Larry Wright (Lancair N211LW)
Originally published June 1995
We departed Mojave 0600 Saturday en route to Sun and Fun when Murphy reared his ugly head two minutes into the flight. Mojave wind was around 35 kts out of the northwest with some nasty looking roll clouds over the Tehachapis. We made a fairly normal departure off Runway 30 (normal for an overgrossed Aft CG loaded Lancair). After completing a right turn on course, we flew into the trough of a lenticular wave. At 500 AGL, we were slammed with a 1000 FPM down draft followed immediately by boiling turbulence. It felt like a dog shaking a snake. I'll tell you what, it's really hard to point the nose down when you're only 500 AGL. In the back of my mind, I remembered reading somewhere that down drafts never go all the way to the ground, but rebounds in ground effect. I don't know if this is true or not, but I was hoping it was. With the nose down, air speed up, and full power, we were able to maintain altitude and even started a climb. We flew out of the wave in about five miles, and started a smooth climb on course.
Starting my full scan again, I noticed that our little flight through the bottom of the wave produced 6.5g's on the meter. It's sure nice to know that my airplane is stronger than I am smart! Leveling off at 11,500 feet, ground speed came up to 280 mph and stayed there for the rest of the trip. (I love my airplane.) Tail winds are great until you have to stop for fuel. The landings were uneventful, but taxiing to the gate, we ground looped at both fuel stops. Yes, a Lancair is a tricycle gear, but with an aft cg, a light nose wheel and gusting 40 knot tail wind, it's a tail dragger.
Arriving at Lakeland we were welcomed with 500' overcast, 3/4 mile and fog, so we decided to land at Gainesville to wait it out. Flight service told us it was breaking up and should be VFR within the hour. We were twenty minutes north, so we waited 1/2 hour and left. Arriving at Lake Parker, the holding fix for Lakeland, we were told the field had just opened up and to enter the hold over Lake Parker. This is not an exaggeration; I have never seen that many airplanes in one spot at one time. After holding for about twenty minutes with the other 150 or so aircraft over Lake Parker, we were pulled out of the hold, 50 yards in trail. The daisy chain was moving along nicely at 100 kts into the downwind, base and turned a ten mile final. Once on final everyone slowed to 60-70 kts. I can't do that and still fly. I pulled out to the right and paralleled the final. After passing five aircraft I was able to slip back in on short final and land. (I love my airplane.)
Lakeland is like Oshkosh with 100% humidity - aircraft of all shapes and sizes, forums, workshops, exhibitors, grand champions, races, warbirds and an air show to boot. For an airplane lover or someone just looking for an excuse to fly coast to coast, it's a must! I have to admit, however, after going to Oshkosh since it was at Rockford (that's a lot of years for those of you who don't know), I'd rather go to Rosamond for pancake breakfast!
Leaving Lakeland Wednesday around 1000, we were once again greeted with level 5 thunderstorms over the Gulf moving northeast. After leaving Florida and sightseeing the southern half of Georgia trying to get around the leading edge of the storm, we were forced to drop below the broken layer for fuel. After running into a solid wall of water ten miles from our destination airport, we made a 180 and landed at Crestview, Florida. Once on the ground we found three other Lancairs, 1-800-COLLECT, a Long EZ and a Pitts. All apparently had flown the same route around the weather and needed fuel. A three hour wait showed no improvement, and those sucker holes that drifted by every twenty minutes or so were starting to look pretty good. Thirty miles to the west stations were reporting sky clear and twenty miles. With full fuel, we climbed on top and on course (I love my airplane!). We had cheated death enough for one day I decided to stop for the night, landing at Shreveport before sunset. While parking, we were greeted by a BE 35 taxiing by, "Where you boys from? Follow me". We were hangered for the night, driven downtown, checked into a hotel, treated to some excellent Cajun food and turned onto Voodoo beer. (I love southern hospitality!)
So, other than level 5 thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, wind shears, fog and 30 kt cross winds, the rest of the trip was clear all the way home, except for 30-40 kt head winds, moderate to severe turbulence below FL 180 through New Mexico and Arizona, and landing winds at Mojave, 220 at 40G55, ain't flying great! I, for one, wouldn't give it up for anything.
P.S. Wen, does this qualify for my biannual? We'll talk.