AZ to NH, flying an RV-12 across the country!
DAY 1 | NH to AZ
After an early morning flight from Boston to Phoenix, AZ, we hopped in a taxi to make our way to Payson, AZ, where our new RV-12 was waiting for us.
Upon arriving at the airport (KPAN), we were escorted over to the hangar 243VA was being stored in to look over the aircraft, and preflight it for our test flight. After looking over the plane, we pulled it out of the hangar to take it for it’s first flight as a CHI plane. The plane started up with no issues, and we took off to the north to practice a few maneuvers. After the first takeoff, both of us were stunned at how beautiful the area was. Payson, AZ is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest. Even driving in by taxi we couldn’t get over how scenic the drive was. At altitude, we practiced stalls, steep turns, and slow flight. 243VA flew perfectly! Once everything checked out, we landed back at KPAN and put the plane back in the hangar. We had planned on beginning our trek back to New Hampshire that afternoon, but the low ceiling to the north and east kept us in Payson for the night.
DAY 2 | PAN - SOW - XNI - GUP
We woke up to the brisk, cool Arizona morning air in order to beat the sunrise. Our day started with a downtown ride to Payson Airport (KPAN). Upon arriving, we were greeted by the distant calls of the wild elk in the woods surrounding the airport (if you’ve never heard an elk call, look up what it sounds like, it was such a cool experience to hear that with the misty mountains as a backdrop!). After listening to nature, we filled our camera rolls with the picturesque Arizona horizon. Once we finished packing, conducting our pre-flight inspection, and fueling the airplane, we ate breakfast at the airport diner called Crosswinds.
We kept our morning occupied by being engaged in a constant tug-of-war with the unpredictable weather. We finished breakfast while planning the first leg of the flight. Soon after we finished our meals, the METAR provided us with a better weather observation. It looked like the clouds had finally cleared enough for us to depart, so we attempted our first flight, but were soon turned around by a thick blanket of clouds over the mountain range. While monitoring the weather on the ipad, we took a crew car into town and indulged in milkshakes, specialty waffles and bison burgers. After finishing lunch, we noticed blue skies and hurried back to the plane. We seized the opportunity and were finally able to depart. While flying, we were treated by beautiful landscapes of the Blackjack Mountains. The buildup of clouds forced us to divert south of our planned route. We then flew to Show Low Regional Airport, Arizona (KSOW). We made a brief fuel stop, traded seats and continued on.
Flying through this part of the country was probably my favorite part of the trip. This was our first time traveling out west for the both of us, so being able to see everything from the air for the first time was breathtaking. We flew over the Rio Grande, next to the mesas and over these beautiful natural monuments and national parks and forests. It felt like flying over Westworld! As we made our way east, toward Gallup Municipal Airport (KGUP), we noticed there were thunderstorms to the north of us moving east. We chose to land at a small paved strip called Zuni (KXNI) to wait out the storm before continuing on. Coming in on final for runway 24, we almost had to go around due to a coyote sprinting across the runway, and taking a minute to check us out before escaping under the bushes. We were the only ones at the airport, so after taxiing off the runway and parking, we got to walk around, stretch our legs and witness one of the prettiest sunsets we’d ever seen. We watched the thunderstorms to the north of us pass by, and then hopped back in the RV to our final stop for the night. By this time, night had crept in so we followed route 40 (or as some may know it, historic route 66) into Gallup, NM (KGUP). Once landed, we tied down for the night, gathered our things and headed to the hotel to get some sleep before our early rise the following morning.
DAY 3 | GUP - DHT - IDP - SUS
We woke up at 6:00AM, coffee and energy bars in tow, and made our way back to KGUP to preflight and finalize the next legs of our journey. We were greeted by an amazing sunrise, and then hopped in the plane to start our long day. I took the first leg from KGUP to Dalhart Municipal Airport in Texas (KDHT). After crossing the last bit of mountains, the terrain quickly turned to flat, open land. Approaching the airport, we had to fly over a lot of farms and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). You’d think being so high in the air you’d be free of any smells that come along with those types of operations, but we were wrong, much to our noses’ disappointment. We definitely knew when we were flying over those farms. Pushing on, we landed at KDHT to refuel the plane, and our stomachs.
I would argue that this FBO had the best burger on our whole entire trip, while Sarah is sticking to the burgers we had back in Payson, AZ. Either way, both were delicious! We both got Texas toast burgers, which came with local beef burgers on homemade Texas toast and topped with pineapple. It was AMAZING. After finishing up our meal, we trekked back out to the plane, careful not to touch any metal that was in the sun (it was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit when we landed with no clouds in sight) and continued our journey east.
After departing from Dalhart Municipal Airport (KDHT), we encountered an abundance of turbulence. Our RV-12 was strongly affected by the hot and humid Texas air, decreasing the climbing performance and lengthening the climb-out to our desired altitude of 9500 feet, mostly riding the updrafts. During the journey to Independence Municipal Airport (KIDP), we had to decrease our altitude to 5500 feet in order to avoid the VANCE 1 MOAs in Oklahoma. After our arrival, we refueled the plane and immediately departed for Spirit of St. Louis Airport (KSUS).
We were able to enjoy a peaceful flight with the Kansas sun setting behind us. Midway through the flight, we lost the remaining daylight and continued on through the night. We even got a firsthand view of the Milky Way through the RV’s open bubble canopy. Nearing our final destination of the leg, we descended down to 3500 feet to avoid the first shelf of the St. Louis Bravo airspace and contacted “Spirit Tower”. Tower responded back, having us make a straight-in approach to runway 8R.
DAY 4 | SUS - RID - AGC
After arriving at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport that morning, Tina pre-flighted N243VA while I planned the next leg of the trip using ForeFlight. Seeing that we had clear skies ahead, we immediately departed for Richmond, Virginia. While departing from the airport, Tower directed us to contact St. Louis Approach so that we could request the Gateway Arch tour. We were very excited to hear that our request had been granted and made our way further East, below the St. Louis Bravo. We then headed North up the Mississippi River and were lucky enough to enjoy the spectacle that was the Archway. I had controls of N243VA while Tina was tasked with taking pictures and videos. We then departed to the East, direct to Richmond Municipal Airport (KRID) for an uneventful yet enjoyable flight.
Upon landing in Richmond, Indiana, Sarah and I decided to take the complimentary crew car into town and explore. Richmond has a lot of historic buildings and interesting architecture, which led up to one of our more interesting lunch spots, The Firehouse BBQ and Blues. It’s Richmond’s oldest firehouse converted into a BBQ restaurant and blues club. Probably one of the coolest places we got to eat!
After eating, we made our way back to the airport and made our way towards our final stop for the day, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. After flying over flat land, we finally came upon the rolling green hills we were used to seeing. We landed at Allegheny County Airport (AGC), where we felt a little out of place; our little RV-12 was among gulfstreams, citations and other jets coming in for the night. It was a beautiful FBO and everyone on staff was super helpful and friendly.
We tied down the plane, and then ubered into the city to walk around and explore. It felt very strange being in a bustling city after spending most of our days in small towns! We found a place to eat, and after filling our stomachs, we made our way back to the hotel to get some rest before our final day of flying.
DAY 5 | AGC - MSV - PSM
The early morning brought the forecasted fog and low visibility that we previously predicted with help from the TAF, so we had the opportunity to sleep in and enjoy the much needed rest. After arriving at the airport, Tina was again tasked with pre-flighting N243VA while I planned the last portion of the long journey back to Portsmouth. We departed Allegheny County Airport (KAGC) and headed direct to Sullivan County International (KMSV) located in Monticello, New York. As we approached the Allegheny Mountain range, we were obligated to fly to a lower altitude due to a broken cloud layer right at our planned altitude of 5500’. The air did become quite turbulent at our new cruising altitude of 3500’ but it did give us a better view of the beautiful Fall foliage of Pennsylvania. We also had to battle with a layer of haze. There was one point where we could even smell smoke as we flew through that haze layer. This layer of haze was likely moving east from the wildfire out west. After enjoying the sights of the picturesque Pennsylvania towns and windmill farms from the sky, we came to our final fuel stop of the trip.
Once we landed in Sullivan County, we refueled the aircraft and got to sit by the plane as we ate our PB&Js and took in all the foliage around us. After enjoying our meal and the peaceful break, we got back in 243VA to complete our final stretch to Portsmouth!
After taking off, we noticed it was getting bumpier than the first half of our trip, so we decided to cruise at 5500’ now that the clouds had dissipated. As we continued east toward New Hampshire, the clouds began to pack together, so we had to descend back down to 3500’, where we began to experience a lot of turbulence. Once we transitioned into the mid-western part of Massachusetts, the bumps dissipated, but we were greeted with A LOT of air traffic. It felt like we had flown into a beehive of planes. Communicating with Boston ATC, we stayed clear of the traffic and had to divert south around Nashua (KASH) to stay clear. After clearing the airspace around Nashua, we had a straight shot back to Portsmouth (KPSM)!
We arrived at KPSM around 1630 on October 1st, 2021 and were greeted by everyone on the CHI team. This trip was an incredible experience, and we made so many memories along the way!