Moonrise over Needles...

Bob Waldmiller

Originally published November 1992

3 Oct 92 Copperstate Fly-in, Prescott, AZ. It was a dark and cold morning. That is, it's always dark before the sun comes up. Seven unnamed individuals (we're not gonna tell ya'll who they is) gathered at Fox Field in Lancaster, CA to begin their epic journey. Well, it started out that way anyway. John Burchak (not his real name) was late as usual but he finally arrived precisely at dawn, as precise as dawn can be, with numerous airplane systems affected by rampant electrons. No, the beacon didn't work and neither did the radios. Without fear, three souls climbed aboard the Skyhawk with John while the other three climbed into a Cherokee with me (not yet at gross weight). We conducted a short formation flight briefing and began our 3 hour flight.

About an hour or so into the flight, somewhere south of Zzyzx (it's a real place folks), near Soda Lake, and south of Sands Station, near the Lollypop Forrest, a most bizarre event took place. Now I've never seen this happen before butt the moon doesn't just rise and then set in a mere minute. It did though! Jim saw it. He's got pictures--really! I looked in my rear view mirror as the Project Police members pulled up along side of me in the Skyhawk--red lights flashing and all! John called me up on the radio and started muttering something about a moving violation. He said I had some heavy, heavy crazing in my right rear window. I then made a mental note to change the cracked window, butt I didn't think the crack was THAT BIG! I looked back and just smiled at him while the moon sat down--I mean set.

After arrival procedures that rival those of Oshkosh, our intrepid Project Police arrived at the Copperstate Fly-in in search of a port-a-potty. We indulged in Prescott's finest cuisine; overpriced dogs & burgers. We saw all the normal showplane stuff including a bunch of those white plastic airplanes with the funny little wing in front, numerous RV's, a lot of classics like Cessna 120/140/170s, and a number of warbirds like a YAK-18 and a T-28 or two. Forum tents weren't too bad either. Oh, of course there were a bunch of vendors like Aircraft Spruce selling their wares (like catalogs).

After another brief visit to the port-a-potty, we decided to leave a bit early in order to beat the rush. John and his crew in the Skyhawk took off first and headed for Granite Mountain to begin his lengthy climb to cruising altitude. I took off next and during the ten minutes it took to reach pattern altitude I thought to myself, "let's see... field elevation: 5042 feet.. temperature 80°F...density altitude 7500 feet...four bodies (soon to be souls)...and one large Aircraft Spruce catalog...@###$@%@!!!" Eventually I made it to 8500 feet by ridge soaring and we continued west into the setting sun. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Let's do it again sometime!

P.S. We all learned a valuable lesson about gross weight and high density altitude: the performance charts for your airplane may be grossly inaccurate when pushing the edge of the envelope.

P.P.S. And now about that moonrise...check out the photo below. I mean, you're not gonna identify anyone on a scanned photo, but it did happen.


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