Weather - ESC: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees, wind 190 degrees at 5 knots
Weather - OSH: Partly cloudy, 83 degrees, wind 300 degrees at 8 knots
Based on the weather situation that I discussed in the last post about our trip, I didn't think we would be ending our visit with Gina's grandma until Friday. Still, I was checking the weather all morning and saw things clearing up after lunch this afternoon. On top of that, it looked like another front might push in by morning and I didn't want to be stuck in Escanaba again. I made the "go" decision and we quickly packed everything into the car, said our goodbyes, and drove to the airport. We unfortunately wouldn't be to Oshkosh until about 5:30pm so it would be too late to visit the Airventure Museum as I had hoped to do on this trip - maybe next time!
Some thunderstorms had popped up just north of Escanaba but they were moving away from us and were opposite out direction of flight. Gina loaded everything into the plane while I got all the gear hooked up. I had her return the rental car while I taxied over to the self-serve pump and filled both tanks. She met me back on the tarmac and we buckled up, eager to get back into the air after four days on the ground.
Escanaba (ESC) to Oshkosh (OSH) - click the YouTube logo to view in full HD
After I started the engine and turned on the avionics master, I heard a call come over UNICOM. "Cessna 2814L, are you listening?" Obviously I was and I replied accordingly. It was the First Officer on the Mesaba (Delta Connection) Saab 340 that had just arrived from Minneapolis via Iron Mountain. They were sitting on the tarmac and he recognized our airplane. "Hey, is that 172 from Waynesville, OH?" Turns out he had flown out of Stewart and got his Private there some years ago - I'm not sure exactly when. He said to say hello to Cub and Cathy (the owners) and I'll be sure to relay the message next time I see them. You've got to love the sometimes small world of aviation!
We taxied to Runway 27 and took off with a light crosswind. This way we had a left turnout to leave the pattern that put us almost directly on course. I called Green Bay Radio as we climbed over the shoreline to activate our VFR Flight Plan. I filed a flight plan - just as I did on our flight from St. Ignace to Escanaba - since we would be flying over some sparsely populated areas. The briefer that opened our flight plan gave us a bunch of great weather information. It sounded like there was a small cell between Menominee and Green Bay that we might have to fly around, but otherwise things were clear.
Storm clouds north of Escanaba as we begin our takeoff roll
Climbing out with the terminal and fuel pumps under the left wing
Mesaba Saab 340 - the First Officer got his Private at Stewart!
Finally saying goodbye to Escanaba, two days later than originally planned
Passing over the Ford River, just south of Escanaba
The view across the lake (technically we were looking across Green Bay) was much better than when we flew in on Sunday. We had little to no haze and you could see the islands very well. I climbed to 4,500 feet and we remained there until we approached Menominee and had to descend to 2,500 to stay below the scattered clouds. You could see the storm that Flight Service had told us about - it was actually pretty neat to see the rain falling all the way to the ground. I turned west and we made probably a 5 mile circle around the weather and then proceeded on course.
A storm we diverted around - right off the nose, about 15 miles out
Menominee, MI and Marinette, WI - separated by the Menominee River
Flying between some low clouds as we avoid the heavy rain
I called Green Bay Approach to get flight following as we'd be going through their airspace. They turned me west again to remain clear of their arrival/departure corridor. Unfortunately, that meant we wouldn't be flying past downtown Green Bay so we couldn't take any photos of Packer Stadium and the other cheesy (double pun - ha!) attractions. As we were making our way south I called Flight Service again and amended my flight plan to increase the ETA by 15 minutes due to our weather and ATC diversions.
J. Douglas Bake Memorial Airport (OCQ) in Oconto, WI - one of our checkpoints
Austin Straubel Int'l Airport (GRB) in Green Bay in the distance
An unexpected thing happened when Green Bay Approach told me radar service terminated, Squawk VFR just as we were entering Appleton's Class Delta airspace. I always expect ATC to hand us off or coordinate a transition through a Class D and that's what has always happened in the past. I immediately turned east away from the airspace and called Appleton Tower to explain the situation and request a transition, which was approved. We skirted the edge of the airspace for a couple miles and then I called the tower back and let him know we were going to change to Oshkosh's frequency.
Appleton, WI and the Vulcan Street Plant (world's first Edison hydro power plant)
It was a neat moment to tune in the Oshkosh ATIS and know we would soon be landing at what I'll call the Aviation Mecca. Sure it's not during Airventure, but I was still plenty excited to be able to add OSH to my "I've landed here" list. I called Oshkosh Tower and he instructed me to report a 2 mile base for Runway 27. Another airplane was in the pattern for a touch-and-go and I was number two to land. He turned final as we were about a mile out on base and I slowed down and remained slightly high to give him time.
We were coming down final, closer and closer to the threshold, and the guy in front of us still hadn't taken back off. About 100 feet up, I had to make the call to go around and called Tower to advise. He told us to make right traffic and I made a climbing right turn to downwind as I watched the other plane finally take back off alongside of us. In hindsight, maybe I could have turned another 10 degrees and slowed down a little more on base to avoid the go around - but that guy did hang out on the runway for a while. No harm, though, as Gina was able to snap some great photos of Wittman Regional Airport on downwind!
On downwind for Runway 27 with OSH out the right window
Final for Runway 27 at Oshkosh
Tower cleared me to land as we leveled off and I made a more conventional downwind-base-final approach. We touched down softly on Runway 27 and then were cleared for our short taxi to Basler Flight Service. I had gathered from AirNav that they were a great FBO and the reviews I read online were spot-on. They topped off the tanks with $4.34 full-service 100LL as I went inside and pulled up the weather. Now I had to figure out exactly where we would be headed this evening...
(continued in my post about our second leg today)
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.6 hours
Total Time: 165.4 hours