Saturday, February 9, 2013

A day trip to Evansville

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: 40I-EVV-IMS-40I
Weather - 40I: Clear, 30 degrees, wind 100 degrees at 4 knots
Weather - EVV: Clear, 44 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 8 knots

One of Gina's college friends lives in Evansville, IN. It's not the shortest drive at over 250 miles and four-plus hours, one-way. Wait - you can hop into a 172 and fly straight there in under two? Why yes we will, thank you very much.

Thanks to some very un-winter-like weather cooperation, we had no trouble making today's trip. In the middle of February. That we planned over a month ago! Crazy when things work out, huh?

An efficient mode of travel: 8+ hours by car, under 4 by air!

Departure from Stewart was uneventful... mostly. This warm spell, coupled with recent rain, has turned the turf into the textbook example of a soft field. Most of it's actually still firm but - as we found out, a bit unintentionally - there are some mushy spots up on top of the hill. It took full throttle and a little elevator trickery to get unstuck. Once in motion again, I kept rolling onto the runway and away we flew. Using soft field technique, of course.

My first video edited on my new desktop with Adobe Premier Pro - hope you like it!

Cincinnati Approach was in a friendly mood today, dialing everything in for flight following to EVV and clearing me into the Bravo without any vectors around CVG via Anchorage or Denver. They actually let us putz along direct Evansville at 4,500 feet. Nice group of controllers, those folks.

Further along, we were handed off to Indy Center and eventually Louisville Approach. Traffic was sparse, save for a Cirrus at our altitude somewhere around North Vernon, IN. I spotted him three or four miles out (the controller had called him) as he crossed in front of us, headed north.

This ski area stood out against the winding Ohio River in the background

Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg, IN

Passing over Pakota Lake, the second-largest reservoir in Indiana

Roughly an hour and a half after takeoff, I was talking to Evansville Approach. It took a while to spot the airport; visibility was good but there was a little haze down low. Somewhere around ten miles out I finally saw the field and they sent me over to tower. My new phone app with extended runway centerlines was handy in helping me play airport detective!

Tracking our flight with Avare on my phone (full review coming soon!)

Brief visions of Comair Flight 5191 popped into my head as I initially lined up with Runway 22. You see, tower had cleared me to land on Runway 18! Something didn't feel right as I checked my heading indicator shortly after leveling the wings. Sure enough, it most definitely was not pointing at the large S. I immediately turned right, back onto a proper right base for Runway 18 (as cleared) and all was well.

Unlike that infamous airline incident, we would have been physically ok had we ended up in the wrong place. The same likely cannot be said for my certificate. At the very least, I bet there would have been an uncomfortable phone call. As I say in the video, this is why you always double-check your runway!

Initially lined up with wrong runway

We were a couple miles out on base and already slowing down, so the landing itself was normal and uneventful. I intentionally touched down about 1,500 feet down the runway for a short taxi to Tri-State Aero. Avionics off and mixture to cutoff, 14L's engine quickly came to a stop.

Reid met us inside the FBO and we hopped into his car. He treated us to lunch at Turoni's Pizzery & Brewery, which I hear is a local institution. The pizza and garlic bread were delicious and I found myself almost wishing we hadn't flown, as their beer sounded great! We may have to return for an overnight trip...

Following lunch, he took us on a brief tour of the city and then we hung out for about an hour. It was great to catch up and spend time with a friend we don't get to see on a regular basis. But we soon had to return to the airport - we were an hour behind and it gets dark out sooner than you think this time of year!

It took a couple minutes to raise Clearance and get our departure instructions. Readback correct and taxi instructions received, we were sitting at the end of Runway 18 around 3:30, or 4:30 EST, ready for takeoff. Within a minute, we were talking to Departure, climbing to 5,500 feet.

Paralleling the Ohio River to the south after departing Evansville

My view from the left seat - visibility was quite good!

 Flying past Pakota Lake again - this time from the south side

Downtown Louisville from about 30 miles away

We landed at Madison Municipal Airport on the way home to top off the tanks with some cheap 100LL. In hindsight, I should've just had the guys at Tri-State fill us with their five gallon minimum; that would've been more than enough to get us home without a fuel stop. But I opted to save $1.50/gal (responsible renter!) with the self-serve pump at IMS.

Back in the air, I realized it was getting dark a little quicker than I had hoped. Remember that comment I just made about a non-stop return flight? Oops. Hindsight bites again. Anyway, I knew we'd make it to Stewart about twenty minutes past sunset. It wouldn't be bright out, but there would be more than enough light to land. Worst-case, we'd just have to land at Wright Brothers and fly the plane back in the morning.

Gazing off towards Cincinnati's skyline just past sunset

Passing north of Cincinnati about 15 minutes before landing

I spotted the airport at least ten miles out, even in the dwindling twilight. Columbus Approach canceled flight following and I lined up for a straight-in approach. It's not traditional, but I knew nobody else would be in the pattern at Stewart. They don't have any lights, after all.

Turning final about four miles out, I gradually slowed and lowered the flaps. It turned out to be one of the most stabilized approaches I've made in forever - check out the GPS track if you don't believe me! We touched down over the squishy hump in the runway, yoke fully back against my stomach, keeping as much weight off the nose as possible. I rolled into perfect position on the concrete pads less than a minute later.

Chalk up another successful this-is-why-we-fly day trip. Had we driven, and left at the same time, we would have had all of fifteen or twenty minutes in Evansville before it was time to drive home. Pilots always regret passing up weekend days with this kind of weather in the winter. I'm glad we were able to take advantage today!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.3 hours
Total Time: 256.1 hours


  1. I think there's something very refreshing about being able to make this kind of cross country flight in the winter. Most of the time during winter, I feel stuck close to home, never quite sure of what the Great Lakes are going to conjure up that may prevent a safe return. It's great to see that you were able to get such a nice trip out of the area!

    Your reminder to cross-check heading on final with assigned runway is a great one. Rochester has two runways with adjacent thresholds that diverge by 30 degrees, making it a good idea here, too - especially at night.

    1. It was definitely a nice change-of-pace from the past three Februaries when I flew 1.0, 0.0, and 0.0 hours, respectively!

      I didn't mention it directly in the post, but the situational awareness from the Avare app was definitely helpful. The extended runway centerlines it draws on the sectional helped confirm I wasn't in the correct place. It also has built-in taxi diagrams that show your position on them... handy stuff.

  2. Visibility looked good and the utility of an aircraft made for a fun day trip. I love this flying stuff!

    The Garmin 496 extends the r/w centerline too, great tool to help cross check the heading bug making sure everything is as it should be.

    1. Yup, definitely a handy feature. Anything that aids in situational awareness is a positive in my book.

      The heading bug was enough to tell me I wasn't in the right place, but the map was certainly a nice cross-check.

  3. you were close to my airspace! I could've watched you fly right on by and not even known it. (But probably not, cause I've been up in the tower a lot lately)

    1. We were! We'll actually be even closer in a few hours... flying into IND late tonight from ATL. You gonna be around for a tower tour in the morning? :)