Friday, April 5, 2013

Chicago, race cars, and pregnant puppies

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Route: MGY-C59-AAA-MGY
Weather- MGY: Clear, 55 degrees, wind 340 degrees at 10 knots
Weather- C59: Clear, 43 degrees, wind 090 degrees at 6 knots
Weather- AAA: Clear, 60 degrees, wind light and variable

My friend Mike needed to fly to Wisconsin for the day to check on his new race car in the shop and he asked if I wanted to tag along. Forecast of CAVU pretty much the entire way, springlike temperatures, and lots of flying? Why yes, I will take a vacation day, thank you very much.

Plus, there was another side-benefit. I brought my DSLR along for the ride and took a bunch of photos. That's something I cannot easily (and usually do not) do when I'm the one flying!

We met at Wright Brothers around 12:45 and took off about 15 minutes later. The 182 lept off the pavement and he quickly retracted the gear and we headed northwest towards Chicago. He called Columbus Approach and soon after we had a squawk code for flight following to Gary.

It turned out to be a great day of cross-country flying

Lined up for departure from Wright Brothers

Passing over Taylor University in Upland, IN

A sight that never gets old...

Lake Michigan coming into view over Indiana

Visibility was great today, as you'll see in the photos below. You might have to click on them to enlarge, but you could spot the Chicago skyline from a loooong distance out. In flight, I actually first spotted it with my Mark I eyeballs nearly 75 miles away!

Chicago Skyline - visible from 65 miles away

Chicago Skyline - 45 miles away

Chicago Skyline - 30 miles away

Approaching the city, we flew over the always-beautiful industrial complex better known as Gary, Indiana. Mills and rail yards and other rust-colored objects stretch for miles as you fly along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Still, it's a very interesting sight - especially when you realize you can see the shoreline stretch to the sand dunes in Michigan, 50+ miles away.

Beautiful Gary, Indiana

U.S. Steel Yard - home of the Gary SouthShore RailCats

Gary and the southern Lake Michigan shoreline

Chicago Skyline - 20 miles away

Chicago Skyline - 10 miles away

This should still be an airport! >:-o Grr. Harumph. Pft.

At this point, we were talking to Chicago Approach and level at about 2,000 feet for the VFR shoreline flight past the city. The last time I made this flight was back in 2010, when Gina and I flew our giant trip around Lake Michigan in the 172. Once again, the view was spectacular...

Around the time we were abeam the Hancock Center, ATC called out traffic rapidly approaching us from behind. It turned out to be the guy you see two photos below. Not sure what they were up to, as they slowed to our speed and hung about 1/2 mile out there off our wing for a few minutes. Eventually, they headed inland as we continued northbound along the lake shore.

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL

This guy passed us by as we headed north along the lake

Lake Michigan looking north towards Wisconsin

Finally past the lower Class Bravo airspace shelf, we turned inland and flew directly towards Lake Lawn Airport (C59) in Wisconsin. Mike circled a couple times over the race shop so they'd know to come pick us up. Then we turned around and flew the five or so miles back to the airport.

We definitely flew north - all the lakes still had ice on them!

Lake Lawn Airport (C59) - we'd be landing there shortly

Lindstrand Motorsports in Darien, WI - our first stop

Essentially the entire town of Darien - in a single frame!

Coming in from the west, we entered on the 45 for a left downwind to Runway 36. The wind was out of the east but it didn't make for too strong of a crosswind. A bird flew past us on short, short, short (as in the wheels were about two feet off the runway!) final that made for some excitement; otherwise, it was an uneventful arrival. The airport was completely dead and not in the greatest shape, as you'll see below. Still, you can't beat the convenience of general aviation!

Short final for Runway 36 at C59

Lake Lawn Airport - World's Best Windsock™

Lake Lawn Airport - World's Best Wind Tee™

Fast-forward a couple hours we were back at C59 after a ride back from the shop. We thanked Bruce for the ride and strapped back into 757YG. Ten or fifteen minuted later we leveled off at 6,500 feet (if I recall correctly) with our nose pointed direct to Lincoln, IL.

Crossing over the Illinois River

Burning fields near drainage ditches - we saw a ton of these fires

Base to final at Logan County Airport (AAA) in Lincoln, IL

We made the stop in Lincoln to pick up Ethel, a pregnant German shorthaired pointer mix, who was being moved from a rescue in Illinois to one in New York. Mike and I have made numerous flights for Pilots N Paws before - it truly is a wonderful organization. Support them!

As soon as we landed, we met the lady who drove her to the airport and said hello. Ethel was extremely friendly, if a bit shy, but certainly appeared to be in a good mood. Especially for a dog set to have puppies in about three weeks!

Mike loaded Ethel into the back seat while I fueled the airplane. She seemed quite content in her crate and, other than a little whimpering, didn't fuss around once we started the engine. We were back in the air a few minutes later and I watched her pace for a minute or two before laying down in her crate; she slept or relaxed most of the way home.

Picking up the rather pregnant doggy being transported

Ethel was a pretty happy little dog

Waiting for us to head back to the airplane

Ethel and the volunteer that drove her to the airport

Your impromptu line boy for the day!

Crated up in the backseat, ready to fly to Dayton

Heritage in Flight Museum - it didn't look very busy...

...but they still had a few things out there to class up the ramp!

Logan County Airport - World's Most Useful Hold Short Line™

Although the visibility was great, the tailwinds were not as much as forecast. We climbed from 7,500 to 9,500 feet somewhere around Champaign in search of speed but it made no difference. Not that we were going slow, mind you - ground speed was still about 170 knots (195 MPH).

Passing over Champaign and the University of Illinois

Cayuga Generating Station in Cayuga, IN

Lucas Oil Raceway, just outside Indianapolis

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Downtown Indianapolis skyline shortly before sunset

An hour later, give or take, we were descending for home. As the sun fell below the horizon, we were 10-15 miles from MGY. Mike lowered the gear to slow down and we soon entered the pattern for Runway 2. The landing was a total greaser (as a witness, I certify it's true!) and we shut down at the hangar before walking over to the FBO with Ethel and her crate.

Not a bad view out the back as we descended for home

We were making pretty good time at this point!

We met the volunteer who was driving her (for six more hours into the middle of the night - that's dedication!) the rest of the way to New York, said goodbye, and went back to the hangar to pack everything up. Just another fun day in a small airplane. A wise use of vacation, indeed!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File


  1. A very wise use of vacantion! Great photos of the city.

    While your comments about the beauty of Gary were a little tongue-in-cheek, it does have a certain unique post-industrial beauty about it - it's definitely a unique view.

    So many superlatives in one post, so many "world's greatest" things to be experienced. How will you ever top yourself? :-)

    1. Thanks!

      A very valid point, Chris. On the other hand, I've been flying for five years and that was the most dilapidated windsock and wind tee I've spotted to date - so I think they were worthy of the caption! :)

      Gary does have a certain, unique atmosphere to it. And I'm not talking about the clouds hanging overhead from all the factories. I love the contrast between all the industry and the lake, right next door. Definitely makes for some neat photos.

  2. Great photos! Love the captions ;)

  3. Steve, great pictures as always! Always nice to fly a rescue flight and a day flying beats the heck out of any day working!!