asked for 15,500', expecting they would hold me at 6,000' until well clear of incoming traffic. When the controller cleared me directly to 15.5 I stumbled in my reply and the controller wanted me to verify I was going to head up that high.
With 15,500' and 500 FPM dialed into the SkyView, up I went. Going through 8,000' I was at wide open throttle and leaning as I went up. It was also time to turn on the oxygen.
Those long wings on the -9 are amazing!
Even though the engine could only produce 48% power at 15.5 I was still going up at 500 FPM without any hesitation. I did notice some Dutch roll going on the last 1,000 feet or so. I'm not exactly sure what that was about.
Level at 15.5 I was pickup up 40 to 50+ knot tailwinds, the Dutch roll stopped, and the air was glass smooth. Great news, I knew I could make it all the way without stopping. What I didn't count on was being able to lean the engine to where it was putting out just over 40% power while burning just a nick over five gallons per hour.
With a burn rate of 5 GPH and a Ground Speed over 200 knots, I could easily make the 720 mile flight without stopping. Had I gone up to 17.5, I could have picked up another 10 knots of tailwind. Maybe I'll do that the next trip. (My feeling was to take flying up high like that in baby steps and not jump off a cliff.)
What was kind of cool was to realize that should I have an engine failure at that altitude, I had a lot of options with regard to suitable landing options.
While going over the top of Atlanta was unique. I got the distinct impression they didn't like having VFR aircraft over the top and when I told them I was going to start letting down and would stop at 13.5 until clear of their Bravo they reminded me that they had planes coming and going all over the place. Then they gave me a trainee controller and when I told him I was leaving 13.5 for 2,200 feet he had me repeat it three times and then he started calling traffic for me that was cruising around at 2,500 feet while I was still above 10,000 feet. I simply replied that I didn't think that Cessna at 2,500 feet would be an issue.
Here are some pictures from the flight.
Keep pounding! These airplanes are truly amazing and the -9 just loves going high!