Airventure 2000

Magellan, Marco Polo, Lindbergh, “Wrong-Way” Corrigan, and Me

(or How I Flew an 800 Pound Bi-Plane 3400 miles to Oshkosh and Back)  

By Jim Piavis (BF N264JP)

 Overall, the planned flight to Oshkosh this year was to take about 4 days out and 3.5 days return. I, was to meet Frank Baldwin, retired TWA Captain, with his Boredom Fighter in Oelwein, IA on Tuesday prior to Oshkosh, then fly into OSH together on Wednesday morning. At least that was the plan…

 I started this odyssey on Friday 21 July, moving the Boredom Fighter N264JP from Half Moon Bay, CA down to Hollister.  We have a slight problem with fog along the Northern California coast this time of year.  So, on Saturday morning, after waiting for the overcast to clear, I headed out on the journey to OSH.

 First stop was Auburn, CA, along Interstate 80 in the Sierra foothills.  This was the last stop before heading out over the Sierras, hoping to cross just north of Lake Tahoe.  I had installed a mixture control on my Continental A-75 and this was the first time I could really try the new control.  Fortunately, the new mixture control worked great.  It basically had to because the elevations along the route were going to be a little on the high side.  Out of Auburn, I was able to coax the BF up to a nose-bleeding 10,600 feet.  At the time I suppose the density altitude was somewhere around 13,000 feet.  

I then stopped at Reno-Stead, home of the National Championship Air Races, and was tempted to a trial run around the pylons, but thought better of that idea.  After gassing up, I headed out towards the booming metropolis of Winnemucca, NV, then on to the days final destination of Wendover, UT.  For anyone who hasn’t been through Wendover, it’s worth a trip.  Either spend a couple of dollars on the Nevada side in one of the casinos, or to wander around the old Wendover Army Air Corps base.  It happens to be the training base for the atomic crews who flew B-29s and the old base is generally just like the Air Force left it when they closed the base.  

Bonneville: Lots and lots and lots of landing strip!
Sunday morning was a nice weather day, allowing a quiet and calm hour as I flew out over the Great Salt Desert, followed directly by the Great Salt Lake.  Somewhere over those 40 miles of lake, I realized that there’s an awful lot of water down there.  There’s a reason why so many manufactures installed Continental A-65/75s in the early aircraft.  That engine didn’t miss a beat for the entire trip.  

Going feet-dry on the east side of the Salt Lake, I contacted approach, crossed the Wachach mountains through a VERY narrow pass just east of Hill AFB, then headed for the first gas-stop of the day; Evanston-Unita, WY (EVW, elevation 7163).  Density altitude had already started increasing for the day as the DA was already at 9300’.  After a Coke and gas, I headed out for Rawlings, the third highest airport in Wyoming at 6813’.  Two hours latter I arrived at Rawlings for more gas and a quick trip to Wendy’s in the airport courtesy truck.  The third stop for the day was Scottsbluff, NE, located in the Nebraska panhandle.  The trip to Scottsbluff was over many miles of unpopulated Wyoming and across the Continental Divide.  At a cruising altitude of 1000 AGL, you actually notice the streams running to the East.
The Great Salt Lake.  Water, water, everywhere...Darn!  There's a heck of a lot of water down there!

After a nice stay at the Scottsbluff Holiday Inn Express, and despite the fact that I awoke significantly smarter, I flew down the Platt River at 500’ towards Omaha.  By mid-day I had made Millard (MLE), west of Omaha, and decided to call it a day.  I happened to land with the winds blowing at 14G18 and I thought better of pressing on.  Besides, I ran into a large group from Livermore, CA who had parked their homebuilts in the same hangar.  I ended up having dinner with those folks in Omaha’s Old Market and calling it an early evening.

 Tuesday morning required a two hour delay for weather, but I was able to make it out of MLE, and head out for Ames IA, near DeMoines.  I was planning on swapping oil when I reached Oelwein, but at Ames I was at minimum oil.  In 16 hours of flight time, I had to add one quart.  Darn!  Pressing on ahead, I made Oelwein an hour latter and put the airplane to bed.  Frank and I then spent the afternoon cleaning up the Boredom Fighters, gassing up, and getting ready for the flight to OSH Wednesday AM (if the weather held).