Darkhorse 450 pt. 2

Thursday Oct 3rd 2019, Everrett-Stewart to Beech River airport. Departure 1730

Winds were intense but from the North so I decided to take advantage and go early. I’m lucky I have great friends who showed up to help me wrangle the wing while I worked with my motor, XC bag, and the cursed extra fuel bladder(more on that later).

I laid out my wing into the wind when I arrived. So naturally the wind turned 90 degrees and strengthened while I got strapped in. Justin Wright reset my wing into the wind and almost got snatched into the air by a gust in the process. It was a no joke kind of launch.

Justin Wright, aircraft mechanic and wing wrangler.

My motor was acting up a little, luckily another friend from the Marine Corps. was there to help sort that out. These guys saved me a lot of time getting off the ground. Time that I needed to make Beech River before dark.

I did a reverse launch and even with the extra weight, got sucked up into the sky pretty fast. I had planned on coming back for a low pass to wave goodbye, the wind I caught just above the hangers decided that wasn’t happening. I was headed South no matter what.

It was pretty rough for the first hour. The wind was gusty and inconsistent, thermal activity wasn’t terrible but it was pretty active.

Beech River is 66 miles straight line. I flew as straight as I could. This was the longest planned leg, and the longest I had ever traveled in one hop. I was counting on my 3 liter fuel bladder as a safety margin. It had a few bugs earlier but they had been worked out and it tested out great on several flights prior to this.

I started my fuel transfer just before passing my alternate airport. The valve failed. Not cool. Now I’ve got 3 liters of tasty fuel ready to feed the Talon and no way to get it there.

Decision time. Do I hit the alternate or push to Beech River? Doing the math on my speed for the last hour, current speed, expected wind direction for the next 30 miles, fuel remaining, fuel burn, and time to sunset told me I had a good chance of making it, but it would be close on time and fuel.

I kept pushing. The wind speed held and as the sun dropped everything smoothed out. I found Beech River with about 20 minutes of fuel remaining and touched down 2 minutes before official sunset. Glad I had strobes.

On landing I met the first of many incredible strangers that helped me along the way. I had planned to roll out a bivy sack and spend the night beside the terminal after refueling, then be up before sunrise to push on. This did not happen.

Keith Cotton made me feel at home at Beech River.

Beech River was finishing up a board meeting as I was refueling and hiking my gear to the terminal. They looked surprised and a little unsure about the weird guy that just dropped out of the sky on them. Totally understandable.

When I explained what I was doing they opened up immediately. The local mayor was there and had heard Gretchen Catherwood speak about the lodge at a VFW meeting. Most were former military and everyone loved what the Darkhorse Lodge was doing.

I started to ask about being able to get in to wash up before I launched in the morning. Keith Cotton, the airports Executive Director, was way ahead of me.

He gave me a tour of the terminal. The walls are covered with art for sale from Ray Waddey, a local artist. A painting of the Memphis Belle with a piece of the aircraft attached. WWII aircraft with signatures from their pilots, including a German float plane. The detail in his art doesn’t seem possible. Most of his work is available there for $50 each. The special ones are more but I think way under priced for what they are. No images I put here could do his work justice. I digress.

Keith gave me a key to the back half of the terminal so I had a lounge to sleep in, access to the kitchen and most important, coffee maker. Then the key to the courtesy car so I could drive into town if I needed to. Blankets, TV, books, snacks, everything. Then He took me out to the nearest hanger and gave me the door code to store my motor overnight and access to the showers inside. No charge for anything.

Turns out Mr. Cotton is also an R/C aircraft enthusiast. He owns over 50 and is in the process of building 3 more. Including a scale P-51 with an 84″ wingspan and retractable landing gear. Truly Amazing people at this place.

I could have stayed up till dawn listening to this guys stories about aviation, but his wife probably would not have been happy with us. So he made sure I was set for the night and headed home.

I set up all my chargers, had a few protein bars, changed the spark plug on the Talon, and turned in for the night.

5AM at Beech River

I look forward to seeing my new friends again. I will be going back to Beech River.

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