Tuesday, May 26 2020

Day 17


I awoke on the airport to the sound of a turbine engine, that familiar roaring whine joyfully clawing it’s way into my unconscious brain and shaking me awake—I opened my eyes and sat up quickly, fueled by sleepy curiosity. Outside the massive window to the ramp in the pilot lounge we crashed in was a glorious biplane Ag Cat taxiing by. What a gorgeous airplane to awaken to! While they were first manufactured with a radial engine, this bad boy had a PT-6A-34AG with 750 hp. So beautiful, it looked like it would be the most fun thing in the world to fly, all low altitude operations with all that power.

I must have been inspired by that beautiful machine and it’s low over the Earth operations, because later, as we pressed on East from Wyoming to Nebraska, I descended low and slow, side by side with an Eastbound train, as Filip filmed it chugging along over the ground. Fantastic to fly in unison with another Eastbound engine.

The lands we flew over this morning weren’t as notable as the explosive wonders we had grown used to flying over for the past week in the West, but the sky was massive and we were flying—life was good.

Our first fuel stop was KTIF, in Thedford, Nebraska, a sweet empty field untouched by time with a big old Ford camper van sitting next to the fuel pump with the keys on the dash for pilot use. We took it to town and grabbed breakfast at a local joint, the Arrow Cafe, that was running an all day Taco Tuesday special. The locals were hilarious and warm, especially the owner, who was busy making, running, and bussing all the food himself, cracking jokes the whole time. We flew overhead when we departed and rocked our wings adios.

Onwards we went, and landed to fuel at Norfolk, Nebraska and check out the massive weather front blocking our smooth VFR passage back to the East. We took a cruise in their crew car and explored the town—apparently it’s Johnny Carson’s hometown, who knew!

The forecast for the next week is questionable and is absolutely going to have an effect on our homeward mission. However, in Norfolk, we determined conditions were acceptable enough to make it to a field two hours East, putting us closer to Chicago, where we have aspirations of shooting the busiest airport in the country, O’Hare. So we fired up and took off into weather that was reporting perfect visibility and decent to perfect ceilings. However, as we flew, the ceiling began to drop without warning and conditions deteriorated rapidly. We were forced to land at KDNS, Denison, in Iowa. It was a happy accident however—the FBO there was gorgeous, empty, with a crew car awaiting us and a great place to sleep. We couldn’t be luckier to spend a night in such a perfect place. And hot damn, were we happy to be on the ground.

To the East!

Photo Gallery

Click on the image for full-screen viewing experience. All photographs © Filip Wolak.

Flight Path