Crossing America

Arriving Friday in Bangor we were greeted by friends who had tracked our trip and insisted we accompany them to a lobster dinner. The next day we flew over the Adirondack Mountains, avoiding Boston and New York air spaces. We filed a flight plan for Columbus, Ohio, to once again visit the home of DC-3 pilot Bill Mnich. These cross-country journeys have spontaneous aspects, weather permitting. We were treated to a family BBQ at the home of Bill’s brother, Matt, who had joined us in June for the Normandy segment.

Sunday (the 21st) was decision day for Oshkosh. We hoped to make an appearance with the D-Day Squadron before passenger and pilot commitments prompted continuation of our westbound journey. Mother Nature interceded. The Saturday conditions included wind gusting to 60 MPH and hail. Pity the tent campers. By Sunday the organizers had closed all grass parking due to soggy conditions and allowed hard surface parking only for aircraft with reservations. Small aircraft arrivals were suspended so many crews clustered at airports within a couple hundred miles. While the forecast is good for the coming week of Oshkosh, it has suffered a rugged beginning. For many aviation enthusiasts, this pilgrimage is a highlight of the season. But we decided not to enter such an unsettled realm.

Did I mention there are sometimes surprises on these journeys? Our FBO at Columbus ran out of 100LL after pumping 205 gallons into DC-3 N877MG. It holds 1,200 gallons. And Greenland had fuel to spare! Go figure. We stopped in Cedar Rapids due to our range limitation. Dodging storms, we next flew to Rapid City, home of Ellsworth Air Base and a B-1 squadron with ties to the Doolittle Raiders. After so much recent practice, the stiff prairie crosswind did not alter our good mood.

Later today we will circle Mt. Rushmore before heading to Spokane Felts Field for a tour of the HFF hangar project. Tomorrow we will visit Pasco to inspect our B-25. A serious engine problem last Friday forced a landing there. We should reach Paine Field by 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday afternoon.

It will take some time for this trip to spool down. Each day held rich events. In polling the crew over the weekend, each of us recalled a different best experience. The pilots performed well and acted as a team. The other crews bonded with us and we with them. The people who flew with us were exceptional. The memories will become like favorite books on a shelf. Every so often I will pull one down, dust it off and read a chapter.

Thanks to many supporters, followers, maintainers, visitors and friends. Let’s change the oil, fix the leaks, wash off the bugs, and plan our next adventure.

John Sessions