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Flight Log: Kalamazoo to Treasure Cay and the 2002 Fly-in
By Larry Bowdish

I passed my many times delayed check ride for my IFR ticket on Tuesday, April 30, and on Wednesday, May 1 we were supposed to leave Kalamazoo, Michigan for Miami. Our plan was to get there (Miami) early on Thursday, visit with Ernie Martin and hi family, and see some of Miami. Unfortunately, we didn't get going until nearly 1 PM on Wednesday. This was our first trip in the Skymaster, the first time Kathryn (my wife) had flown with me in several weeks, since I had been concentrating on getting my IFR ticket. It was also the first time Kathryn had flown with me in weather.

Due to thunderstorms in KY, TN, and GA, I planned to fly pretty much south, stopping in BWG for fuel, and a break. Just north of Indianapolis we went hard IFR. We got to BWG and the ATIS ceiling dropped from 900 to 600 in a few minutes. I elected to not try that with my wife on board, and we went on to Nashville. We picked up the ILS for Nashville, popped out of the clouds about 900 AGL. My wife was tense, but thought it was very impressive that the runway was straight ahead. We got fuel in the plane and us, filed for Montgomery, AL.

We got in the air, went up to about 5K, and Kathryn started not feeling well. Her pulse was racing, she was getting hot, and looked terrible. I called up center, they directed me to Tullahoma, AL (THA), and then called THA to tell them I was on the way in. Kathryn rested, but was not feeling well, and we elected to spend the night. She was cold, and obviously running a fever, from what we suspect was a food allergy.

The next day, we got off to Cross City, FL, IFR immediately after takeoff.

At CTY we stopped, fueled the plane and us, called Ernie to let him know we were 2.5 hours from TMB. The flight to TMB was uneventful, we got the plane parked, and unloaded. We went to Ernie's house, met his wife Inata, and daughter Lauren. We had a pleasant evening, dinner at their house. Ernie's wife and daughter are delightful people. Ernie let us borrow his life raft, and life preservers, which was greatly appreciated.

Friday, we met Chachi at TMB, and we flew to TCay. It was beautiful weather, and coming in you could see the bottom of the ocean, it was so clear and beautiful. We got checked in, enjoyed the resort.

At 7PM we had a meeting at the beach front bar, met everyone who was there, and Bob Cook went over the agenda. During the day, Chachi had made some "jungle hats", out of palm leaves, and gave one to my wife. I thought it was incredibly neat, and couldn't imagine how long it took. He said it only took him about 20 minutes!!

Saturday, at 8AM we started the seminar, and I have to tell you it was incredibly informative. Kathryn sat through some of it, and was impressed by the discussion, the breadth and depth of GMAS's knowledge. His presentation was smooth, extremely informative, and well delivered. The questions were answered with in depth explanations. Never did we hear "because", there was always the well thought out reason behind the answer. I felt stupid, at how much I didn't know. I kept thinking, boy this is cool!

After the very thorough discussions on Saturday AM, many of the people went to the Marina, and took the boat over to Nippers. Nippers is a very unique and enjoyable place. The scenery is incredible. Saturday evening we went to a restaurant that had a lot of Bahamian food. I think it was called Coconuts. Anyway, it was enjoyable, but went until very late. Very enjoyable conversations, with a variety of owners.

At the Saturday seminar, Bob Cook had introduced Brad, who was interested in owning a Skymaster, and I offered to take him for a ride. On Sunday morning, we met and went to the airport at 6 AM. I wanted to do this early, and get back for the seminar. Unfortunately, we had to wait for customs, who don't get there until 7 AM. We couldn't preflight, or do anything, until we were cleared by customs. We got in the air, climbed up some, and then I let Brad fly the plane, and he enjoyed it. I did manage to get the plane up to about 225 MPH, and as a result did a very gentle climb out, so as to not stress the airframe. Because of the late start, we were late getting to the seminar.

Fortunately, it was being held in the restaurant, so we could eat and talk. Again, more very informative discussions, a lot of suggestions for maintaining your plane, enjoying it, and keeping the costs in line. How to check the hoses, what to replace them with, how to replace them so you don't fill the lines with air, and that part was probably a half hour alone. We discussed, on both days, the flap cable problem, and expanded that to include all the cables. Notes on how to get a good annual from your A&P. Just incredibly informative.

Around 3 PM, Ernie Martin and I left for the airport, and I flew him down to Great Harbor Cay, where he is building a house. Sunday afternoon, many people left, and that evening we had a dinner at the restaurant at the hotel, and continued our discussions.

GMAS had problems getting his flight off the island in time to connect to his flight going home, so we offered to give him a ride to FLL. I talked with Kevin Kenison, and he loaned us a headset. After dropping GMAS off at FLL, we got fuel, and headed north. We landed at Athens, GA, and spent the night.

The next day, the weather channel was displaying the same storms and things across our direct flight home, and I talked it over with my wife, and we decided to do an end around. We headed up to Richmond, VA, (RIC) stopped, checked weather again, talked with FSS, and headed over towards Wilmington, around the East side of DC. Quite a sight to have a flight of F-16's entering the pattern, crossing ahead of us, as we were taking off. We did exactly what ATC called us to do, and as precisely as possible. We kept getting re-routed, but eventually ended up at our destination, Williamsport, PA (IPT). We stopped, checked weather again, then headed home for Kalamazoo.

Up to this point, we had been in clouds several times during our trip, but no real rainstorms. About 30 miles west of IPT, we encountered rain, but I did well. By this time, Kathryn was getting more comfortable with flying in hard IFR, and I had given her several things to do, keep track of the VOR frequencies, keep the map to the right section, watch the engine, and particularly EGT gauges, and keep track of altitude (we have 2 altimeters). This was very helpful. We
have radar, and at one point, it showed a real heavy return, almost round, with a solid core. We deviated around that, just as we picked up a second return, stronger and offset from the first one. After missing both of these concentrations, we continued back on course, and landed at Kalamazoo at 10 PM. This was Kathryn's first night landing. She was very concerned, until she finally saw the airport and it worked out really well.

Aside from the seminar we learned more things about our Skymaster, and traveling. First, 4 hours can be long, but it's not bad, and beats setting up for a landing every 2 hours. Second, the cargo pod is going on and is going to stay on. Third, we are going to do our trip planning together, so we have mutual expectations. Fourth, Kathryn is going to learn more about how to operate the plane. On our next flight, I'm going to have her start talking to ATC.

I talked with several people who were at the seminars, and asked what their impressions or opinions were. Everyone was impressed, and everyone said they learned. Kim Geyer is an A&P who takes care of 3 skymasters who do fire patrol work (he does the 100 hr inspections overnight), and he said he learned things that he will put into practice. That, to me, says a lot. There are lots of things I learned, and have started to put into practice.

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