Day Two: Santa Rosa New Mexico to Richfield Utah

I departed Santa Rosa at about 7:00. I had checked the weather and realized that I was going to have to fly through a narrow band of light rain showers that were along my path of flight. It turned out that the band expanded quite a bit after I left the ground. I actually flew through two areas of rain. One as I passed south of Santa Fe and the other further to the north west. In all I spent about an hour in rain showers. It wasn’t long before I wished I had put my sweat shirt on. The temperature at 10,500 feet was 53 degrees and there were a few drips of rain entering the cabin. The heat kept my feet warm but that was about it.

IMG_1416After I flew out of the last of the rain and I was able to descend to 8,500 feet which helped some and I could also see blue sky ahead. I flew into brilliant and warm sunshine just before encountering Ship Rock. I’m not sure what caused the halo of clouds to form around the top but it makes for an interesting picture. I turned the corner to a more northerly heading after passing Ship Rock and from there it was about 20 minutes to Cortez Colorado.

IMG_1417This was just a fuel stop after a flight of just over three hours. In the background of this picture you can see the edge of the rain system that I flew through on the way here.



IMG_1418I checked the weather and had some coffee in the offices of the Cortez Flying Service, paid for my fuel and I was on my way. The next leg is over a similar route as one I flew when returning from Burning Man last year. Although the most beautiful as far as scenery, the rugged terrain in many locations gave me few options if I had an engine failure and had to land.

IMG_1419This year I modified the route slightly and although the scenery was still stunning there were only a few times when I did not have a reasonable place within gliding distance where I could put her down if I had to. This leg was only about two hours and I flew along and just to the east of Capital Reef National Park before turning west to cross over the park and through a mountain pass on my way to Richfield Utah.

By the time I was approaching Richfield it was nearing two in the afternoon and the ride was getting bumpy and on the final approach I realized that with the bumps that my flaps were not staying extended for landing. My flaps can be set at any setting from 0 to 22 degrees and are held in place by the friction of a leather disk pressed between two metal disks. The problem is that over time the friction becomes less and the flaps don’t want to stay down. Then I have to remove a cotter key, tighten a nut one sixth of a turn and install a new cotter key. Then after landing I saw that flying through rain had remove the paint from a small area of the propeller blades. So, it was time to make some field repairs.

IMG_1420I fueled her up, borrowed a courtesy car and headed into town for lunch and shopping. There were still a few things I needed plus some paint to repair the propeller blades.  The trip was a success and after completing the flap and propeller work I covered her up for the night. Heavy rain was expected with clearing by late morning. While I was working on my plane one of the local pilots came by and invited me to their usually on Saturday but this week on Friday evening party at his hangar. Food, beer, margaritas and good company.

IMG_1421As the party broke up I could see the weather moving in from the west. I was able to sleep in the airport lounge and was woken up around 4:00 AM by the sound of thunder and heavy rain. Just as forecast.



IMG_1426So, this morning the rain has stopped and the storm is clearing out. There is a pancake breakfast at the airport this morning that I am looking forward to and then hopefully I will be on my way to Winnemucca Nevada for one last night before the airport at Black Rock City opens on Sunday morning.

Day One: Bryan Texas to Santa Rosa New Mexico

IMG_1369I got in air this morning at about 9:00. There were low clouds early so I did not get started at 7:00 like I had hoped. It took me about three hours to make it to Slanton, TX. The winds were 16 with gusts to 22 but they were close to runway heading.  After landing I bought fuel  then parked the aircraft in the grass behind the fuel tanks. The nice people at Neal Aviation loaned me a truck so I could go into town and buy something for lunch. I brought a sandwhich back to the airport and ate while planning my next leg. I planned for Santa Fe, New Mexico. I got back in the air about 2:00.

IMG_1370As it turned out I only made it to Santa Rosa, NM. About 80 miles from Santa Fe. The bumpy afternoon air was wearing me out so I decided to land in Santa Rosa for a break. But they have an unattended but air conditioned pilots lounge and I decided that it would be a comfortable and cheap place to spend the night. I was able to fix something for dinner and plan my flying for tomorrow. Just looking at great circle distances, I have flown 489 of the 1261 miles to Burning Man. Almost 40 percent so with three days planned to get to an airport close to Burning Man I am in good shape. I hope to wake up Sunday morning at one of the airports less than an hour away so I can arrive soon after the airport opens.

IMG_1368It is interesting that my airplane is the only flying aircraft on the field. There is this A7 attack aircraft but I don’t think it will ever fly again. There are not even any hangars that I can see. Otherwise the airport has great facilities. I have not seen another soul since I landed.


IMG_1367It is getting cool quickly and I think I’ll take a walk and then turn in for the night. Morning clouds are not typically a problem here so I should be able to get an early start. I’d like to make Richfield Utah by tomorrow afternnon. I realize there are a couple of items I need and they let me use a car last year on my return. It was my first stop after leaving the playa in 2013.

Heading to Burning Man 2014

It has been almost a year since I updated this blog. For most of that time I was living and working in Ecuador. Now I’m back and my airplane and I are ready for more adventures and if all goes well we will be leaving for Burning Man tomorrow morning. The airport opens Sunday morning at 6:00 and the gate to the festival opens at 10:00 AM. My goal is to arrive on Sunday mid-morning and unless there are problems with Niner-Zero or the weather I should have no difficulty making it there Sunday.

I have spent the past month working on the airplane and all is ready. Unlike last year I am only flying to Burning Man and returning so my load is a bit lighter. Last year I was out for a month and spent the two weeks before Burning Man visiting friends in California. This year I will be flying directly to Black Rock City and have given myself three full days to make the trip, two should be sufficient but this way I won’t have to push myself too hard.


Here you can see that she is all packed and ready to go. The charts for the first leg are on the instrument panel cover opened to the proper sections. I use a moving map GPS with the same charts loaded into them but I still keep track on the paper charts as backup. Without the charts, if the GPS fails I could become lost almost immediately. But I mark my position on the charts every few minutes and keep a visual check with landmarks on the ground and if need be I can navigate by this method alone. The orange object under the top of the plexiglass windshield is a SPOT tracker and will send my location up to a satellite every 10 minutes. If you want to see where I am, this link should work:

Flying Low and Slow in N90HS

AC_20140818_pilots_seatSo, this is my seat and with my pack strapped into the other seat my airplane becomes a single seater. After I had everything stowed I climbed in and it felt just like last year. Snug and cozy. Everything in its place. I plan to head out to the airport this evening to make sure all is ready and to stow a few small items and then get a good night’s sleep. Hopefully by tomorrow evening I’ll be somewhere in New Mexico or Colorado. Hopefully someplace with internet so I can post an update.



Burning Man -> Texas (part two)

My next stop was Cortez Colorado. After refueling and a short nap I took off to see how far I could get. I was hoping to make Santa Fe but the expected storms did indeed form and by late in the afternoon they formed a pretty solid wall just to the east of Four Corners Airport. I decided that I would try to through a large hole in the line until I saw some cloud to ground lightning all along the line. I thought that perhaps by this time, it was now about 5:00 PM, that they would be dying down and all I was seeing was some remaining rain. As that was not the case I make a quick 180, called Four Corner’s tower and within about 15 minutes I was on the ground.

Tonight was to be another first for me. I actually got a hotel room! The nice young lady at the airport offered me a courtesy car and their crew discount on a room and I could not resist. I was just too disgustingly dirty to pass up that offer. While filling out the form for the courtesy car I realized that I had left my cell phone in Cortez Colorado. Oh well, what to do. I called back to Cortez, they found the phone and put it where I could get to it early in the morning. Nothing else I could do. I greatly enjoyed having a room and my first real shower since Chico California over a week ago. I was also able to take a swim and wash all of my clothes and get a really good night’s sleep.

AC_20130903_4corners_01The next morning I was at the airport to see the sun rise and was airborne shortly thereafter. I flew back to Cortez, retrieved my phone and headed east. It was a beautiful flight and although I was upset at the time, now, looking back about a month later, I realize it was nothing but a little avgas and time. I made it to Santa Fe and had a snack in their airport cafe. I think my departure out of Santa Fe was my highest density altitude takeoff so far.  About 9000 feet more or less. I have to say that the tower controller I dealt with there was about the nicest I dealt with on my entire trip. The worst you ask? San Carlos airport in the San Francisco Bay area. Just sayin’.


AC_20130903_stormsShortly after departing Santa Fe I flew through some rain showers that were the remnants of the previous day’s storms. I even chose to fly through the edge of one of the rain plumes just to clean off some of the dust. Seemed to help and it sure was fun.

AC_20130903_irrigation_circlesMy next stop was Plainview Texas.  About an hour before arriving at Plainview the mountains and canyons of the west gave way to the high plains. Covered with thousands of circles of irrigated land. Flat and otherwise dry. In Plainview I borrowed the courtesy car and went into town for lunch and then took a short nap. Keeping a close watch on my cell phone. I realized that I got a call during my nap the day before in Cortez and then just put the phone on the arm of the recliner before drifting off back to sleep. That is where they airport manager found it. No repeats needed.

AC_20130903_last_flight_smileAfter departing Plainview it started to sink in that this was it. The trip was all but over. I was going to spend a couple of nights in Denton Texas with my daughters before heading back to Coulter Field but this was really the last leg of the trip. So here is one last picture of me. Scruffy, but clean! I actually spent some time flying S-turns along my route and some other nonsense I won’t comment on.  Perhaps I was trying to lengthen the trip if even by just a little.

AC_20130905_Coulter_fieldI arrived back at Coulter Field a few days later with lots to do. Only a few days left before departing for South America. This photo was taken a couple of days after arriving home. I had just done an oil change and wanted to burn off a little more fuel before putting Niner-Zero away for a few months. That was my excuse anyway.

AC_20130913_N90HS_put_awayHere she is, half folded and put away until I return. With the wing folded it is easier for my hangar partner to work on his airplane. With both wings folded I could just put her on a trailer and take her back to my garage. But, it is not going to be that long. Thanks for all of the encouraging comments and emails. It’s been fun!  I hope to head back out next summer and do it again!

Burning Man -> Texas (part one)

So, here it is the long awaited post on my very hasty retreat from Burning Man. I know it has taken awhile but there is a story behind the delay. I am now living and working in South America. This opportunity came together while I was out flying this summer. My departure date was set  by the time I left for Burning Man and I had little time between. Certain things, such as a more lengthy update of the blog, had low priority. But now I have settled into my apartment, job and life down here. Still working hard on learning a new language but I see some improvement each day. I will be here until June. Guess what I plan to be doing in June?  Flying perhaps?

AC_20130902_last_shot_N90HS_on_playaHere is one final shot of Niner-Zero just before we departed. The  playa looks kind of lonely, most of the other aircraft have already departed. It is Monday morning and Burning Man is over and officially closed the day before. Although there was not much “open” on Sunday as everything was already “coming down” and being packed up. A devoted group of volunteers will stay for about a month to clear every trace of the event from the playa. Perhaps next year I’ll be able to stick around and help with this, but this year I have a new adventure beckoning and I have to cover the 1400 miles back to Texas as quickly as possible.


AC_20130902_88NV_airport_02The airport is no longer the bustling center of activity it had been. There are still snacks available for departing flights and, of course, everything is covered with dust. Lots of dust. I was able to get airborne about 7:30 in the morning, made one climbing circle around Black Rock City and headed east, towards the mountains.

AC_20130902_dirty_cockpitI climbed to about 11,500 feet so that I could clear most of the terrain along my course. I took this picture shortly after leveling off. Yes, it is disgustingly dusty in the cabin. There is at least a thin layer of dust on everything. Including me.  You can see that the cabin heat is on as I neglected to put my sweatshirt on before departing and it was 54 degrees at this altitude. Even with the heat on it was cold. By the time I was about 30 minutes out of BRC I entered an area that was affected by the smoke from the forest fires to the south. I was basically flying on instruments in visual conditions. I had the required visibility and there were no clouds but there was also no horizon. I could see the ground directly below me and occasionally some peaks to my left and right but that was about it. There were a lot of military operation areas along my route of flight and as I was unable to raise the control authority for them on the radio I assumed they were not active and just flew through them. I never saw another aircraft, but I know from experience that it is often the one you don’t see that causes problems. I kept a good look out and felt comfortable.

AC_20130902_clouds_formingAfter an hour or so I was through the smoke and started to see my next concern. It was clear when I departed except a very high overcast. An overcast that was the remnants of storms that formed the previous day. Storms were predicted along my route for later in the day and here you can see the first clouds forming as moist air is being pushed up over the mountains. The flow is from the southeast so I have a slight headwind. It was bound to happen but I can’t complain as this is the FIRST headwind I have had since leaving Texas about three weeks ago. After about four hours I made a fuel and lunch stop in Richfield, Utah.

AC_20130902_valleyShortly after departing Richfield I was flying over some pretty amazing terrain including Capitol Reef National Park. Absolutely amazing!  Next year I am going to work on a “door opening and photo taking” drill so I can get more pictures without the glare of the window. I’ll also have to dress warmly as it was about 50 degrees up there and with the door open and a sweatshirt on it would have been too cold to be comfortable and being comfortable goes a long way towards being safe. In my opinion.

AC_20130902_cap_reef_01So I’m just going to post some of the pictures I took during during this leg of my flight and pick up the commentary in my next post. Enjoy!


Burning Man

I’m already back and the adventure has come to an end and it is time to bring the blog up to date. Burning Man is going to require more than one post. It was absolutely amazing. Before I start, I want to thank Marcel Stieber who has provided an entire series of photographs that he made when I gave him a ride over Black Rock City (BRC). Thanks Marcel!

I departed Susanville California at about 7:15 in the morning on Monday, August 26th. The flight to Black Rock City (BRC) took about an hour. Each year there is material posted on the airport website regarding operations at Black Rock City Airport (88NV). An “ATIS” code is provided to let the unicom station at 88NV know that the incoming pilot knows the procedures for that year. The inbound code this year was “Shiny Wings”.


Photo by Marcel Stieber

About 10 miles out I contacted the unicom station for an airport advisory, “White high wing 8 miles south inbound for landing with shiny wings”. They replied, “White high wing calling Black Rock, winds calm, runway 25 in use, altimeter 30.12. Welcome Home”.  The city came into view soon after and it was a beautiful and bizarre sight. Like something out of a science fiction movie. But it was real and watching it come into view was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  A city that exists for just a week and has a population of over 60,000! In a few weeks there will be no trace left of Black Rock City. Only dust and memories will remain. Think about that, you can come home but you can’t stay very long.


Photo by Marcel Stieber

I had a little trouble finding the runway although I figured it out pretty quickly and made perhaps one of the best landings I had made in Niner-Zero. Perhaps a result of all of the warnings about how difficult landing on a dry lake bed can be. The runway can be seen here under the cloud of dust from an aircraft that is departing. The vertical line at the bottom is the “trash fence” that defines the limits of BRC and made for a nice alignment aid for final approach to runway 25. In the background are the entry lines for those who arrive by ground. On the morning I landed the line was about 8-10 vehicles wide and stretched back to the mountains in the background. On seeing that I realized that at least this one time, I was doing something right the first time! This was confirmed later during the week when I heard tales of line waits in excess of 10 hours. When asked about my wait I would just tell them that my flight from Susanville took about an hour and on landing I parked and was taken by golf cart to the gate to check in. No lines at all. The only way to do it.


Photo by Marcel Stieber

The airport was located at the edge of the city and the airplanes were parked outside the fence. The airport “camp” is just inside the fence. There is also a terminal with box office, passport control, customs and a lounge and check in area. There are several charter operations that fly people in from Reno. After landing and securing Niner-Zero I attended a briefing for incoming pilots that was required before being allowed to take off. The result was a shiny green wrist band (more on this later) and a new ATIS code, “Dusty Wheels”.

AC_20130826_Playa_campingWhile I was setting up my tent under the wing of my airplane a golf cart appeared with Thomas and Jill from Austin Texas. I had arranged for them to bring me some water  as there was no way I could carry it with me. they arrived with three large boxes each containing two containers of water. I opened up two of them and placed a container in each corner of my tent. Extra security against the winds and left the other one outside the back door of my tent where I could easily access it. At Burning Man they sell ice and coffee and that is about it. Everything else has to be brought in and everything carried out when leaving.

AC_20130828_paella_cookingThere was no way I could bring all of my food in either so I made a donation to the airport galley camp which solved the food problem. We all took turns as volunteers with kitchen and clean up duties. The meals were superb. Here is a batch of vegetarian paella being prepared.





AC_20130828_paellaAn even bigger batch of non-vegetarian paella. We even had some of this available for breakfast and lunch the next day. It was gone by dinner so we had to settle for grilled sirloin and a vegetable stir fry.



AC_20130901_fuel_dumpArrangements were made to have fuel shipped in in 55 gallon drums. I bought 15 gallons and that proved to be insufficient. Burning Man operates as a “gifting economy”. There were bars, restaurants, entertainment, you name it and it was available. Even a few things I had never imagined before were available. Ever played . . . oh never mind.  All provided as gifts between participants. I gifted airplane rides over the playa. As it turned out, more rides than I imagined I would give when I decided 15 gallons would be enough fuel. I was able to buy ten more gallons from a pilot who had ordered too much and I was in turn gifted fuel so I could give more rides. Ten gallons from Sailorman and ten from Murph. I can’t thank them enough as they allowed me to give more rides and every burner I gave a ride to told me that it was the high point of their entire experience. I was able to gift 27 rides off the playa. The most rewarding flying experience of my life. I was even able to fly one “burner” out to a remote hot spring for a much needed soaking. I gave her a quick flying lesson after takeoff and she handled much of the flying to and from the hot spring. She did a really good job, must have had a good instructor.

AC_20130827_morganandtylerWho did I gift rides to? Just about anyone who asked at the right time. I only flew in the morning and quit around noon as the winds picked up and the dust started blowing. I had met Ted on Monday evening and he agreed to show up at the airport at 7:00 the next morning. And he did, along with Morgan. They both got rides around the city. I found out later that they were up all night, easy to do at Burning Man, and still made it out early for their flights. Morgan looks a little tired, don’t you think?

The big attraction of my airplane is that it can be flown with the doors open. I would brief each passenger on how to open and close the door before take off. I must have not been clear of my intent early on because after climbing to altitude I would tell my passenger to open the door. “Now, while we are in the air” would often be the response. Once opened the view was absolutely incredible.  I did not take any photos from the air at Burning Man so If any of my riders are reading this, please send me some of yours. Thanks to Marcel’s thorough photographic documentation of his ride I may devote an entire post to his experience.

AC_20130831_red_camA large film crew from France was filming at Burning Man and I took Yaan Arthus-Bertrand, the director, for a flight so he could take stills. When I showed him how to open the door while we were on the ground, his response was, “Magnific!”. A couple of days later his film crew showed up wanting to know if they could get a ride to shoot movie footage and if so when. I said, “How about right now”. I took Bruno, on the left, up with a Red Cam and I think we got some great footage. I can’t wait to see the results. It was a really awesome experience to fly with them.  Laurent, on the right, came by the airport later with a couple of bottles of wine, from France, go figure, and a DVD of Yaan’s film “Home”. I watched it yesterday and it is beautiful. I highly recommend it! By the way, that is me in the middle holding the Red Cam.

AC_20130829_friends_at_auger_innA nice little bar serving Margaritas, chips and salsa, called the “Auger Inn” was located at the airport camp and I usually headed there after an exhausting morning of flying. I am not exaggerating either. Six flights in two or three hours off the desert floor left me pretty wiped out. There were always interesting burners willing to buy me a drink or two. Just kidding, the drinks were free. These burners were from South America. Columbia and Argentina If I remember correctly.

AC_20130829_boombox_at_apWe even had music even if it was only from a “boom box”. The airport, like most airports, was kind of out in the middle of nowhere and not close to much of the action but art cars and mutant vehicles, like this one, often came out to us. All sorts of performers also came out to the airport. In normal circumstances it would seem like we had plenty of interesting things going on but this was Burning Man and there is NOTHING like it that I have ever seen or heard about. What happened at the airport just scratched the surface.

AC_20130901_Mikko_bikingIn order to get into town I either walked, hitched a ride on some sort of bizarre vehicle or was able to borrow a bike. This was taken as Nikko and I biked into town. She has been to something like nine burns and has it all down to a science. On Friday night, when the man burned, she found me a bike and we headed into town. We had a great time and sometime in the early hours of the morning we went to center camp, sat down to listen to a musician and we both feel asleep before the first song was over. After we woke up the ride back was long and exhausting. But, much better than walking. I took a lot of videos that night but, sorry to report, no pictures.


Photo by Marcel Stieber

Actually, I took very few pictures when I was in the city as I was too involved it what was happening all around me.  Burning Man can’t really be documented. It has to be experienced. It can be WHATEVER you want it to be and you can be WHOEVER you want to be. For me it was a life changing experience. I won’t even try to explain what I mean by that. I can’t. If you do make it, head out the the airport. Try to make it early in the morning, right after I’ve had my coffee and perhaps I’ll take you for a ride.

AC_20130827_sunsetI hope to add more when I get time but for now, this is it. I post some pictures and I hope you enjoyed the ride, I certainly did!





Susanville California

It took about an hour to fly from Chico to Susanville. I climbed to 7500 feet and followed some lower terrain. There were clouds at about 10,000 feet and some rainshowers. A little bumpy in the mountain passes but the winds were calm when I arrived.

I immediately performed an oil change as I had put 27 hours on the engine since leaving Texas just over a week ago. Pete and Carl at Susanville Aviation let me push Niner-Zero’s nose into their maintenance hangar as it had started to rain. Pete has been flying charters out to Burning Man and he gave me some advice for landing there.

IMG_7818After  changing the oil I tied my airplane down on the ramp. There are some rain showers visible in the background of this picture.  Shortly thereafter a Cessna 172 landed that was being flown by a pilot I know from Coulter Field back in Texas. He and his wife are on their way to Seattle. The three of us took the courtesy car into town for lunch.

IMG_7823Tomorrow morning I leave for Burning Man, only 70 miles away. In the meantime, it is supposed to get down into the 40’s tonight but I have found a comfortable couch to sleep on so I won’t have to deal with the tent tonight.


IMG_7824Burning Man is just over that mountain!

Chico California

IMG_7801The smoke yesterday morning was the worst I’d seen while at Columbia. The smoke eventually cleared out and I Left shortly around noon for Chico. Nice flight, great tailwind . . . again.


IMG_7810I landed at a small airport in Chico that is surrounded by almond orchards. Really nice place with everything I need for an overnight stay. Comfortable lounge, shower,  courtesy car and a full kitchen.


IMG_7808I drove to the supermarket and fixed myself a really nice dinner. After dinner, David,  a local pilot and homebuilder came by and we went into town for a “couple” of drinks. His girlfriend drove us to and from, so no worries.


IMG_7807This was taken a couple of hours ago and I will be leaving for Susanville shortly. I hope to update the blog then because after that there may be no internet for about a week while I am at Burning Man. I’m going to try the Spot tracker again today but I’m not confident it will work. It did send one position report last night but has not worked this morning.

Columbia California

IMG_7612It was nice and cool when I woke up this morning and smokey. The wind had shifted during the night and there was a layer of smoke over the area. The visibility was still pretty good and the latest of smoke was thin enough that the sky overhead was blue.



A couple hours later the smoke had thickened and the visibility was about a half a mile. There was no longer any blue sky visible overhead. Due to the smoke, firefighting operations had not started.



The Black Hawks returned but then waited for the smoke to clear, which it did around 1:00 PM, after the wind shifted. My plans are to stay here another night and leave tomorrow whenever the smoke allows and head to a location where I can cross the mountains Sunday morning and then be ready to fly into Burning Man on Monday morning.