Sunday, December 30, 2007

Exterior Referb - Part 4

It's time to make my way to San Marcos airport (HYI) where Tejas AeroService is based -- the shop that will be refinishing the exterior of 36G. San Marcos is about 30 miles or so south of Austin, Texas (AUS), which is an easy flight from Chicago. However, since I'm heading down at the end of the year I had a ton of vacation time to burn. I figured I'd make a mini vacation out of the deal. I decided to go to Austin by way of Florida. Why take a straight line when you have a super fast and efficient Mooney?

Leg 1, Moultrie (MGR) Airport
Moultrie, Georgia
I departed out of Gary/Chicago Airport (GYY) where 36G is based on December 20 (Winter in Chicago dictates when you leave). The weather was clear, so I hit the sky and started my trek to Charlotte County Airport (PGD) in Punta Gorda, Florida. The trip from Chicago to Punta Gorda is about 900 miles, which is outside of the range of 36G. The first leg of my trip was to Moultrie Muni (MGR), which is south of Atlanta. I picked this airport because it was outside of the Atlanta (KATL) Class-B airspace and they had very good references on the web.

The trip to Moultrie was a bit daunting. There was a major cold front moving from the east toward my path and it covered the entire state of Georgia. There was no way I could go around or over it, but fortunately 36G is fast and I was able to stay ahead of it.

The landing at MGR was a piece of cake. The airport is not very busy, but had a very capable staff. The service at the airport was awesome. They fueled me up quickly, had weather, free cookies and very nice facilities. I was out of there in less than 45 minutes.

Leg 2, Charlotte County Airport (PGD)
Punta Gorda, Flordia
I departed out of MGR and was on the road to PGD well ahead of the weather. The flight to PGD was spectacular. I flew down the west coast of Florida and had awesome views of the Gulf of Mexico.

The PGD airport was also very nice. I was even able to rent a private T-Hangar while I was there.

I won't bore you with too many details of the ground portion of my trip to Florida, but suffice of to say there were a lot of Beaches, boats and Food involved...

Leg 3, Lakefront Airport (NEW)
New Orleans, Louisiana

It was an enjoyable trip to Florida, which made it very difficult for me to leave. I needed a bit of motivation, so I decided I would stop somewhere in between Florida and Texas for a bit more R&R. Humm, what is between FL & TX that's fun? New Orleans of course ;)

Similar to the flight down form Chicago, I had to fight a low pressure system that just would not leave. This one had a ton of heavy precipitation in it. In fact, I had to delay my departure by a couple of days because there was absolutely no way around it (darn ;). The airlines were even having problems with this one. It was drawing moisture all the way up to Boston!

Shortly after I departed, I was fortunate enough to get a good controller. He let me fly over water, but stay close enough to land in case I had problems. This put me south of the severe weather, but right in the middle of a ton of restricted airspace.

NOTE: I love flying IFR. This segment of my flight would have been impossible if I didn't have my instrument ticket. I was in solid IMC much of the time, yet I stayed completely out of the bad stuff thanks to XM WX on board and a cooperative controller. In fact, I would have never attempted this trip without some sort of on-board weather. No way you want to stumble into this stuff. And it is very easy to do when storms are embedded like this one. Clouds look pretty much the same from the inside where I was flying much of the time.

The New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NEW) is 5 miles form downtown New Orleans, which makes it an excellent stop. The airport had significant damage after Katrina, so they are in the middle of a rebuilding effort. The FBO is operating out of a trailer and they are using old WWII hangars that are a bit beat up to park planes. They have a nice hangar, but can't use it because FEMA is holding up funding for the roof repairs. Although the FBO and airport has gone through some hard times, the service was impeccable. Everyone was friendly and helpful. I highly recommend the Flightline First FBO. They are the small local guys. Millionaire is the only other open FBO at Lakefront, but they tend cater more toward the big jets. Flightline also had $1/gallon lower fuel prices. You can't go wrong with Flightline.

Again, I won't bore you with the details of my New Orleans trip except to say there was a lot of music, food and fun involved :)

Leg 4, San Marcos Airport (HYI)
San Marcos, Texas

The flight out of New Orleans was, what else?...IFR! I delayed my departure about an hour to let some heavy stuff pass, but I made it out no problem. The trip to HYI was uneventful after I got away form Louisiana. A nice High pressure system surrounded Texas and it was nice, very nice to see something beside the inside of a cloud.

I made it to HYI with no problems. The trip was spectacular. I was also quite impressed with the Tejas AeroService operations. I will write more about my initial impressions of the Tejas facilities in my next posting...

Until next time, rest assured that 36G was safely put away in a huge hangar and is eagerly awaiting her her Extreme Exterior Makeover!

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