John’s CH701 Journey

NOTE!!!  I did not write this story, nor is the story about me!  This was written by a good friend, John Crosley, and the story is about his experience.  I’m merely posting it here because it falls into the same vein of adventure flying stories as I’ve been writing.

February 5, 2004

So, there I [John Crosley] was, 1200 miles from home, flying in a plane that I just bought earlier in the day. It was then that I began to wonder…am I crazy?

The following is my account of traveling to Wisconsin in February 2004 to buy a plane. It all started when I saw a plane listed on an Internet web site that I had considered building for some time.

When one buys a plane for pleasure, all rational thought ceases. I already had a perfectly fine airplane, but in the quest to fly faster and farther, take off shorter and land shorter, I decided that the Zenair CH 701 was the plane for me.

Day One – Thursday, Feb. 5th:

My wife drops me off at Houston Intercontinental for a 1:20pm flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul. The weather in Houston is mostly cloudy with the temps in the lower 60’s. The flight is fairly empty, so I had three seats to myself and I enjoy the passing landscape until there was nothing but clouds below.

As we begin our decent into Minneapolis/St. Paul, the pilot came on the intercom to let us know that we were about to reach our destination and to give us the current weather… 16°F, overcast and light snow. It’s then that I heard the guy behind me say, “Thank God, it’s warmed up!”

As I began to think about the current weather conditions and whether or not I was going to have enough layers of clothes, we descend through the clouds to see a snow covered landscape. The thing that caught my eye first was the number of snowmobiles trekking through the snow-covered fields. I found out later that they haven’t had enough snow in the past couple of years for good snowmobiling but this year they had already had several feet!

After landing, I had to make my way to another gate to catch a regional jet to Appleton, WI. When I boarded the small jet (<50 cramped seats) I started hearing people talk about possibly having to shovel snow out of their driveway in the morning. I had been concentrating on the weather for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and somehow missed that there was a winter storm coming through late Thursday night that might dump some snow.

We landed in Appleton around 6:30pm and by 6:45pm I was coaxing the heater in the rental car to give me all the heat it could! The airport Brennand (79C) where the plane was going to be was approximately half way between Appleton and Oshkosh. I had decided to book a room in Oshkosh so, if I had some free time, I could go by and check out the EAA Airventure Museum. After driving for a half hour, I arrive at my hotel, check in and promptly went up to my room and turned on the TV to find some local weather. None; its too early. But I find the Weather Channel! After watching the Weather Channel for an hour it confirms that fact that there will probably be snow on the ground in the morning. I stayed up until 10:30pm… still not snowing outside. Time for bed.

Day Two – Friday, Feb. 6th:

Woke up at 5:30am and looked outside… lots of snow and it is still coming down. Turned on the TV and found out that overnight it snowed 10-12″! A snow day for the local schools is the big news on the local TV. Guess I’ll be waiting until they get the roads plowed before I go anywhere. I call Greg, the guy I am buying the plane from, to confirm a meeting time and complete the pre-buy inspection.

I had hired an AP to do a pre-purchase inspection of the aircraft prior to my coming up there. We planned on meeting at the airport around noon. This gave me an opportunity to go by and see the EAA museum.

At 8:30am I decide the roads had been plowed sufficiently to allow me to make it to Whittman Regional Airport (OSH). I was the first visitor of the day. The museum is a must see for aviation buffs. I only spent 2+ hours there, but could have easily spent the entire day!

At 11:30am I decide to head to Brennand airport. The major roads by now are free of snow, so travel is not difficult. I arrive at the airport to find the FBO is still plowing the runway and taxiways. After a little while he stops by to see if I am the one that is having the pre-purchase done on the CH 701. I say yes and he asks if I would like to go in the hanger and take a look at the plane while we are waiting for the AP that has been doing the inspection.

We go in to the hanger to take a look at the plane… it looks good… but I wish it wasn’t so cold in this hanger (10°F). The cowl has been removed, seats have been taken out… darn, I wanted to sit in the plane! After about fifteen minutes of looking the plane over I could tell the plane was in good shape… and I was cold!

Cell phone rang and it was the AP, he was stuck in his driveway. Apparently, the snowplows had pushed up enough snow to block him in his drive. Bottom line… he wouldn’t be out there until 2:00pm. I decide to go in to Appleton and grab a bite to eat and then go by and meet with Greg.

Greg and I visited in his office for a while and he talked about already missing his plane. He bought a Robinson R-22 helicopter last summer, but hasn’t learned to fly it yet. His last flight in the CH 701 was the previous Wednesday evening when he moved the plane over to Brennand from his private 1000 ft strip. He had plowed about half of his runway and took off for Brennand. Later that night he said he was curious how long his ground roll was and went out on his snowmobile to measure the tracks… 55ft! I didn’t believe him, but I guess I would find out soon enough.

I followed Greg back over to Brennand and when we arrived the AP was there and we proceeded to go over the plane together. About the only thing that was out of spec was the fact that the aircraft didn’t have the airworthiness certificate in the aircraft. Greg had been keeping this in the file at his home.

We made copies of all the paperwork and put it in the airplane and basically, the deal was done… I was now the proud owner of a Zenair CH 701 and I still hadn’t flown in it! You see, Greg never completed his private pilot training and if he and I were to fly together, I would have been the PIC (pilot in command).

I felt comfortable flying with Greg, but since I now owned the plane, the insurance company required that I receive two hours of dual instruction from a CFI in order to be covered in case of any accident. This is where I felt I was fortunate. Greg had been receiving dual instruction from a CFII named Tim. Part of the deal was that Greg would provide for transition training and he had introduced me to Tim. Tim would be coming by the airport on his way home from work and hopefully we would get some flying in before nightfall.

Tim showed up around 4:45pm and I already had the plane pre-flighted, so we both proceeded to buckle in and go through the pre-start check list. The engine was already warm from starting it earlier so it didn’t take much effort to get the engine running. Before I knew it we were back taxing down the runway to prepare for takeoff.

The take off was quick and the airplane seemed to climb well with two 200 lbs.+ guys and ¾ fuel. We did three touch and goes and the thing I remember the most is the first climb out and first approach. The runway was narrow to begin with (30ft) and with the snow piled about four feet on either side it really seemed narrow!

I had no problem in handling the plane, it flew very easily. After we landed and put the plane back in the hanger, we talked about the plan for the next day. Tim couldn’t meet with me until 10:30am the next day, which was probably okay since the temperature would probably be at or below 0°F in the morning! I had flown 0.5 hours that evening and needed 1.5 more or what ever it would take, before I would be able to start heading home.

Day Three – Saturday, Feb. 7th:

Got out to the airport around 9:30am and pulled the plane out of the hanger, did the pre-flight and waited on Tim. He showed up around 10:15am and we hopped in the plane and took off to do some maneuvers. I was in need of a bi-annual flight review, so Tim was to sign me off on that as well as transition me on the new plane.

We did a few more touch and go’s at Brenanand and then did some slow flight, turns around a point, “S” turn over a road and when he was satisfied about my command of the plane, he suggested that we do some crosswind landing at another local airport…Oshkosh to be specific!

I called the tower to see if I could use 09 for touch and goes. They cleared me for 09 to do T&G’s. I’m glad that Tim suggested that we do some crosswind landing at OSH for a couple reasons: 1) It made me more comfortable with landing in x-wind conditions which I would face during the rest of my trip home and 2) I could now say that I had landed in Oshkosh!

With our T&G’s behind us, we headed back to Brennand. Along the way, Tim asked if I was ready to start heading home, to which I replied, YES! We landed at Brennand and pulled up to the self-serve pump and tried to get it to pump fuel. After trying for about 20 minutes, we find out that the pump has lost its prime and won’t be fixed until the next week. Plan B: I’ll have to plan a fuel stop within 100 miles.

Tim and I spent about an hour going over my flight plan. After he was satisfied with the plan, I load my carry on luggage into the right seat, stow away the Wisconsin cheese I bought for my sons and say good bye to my new friends. Greg has come out to see me off and to take my rental car back to the Appleton airport. Nothing left to do but start heading home.

I hop in the plane and start it up, checking everything twice. Ready for take off? Yep! Wheels off around 2:15pm. I circle the airport, rock my wings and I’m headed home!

Since I don’t have a full tank of fuel I decide to stop at Dodge County Airport, 50 miles away, to fuel up. I have a great tail wind, the sun is out, groundspeed is around 115 mph, and before I knew it, Dodge County was in sight.

I land and pull up to the pump and before I can get out there is a guy readying my plane for fueling. I guess when your paying 2.65/gallon for avgas, they should pump it for you! It was a nice airport.

I went inside to pay for the gas and warm up. You see, my new plane does have a heater, but it also was letting a lot of air in, thus the cabin temps were well lets say …COLD! I was using these little pouches called “Hot-Hands” and this kept my hands warm. They worked pretty well. I also had them on the top of my toes, which was probably helping, but my toes still got cold. You don’t generate much body heat while flying!

After I warmed up, I was ready to continue heading south. Next destination, Whiteside Bittorf Airport (SQI) in Rock Falls, IL 130 miles away. The sun was still out, the visibility was great and I still had that great tailwind…life was good… for a while.

As I continued SSW I noticed the skies getting darker and the visibility to the west decreased from about 30 miles to about 10. I could still see the horizon to the southeast, but that wasn’t where I was headed. I was noticing that my instinct was to fly the plane toward the better-looking weather vs. the course to SQI. The problem with this was that the better weather would require me to fly directly over and through Rockford, IL Class C airspace.

I was now cruising around 1500AGL and visibility to the south was still >10miles, it just didn’t look like it would hold. It was then that I noticed what was causing the visibility to drop… light snow… I couldn’t see the snow until a ray of sunshine came through the clouds and reflected off the snow flakes.

I managed to stay clear of the Class C airspace around Rockford, but was now well east of my original path. I continued on due south until it looked more inviting to head west. Then I hit the “nearest” button on my GPS and picked Dixon, IL as my next stop. It was about 20 miles away and 10 miles short of my original destination, SQI.

By the time I reached Dixon, the ceilings had dropped to about 1500 AGL and the visibility was around 8 miles… I was ready to land!

When I located the airport I noticed that while the runways had been snowplowed, they still had quite a lot of snow/packed snow/ice covering the runway. I thought about pressing on to Rock Falls, but I was here and I was cold. The landing was uneventful, a little icy in spots, but that was dangerous for the walking, not taxing!

I parked the plane on the main ramp and proceed to unfold my body out of the plane. I was cold. There was a building just off the ramp with several large windows and I could see light on inside. The only problem was that the doors facing the ramp and the ones on the sides had about two feet of snow piled on the sidewalk and they were probably locked.

I was able to walk to a gate in the fence that separated the parking lot from the ramp and around to the front where I found an open door…yea! It was a nice little pilots lounge with couch, flight planning room… and it was heated! After I was there for about 10 minutes, in walked an older man who asked if I needed any help and offered to give me a ride into town. I told him that I would probably just campout in the pilot lounge and leave early the next morning. He gave me his number just in case I change my mind. Nice guy.

After a few minutes of being alone again, in walked another guy and we talked about where I had been and where I was headed. I told him that I was originally going to stop in Rock Falls. The more we talked, the more it seem that I should try to fly the 10 miles to SQI. It was an attended airport with services like engine pre-heating — which I wanted since the overnight temp would be around zero — and a courtesy car.

I called to verify they were there and that they had a courtesy car. It was about 5:00 and the sun would be setting around 5:25pm, so no time to sit there and think longer about it… either stay or go… I decided to make the short hop to SQI. I climbed into the plane and started the engine and while I was waiting for the engine temps to climb, I enter SQI into the GPS and started taxing to the runway.

After taking off and climbing to 1000 AGL, I looked at the GPS to get a heading… but, no satellite reception… crap!… visibility: not as good as I’d like and it will be getting darker… double crap!… where is the sectional… good, here it is… fortunately, there was a double lane road from Dixon to Rock Falls, and the airport in Rock Falls road was just to the south of this road and the town.

It was the longest six minutes of the trip, but I picked out the airport when I was about 3 miles away and proceeded to land… I made it! I came real close to turning around and returning to Dixon when the GPS failed to locate satellites. But I had already traced and highlighted the route on the sectional and had good landmarks to follow. After this minor failure, I used the remote antenna for the rest of the trip and never had a problem.

After landing and taxiing to the tie down area of the ramp, I walked in to the FBO to see were they wanted me to tie down. This was a full service FBO, so it would cost me $15 to tie down outside. The tie downs were full of ice so they told me that they would have to get a torch to melt the ice. That’s when I asked if there was an empty hanger available… he thought for awhile and said ole “Joe” left in his plane for the weekend, you could put your plane in his hanger… how much… $20… deal! I moved the plane into the hanger; they gave me the keys to the courtesy car and pointed me toward town and the Super Eight motel. I was happy, hungry and tired.

Day Four – Sunday, Feb. 8th:

I slept great… best nights sleep I’d had so far on the trip. Called the weather briefer to see the likelihood of a VFR flight from Rock Falls to my first stop, Quincy, IL… it wasn’t good. The ceiling were at 600 feet AGL and visibility less that 3 miles. I went ahead and drove to the airport as there was little else to do on Sunday morning in Rock Falls.

I used the time that morning to study the sectionals that covered Missouri. I duct taped the inside of the passenger door to slow down the air infiltration, and also installed the remote GPS antenna. At 1:30pm the ceilings were still at 800 ft but the weather briefer said that about twenty miles away they were reporting clear skies. I checked the sectionals to make sure that there are no obstructions along the path I would fly, for the first 30 or so miles. Satisfied with the route, I order an engine preheat and get ready to leave. The pre heat takes 20 minutes, after which the engine is warm and can be started without choking.

Pre-heating the engine

I turn on the GPS and make sure it is receiving a good signal and select the route that will take me to Quincy, IL., then taxi to the runway. After take off, I climb to 500 ft AGL, visibility is okay although the ceiling is low! After flying for 15 or so miles, the clouds start to lift and eventually start to break up. That is the good news. The bad news is, I’ve crossed into a front and the winds have picked up to 35-40 MPH out of the NNW. This slows me down a little.

Looks like Quincy is as far as I’ll get today. About 15 miles from Quincy I tune in the ASOS: surface winds are 24mph out of the north, more or less. There are three runways to pick from so I choose the one that has the most favorable wind direction, 36-18. I make my call to let traffic know that I am 8 miles to the northeast, inbound for landing on 36. A few seconds later the Unicom informs me that 36-18 is closed due to snow and suggests I use 04.

As I enter downwind for 04, I realize there is a really stiff crosswind, when I turn for final, I know it is a strong crosswind. I’m crabbing into the wind and looking at the approach end of the runway through the side window! Okay, that might be a little exaggerated, but that’s what it felt like. At 300 AGL I start to see how much rudder and aileron it’s going to take to line up with the runway… almost to the stops… I decide to drift to the right of the edge of the runway and land on a diagonal path across the runway. Not sure what my touch down speed was, but it was slow!

Taxied to the FBO and climb out of the plane and the plane starts to roll backwards in the wind! Out comes a guy to help, I decide to fuel the plane and put it in their large hanger next to the UPS Cessna Caravan. Cost to hanger the plane: $50. Good night sleep knowing your plane won’t be blown away: priceless!

The airport is eight miles from town and the FBO says that I have my choice of two places that will come out and pick me up. What? I can’t use the courtesy car? Turns out that neither motel has staff available to come get me… they let me have the courtesy car and I head to town.

Day Five – Monday, Feb. 9th:

Up at 5:45am, and get a weather briefing. It looks like the weather will not be good if I fly through Missouri into Arkansas. I decide to head more west across Missouri and into Oklahoma. Only, there’s a problem: President Bush will be in Springfield, Missouri today and I will need to stay a minimum of 30 nm from Springfield.

This puts me on more of a westerly course which also has me flying into some very strong headwind blowing due west… oh well, at least the weather is clear and I will be getting an early start today. Wheels off the ground at 8:30am… I climb to 2000 ft AGL, groundspeed is pathetic — 58mph — but the air is silky smooth and I can see for miles… life is good!

The land I have been flying over for the past three days has been snow covered and remarkably the same…mostly farm land with North-South and East-West fence lines and roads. I am ready to see ground NOT covered in snow!

The first leg today takes me to Butler, Missouri (BUM). I fly a path that keeps me north of Whiteman AFB and the related MOA’s. It takes 3.2 hours to cover 190 miles. I land at Butler, fuel up and pick a southerly destination to head to Grove, Oklahoma.

Butler is the first runway I’ve landed one that didn’t have any snow or ice on it, although there is still snow on the ground. I take off and head south. The weather is still great and I can see for 50 miles.

After flying for about 80 miles I realize that I am catching up to a front that is stalling out… I decide to climb higher to see if it is a broken cloud layer… it is, but the further south I go, the broken cloud layer turns to a solid layer. I am only a mile from Grove when I decide to hit the “nearest” button on the GPS and select an airport that is north of this front… Miami, OK …about 10 miles away.

I land and there is only slight sign of snow… lots of brown grass and it sure looks good! Nice airport with weather computer and satellite TV. I called to get a weather briefing for a flight from Miami (which, by the way, is not pronounced the same as Miami, FL) to Muskogee… no good… IFR conditions.

It was only 2:00pm so I decided to just hang out there in Miami and see if that front would push a little further south. Around 3:30pm I decide to take off and see how further south I can fly…I head to Chouteau, OK (H71), 50 miles away and land. I’ve caught up with the front again. I could stop here for the day only there is no courtesy car and I’d have to call a taxi to come get me…I didn’t like that idea, so I topped off the tanks and headed for Muskogee, 40 miles away.

About 7 miles from the Muskogee, I had caught back up to the front and had to make the decision to drop down and fly under the clouds…the ceiling were about 1300 ft AGL and area was very hazy. The airport was just ahead in this darkening sky… just a few more miles… I land and then taxi to the FBO. I walk inside and ask how much to hanger the plane… $10… a bargain! They give me the keys to the courtesy car… a 1970’s Ford LTD… I grab my bags and load then in to the car and head to town. This is definitely the worst courtesy car I’ve driven…I don’t feel safe going faster than 45mph! I head into town, another day, another town and another Super Eight…yeah!

Day Six – Tuesday, Feb. 10th:

I wake up and look outside…FOG! But the Weather Channel showed a big sun over all of Oklahoma? Maybe it will burn off soon.

A call to the weather briefer confirms the weather conditions, but says it should lift by mid-morning. I head to the airport around 8:30am… still very foggy. So foggy in fact that I can barely see 100 feet in front of me and I am afraid that either I’m going to hit someone or they are going to hit me.

I decide to get off the road at the next turn off. I pull into a parking lot and get out a magazine to read. An hour later I can see 300 feet and declare it safe to continue the trip to the airport.

12:00pm and still foggy. Weather briefer say that I will probably not make it much further that Dallas today because of IFR conditions south of there. 12:30pm, fog has lifted and I take off and head south.

After flying about 15-20miles, I see what appears to be solid cloud layer ahead with “mountain” peaks poking through… I climb to 6500 ft msl… there are fog banks between this series of mountains, but in the distance I can see the ground. I am a little tense flying over this rugged terrain, but at 6500 ft there appears to be plenty of places to land should I have a problem.

After awhile I can see the Red River in the distance… after crossing it, I felt like I was home… the weather ahead still looks good.

After nearing my intended airport, Sulfur Springs, TX (SLR), I still had plenty of fuel and since I was enjoying the flight at 6500 ft decided to press on.

You know that saying among pilots that goes like this, “It’s better to be on the ground, wishing you were flying than, flying and wishing you were on the ground”. That statement holds a lot of truth and as the rain started to hit my windscreen, I was wishing I had stopped at Sulfur Springs.

I hit the “nearest” button on the GPS and headed directly to Wills Point (76F), Texas. Not sure what kind of airport Wills Point was, except that any airport is a good one when you are ready to stop flying! I landed and pulled off the runway into a parking lot/ramp. It rained lightly for about 30 minutes while I sat in my plane looking at my options.

The airport had no fuel, and I could use some. I also needed a Houston sectional, so it would be nice to pick a larger airport with a FBO so I could purchase a sectional. There was just that kind of airport 10 miles to the east. I waited for the rain to stop and took off. As I was climbing out I noticed that it looked a lot better to the south now.

I looked at my sectional and picked Athens, TX as my next stop: they had fuel and were only 40 miles away and they were the farthest south airport on the sectional. The ceilings were still pretty high, 6000+ ft, and the visibility was 15+ miles, there was still the occasional raindrops on the windshield, but other than that it was good flying. There are a lot of large lakes in this part of Texas and they make great landmarks.

After landing at Athens, I taxied off the runway at the first taxiway and parked in front of the fuel pump. The pump was not a self serve and was locked. I go into the shack near the pump…no one there. I start to walk to the mobile home behind the shack and a guy that has seen me land drives up and asked me if this was a Zenair CH 701.

He was in the local EAA Chapter and there was a member of the chapter building a CH 701 powered by a Subaru. While we are talking, the door to the mobile home opened and a frail man steps out and says, if I want fuel, I would have to come get the key and pump it myself… no problem, I think I can do that. I get the key, unlock the pump and fuel up. I then walk back to the mobile home and tell the man how much gas I’ve pumped. Turns out that he is recovering from a collapsed lung and can’t walk far without getting winded.

We visit while he is processing my credit card…this ends up taking twenty minutes. I ask if he has a Houston sectional I can buy…nope, but I might be able to buy one down at the next hanger off the taxiway. OK, I’ll hop in the plane and taxi down to the next hanger. As I get closer, I realize that this is not just a hanger, but a full service FBO with flight school, AP services and avgas for $1.80/gallon! I had just paid $2.05 a hundred yards away.

I walked in to the front door and I’m greeted by Bob, he asks if he can help me. I tell him that I’m sorry that I didn’t buy my gas at their pump, but what I really need is a Houston sectional… none for sale, but he looks under the under the cabinet and pulls out one that is brand new, just six months out-of date.

I offer to pay for the chart… no, you can have it… now I am feeling really guilty… Just then, the owner of the FBO, Carroll Dyson, identifies himself and proceeds to rip into me for buying my gas from that SOB down the taxiway and then coming down to his shop for a free sectional!

I’m not sure what to say, but I start apologizing for not noticing that he also sold gas and try to give the sectional back to him… no luck… he rants on for another minute or so about why didn’t I check ahead of time to see who offers fuel at Athens. He goes on to say that if I had done ANY research I would have found out that HE has the cheapest avgas anywhere.

To this I tell him, I didn’t know I was going to be landing at Athens until an hour earlier! He is quiet now. Turns out that he is really just frustrated by the fact that people end up paying up to $2.30/gallon for avgas at the other place when he is selling his gas at basically just above cost so that the average guy can still afford to fly… and he will even pump it for you. He goes on to tell me he even has a courtesy car he loans out to pilots.

I try one last time to appease him by offering to make a $20 donation to the local EAA chapter…nope. I decide that it is time for me to go, it is around 4:00pm and the weather doesn’t look too bad. I plan on trying to fly a little further south, maybe to a friendlier airport. As I taxi to the runway, I notice a few raindrops on the windshield, I wonder if it is a good idea to be leaving… Remember? Better to be on the ground, wishing you were flying, than flying, wishing you were on the ground. I take off to the north and when I turn to head south, it doesn’t look good…10-15 miles away it is a solid wall of white and gray… rain!

I stay in the pattern and land back in Athens. I taxi back to the “friendly” FBO and get out of the plane and walk inside. The owner say, “Back for some of my great hospitality?” and then apologizes for being such an A__h___ earlier and offers the use of his courtesy car if I’d like to find a room in town. I ask if it would be possible to hanger my plane somewhere, as it now raining outside. No room in his hanger, but ‘’Joe” went down to South Padre in his plane and his hanger is empty, you can put your plane in there… how much will I own you… nothing. The plane is safe and dry and I am driving myself into town for the night. What a day!

Day Seven – Wednesday, Feb. 11th:

Rains all day. I go to the freshwater fish hatchery and kill some time looking at all the record bass. They even have the current record for catfish swimming in the aquarium. I don’t’ remember how much she weighed, but she look a six foot shark! Spend a lot of time watching the weather channel… it doesn’t help… the weather is still bad. Carroll has been checking the weather, using his professional flight planning software, and it has been red (IFR) all along the route to LBX. Tomorrow looks like it might be ok. I hope so.

Day Eight – Thursday, Feb. 12th:

I wake up and check the weather outside. It is breezy and low ceilings. A call to the weather briefer confirms that the ceilings are low (600ft AGL) most of the way toward home. Hopefully they will get higher later in the morning.

I eat breakfast and then head out to the airport at 8:00am. Carroll is there and he checks the weather along my route again using his flight planning software. Looks like the ceiling is better near the coast. Winds are out of the north at 10-15kts… great, a tailwind… 220 miles to go, should take around two hours if the ceilings lift.

At 10:00am we check the weather again and I decide to go for it. I pull my plane out of the hanger and stow all my gear. I say good bye to my new buddy, Carroll, and get in the plane. After take off I climb to 700 ft AGL and end up cruising at that altitude for the next 80-100mile. The ceilings were lower than I liked (900 ft), but visibility was good and I had a good tail wind.

It was a bumpy ride the whole way home. It was good to see the familiar skyline of Houston as I approached from the north. 50 miles to go and now the ceiling are 2000 ft… no problem… just thirty minutes from home.

Fifteen miles to the north of Brazoria County (LBX)…who needs a GPS or map now… I know this area like the back of my hand… I enter the pattern and land at Brazoria County airport. I taxi to my new hanger and shut down the plane. As I’m sitting in the plane soaking up the fact that I’m finally home, I use my cell phone to call my wife, she answers and I say the words she has been waiting to hear “The eagle has landed…”

— John Crosley

Ed. note: Other photos of John’s CH701, taken on 2/15/2004, can be see below (photos by Texas-Flyer):


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