One of the items on my retirement list of ‘fun things to do’ was to fly and land in all 49 available states in my own airplane. Although I’ve flown in Hawaii in many different aircraft, my personal aircraft doesn't have the required range from the west coast, so 49 total is my goal.
As of the summer of 2022, we only had five states under our belt in 3DC - our home state of Washington, plus Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana. The plan for Aug/Sep 2022 was to fly 3DC across the northern states, from Washington state to Maine and back, for a Celebration of Life and a family reunion.
I planned for early departures for smoother and cooler summer conditions, and coordinated with FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) along the potential route for lower rates at area hotels, generally getting a reduction of $100 or more for a hotel overnight with the FBO/pilot rate, and also chose our refueling stops to find the best AvGas price along the route. We installed a new/re-manufactured Lycoming O-320 engine two years ago, and broke it in well over the last two years, plus dynamically balanced our re-pitched propeller, and conducted an annual inspection with an oil change two weeks before we departed.
For a short summary - our trip from Renton to Maine and back was an EPIC adventure! During the course of our 17 days, we flew 5417 NM in 63.0 flight hours, and logged 24 total states in our airplane, while only burning 1.2 quarts of oil during the entire trip, and with NO mechanical or electrical squawks on the airplane anytime during the trip!
The following is a very detailed account of our adventure, including the planned flight legs for each day and our actual flights, plus details on our overnight stays, family visits and great meal discoveries. Thanks to our co-pilot (Ma) for her detailed and copious notes.
Flight and Trip Details
Day 1 (Thu, 18 Aug 2022): Plan - Renton (KRNT) to Coeur d'Alene, ID (KCOE) to Missoula (KMSO) to Billings, MT (KBIL)
Actual: Fuel stop not required in Coeur d'Alene, first stop was Missoula.
Leg 1: Renton to Missoula, MT (KMSO) - 342 NM. Took off with Ma from runway 34 at 6:49 into high overcast skies, climbing past Snoqualmie Pass to 7500 feet. Had some light rain near Keechelus Lake, picked up flight following again near Cle Elum. Cruised south of Wenatchee, overhead Ephrata to south of Spokane into VFR but hazy skies. Cruised over Coeur d’Alene Lake through Idaho into Montana over Mullan Pass, with increasing haze and smoke at 9500 feet. Landed from a right downwind on runway 30 in Missoula at 11:24, 3.7 flight hours. Refueled at the self-serve pumps. Good gas prices for a top off at NorthStar Jet self-serve, off runway 30.
Leg 2: Missoula to Billings, MT (KBIL) - 254 NM. Day total = 596 NM. Took off with Ma from runway 30 at 11:55, climbed to 9500 feet for cooler air, cruised past a quiet Butte and a very busy Bozeman into mild headwinds. Descended for a long straight-in to a gusty runway 10L, had a greaser landing just before an F-18 departed in full burner, landed at 2:36 into 90° temps. 3.0 hours for the leg, 6.7 hours for a long flying day. Overnight parking at Edwards Jet Center, with lodging at the DoubleTree downtown, 24 hour shuttle. Enjoyed braised short ribs at BIN119.
Day 2 (Fri, 19 Aug 2022): Plan - Billings, MT to Mandan, ND (Y19) to Aberdeen, SD (KABR)
Actual: Refueled in Dickinson, ND instead of Mandan due to IFR conditions at Mandan.
Leg 3: Billings, MT to Dickinson, ND (KDIK) - 245 NM. Took off from runway 10L at 7:42, climbed out with flight following to 7500 feet past Miles City in clear skies. Continued into North Dakota at 10:46. Weather at our planned stop in Mandan, ND was IFR, stopped instead at Dickinson, ND. Landed on runway 33 into 20 knot headwinds at 11:20, 2.8 flight hours. Checked out the impressive Western Edge Aviation, which offered good fuel prices at an excellent FBO facility.
Leg 4: Dickinson, ND to Aberdeen, SD (KABR) - 199 NM. Day total = 444 NM. Took off from runway 33 at 12:16, headed directly to Aberdeen under 2500 foot AGL cumulus, light turbulence. Crossed into South Dakota at 1:31 as showers swirled around a giant low in MN and SD. Landed at 2:12 on runway 35 into winds of 350 at 21 gusting to 35 knots, had a nice slow final, 2.2 hours for the leg, 5.0 hours for the day. Found good fuel prices and service at Hangar 9 FBO. Took advantage of a $50 hangar overnight, which protected 3DC when a thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind passed through in the early evening. The Fairfield Inn offered a Hangar 9 rate. An Aberdeen shuttle was available, but we used one of Hangar 9's two courtesy cars, an old Cadillac Escalade, which was available on a first come, first served basis. Enjoyed a walk in a local park and walleye for dinner at Maverick's before thunderstorms hit.
Day 3 (Sat, 20 Aug 2022)
Actual: We stayed an extra night in Aberdeen, and used one of our planned weather days due to thunderstorms and IFR conditions from a stalled low to the east. The Fairfield Inn was full due to the local State Fair, but we found a room at the nearby Holiday Inn Express, initially at $239/night, then reduced to $90/night for a 'pilot rate'. Enjoyed two walks in the local Melgaard Park. Hangar 9 called with a stuck hangar door, then luckily found a workaround to get 3DC out tomorrow. Enjoyed walleye fingers plus ribs at Maverick's.
Day 4 (Sun, 21 Aug 2022) Plan - Aberdeen, SD to Caledonia, MN (KCHU) to Madison, WI (KMSN)
Actual: Refueled in Dodge Center, MN instead of Caledonia, MN due to cheaper fuel and better weather at Dodge Center.
Leg 5: Aberdeen, SD to Dodge Center, MN (KTOB) - 253 NM. Foggy early. Took off from runway 13 at 10:09 into puffy cumulus, picked up flight following and headed direct to Dodge Center, MN. Cruised generally at 7500’, climbed to 8200’ over two lines of clouds near Watertown and Redwood Falls. Cruised into Minnesota at 11:00. Descended into Dodge Center, landed on runway 34 at 12:38, impressive dip in the 4500' runway center, 2.7 hours for the leg. Very quiet but clean airport, convenient gas stop with $5.95 self serve.
Leg 6: Dodge Center, MN to Madison, WI (KMSN) - 161 NM. Day total = 414 NM. Took off downwind but downhill on runway 16 at 1:09, picked up flight following again, crossed the Mississippi River at 1:54 into Wisconsin. Cruised below the clouds on the entire leg, descended to a left base for runway 3 into Madison, landed at 2:48 PM, 1.8 for the leg, 4.5 hours for the day. Parked overnight at the Wisconsin Aviation FBO, $10 overnight parking. Stayed at the Cambria Suites, which had a shuttle and a $99 FBO rate. Enjoyed pretzels and cheese, walleye, a calamari salad and cheesecake for dinner at Erin's Snug Irish Pub. Took a nice walk around the quiet corporate park.
Day 5 (Mon, 22 Aug 2022)
Leg 7: Madison, WI to Battle Creek, MI (KBTL) - 236 NM. Day total = 236 NM. Skies cleared after morning mist. Caught a free cab, paid by the Cambria, back to the airport since the hotel shuttle was off for the day. Flew via the lakeshore route: KMSN-KUGN-KGYY-KMGC-KBTL. Took off from runway 32 at 9:48 and headed to the Lake Michigan shoreline near Waukegan, cruised at only 3500’, then descended to 2500’ past downtown Chicago to stay below the O’Hare Class B. Continued along the Lake Michigan south shoreline near Gary, IN, had to descend to 1400’ to stay VFR. Cruised past Sound Bend into Michigan, flew a long straight-in to runway 5L at Battle Creek, landed at 1:09 for a 2.5 hour flight, parked at the Centennial/WACO FBO with Janelle, tiedown $10/night. Got an F150 courtesy loaner, drove to the new Home2 Hilton, $79 FBO rate. Swam in the hotel pool with Ma, relaxed with soup and salad from Panera, walked locally.
Day 6 (Tue, 23 Aug 2022) Plan - Battle Creek, MI to Clarion County, PA (KAXQ) to Allentown, PA (KXLL)
Actual: Refueled in Wooster, OH instead of Clarion County, PA due to cheaper fuel and better weather in Wooster.
Leg 8: Battle Creek, MI to Wooster, OH (KBJJ) - 174 NM. Toured the WACO aircraft factory in the morning. Took off from Battle Creek’s runway 23L into clear skies at 9:28 and climbed east with flight following. Cruised into Ohio at 10:50, flew over Toledo and south of Lake Erie, decided to stop for fuel in Ohio due to weather in western PA. Landed on runway 28 at Wayne County airport in Wooster, OH at 12:28, 1.9 hours. The local FBO attendant refueled 3DC with a good rate, newly paved parking area, got waters.
Leg 9: Wooster, OH to Allentown, PA (KXLL) - 292. Day total = 466 NM. Took off from runway 28 at 11:49, stayed VFR below the clouds en route nearly direct to Allentown. Had to descend low over the Allegheny mountains near Altoona to avoid a big storm, then had clearing skies into the Allentown Queen City airport, landed on runway 25 at 2:36, 3.0 hours. Stayed with Danny and Brenda, enjoyed dinner at the 1760 Pub with Ma, Danny and Brenda, had clams and pierogi as showers passed through. Stayed in Allentown for the nights of Day 6 and 7.
Day 7 (Wed, 24 Aug 2022) Used our second backup weather day to stay visiting with Danny and Brenda in Allentown, PA.
Day 8 (Thu, 25 Aug 2022): Plan - Allentown to Sussex, NJ (KFWN) to Danbury, CT (KDXR) to Rome, NY (KRME)
Actual: Due to lightning damage repair to the runway at Griffiss (KRME), the runway was closed until 6:00PM. We decided to add Block Island, RI to our flights around New England, with a stop for lunch. After landing at Block Island, we found the airport cafe was closed due to a family emergency, so we then flew to New Bedford, MA for excellent seafood dinner, then continued on past an Albany, NY thunderstorm to land at Griffiss and meet Theresa.
Leg 10: Allentown, PA to Sussex, NJ (KFWN) - 55 NM. Took off from runway 25 at 11:25, cruised for a short leg into New Jersey, shot a touch and go to runway 3 at Sussex at 12:03 to claim the state.
Leg 11: Sussex, NJ to Danbury, CT (KDXR) - 53 NM. Continued from New Jersey into Connecticut after crossing New York south of West Point, landed on runway 26 in Danbury at 12:36, topped off 3DC at the Reliant FBO, mid-80s.
Leg 12: Danbury, CT to Block Island, RI (KBID) - 90 NM. Took off from runway 26 at 1:10, cruised along the Connecticut coast just north of New Haven to Westerly, Rhode Island, then flew just off the coast to Block Island, landed on runway 28 at 2:11. Found out that the airport restaurant was closed due to a family emergency.
Leg 13: Block Island, RI to New Bedford, MA (KEWB) - 41 NM. Took off from runway 28 at 3:33, flew a short hop to New Bedford, landed on runway 14 at 4:01. Enjoyed seafood chowder and haddock at the Airport Grille.
Leg 14: New Bedford, MA to Rome, NY (KRME) - 218 NM, Day total = 457 NM. Took off from runway 23 at 5:11, headed into the setting sun through Rhode Island and Massachusetts at 6500’ into New York. Detoured north around a thunderstorm near Albany, descended onto a calm runway 33 at Griffiss, had a greaser landing at 7:26, 5.6 hours and six states for the day. Theresa arrived at the Million Air FBO just as we taxied in. Free parking for 4 nights at Million Air, with a great FBO rate at the nearby Hampton Inn Rome. Visited family for 4 days.
Day 9-11 (Fri, 26 Aug to Sun, 28 Aug 2022) Celebration of Life and Family Reunion in the Utica-Rome, NY area.
Day 12 (Mon, 29 Aug 2022): Plan - Rome, NY to Springfield, VT (KVSF) to Laconia, NH (KLCI) to (KAXQ) to Rockland, ME (KRKD)
Actual: Weather was better in Rutland, VT (KRUT), instead of Springfield, VT (KVSF).
Leg 15: Griffiss/Rome, NY to Rutland, VT (KRUT) - 108 NM. Made an intersection takeoff from runway 15 at 10:00, headed east into the Adirondacks, snaked through the valleys in marginal VFR conditions, landed at 11:11 on runway 19 in Rutland to claim Vermont.
Leg 16: Rutland, VT to Laconia, NH (KLCI) - 67 NM. Took off from runway 19 at 11:21, continued eastbound into clearing weather in New Hampshire, landed on Laconia’s runway 26 at 12:04. Refueled.
Leg 17: Laconia, NH to Rockland, ME (KRKD) - 105 NM. Day total = 281 NM. Took off from runway 26 at 1:15, cruised into Maine, descended along the Atlantic coast. Maneuvered around a large osprey on short final holding a fish in its claws, had a smooth landing on runway 21 at Rockland, ME at 2:16. Bobby Kaczor picked us up at the Downeast Air FBO, and took us to check in at the Lime Rock Inn for lodging. Visited with Bobby and Keri at their home, then had town tour in Camden, ME, then a great lobster dinner at sunset at the Waterfront restaurant. Relaxed in the old-fashioned tub in the Lime Rook Inn's Turret Room.
Day 13 (Tue, 30 Aug 2022): Plan - Rockland, ME to Beverly, MA (KBVY) to Block Island (KBID) to (KAXQ) to Allentown, PA (KXLL)
Actual: Since we had visited MA and RI earlier in the trip, we proceeded nearly direct from Rockland, ME to Allentown, with just a quick fuel stop.
Leg 18: Rockland, ME to LaGrangeville, NY (44N) - 248 NM. Enjoyed breakfast in the Lime Rock Inn dining room, had fresh-baked blueberry muffins, plus surprisingly good biscuits and gravy. Foggy early, caught Joe's taxi to the Knox county airport. Took off from runway 21 at 9:55 after taxiing back, climbed above clearing clouds to 6500’, cruised through ME, NH, MA, CT and into NY. Descended to a very bumpy approach to runway 17 at Sky Acres airport in the hills near Poughkeepsie, NY, with gusty winds from 250°, pulled out a nice crosswind uphill landing at 1:00, refueled 3DC.
Leg 19: LaGrangeville, NY to Allentown, PA (KXLL) - 104 NM. Day total = 352 NM. Took off from runway 17 at 1:20, cruised southwest to Allentown with storms and a presidential TFR to the west. Landed from a straight-in on a gusty runway 25 at the Queen City airport at 2:37 for another smooth crosswind landing, 93° and humid. Stayed with Danny and Brenda overnight.
Day 14 (Wed, 31 Aug 2022)
Leg 20: Allentown, PA to Accident, MD (2G4) - 186 NM. Day total = 186 NM. Sunny and cooler, mid-70s. Took off from runway 33 at 10:51, climbed with flight following around puffy cus to 7000’, then descended to 3500’ past Harrisburg. Landed on the uphill runway 27 at 12:42 at the Garrett County airport in Accident, MD in the far western part of the state. Rode a taxi from Candy and her dogs to the Lodges at Sunset Village, on Deep Creek Lake, checked in to cabin 4 at 2:45, a gorgeous new wood cabin. Walked to the lake pier and along the lakeshore road, picked up cool drinks and pretzels. Enjoyed a delicious dinner of creamy crab soup, crab stuffed shrimp and blueberry cobbler at the nearby Pine Lodge Steakhouse. Soaked in the long tub in the cabin. Went stargazing on the lake floating pier, impressive Milky Way view.
Day 15 (Thu, 1 Sep 2022): Plan - Accident, MD to Buckhannon, WV (W22) to Circleville, OH (KCYO) to Rensselear, IN (KRZL) to Pekin, IL (C15)
Actual: Since we had visited OH earlier in the trip, we skipped Circleville, OH, and also found better gas prices at Clarksburg, WV and Winchester, IN.
Leg 21: Accident, MD to Clarksburg, WV (KCKB) - 45 NM. Took off into clear and very smooth skies at 9:28 from runway 27, climbed to only 4000’ for a quick flight to Clarksburg, WV, flew a straight in to runway 21, landed at 9:56. Had full service refueling pumped from a truck right at the airplane at only $5.50/gal.
Leg 22: Clarksburg, WV to Winchester, IN (I22) - 223 NM. Took off from runway 21 at 10:28, climbed to 6500’ initially into Ohio, descended to 4500’ for less headwinds and less hazy air. Cruised through the entire state of Ohio, descended for refueling at the small Randolph County airport in Winchester, just inside the Indiana border, landed from a straight in to runway 26 at 12:47. We received full service fuel from the friendly airport manager at a great rate of $5.38/gal.
Leg 23: Winchester, IN to Pekin, IL (C15) - 218 NM. Day total = 486 NM. Took off from Winchester at 1:18, climbed again to 6500’ for cooler and smoother air, cruised into Illinois, flew overhead Normal, IL, texted Mark Weidinger. Descended for a straight in to a gusty runway 27 at Pekin, IL, landed in a 15 knot direct left crosswind at 2:31, back to Central time, 5.6 flight hours for the day. Rode the courtesy van to the Pekin Hampton Inn, had salad, pizza and a gyro at Kouri's Pub. Soaked in the hotel hot tub.
Day 16 (Fri, 2 Sep 2022): Plan - Pekin, IL to Storm Lake, IA (KSLB) to Creighton, NE (6K3) to Pierre, SD (KPIR)
Actual: Cherokee, IA had a decent fuel price, and with Hartington, NB, was closer to a direct route to Pierre.
Leg 24: Pekin, IL to Cherokee, IA (KCKP) - 296 NM. Took off from runway 9 at 7:58 into clear and very smooth skies. Had storms to our far south and north as we cruised into Iowa at 6500’, hazy but smooth through most of Iowa. Had a ghost formation Cessna near Ames, IA. Descended for fuel at Cherokee County, IA, landed on runway 18 at 11:08, quick refueling, good facility.
Leg 25: Cherokee, IA to Hartington, NE (0B4) - 75 NM. Took off from runway 18 at 11:32, flew a short hop to Harrington, NB for our 24th state this trip! Shot a touch and go to a gusty crosswind landing on runway 31 at 12:23.
Leg 26: Hartington, NE to Pierre, SD (KPIR) - 170 NM. Day total = 541 NM. Climbed back up to 6500’ and cooler air with flight following into South Dakota. Generally followed the Missouri River to Pierre for another crosswind landing on runway 31, landed at 2:17, 6.2 flight hours for the day. Flight Service checked on us via a departing airliner, since we lost comm with them far out of Pierre. Mustang Aviation refueled 3DC right after landing and brought a brand new Toyota courtesy car out to the airplane, free overnight parking. Stayed at the very nice Clubhouse Hotel at a nice FBO rate, then enjoyed excellent filet steaks, plus cheesecake at the Cattleman's Club Steakhouse. Walked along the Missouri River.
Day 17 (Sat, 3 Sep 2022): Plan - Pierre, SD to Miles City, MT (KMLS) to Helena, MT (KHLN)
Actual: Broadus, MT had a better fuel price and was on a direct route to Helena from Pierre.
Leg 27: Pierre, SD to Broadus, MT (00F) - 229 NM. Took off from runway 31 into smooth morning skies at 7:34. Climbed to 6500’ through the remainder of South Dakota into Montana. Descended into the Broadus, MT airport with no nearby ATIS info, flew overhead to see the windsock, landed from a tight right teardrop into a gusty 15+ knot direct crosswind on runway 10 at 8:55, lots of real maneuvering. Found the refueling kiosk was broken, called and had a local on-call airport rep come by to turn on manual refueling, paid with a check.
Leg 28: Broadus to Helena, MT (KHLN) - 301 NM. Day total = 530 NM. Used the full range of ailerons on a gusty crosswind takeoff on runway 10 at 9:27, nice liftoff into the crosswind. Climbed to 8500’ across a desolate and somewhat hazy eastern Montana landscape, overflew Billings and Bozeman, much hazier near Bozeman, descended over the Canyon Ferry Lake into a surprisingly calm runway 28 for a smooth landing into Helena, 5.7 flying hours today. Parked for two nights free at the Exec Air FBO. Picked up an Avis rental to the nearby Hampton Inn at another great FBO rate. Drove around the Ma's alma mater, the Carroll College campus, took some photos in the 96° heat. Enjoyed delicious broasted chicken at the Sud’s Hut, first time back since 1976.
Day 18 (Sun, 4 Sep 2022)
Helena relaxing day. Walked around Centennial Park near Carroll College in the hazy, smoky morning. Went to 9:00 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Helena, stopped by Dearborn Ave and found the home Ma lived in for a year. Drove around Mt. Ascension Park south of Helena. Enjoyed walleye at the Schooners Grill on Canyon Ferry Lake on a smoky afternoon.
Day 19 (Mon, 5 Sep 2022)
Leg 29: Helena to Felt's Field, Spokane, WA (KSFF) - 229 NM. Flew a Special VFR departure, took off in 3DC from runway 9 at 10:10 into very smoky skies, followed the highway southwest out of Helena to overhead I-90 at 8500’, finally got VFR visibility near Missoula, climbed to 9000’ near Mullan Pass. Descended past Coeur d’Alene into clear and sunny skies in Washington, flew a straight-in for a greaser landing on runway 22R at Felts Field. Self-serve pumps were out, but got refueled from a truck at self-serve prices.
Leg 30: Spokane, WA to Renton, WA - 200 NM. Day total = 429NM. Took off from Felts Field’s runway 22R at 12:00, climbed into clear and smoother skies, cruised past Ephrata and over Wenatchee, climbed again to 9100’, had gorgeous views of Mt. Stuart and the Cascades, descending over Snoqualmie Pass to Ravensdale and Lake Youngs, flew a straight-in to runway 34 for a smooth landing at 3:32 to end our amazing cross-country! No squawks on 3DC for the entire trip, just need an oil change!
EPIC Cross-Country! Trip total = 5417 NM, 63.0 flight hours, 24 states!