This is the second backcountry fly-in I attend in two weeks. I warn you… it may be addicting…
However, this one was quite a bit different than the one at Mystic Bluffs, NM. Everybody was able to fly into this one: no elevation issues, no density altitude issues, no hills/mountains around, no runway length issues, not too remote… but still fun!
This is the first fly-in event at Apache Pass (4XA4) but they want to make it an annual event. All proceeds went to Rockdale Tiger Flight where a group of pilots teach High School students the skills necessary to build an airplane. Yeah!
After dodging a few rain showers on the flight from Houston, I arrived to 4XA4 on Friday afternoon with the idea of camping for the weekend. Since no one else camped Friday night, hubby did not come with me this time as he, too, had to work, it was still 80-90 degrees at night, and the ground was pretty hard for pitching a tent… I chickened out and took the motel route. Rainbow Courts was not a bad choice considering it is the oldest motel in Texas (and probably in the southwest) that is still in operation, according to Texas A&M University. I always enjoy unique places!
Apache Pass is a historic river crossing on the San Gabriel River in Downtown Texas (yes, now you know there is such a town!). Owner Kit Worley has developed the property within the past 10 or so years and has two restaurants, an RV park, an airpark with three runways, hot showers, the longest “Indiana Jones type” suspension bridge, and event space for weddings, concerts, and other things.
The normally three-runway airpark was turned into a two-runway airpark for this event. The longer 3,000′ Runway 19R was used for normal departures and arrivals (with a right pattern) while the shorter 2,800′ runway 19L (with a left pattern) was used for Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft. The middle runway was used for aircraft parking.
For your future reference: Some pilots had a little bit of trouble finding the field because their GPS showed the airpark some miles away from it. If you plan on flying in for next year’s event (or on another day with Kit’s permission), I suggest you type in the coordinates or verify that your GPS coordinates for the airstrip are correct. They are supposed to be N 30.41.02, W 97.08.34. You can also do a VOR radial off of the Centex VOR: CWK, 042-degree radial, 27.1 miles.
On a left base for rwy 19L at 4XA4
Even with the low ceilings both mornings, much needed scattered light rain on Saturday, high temperatures, and the Labor Day holiday, the event was successful. Over 70 airplanes, two helicopters and one gyrocopter flew in from all corners of the state.
This is a picture from Saturday morning. More airplanes arrived after this picture was taken.
An MD 369E and this Brantly B-2 were the two helicopters that flew in.
Hands down the cutest airplane on the field! I hear she is friends with Dusty ;)
While there, I had the wonderful opportunity of flying in two of the STOL aircraft I’m still smiling when I think about it. Scot Warren let me try his Carbon Cub and Phil Whittemore took me in the only SQ-2. Those were the shortest takeoffs and landings I’ve ever been involved in. Wow! Everything looks like a runway for those two.
Flying the Carbon Cub from 4XA4 to Cameron Municipal Airpark (T35) for some avgas
Scot and I in his Carbon Cub. http://warrenaircraft.com/
Almost hovering in Phil’s SQ-2
The STOL competition was on Saturday afternoon and it got pretty competitive! Each pilot flew four times: two for a normal STOL takeoff and landing and two for a STOL takeoff and landing with an obstacle.
Of course pilots flying under the obstacle’s height or landing prior to the first barricades were automatically disqualified.
It was quite fun helping measure the distance between lift-off and the beginning of the runway and full stop and the beginning of the runway. It reminded me of my times at National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) competitions when we would compete in all kinds of flying and ground activities.
Shooter’s license plate, of http://www.stolaircraftmagazine.com/
Ken coming in in his Piper Cub
Scot touching down after clearing the obstacle
Phil in his SQ-2 performing one of his short take-offs
But the landings are even more impressive with that super high angle of attack
Some of the STOL pilots and Jimmy Gist, the airboss (right)
Well, it was all fun times until it was time for me to go home. Everything seemed fine with the Archer I fly (pre-flight, run-up, etc) until immediately after take-off when the engine started sputtering and coughing. I immediately run my memorized emergency checklist (unfortunately, no time to actually read the checklist that low and slow and without help from another person!). Everything was where it was supposed to.
I thought maybe it was a little bit of water going through the fuel line (since we had had dew both mornings and the airplane was not parked completely level) and that it would clear and I could continue on my way but… on my turn crosswind to downwind (I wanted to gain some altitude immediately over the airfield before heading out home just in case…), the engine sputtered some more and I ended up with partial, intermittent power. It was time to set it back down. It’s funny how quickly all your continued training comes in and you remember “keep calm and fly the airplane!”
A visual inspection of the engine did not indicate any problems; however, another run-up did show that I was getting partial power (max 1900 RPM) with the throttle all the way to the firewall even though the magnetos and the carb heat were both fine and smooth. We eliminated all the “could be’s and could have’s” we knew to given the limited engine instrumentation this airplane has but we could not identify the issue.
Ground run-up after the incident
I left the aircraft at 4XA4 and came back with my mechanic on Tuesday to evaluate and fix the situation. He determined that something, unidentified, got in cylinder 3 and caused damage to the piston head as well as its two spark splugs. The mechanic believes it was probably a short time event based on the very minor damage and I would concur as I had no indication of any problems until takeoff. Whatever it was must have entered the cylinder, bounced around a bit, and left through the exhaust.
Damage caused to the spark plugs on cylinder 3
So, the mechanic fixed it all good, we have now all learned another lesson, and it’s back to flying condition.
You can find me (and the Archer) in Addison and Fort Worth this weekend! I’ll be there for the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Migration and the Fort Worth Alliance Airshow.
Interested in attending other similar events in Texas? Look for 1) the Texas STOL Roundup in Llano, 2) the Under-the-Wire Fly-in in Louise, 3) the Ranger’s Old School Fly-in/Camp-out in Ranger, 4) Critter’s Lodge, and 5) the Flying M Ranch Fly-in/Camp-out in Reklaw, TX.