|Gathering of Eagles 2011
(Trip Experience = The Destination Fun)
Note: Warning: all my stories are based on real experiences. However some elements are slightly embellished,
others are stretched a bit, while a few are outright lies. It is up to the reader to figure out which is which. It takes me
so long to get anywhere that getting there IS half the fun!
Much of my small plane VFR flying depends upon the foretasted weather. It is wise to heed all the data available
from Flight Service when planning flights, especially if they are multi-day ones.
Such was the case June 17th and 18th (Fathers Day weekend) as I planned my overnight trip to Gardner, Kansas
(K34) to attend the Gathering of Eagles fly-in sponsored by EAA chapter 200. Accepting the predicted 100F degree
temperatures as status quo for this time of year, I closely watched the developing storm predictions, they were
saying “Scattered thunderstorms, some severe for Friday night.” That ruled out my direct flight from Derby, Kansas
to Gardner and tying down the AirBike outside while I slept in a tent! The reason my AirBike has lasted 13 years and
870 flying hours is that I take care of it when traveling.
Plan “B” involved making the trip to Gardner with an overnight stop at Emporia (EMP) Friday, then continuing on
Saturday morning. At 6:00 PM on Friday, my 342# AirBike was loaded to gross at 700# as it lumbered down the
Selby Aerodrome 1200 foot grass runway. Jabara (AAO) ASOS had earlier stated weather conditions of 100F
degrees and Density Altitude of 4000 feet. That didn't have much meaning until reaching the runway's 600 foot
mark, I was still only fast taxiing instead of flying! At 800 feet the AirBike lifted off the sod---however, ever so slowly!
The plane just wasn't much interested in flying! Clearing the runway's end at five feet AGL, I climbed through the
crosswind turbulence created by trees bordering the runway. Then after passing through the opening in the row of
windbreak trees 400 yards further, my next concern was to avoid the center pivot cornfield sprinkler. Slowly nursing
the plane up, I cleared it by 30 feet and didn't get any sprinkler spray. I now have a new respect for DA when the
AirBike is loaded to gross! I have also established a new performance limit and later documented it in my log book.
A front quartering headwind greeted me as I flew northeasterly
along the I-35 turnpike and was consistently outdistanced by
the traffic. Not an unusual situation. For 20 miles I chased a
semi truck but couldn't quite catch him. When I eventually did, it
broke my spirit when realizing he had been stopped at a rest
I follow the turnpike because traveling cross-country over the
Flint Hills could get ugly if I had to make an off-airport landing in
that desolate cattle grazing land. It would be years before some
lonely cattle drovers would find my weather-beaten plane and
bleached bones. Not a pretty sight!
Twenty miles north of the Matfield Green service center I
angled east the into a direct headwind as my flight path took
me across a portion of the uninhabited Flint Hills to Emporia
Airport. Repeated radio calls from 10, 5 and 3 miles out
seemed to take me for ever to get closer. You don't cover
much ground at 45 MPH. Listeners must have thought I was
doing 360 degree turns. But I was going as fast as I could.
AREA STORMS AT EMPORIA
Sometimes things work out just right. Circling the
hangar and FBO area I let out a stream of smoke
to mark my position if my radio calls weren't heard.
I landed on the auxiliary unmarked grass runway
that favored the wind. Taxiing up to the Emporia
Airport hangar, Don Tevis, airport manager waved
me inside. He said “there's a storm a-commin' this
way.” His meaty handshake made me feel
welcome. I had arrived too late for their monthly
Friday night steak fry, but Don had saved me a
plate full of food. Wow, what a nice supper and a
considerate fellow! There was even a dessert!
An hour later we were swimming in his pool and
“chillin'-out.” Later I bunked down in the air
conditioned Pilot Lounge when the anticipated
storm hit about an hour later. Then the power
went out for about three hours. What a storm!
Later I would learn that the same storm ripped
through Gardner and shoved one plane into
another damaging both. Sure glad I was hangared
SATURDAY'S FLIGHT TO GARDNER
By 8:00 AM, after re-fueling at their automated pumps, I had lifted-off and was on the 70-mile leg to Gardner. What a
beautiful morning! Air was clear and everything looked “washed,” but potential off-airport landing sites were severely
reduced because of flooding and soggy fields. An in-flight “breakfast” of a nutrition bar and bottle of water would
have to take the edge off my hunger pangs until reaching Gardner. Hint: Don't try to eat a chocolate covered treat in
90 degree weather nor open a water bottle in the open cockpit's cross-flow of turbulent air! You will look like one of
the Ink Spot singers who just got out of the pool! Don't ask me how I know.
Imagining myself as the full-blown WWI fighter Ace
(again), I spotted a target of opportunity
approaching from my left. Pushing the stick forward
and sideways, I began a descending turn.
Lewis machine gun cocked, my warbird began its
screaming dive towards a lumbering train. Its main
cargo was three sets of twin flatbed rail cars on
which were mounted airplane fuselages bound for a
destination where they would get their wings. Pop!
Pop! Pop! The Lewis gun rattled off a full belt of
shells in its typical slow staccato fashion.
First the steam engine's boiler blew, spiraling a pure
white fountain skyward as the engineer and coal
stoker jumped from the cab saving their lives. Flying
down the row of train cars, I strafed and perforated
everything in sight. That which didn't catch fire,
leaked liquid. The airplane fuselages were rendered
useless. I thought to myself, since I fly a dinky little
airplane, I need to have a colorful imagination!
Leaving the smoking, leaking, and burning, carnage
on the tracks, I turned once again towards my
destination of Gardner Municipal Airport.
|On Display at Gathering of Eagles (K34)
|Heading towards El Dorado, Kansas
while following I-35
|Passing over Matfield Green Service
Area on I-35. 500' AGL
|Emporia, Kansas Airport (EMP)
|Fueling up with auto gas prior to flying
the second leg to Gardner.
|"AirBike" Airlines now supplies an in-flight breakfast (of sorts)
By 9:00, Gardner's three runways were in sight. Following my
signature smoke pass down runway 8 (the “show line”), I
landed on the grass runway 3, taxied to a parking place next
to a Dawn Patrol's Nieuport and ate the traditional pilot
breakfast in the picnic shelter.
I had hardly sat down with my food when the two fellows next
to me struck up a conversation. Hey, it really feels nice to
immediately be visiting with fellow pilots I thought to myself.
Some were old friends, others quickly became new ones.
|Evidence of my strafing attack!
(Gun camera photo)