Destination: Williamsburg/Jamestown Airport (KJGG)
Souls on Board: 4
Airplane: 2012 Cirrus SR22T
Total Flight Time: 17.5 Hours
When I hear Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia, pilgrims and colonists are the first images that flash into my mind. I see Thomas Jefferson riding down dirt roads in between beautiful, huge homes with one of those white wigs on. I envision Indians lurking around the outskirts of town, some friends and some enemies. But then I remember, that was 200 years ago.
Nowadays, the town of Williamsburg is filled with tons of cool, old buildings built around the time of Thomas Jefferson. The College of William and Mary is nestled in the middle of town, hard to miss as one drives by (you actually have to maneuver around the campus to get from one side of town to the other). One noticeably unusual thing we discovered was the heat wave you have all heard rumors of up north. It was steamy! The high on the day we were there was 102. Those Yankees don’t quite know how to handle that!
We departed West Houston Airport (KIWS) with a plane full of people and fuel to the tabs. As most pilots know, it’s quite difficult to take four people in any four seater airplane with full fuel and this was no exception. It forced us to make stops about every 2 to 2.5 hours, which I didn’t complain about. Gave us the chance to stretch our legs a little more often.
Our goal was to stay VFR all the way up to the East Coast. There were pop up thunderstorms forecast for our entire route, so we were ready to duck, dive, and dodge as need be. The first leg from West Houston to Hawkins airport (KHKS) in Jackson, Mississippi was uneventful. After leaving the Houston area, we had clear skies and smooth air. Hawkins is the general aviation airport for Jackson. It was the 4th of July, but we had called ahead to verify the FBO was going to be open for fueling.
After a pit stop, some snacks, and a quick glance at the radar, we were off again. The day was wearing on to the afternoon as we took off, which meant we were probably going to have some isolated thunderstorms to deal with on our way to Knoxville, Tennessee (KTYS). Our assumptions were correct as we had several cumulonimbus and towering cumulus clouds we had to maneuver around. Using our eyes, NEXRAD, and ATC, we successfully avoided the handful of thunderstorms that were on the way.
It was a slow day in Knoxville when we landed. The line guy at the FBO said most everybody had gotten out of there the day before so they wouldn’t have to travel on the holiday, which explained the quietness of the airport. After more fuel, more snacks, and another pitstop, we were off to our final destination.
The terrain got much prettier the further north we got. The area surrounding Williamsburg is full of forests and rivers, a pretty sight for the end of the day. The tricky thing about the Williamsburg airport is actually spotting it. It’s a short runway (3,200 feet long) surrounded by woods on all sides making it hard to spot coming from the west. We eventually did see it (only 4 miles from the runway!) and made a successful landing to end the day.
The next day, we flew to Farmville, Virginia (KFVX). Yes, there is actually a town called Farmville, it isn’t just a Facebook game. The owner’s wife had some family there who we were going to visit. That’s one of the nice things about being an aircraft owner. It allows pilots to get to hard to reach places much easier to see friends and family that they haven’t seen in years.
As you would expect, Farmville was very quiet, though we did meet a pilot there in a Mooney 201 who was on his last leg of a month-long journey around the United States. It wasn’t any cooler in Farmville, either.
Georgetown, Kentucky (27K) was our next leg the following day. Georgetown is north of Lexington in the middle of horse and tobacco country. I kept seeing these barns painted black and I was very confused. Barns are supposed to be red, right? Well, apparently, tobacco growers paint their barns black then set the tobacco in them to dry out. You learn something new every day. If you do make it to Georgetown, drive over to Paris, Kentucky and have dinner at the Windy Corner Market. The Po’ Boys are great (I had the Bayou Boy with fries), the burgers looked epic, and their selection of sweets was mouth watering. If you’ve never had fried pickles or fried bell peppers, this is the place to try them. The canned roadkill for sale was a little scary sounding, but, it is an authentic Kentucky restaurant after all, right?
Our last day we made one more family visit to Terre Haute, Indiana (KHUF). The high was 107, so we strayed outside the air conditioned plane and the air conditioned FBO as little as possible. After some lunch and some waiting for storms to move off our route, we heading south to cheap fuel in Morrilton, Arkansas (KBDQ).
Upon arrival in Morrilton, we were happy to find cheap fuel ($5.40/gallon), but were disappointed that the number to call the crew car resulted in no answer. So, for dinner, we made the short hop to Conway, Arkansas (KCWS). We ended up eating at Zaza Specialty Salads and Wood Brick Oven Pizza Co. May I just say, yum. Don’t miss this!
After waiting for more weather to clear up in Houston, we set off on the final leg of our journey. All in all, we managed to meet our goal of staying VFR the entire time (hard to do considering the mileage we flew). We only had to maneuver around a handful of storms, but we were able to stay in smooth air too. If you get the chance, go check out historic Williamsburg. It’s well worth the trip (though I’d let it cool off a bit first!).
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How it Started
One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.
It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.
The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.
First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).
At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.
Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.
Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.
In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.
More about Randy here: https://www.flyhpa.com/team/randy-delong/
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