December 2017

Sitting at our yearly Christmas dinner, organized at the aeroclub where I am having my flying lessons, the plan for a USA coast to coast trip came up. Marieke, Rob and Nick, already experienced with flying in the USA, were fantasizing on such trip and I happened to sit at their table, enjoying the dinner and their conversation, making me think about all the adventures that would be possible, once the license that I was working for so hard and for so long, would be in my pocket.

The adventure that they were talking about, would be easier to organize if they could find fellow flyers to join, so that the costs could be shared and a plane could be rented in San Diego to be flewn to Boston and another team could fly it back.

For sure I was interested, but the license wasn’t mine yet….


April 4, 2018

A couple of sleepless nights and 1 exam… the license is mine and adventures can start!

Over the past months, the teams were made and I would join Louis, Maurice and Simon on their trip from westcoast to eastcoast, while Marieke, Rob and Nick form the team that flies the aircraft back.

June and July

We met with Marieke, who has been organizing big part of the whole trip. She briefed us on flying in the USA, sharing lots of her experience and knowledge. Lots of material to go through in a short time remaining till the start of our trip.

Also we took some time in Louis’ simulator, where Marieke taught us flying a constant speed prop, a technique most of us had no experience with. We spent one hot sweaty evening practicing, since the simulator was on Louis’ attic, which at this midsummer evening also simulated the heat we would meet in California.


Question is now, which route will we take to get to Boston? Well, how about we see at that time? We will be depending on how far we get on a day and which places each of us wishes to visit and then of course there is such thing as weather, which in aviation is a crucial factor,as we will soon also experience. That said, our trip to the USA started.

August 8

Due to the storm raging over the country in the previous night, our flight from Amsterdam to LA got delayed. We left about 30 minutes late, which wouldn’t have been a problem, if only the weather on our lay over would have permitted the plane to land, which it didn’t . Another thunderstorm was complicating our plans. A diversion to Ottawa was needed and so we missed the plane that was to take us from Toronto to LA, where Maurice, who took another flight, would be waiting for us at the airport.

We were booked on a flight out of Toronto on the next morning, which would mean we would miss our appointment with the FSDO (Flight Standards District Officer), the person to give us our American license. Knowing that this person wouldn’t be available till the next week, for sure this would mean that we wouldn’t be able to start our trip as planned beginning of the week.

A standby ticked should save us, but Toronto airport was stuffed with passengers stranded due to many delays and missed flights and most were booked with a stand by ticket for flights that might actually even still stay stuck on the ground because of the weather. Chances are slim, but we’ll take our chance anyway…

Luck seemed to be on our side. It is 21.00 o’clock when our plane leaves from Toronto and it is 23.00 o’clock when we reach the destination, where Maurice has been waiting for us since his arrival long 8 hours earlier.

August 9

After a short night and a quick sleep we head towards the FSDO in the morning. Where the 3 of us receive our temporary airman certificate, that allows us to fly the trip. Each of us were scheduled 1 hour apart, for some administration that takes 10 minutes for each of us. Some negotiation resulted in a reduced waiting time there, which gives us time to visit First Flight Corp, where tomorrow we will be having our checkout on the Cessna 182 and where also the flight review will be held. We meet Kieran, the instructor who will be doing the checkout and the review. He explains us the plan for tomorrow. It will be a full day for the 3 of us, since they hadn’t counted on a checkout, assuming we were experienced C182 flyers. This time issue was the thing that stressed him most. The information that we got from him was the thing stressing us most. Within the 30 minutes we met, our cheery mood turned into pure stress, understanding we kind of needed to pass an exam in order to get the certificate. Well, of course we were prepared, but were we exam-level – know all the details’- prepared? We will find out tomorrow. In a rush we head back to our hotel and try to soak up all details on map reading, aerodynamics, performances, flight rules and anything we can think of that Kieran might confront us with tomorrow.

August 10

This time it was the time we took for learning, that resulted in a short night, quick sleep. Early morning we hit the road, for a long day at First Flight Corp.

After a quick introduction by Kieran we head to the Skylane for our checkout. It is a bit different than the Skyhawks we have on our aeroclub, but we all manage well.

Some sweaty hours follow for the official part, in which we prove that we are as airworthy as the Skylane itself is.

How better to start a holiday than with a nice cold glass of beer, a wine or hey, why not a Margarita?! However, the learning and the flying that needed to be done just at the start of our holiday, didn’t allow us any of the above. But our achievement today was definitely good reason for celebration and proper kick off of our holiday. We head to Old Town, where we soon find ourselves centuries back, in a place straight out of a good western movie.

We check in at Barra Barra for good Mexican food and we treat ourselves on some well deserved big, cool glasses of beer and a Margarita for this lady.

August 11

Although there had been some ideas for today, it hadn’t been decided what we would do, until the start of the day. One thing we need to consider in our planning for the day, is the arrival of Simon in San Diego. One of the options was a nice trip up north, flying along the coastline for a couple of hours, but soon it became clear that after all the stress of the traveling, learning and testing, we all wanted a lazy day today and we agreed on spending the day in La Jolla, a nice neighborhood at the sea. ‘Traveling along the Coastline’: check, only difference with initial idea is mode of transport (car and by foot instead of flying) and thus less altitude and less miles covered, but we’re greatly satisfied and we felt very spoiled with the most amazing sunset that we had, just before Simon called to announce his arrival in San Diego.

August 12

It’s early up today for Simon’s checkout on the Skylane. While he would be out in the air, Louis, Maurice and I would be preparing the first legs of our trip, which would be starting tomorrow. What will we do? Where will we go? Of course, since it is a coast to coast trip we will be flying to the San Diego coast and from there we’ll head east.

Simon came back, while we were struggling with our preparations. There were some ideas, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon… Simon added some other places that he had learnt about from one of his flyer comrades, but for sure we can’t possibly do all and we need to make a choice. Weather seems to be best early morning and end of the day. We consider 2 legs for tomorrow. We decide on a first stop in Sedona, one of the recommendations by Simon, for a lunch, and a next stop at Grand Canyon, to spend the night there.

While Simon and Maurice prepare for the first leg, Louis and I struggle at finding out where to fly to exactly for the second leg. It doesn’t turn out to be easy to find a field near to the Grand Canyon that would have enough facilities to host us and to allow for a trip into the canyon, so we check on the options at Bryce Canyon. This means we would be passing the Grand Canyon on our way, but we won’t be stopping there. At Bryce Canyon we manage to find a field which has the desired facilities and so we plan a route form Sedona to there. It was quite a puzzle to find our way through the Grand Canyon, taking into account the restrictions for flying through the National Park and the elevations we come across along the way, but we find out about recommended routes and we choose the option of the Dragon corridor. It is late when we round up our preparations. Tomorrow will be a big day.

August 13

Early up! Quick breakfast in our hotel room and off we go!

We return our rental car and find a ride from the international airport to First Flight Corp at Brown Field Municipal, where in the burning sun, our Skylane is patiently waiting for us.

After a thorough inspection of the aircraft, sticking a EAC-m sticker in the briefing room (we will be stickering our way across the country at every stop we make, putting EAC-m, which is the aeroclub that we are all member from, on the USA-flight map) and a goodbye to the First Flight Corp Crew who had been very helpful to us in the past days (actually, I shouldn’t forget how helpful they already were in the past months in preparing the aircraft for our trip and organizing our checkouts and reviews), we set off for our very first leg of the trip. We are all so excited!

Weather is good and should stay good till Sedona. We take off and head for the coast with Maurice being the pilot with Simon next to him, being the navigator for this trip. From there we head east for Sedona. The landscapes are so very amazing! It is desert and rocks everywhere we look! So much different from the lush, Dutch, green, flat fields that we are used to! It is difficult to put it into words, but pictures will explain it all, I guess.

Most of the trip the weather is kind to us, but the last half hour of our trip becomes a bit bumpy due to convective weather. More and more clouds start to surround us. It won’t be a problem at all for reaching Sedona, but what will this mean for our trip to Bryce Canyon? One of the restrictions we found is that we need to have passed Dragon Corridor before 6pm. So these clouds might become a problem for today. But let us first set foot on Sedona ground. After a nearly 3 hours trip we find Sedona, an airstrip right on a hilltop, the strip stretching basically the full length of the hilltop. The hilltop with its airstrip is an amazing view as we approach it, just as is the view of the surroundings watching it from the hilltop. Again pictures will tell the story.

Our plan for now is to grab a quick late lunch and get back in the air for our second leg to Bryce Canyon. While we wait for our lunch we check the weather. We start by looking outside, the skies in the north don’t look too inviting for a flight. Then we check the available weather information which we use for our flight preparation. Heavy weather at the place of departure, thunderstorms at our destination and also some in between. We won’t be able to pass Dragon Corridor before 6pm with this forecast. We decide that we check the forecast again after lunch, to see if weather improves. By the time lunch came to an end a quick look outside shows how dark it has become in the vicinity. No way we can possibly get out in the air with this weather. No way we will be out in the air in time to make it though Dragon Corridor before 6pm. A change of plans is needed. In no time we book a hotelroom and organize a rental car and we set off into town. First drops of rain start to come down while we fetch our luggage from the aircraft and by the time we drive to our hotel it became a serious downpoor. Still somehow we feel blessed with this weather, since we would never have stayed in this wonderful place for the night, which we now think would have been a shame. We fill the evening driving around through town, finding great views of the surroundings and the boys wanted to play a bit with the drone, which in this area, with its beautiful views is great fun. Again pictures add to the story. We have been enjoying every minute.

The trip to Bryce Canyon is on the program for tomorrow. Let’s hope for good weather.

August 14

After checking and rechecking the weather, we decide it should be possible to reach Bryce Canyon this afternoon. We will need to fly around some clouds that might build up to become thunderclouds, but there will be room enough to avoid them. Like yesterday we use Flightfollowing and today they turned out to be very helpful to us. They advise us to take another route than that we had planned, to get through the Grand Canyon, in order to avoid the fires raging North of the canyon. From these fires the ashes could get in our way. We were advised to take any of the corridors but the Dragon corridor. Louis, being the navigator for this trip, is sitting next to me and he checks our options and suggests to reroute through the Fossil Canyon Corridor. Flying through the canyon is such an amazing experience. I remember I flew through the Grand Canyon ages ago, this was a tourist helicopter trip then. Was I amazed then, I remember, now I am even more amazed by the fact that it is me, being the one actually flying the plane.

Maneuvering through the corridors and crisscrossing around clouds, observing the fires from a distance, generating so much smoke, we wouldn’t want to be confronted with, we manage to reach our destination, Bryce Canyon Airport, before the weather gets a chance to complicate our trip. We learn important lessons from this trip. One thing is that an early start of the day will make our flight easier because of better weather, so we decide to get up even earlier tomorrow than we did today. Another thing is that the wind provided to us by flightfollowing, might not be the actual wind. The way how it works in Eindhoven, where the EAC-m is based, airtraffic control, the ones we communicate with when we want to land there, provides us with the actual wind that we will be confronted with during landing. These people are physically present at the airport and they are informed about the actual weather conditions on the field. But here, where we are guided to our destination by flightfollowing, we get flightinformation. These people are physically ‘somewhere’ and the information about the actual wind might be outdated. The wind I am confronted with during landing is definitely not the ‘variable with 5 knots’-wind that was given by flightfollowing. Lesson learnt, next time we prepare to land, we visually check the windsock to have the actual information if we don’t get the actual wind by radio.

This afternoon we visit the Bryce Canyon National Park. Does this blog become boring if I tell you again how amazing it all is?

Over diner we decide that our trip tomorrow will be to Aspen, which will be prepared by Simon and Maurice, who will be the pilot and the navigator tomorrow.

August 15

Today a trip to Aspen is on the menu, with a stop in between in Delta Blake Airfield. Simon is our pilot and Maurice our navigator. Our trip today doesn’t fly over the Bryce Canyon as it did yesterday over the Grand Canyon, but while we fly out, we still see the canyon in the near distance and the experience isn’t any less than would we have flown right over it. The view on the surroundings are like coming straight out of a good western movie and we expect to see cowboys on their horses to show up right below us any moment. In the hours that pass we see the scenery change from rocky canyons, sandy deserts, to green fields and finally to the high mountaintops of Aspen, with a nice view on some pretty houses sprinkled on the hills. This airfield is such a contrast to the fields that we had been in previous days. While on previous fields our aircraft would have felt ‘one of them’, here in Aspen, our aircraft must kind of have felt underdressed between the luxurious jets of the jet set, but hey, don’t judge a book by its cover, right? We couldn’t care less anyway, we have been enjoying its company every day, ever since we picked it up for our trip and today nothing different, we enjoyed the flight and the views along the way.

After arriving in Aspen we spend a nice afternoon downtown and in the evening Louis and I start preparing for our trip tomorrow.

August 16

In the morning we arrive back at the airport, where our airplane proudly stands between his bigger and better looking brothers, with whom he has spent the night. He is ready to fly us to Meadow Lake Airport, another exciting trip, this time through the Rocky Mountains. This morning we have just 1 dilemma. While on the other airfields there was a ‘designated’ area for a sticker, where should we put one here??? I‘m afraid we have to skip this one, Aspen won’t have a sticker from us.

Today Louis will be the one flying, while I will tell him where exactly, according to the navigationplan that we had prepared last night. Flying through the Rockies means again following recommended passes like the one called ‘Rabbit Ears Pass’ (don’t ask me, didn’t see anything looking like rabbit ears there).

It is an amazing trip again, with stunning views, seeing the Rockies from up and so close. It is also amazing to see that how, once the Rockies have been passed, the landscape is just flat all around Denver and Colorado Springs.

Soon enough we arrive at our destination for today. We tie up the airplane at some ‘back-there-in-the-corner’ place and head for a visit to the town of Colorado Springs. Maurice and Simon start preparing for our trip tomorrow. They are aiming for Kansas City. If weather allows, that is, because today that trip wouldn’t have been possible weatherwise.

August 17

Should we stay or should we go???

Today the first leg is planned to Hays, which is a place halfway between Colorado Springs and Kansas. Here we have the plan to grab a quick lunch and then to continue to Kansas.

Weather is playing games with us. At our destination the weather is perfect, but for the moment, right here in Colorado Springs, we walk with our heads in the clouds….well…almost. We see some blue spots, but not in the direction that we want to go. There it is just clouds which are too low to get the trip started, as far as we we can see. We decide to call weatherbriefing, to see if their information would change our opinion, but his message confirms what we see. However, he can tell us that we might have a chance if we wait for about half an hour. A bit of waiting does the trick and in an hour we are up in the air to Hays, our first stop of the day. I think we have been spoilt the past days and if we didn’t know any better we would have thought we would be flying over Holland. The scenery is flat, acres after acres after acres of farmland, neatly cut into squares by miles and miles and miles of straight roads. Only thing that isn’t looking like a Dutch scenery are the patches of farmlandcircles and the ‘nodding donkey pumps’ indicating where the oil fields are below us. By the time we realize the scenery isn’t going to change any time soon, Hays comes into sight, finally. We hope for some more exciting views in our second leg to Kansas, but before that we drive into the little town of Hays for a lunch.

Off to Kansas in the afternoon. Same scenery, let me be short about that. Then, at the end of our trip, the approach to the airport of Charles B. Wheeler Downtown, the airport we go to in Kansas. Wow!!! It was just worth the waiting!!! Do I need to say more? Nope… I’ll let the pictures explain it….

August 18

Today, we treat ourselves on a sleep in, since this afternoon we will only fly to Carbondale, Southern Illinois. We enjoy the Kansas skyline and a stroll along the Missouri River in the morning. Soon the sun announces midday by beating hard on our skins. The men try to find protection best they can, in the shade provided by a lamppost. In the afternoon we continue our trip eastbound, where we are welcomed by Mary and Jack. I first met this wonderful couple on my Camino de Santiago earlier this year and when I then told them about our East-to-West-trip plans, they invited us over for a stay in their place, which, as they told me, is right halfway on our route. We spend a nice evening with them, in which we are treated by Jack’s tasty, homebrewed beer and a wonderful dinner.

August 19

After a good night’s sleep and a nice breakfast at Jack and Mary’s we are ready to leave for Nashville, where we are planning to stay for an extra day. Now that we are halfway our trip, we thought it would be nice to spoil our Skylane on a beautytreatment, by giving it a scrub of the upper extremities, but where do we now dry the towels that we used for it? Creative thinking brought a splendid solution.

Now that the plane is proudly shining again, we are ready for our trip, but even before we take off we realize Maurice might have completely different plans than that we had in mind. He is our navigator and as he calls the airtraffic controller, he starts his call with ‘Eindhoven Ground…’. They don’t respond…obviously, because we are not on their frequency. He tries again with ‘Southern Illinois Ground’ and lucky us, they do respond and our plan for a departure to Nashville gets approved. After our ‘run up’ Maurice announces our Skylane to be ‘ready for departure, runway 81L’ …Sure Maurice…where ever you guide us to, we stick with you. (For the non flying blog readers, there is no such thing as a runway 81L!) Anyway, the airtraffic controller understands his mistake and gives us clearance to take off from 18L. Maurice happily accepts the alternative and off we go Southbound, to the town of country music.

We arrive early afternoon and set off for lunch in town. We find a place in the buzz of Broadway, a street in downtown where the sound of live music escapes out of every bar. There is enough entertainment in this place. After lunch we get back into the streets and we soon pick a bar, out of which beautiful life music is coming our way. We stay there for a drink and enjoy the performance. After that we make a nice bike tour through town, uphill an downhill we go. Finally some proper exercise after all the hours of sitting in the plane.

Don’t expect exciting flying stories tomorrow, since it will be our ‘day off’.

August 21

After exploring the town of Nashville on our day off from flying, we are ready for another trip today.

We were planning todays leg to Hot Springs, Virginia, to visit relatives of Louis. Until the moment we go to the airport we couldn’t decide whether we will be able to get there and if so, then the question is, will we also be able to get away from there. Our plans seem not to be compatible with the weather. After studying the forecast we decide flying to Hot Springs isn’t a wise decision. We reroute our trip and we go north and then east, instead of east and then north. We also decide that we could try to get all the way till the Niagara Falls today, if weather permits. And we also decide that we swop teams. Louis will be flying with Simon being his navigator. Along the way we monitor the weather continuously and weather isn’t all that good, but we manage to fly right around it and that’s how we fly to Beckley, West Virginia, on our first leg today. There we evaluate the flight and decide what will be next. After another study of the weather forecast we conclude that the weather isn’t changing really, but we can still continue flying, going around the bad parts, as we did in the first leg. Within an hour we are back up in the air on our way to Pittsburgh. The scenery of green trees on hills becomes pretty boring and the bumpy ride (just as if the plane bumps its way over the hills) puts me asleep for quite a bit of the trip.

In Pittsburg another evaluation follows, as well as another study of the weather at our destination, the Niagara Falls. Weather is bad along the way, but still there is a way to get to the falls. Question now is: ‘will the weather at the falls allow us to land there?’.

We decide that we can still move towards the falls and decide along the way wether or not we will land there or not. This time I will be the navigator, while Simon flies the last leg today. ‘Heavy to extreme precipitations’ is the message we hear continuously over the radio and that is indeed what we see in the west. We, however, fly to the east and with that we leave the bad weather behind us, literally. Then we approach the airport of Niagara Falls. All along the way our radar images have shown red patches on the screen, right where our destination is, to indicate the bad weather there. Although most of those red patches have turned orange or green, or have disappeared altogether, to indicate that weather has improved, there are still quite some patches right in our way. Now what? The airport we had chosen to divert to is in between two ‘red patched’ areas and we might get trapped between the two there. No good thing. We decide to return to the last airport we passed and that’s how we end our day long day of flying in Rochester.

We plan another day off tomorrow, for a visit to the Niagara Falls.

August 23

Yesterday we had a day off from the flying. We visited the Niagara Falls, where we spent a full day exploring the area.

Today there is some more flying on the program. This day we complete our share of the trip, before we hand over to the ‘eastcoast-to-westcoast’-crew existing of Nick, Marieke and Rob. Our first leg of today was to Westover airfield in Springfield, where we only take some fuel after which we quickly continue for our last leg to Boston. Before landing in Bedford airport we first head for the eastcoast, to ‘officially’ complete our ‘westcoast-to-eastcoast’-trip. Had it been Maurice to kick off 11 days ago flying over the westcoast in San Diego, it is me today to end the trip flying over the eastcoast in Boston. Feelings of excitement and pride on the achievement are mixed with sadness for the ending of our adventure.

It has been an amazing trip in which there was a lot of gaining: gaining a lot of flying experience and gaining a lot of non-flying experiences. Wonderful moments, spent with wonderful people, in wonderful places. A lot of fun while flying and while not flying. Looking forward to new adventures, bring up the new plans… is it almost Christmas???

O yeah, we made it! That is the feeling I got when we crossed the east coast. It started in San Diego with some interesting moments to get our flight review, but we managed. I have seen wonderful places, loved all the stops we had and did explore new things in the USA. Flying the Skyline, oops, Skylane was exciting and the skills improved after each leg. There is not one best thing, it was just amazing from start to end. Ok, lets wait for Christmas 😉

The trip from west to east was excellent. Wonderful scenery and even more wonderful people. To be a part of it was really a blessing. Flying the Skylane is a delight compared to the Skyhawk I normally fly. ADS-B weather is something that should be introduced in Europe as well. This really helped us to navigate around storms. A few legs wouldn’t have been possible without it.

A fantastic journey has come to an end (regrettably)! I enjoyed the company of Louis, Patricia and Simon. It was great to share all experiences among the four of us. I wish the East-to-West team (Marieke, Rob and Nick) also a great trip to San Diego and I’m looking forward to hear their stories and adventures as well.

Vrijdag 24 augustus tot en met Vrijdag 31 augustus

Verslag van Marieke, Rob en Nick, de terugvlucht van Oost naar West.

Vrijdag  24 augustus

We (Nick, Rob en Marieke) hebben afgesproken om  te gaan lunchen met de westcoaststarters (Patricia, Louis, Simon en Maurice) in een mooie wijk vlakbij de Harvard Universiteit in Boston. Nadat zij hun avonturen met ons hebben gedeeld kreeg ik het spontane idee om naar Martah’s Vineyard te vliegen. Martha’s Vineyard is een eiland voor de kust bij Boston (bekend van de crash van JFK jr en een favoriete bestemming van o.a. de Clinton’s). Al snel blijkt dat Nick, Maurice en Simon en Rob mee willen gaan. Patricia en Louis staan op het punt te vertrekken naar New York en kunnen niet mee. Omdat het vliegtuig maar 4 zitplaatsen heeft besluit Rob op ons te wachten in het jetccenter van Signature.

We spreken af  dat we op het eiland in de Atlantische oceaan de “echte” overdracht van het toestel  doen. Na een mooie vlucht van 1 uur komen we aan op het eiland. Na een korte wandeling en een kop koffie vliegen we weer terug naar Boston om aansluitend gezamenlijk bij een Japans restaurant te gaan eten. Na het eten nemen we afscheid van Maurice en Simon.

Zaterdag 25 augustus

Voordat we de reis kunnen starten moeten Rob en Nick nog worden uitgecheckt op de C182 en een High Performance endorsement halen. Nog voor onze reis was al Continue reading “Vrijdag 24 augustus tot en met Vrijdag 31 augustus”