As Spring warmed the chill air in the Great Northwest, thoughts of long cross-country flying danced in my head! My fall and winter flying had been mostly local jaunts throughout the Pacific Northwest, enjoying the many surprisingly nice weather days in between the mild seasonal rains. Out of the blue, my friend and fellow aviator, Doug 'Bee' Happe, texted and asked if I'd like to join him on a three-day trip from Auburn, WA to Northern California in his gorgeous RV-7. I've flown a number of flights with Doug in his RV-7, including a great formation photo flight that earned the RV-7 a slot in the Van's Aircraft 2018 calendar.
Doug was heading south for a three-day trip to check on painting progress on his roadster project in Yuba City, CA. I told Doug I'd gladly fly the RV-7 with him, especially as a chance to visit my daughter and son-in-law in nearby Oakland. We choose an early morning Tuesday departure, hoping for good weather and winds, possibly allowing a non-stop flight, and filing IFR to take advantage of high altitude winds. We pre-flighted and setup the RV-7 with a full oxygen tank and filed for 17,000 feet, with oxygen cannulas and Aithre's new Illyrian Smart Pulse Oximeter monitors.
We blasted out of Auburn (S50) before 8:00AM, through a shallow layer of low clouds to clear on top, and were cleared to climb directly to 17,000 feet by Seattle Center. Although the frequency sounded typically busy, we were both surprised when Center cleared us, when abeam Mt Rainier in the climb out, direct to Battleground, and then again direct to Red Bluff, CA, a straight line distance of 336 NM without a turn! Doug's RV-7 has an impressive Garmin G3X suite, and a Garmin auto-pilot, which was rock solid on altitude and course tracking. In addition to the direct routing, the winds in the high teens starting turning in our favor. The mostly clear skies through Washington, Oregon and into California gave us great views of the Cascade volcanic chain en route. We started picking up a good tailwind in Oregon, and ended up with a great 45 knot tailwind and a 203 knot ground speed, crossing right over the top of Mt Shasta, with awesome views from 17,000 feet. The Illyrian oximeters transmitted our oxygen levels right to our iPhones, providing proof that Doug's cannula setup was working perfectly-no headaches and clear senses at 17,000 feet. We started a descent just past Red Bluff, hit some turbulence over Travis, but had light winds for our landing on runway 32R at Buchanan Field in Concord, CA after an excellent 3.7 hour flight, burning an average of 6.3 gal/hr for the journey! You've got to love Van's aircraft!
Doug continued on to Yuba City without refueling, and I spent two enjoyable days visiting my daughter and son-in-law. On Thursday morning, Doug returned to Concord, and we started flying north, with another pleasant surprise that the high pressure circulation that had given us such a great tailwind from the north had now shifted east, providing south winds for another tailwind scenario to head home. We decided to cruise at 10,000 feet for our return, again getting excellent routing from Oakland and Seattle Centers, with more great Shasta and Castle Crags views from 10,000. Instead of primarily auto-pilot use on the southbound flight, I hand flew most of the northbound legs. I talked Doug into stopping for lunch at the Flight Deck restaurant at the Salem, OR airport (KSLE), then continued north, still with helpful tailwinds, to arrive back home at Auburn with the RV-7 in perfect shape.
Thanks for the enjoyable opportunity to fly your RV-7 again, Doug, and exercise her in a fun, fast and efficient trip to California and back!