Ever since we bought our Piper Pacer, a classic tube and fabric four-passenger airplane, our family has loaded it up each summer and flown off to the annual Short Wing Piper Club convention. This airplane type-club convention has taken us all over the country - as far west as Vancouver, WA, as far east as Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and many points in between. We’ve attended every convention since 2003 - this year marks our tenth in a row!
When we tell people we have a plane and fly it across the country they usually think we fly fast and get places quickly. They also often have this idea that our plane is big and expensive. In reality my Pacer is about the size of a VW Bug and a person can buy one for far less than they would spend on a full-sized SUV (I call our plane our SUV - ShortWing Utility Vehicle). And though we do average around 124 miles per hour we only fly about four to five hours per day so getting places still takes a long time.
It's kind of squishy in the back seat of the Pacer
For example, our trip to Vancouver, WA back in 2005 took us four days to get there and four days to get home. Ryan was three that year. Rose was six. It was a long, long trip. Looking back I’m not sure just how we managed that trip - but we did.
This year the convention was across the country and over the mountains in Ogden, Utah. With Ryan a ten-year-old and Rose almost 13 this two day trip was relatively easy. And this year our convention vacation was one of our best!
A handful of the 30 planes that were at the convention - our plane, "Miss Angela" is in the foreground.
About 135 people attended the convention this year and about 30 planes - the numbers were somewhat low, probably because of the price of AvGas and the fact that pilots had to fly through the mountains to get there. The convention itself started on Monday, June 23rd with a Meet and Greet event at the airport. Tuesday we had a day trip to the Golden Spike Historic Site. Forums were Wednesday morning followed by a luncheon and business meeting. Rose and I attended the forum on Dutch oven cooking taught by the hotel chef and our family skipped the luncheon and meeting this year and instead went to see the movie Brave. Thursday was the flying or driving poker run - but our family took the train to Salt Lake City to see the Mormon Tabernacle and hear a grand organ recital. The convention wrapped up with a banquet on Thursday night with awards for the nicest airplanes. And Friday morning everyone headed home - but instead of heading right home we extended our vacation through the weekend by adding on a post-convention trip to Moab, Utah.
I plan to write more about some of the highlights of our trip (“skydiving” in a wind tunnel at iFly in Ogden, mountain biking, golfing and petroglyph hunting in Moab) but for now I will leave you with some flight statistics and recap. Owen’s a numbers kind of guy so he always figures out our milage, fuel burn and the like.
Here are the flight statistics:
1,963 nautical miles round trip (equal to about 2,257 statute miles)
22.7 hours spent flying in the Pacer
11.6 hours flown by me
11.1 hours flown by Owen
100 mph average ground speed (our average is more like 124 mph - we had major headwinds on this trip)
$5.67 average price per gallon of 100 LL AvGas.
Here’s a recap of our flight activity:
On Saturday the 23rd we flew from our home at Webster, MN (1MN8) to Chamberlain, SD (9V9) for fuel then to Hot Springs, SD (HSR). We met Jim and Betty Younggren of Hallock, MN (HCO) and their Pacer in Hot Springs. After landing we were invited into a hangar owned by some of the locals (who have Minnesota connections and are known for welding exhaust systems for RV airplanes) for lunch. The woman serving up lunch was named Myrna. What are the chances of that? Two women named Myrna in one hangar. Go figure.
On Sunday the 24th we flew from Hot Springs to Rawlings, WY (RWL) for fuel where we met up with two other planes heading to the Short Wing Piper Club convention (Sid and Sue Brain in their TriPacer and Jim Butler with Tom Brent in Jim’s Ercoupe. Others landed there that day and the following and the FBO gave all Short Wingers a discount on fuel!) After a short break for food for us and fuel for the plane we headed on to Ogden, UT (OGD). The flight from Rawlings to Ogden was hot and bumpy and not very fun. But we flew through a beautiful mountain pass and were especially happy to be greeted by fellow Short Wingers Garrett Bourcier and his grandpa, Kent O’Kelly, when we landed.
Just out of the pass and flying over Ogden into the Ogden airport.
On Friday, June 29th we departed Ogden for a 2.5 hour flight to Canyonlands Airport (CNY), the airport that serves Moab, Utah.
On Monday, July 2nd we departed Canyonlands for Rawlings, WY and saw lots of smoke from the wildfires en route. After a short break we flew on to Hot Springs, SD for our overnight stop and a visit to the Mammoth Site museum.
On Tuesday, July 3rd we departed Hot Springs for home and stopped in Pipestone, MN (PQN) for food and fuel. Pipestone has a fabulous little airport with friendly people, inexpensive fuel ($5.34/gallon) and a courtesy car! After lunch we loaded up the Pacer for our last flight, just 1.3 hours to home!
It’s interesting to note that even though temperatures were in the 100s while we were in Utah the heat index was far higher when we landed in Minnesota. One source I checked stated a heat index of 111 degrees when we landed at home. The temperature at Moab, Utah at the same time? Just 99 degrees with a heat index of 94!
That's all for now. It's still hotter than blazes here and it's time for me to sit in front of a fan and cool down a bit.