Its annual and some repairs completed, I picked up the Debonair from Santa Fe Aero Aervices and flew on to the next stop: AOPA’s regional fly-in at the San Marcos, Texas Airport (KHYI). I flew the route at 9,000 feet to stay above the low-level turbulence–and the blowing dust that was plaguing most airports in west Texas. Although skies seemed clear aloft, the ATIS and AWOS reports along the route were advertising surface visibilities hovering around two to three miles in blowing dust and winds up to 30 knots. Here’s a shot of Spur, Texas to give you an idea of the terrain I flew over in west Texas:
Spur, Texas. I can almost hear the theme from the movie “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Sure looks lonely down there, like much of west Texas.
I shot the RNAV (GPS) runway 17 approach into San Marcos, and broke out through a 1,000-foot overcast. Then it was a taxi to the Deb’s tiedown spot, front and center at the fly-in’s static display.
The next day at 6:30 a.m., yours truly was making his way in the pre-dawn darkness to the Deb’s tiedown spot. Less than an hour later, the first fly-in visitors began arriving–even though the show wasn’t due to begin until 10 a.m. Oh well. This gives you an idea of the fly-in’s–and the Debonair’s–popularity. For the next nine hours, a steady stream of AOPA members and other visitors made a stop by the Debonair. Some came back two and three times. It was gratifying to hear that so many had been following the Debonair’s progress, and there were plenty of positive comments all around. It was great day–and even though the overcast posed some challenges, more than 2,500 enthusiasts visited the fly-in. I think we’re on to something.
The Debonair on static display at San Marcos.
Back when the Debonair project started, we had some baseball hats made up with the Debonair sweepstakes logo. Last year, we gave away 150 hats, which depleted our supply. So I reordered another batch. I brought along 30 hats for the San Marcos fly-in, and by mid-afternoon the supply was down to a mere two hats. That’s when AOPA member Mark Kiedrowski stopped by the airplane. He’d been an enthusiastic follower of the Debonair project, and his Dad–a pilot during the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift–owned a Debonair. So I awarded the last two hats to Mark. After I returned home, there was an email of Mark and his Dad in their Debonair hats. Nice.
Mark (left) and his Dad, wearing their Debonair hats.
After the San Marcos fly-in was over, I launched on the return trip to AOPA’s home field at Frederick, Maryland. It would be a long trip, so I could have theoretically made the 1,000-nm journey non-stop, given the favorable winds. However, nature intervened in the form of widespread areas of thunderstorm complexes. No way could I go direct with any degree of certainty. The gaps between the storms were too narrow, and I could visualize them closing up as the trip progressed. I opted for a route that took me from San Marcos to Lufkin, Texas, then eastward along a route that stretched to north of Baton Rouge, then eastward along a route running through south Alabama. Once past Montgomery, Alabama the ship’s route could turn to the northeast for a fuel stop at the Athens, Georgia airport. Almost five hours after takeoff I was on the ground at Athens, gassing up for the final, 2.7 hour leg to AOPA’s home base at the Frederick, Municipal Airport.
The Debonair has the luxury of having both XM WX and FIS-B datalink sources of radar information, so circumnavigating the massive storm complex to the north was comparatively easy. Here’s a couple shots of the situation that day:
My diversion around what certainly looks like a hook echo on the XM WX image. And look at all the lightning in the parent storm cell. Next stop: Athens, Georgia.
The ADS-B flight information system-broadcast (FIS-B) image of the same storm setup, as shown on the airplane’s iPad Mini, running the Garmin Pilot app.
The view outside the cockpit during the storm complex deviation.
So after a full, 7.7-hour day of flying, the Debonair was back in its hangar at Frederick, awaiting its next trip: a visit to KD Aviation’s paint shop at the Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York. More on that in the next post.