|Liberal, Kansas Flight
October 1,2, & 3, 2010
A 425 mile cross-country trip in an AirBike
|Refueled, I paid my bill, filed a flight plan for Comanche
(38K) (using Bill's phone) and taxied to the grass strip.
To give the four onlookers something to talk about for a
week, I hit the smoke button during takeoff and climb. A
beautiful plume of white smoke trailed my plane! I can
just imagine them telling others at the coffee shop how I
blew a piston on takeoff but the engine had two of them
so it could keep going.
It wasn't long before I was flying over shallow gulches,
washes, small watersheds, and a diminishing number of
trees. Landmarks were non-existent as the sectional chart
showed nothing that was worth documenting.
|Pack & ready to depart
|Wheel of fortune
over circular hayfield
|Although the terrain was not featureless, there just wasn't anything significant or useful that warranted
charting. The visible features of center-pivot hayfields, an occasional donkey-head oil pump, and dried up
creeks, remained anonymous.
|Comanche Airport ("Oil leak")
Next fuel stop was Comanche, seventy miles
distant. Flying into gently rising terrain, I
constantly tapped the stick to maintain 1000'
AGL. Several times hawks momentarily flew next
to me, then realizing I wasn't a threat, did a steep
wingover back and away. That is a neat benefit
of flying a fifty-five to sixty mph airplane.
Landing on concrete runway one-seven at
Comanche, a previous problem surfaced and a
new one was revealed. Gary, a retiree, was the
gas man and just happened to be at the airport
with his yellow Labrador Retriever. What luck!
|Center Pivot irrigation works well
in Western Kansas
|Gary said there was nothing to do at home so he came to the airport---just to check on it! It was a good
thing too, because my cell phone didn't work here either. Communication problem solved! Next thing I know,
he called three of his buddies so they could come out and see my strange little plane. Soon a crowd
gathered and there was more help than I needed. Everyone wanted to do something---and talk. What an
enjoyable fuel stop for all of us! This is one of the neat things about small airports.
Cleaning up after refueling, I noticed a liquid dripping from under my seat cushion and puddling on the
concrete. Examination determined it wasn't water from my bottle, wasn't oil from a punctured plastic
container, and it wasn't fuel. The only other source was smoke oil from the reservoir. Sure enough, that was
the problem, when looking into the front storage compartment, I could see that oil was dripping down the
reservoir's side. It was impractical to remove the tank here to solve the leak so I just mopped up the mess in
the cockpit floor and stuffed shop rags in various places to absorb the "continuing leak." I would solve this
problem when arriving at Liberal.
Gary loaned me his phone to file a flight plane for Liberal, I thanked everyone, said goodbye and took off.
When circling the field I thought of giving them a blast of smoke and reached to turn on the smoke oil valve.
The valve was already on! Whoa, that shouldn't be! I thought to myself. Then I realized what was causing
my "leak." With the valve open, a clear airway between the hose attach point on the muffler and the oil
reservoir existed. Exhaust pressure caused the oil in the reservoir to bubble, splashing out under the loose
fitting cap and through the vent hole! It then ran down the tank side, across the cockpit floor and out the first
floor hole it came to. What a relief to find the "smoking gun."
|A very long runway?
|A late afternoon eastern approach to Liberal is characterized by two (maybe three) distinct features: Huge
sewage settling ponds reflect sunlight making it appear like a small lake, and a large dark rectangular area
with yellow dust floating away from it is located about five miles southeast of town. The third feature
becomes apparent when flying through that dust cloud---the aroma is undeniably of a feedlot. The dust cloud
is created when "the cattle get to stompin' " as the locals say.
At 6:20 PM I landed at Liberal (LBL) airport and taxied up to Lyddon Aero Center Inc., the airport's family run
Fixed Base Operator. What a nice facility and friendly people---wow, this is civilization I thought to myself as
I completed the shut down procedure. Thanks to the advance planning of my good friend, Mary Shortridge,
and courtesy of Lyddon's, a sleeping room and courtesy car were waiting for me. After this five hour trip, I
was ready for supper and a comfortable place to sleep (inside, instead of in my tent)
The reason for this trip was to see the Air Fair 2010 featuring Kyle Franklin's Flying Circus, Skip Stewart's
Pitts S2S show, tour the Liberal Air Museum, visit Mary and enjoy meeting the members of her EAA
chapter. Also, it was an opportunity to make another long cross-country trip. Something I really like to do.
This time to western Kansas, an area I had never visited in my AirBike.