Nov 012010

The Turning Leaf Fly-In

Saturday, 30 October 2010, was an idyllic day weather-wise. The place to be on this fine day was Doug and Sabrina Moler’s hangar at High Point, Kansas. That’s where my wife Debra and I went and so did a goodly number of other airplane people from around the area.

Of course I wanted to fly my Quicksilver MXL to this event. Since it really didn’t kick off until 10am I saw no need to pull one of my sunrise rollouts. I arrived at my hangar at Selby Aerodrome about 10am and performed my preflight and fuel up. Now if you are not familiar with the Wichita Area I will point out some pertinent geographical details that played into my flight.

First, my field, Selby Airport, is pretty much on the opposite side of the city from High Point. I’m south of Haysville, Kansas (which is south of Wichita) and High Point is on the north end of Wichita. Also, between High Point and my field are Mid-Continent Airport, McConnell Air Force Base and Boeing Field. Because I fly an ultralight, I am not allowed to fly over what is termed a “congested area”. For sure, that means a city like Wichita. So, I have to fly around it (Frankly, given the less than stellar dependability of the 2 stroke motors we use I have no desire to fly over a metropolitan area whether allowed to or not). Also, because flight is restricted around controlled fields like Mid-Continent and McConnell I have to circumvent them by 5 miles from their center. That’s mostly because I don’t have a VHF radio with which to talk to the tower to ask fly-over permission. Interestingly enough, though, the traffic controllers will allow me a short cut to High Point from the south if I fly up what we call around here “The Big Ditch“. The Big Ditch is a massive flood control project that has been a contributing factor for the growth and success of Wichita, Kansas over the years. Prior to its construction which was began in 1950, west Wichita would experience periodic flooding and its attendant destruction. The Ditch put a stop to that. What is neat about The Big Ditch for flyers is that the Mid-Continent controllers will allow us to fly the length of this North/South corridor right past the Mid-Continent tower as long as we stay below 300′.  It is an excellent way to go north or south and all you have to do is call TRACON (the radar control department of the airport) by telephone and ask permission before you take off. They are very pleasant and businesslike and just want to make sure you stay on the right path and don’t get too high. How cool is that? I get to fly down a river bed, through a city and am required to stay below 300′. It is a lot of fun and is filled with bonus views which I will show you after I show a couple of interesting scenes on the way to The Big Ditch.

A corral south of Haysville, Kansas

Above you can see a corral arena that is a few miles south of Haysville, Kansas. I don’t know much about it but there are quite a few out south of Wichita. Actually, the field I hangar at (Selby Aerodrome is also known as Selby Stables) is a horse ranch and has two indoor and one outdoor corrals. Unlike the one above, though, Selby does not have a grand stand.

Another Cornfield Maze

In an earlier post I had remarked how the “Cornfield Maze” phenomenon had taken off around here as of late. Here is another one south of Haysville. This one is huge.

Air Products, Occidental Petroleum and some Large Grain Elevators

Above I am at about 600′ AGL looking northwest. To the left is Air Products, next to it is Occidental Petroleum and then the tallest structures to the right are a series of grain elevators. These are all within the control zone of Mid-Continent Airport.

Gateway to The Big Ditch

Just a crow hop from the previous shot we see above the southern entry to The Big Ditch. Straight ahead at the horizon is Mid-Continent and the various aircraft manufacturer’s buildings we will see closer up in the next few pictures. I am now descending to about 300′ AGL. You do have to watch out for some serious high tension power lines that cross this corridor.

Looking toward Mid-Continent from the southeast at 250′ AGL

Here we are just starting to come in view of Mid-Continent. It is hard to see from this picture but one of the runways is just visible over these buildings. The white buildings in the center are Cessna Aircraft operations.

Downtown Wichita, Kansas in the distance

Looking to the north east close to the position shown prior to this shot we see the Wichita City Skyline at the horizon. I am flying at about 200′ and below me you can see some of the power or phone lines that cross The Ditch at regular intervals.

Wichita’s Mid-Continent Tower about 2 miles west north west

Now if you look closely at the horizon and pretty much in the center of the shot you will see the Mid-Continent tower. I always wave at them figuring they gotta be looking at me with their binoculars.

Cessna Citation headquarters

This is shot not much farther north. You can see the Mid-C tower on the horizon just under the leading edge of my wing. The white buildings are Cessna Citation facilities. They make some fine corporate jets.

Only the shadow shows

Here is what one of the more bleak sections of The Ditch looks like below me. Most of it, though, is quite lush and many times I have seen deer standing around. You will also see guys fishing depending on the time of day. Although it is prohibited, I have also seen a number of 4 wheelers and trail bikes jumping around on occasion, too.

Taking the highway

This is a short section that the air controllers want us to use. (I included my MXL fairing in the shot to really put you there.) The big ditch is to the left (west) of this shot but following it would put me too close to the end of the MCC runway. To avoid that the controllers ask us to trace this section of I-235 for about 2 miles. If there wasn’t such a big median running down the middle of this highway I would not attempt this. You really need to take the possibility to heart of possibly ending your flight in a dead stick landing when you fly ultralights. Two Stroke Motors are not as dependable as Four Strokers. If I had to I would have no problem putting my plane down on this grass median with an engine out. I would really, really NOT like the attention it would draw, though.

A lakeside community

On the north end of The Ditch are a number of lakeside communities. This one is on the west side of the ditch and appears to be made from a former rock quarry. It might be called Emerald Bay.

The River Wanders through town

I liked the way the river looks working its way through the city in this shot. I think it is the Arkansas River. You can see the Downtown Wichita Skyline on the horizon.

The Alluvial Plain

I just shot this one because I like the way the water creates interesting patterns and color variations in the sand.

The Big Ditch north exit

This is the end of the Big Ditch trail. By now I am out of the Mid-Continent glide slope. After I get over the highway in the distance I will start my climb to cross over the pattern of High Point for downwind entry. Highway 96 seen in this photo goes to Hutchinson, Kansas.

Another lakeside community - Key West?

Right after taking the previous picture which was aiming pretty much straight north, I turned east and shot this one. There is a pretty good sized levee between The Big Ditch in the foreground and the community in the background. This one is set up so everyone has their own dock.

Valley Center, Kansas

After passing through the lakeside community gauntlet I started climbing. This is Valley Center, Kansas from about 800′ AGL looking to the north. There is a runway adjacent to the east side of town that a number of people live on and hangar their airplanes. You have to watch for traffic there and then only about a mile east of that is High Point. A couple of years back, Valley Center annexed High Point.

Approaching High Point, Kansas

This is looking north east from just past the Valley Center strip. I am at about 1,200′ AGL with a nice 9 mph tailwind. The locator for me when coming from this direction is the relatively new Valley Center Christian Church positioned right off the south end of the runway.

Moler's Rocket Ship

Just as I was crossing the field, the host of the party, Captain Doug Moler lit off in his rocket ship (actually called The Sport Racer Speedster – more about it later). I was able to twist around in my seat and grab this shot behind and under my right wing. There was other traffic in the pattern so I had to let go of the camera and put my head into swivel mode after this.

Gerry Sibley & his 1941 Vultee BT-13A

Above is the other aircraft that was in the pattern as I entered it. Hangared at Newton, Kansas, Gerry Sibley showed up in his beautifully restored 1941 Vultee BT-13A. Later in the day when he made a few low passes down the field I was amazed at how loud this baby is. Above the radial roar you could hear the “zing” of the prop tips reflecting off the houses on the strip. This is quite a bird.

Ed & Sherie Grabman with their Mooney

The Grabman’s flew in with their 1985 M20J Mooney. It is in really nice shape and looks like it was painted not long ago.

Mike Ryer with his 2004 S6S RANS Coyote II

Pitts fly-by

I saw this guy coming so I tried to catch him but wasn’t entirely successful. The little pocket cam I use does not have a very accurate trigger. You are never sure exactly when it will fire. At least I was able to get this plane in the frame at all.

The Ramp Rat

Since he was seen in the background of the previous picture I decided we needed a closeup of our host Captain Doug Moler. Besides flying everything from Ultralights to 747’s (and now helicopters), he manages to pick up a few bucks on weekends parking airplanes.

SERIES 100 MDL 101

This is Edward Hund’s SERIES 100 MDL 101. It was made by Scottish Aviation. I have only seen pictures of them before. He keeps it in Wichita, Kansas. I don’t know much about it but I believe it was a primary trainer for the R.A.F.

A look inside the cockpit from the other side

Mike Hilderbrand's Sonex

This is the shiniest plane to show up at the fly-in. I will further demonstrate that fact in a later shot.

Pitts makes a pass

Getting ready to fly The Racer

Moler enters the cockpit

That is a good sized prop.

Doug Moler and passenger ready for take off

Here Doug with an “as yet unknown to me” passenger buckle into The Speedster before heading skyward.

Gary's neighbor, Gary Phillips, Duane Life and Neal Wretberg

Here are three of my buddies from the ultralight community. I don’t remember the guy on the left’s name but he came with Gary Phillips. I was sorry to hear Gary had just gone through some extensive abdominal surgery but glad to hear it all went well and he is recovering expeditiously. Duane Life appeared in three of my movies on ultralights. He has been a great source of inspiration over the years and a great friend. We talk about airplanes for hours at a time. Neal and I were neighbors back when we both lived on the south side of Wichita. Now he lives on an airstrip north of High Point and has a Niewport homebuilt he is getting ready to test fly.

A view of the action around the Moler Hangar

Doug Moler hops into his Airbike

Larry Hart & his RANS

Larry Hart flew in with his RANS Coyote II. Unfortunately he had to use up a good bit of his socializing time fixing a flat tire. The good thing is that it didn’t go flat in the air and provide cause for a less than smooth landing.

Brats on a stick

Sabrina Moler set up bratwursts for people to cook over their open fire pit. They were available in 3 different flavors. Very tasty!

Moler's 1951 C35 V-Tail Beech Bonanza

There were lots of eats inside the hangar as well as places to sit out of the sun.

Sabrina Moler and their C-150

Here is our Hostess Sabrina Moler posing in front of their Cessna 150. Sabrina has been taking lessons from Doug and will be soloing before too long.

Another V-Tail makes a pass

Moler’s wasn’t the only V-Tail Bonanza in the area Saturday. This one made a couple of passes but I don’t think it ever landed.

A Classic Cub

These two flew in from Udall, Kansas to see Doug’s neighbor Jim Wiebe.

The Bonanza returns

OK. I guess the other V-Tail did land…

A view from the north

A few times during the day I cranked up my MXL and flew around the pattern. I shot this from about 75 feet looking south. You can see a number of aircraft positioned around the field. There were more planes at times later in the day.

From downwind looking northwest

Same as above but closer

The Airbike Ace in Heroic Pose

Here we witness the long anticipated arrival of Paul Fiebich (aka The Airbike Ace) who arrived at Moler’s party in the early afternoon from Selby Aerodrome. We will see more of him later…

Don Forse and his Titan

Here we see Don Forse in front of his 2006 TITAN TORNADO S. Don has had this Tornado for almost exactly one year. I drove him up to Nebraska last year so he could take delivery from the previous owner. He also hangars at the Selby Aerodrome. In addition to the Titan, Don owns an ultralight trike and an Aerolite 103 ultralight. I have known Don since the 80’s and he probably has more ultralight time than anyone. We’ll see how quickly he logs air with the Titan now.

Jim Wiebe visits with folks

Just south of the Moler estate is where Jim Wiebe and his wife live. They have a nice collection of airplanes and Jim is quite the flier. His family has an aviation business up in Halstead, Kansas. They do restorations and repairs on a wide variety of aircraft. They were very involved in the restoration of Bill Koelling’s Cessna Airmaster. He was very impressed with their work. (Bill’s Airmaster will be appearing in my upcoming video series on Antiques and Classics)

Food action behind the hangar

Food action behind the hangar

Mike & Beth Rodriguez

Here are my good friends Mike and Beth. We all go to the same church – Central Christian Church of Wichita. While avid aviation enthusiasts, the Rodriguez’ don’t fly any more. They still are regular attendees of these type functions, though, and are always willing to lend a hand to help out. Mike has also written a few stories here on Sky Surfing – The Flight Blog.

The Vultee leaves for Newton

Jeff Blanton's 1947 C-140

I was really admiring one of my favorite Classics – the Cessna 140. This one is in as good a shape as any you will see. The lines of these venerable birds make them very easy on the eye. I think they slip through the air well also.

The Triplane lands

Like I said earlier, my pocket cam is not the best instrument for snapping action photos. Nonetheless, I like how this turned out because you can see all the folks in the background. Also, you can see my bright yellow Quicksilver on the north side of the Moler Hangar. I put it there to protect it in case we had any sudden gusts. As it turned out, the wind died down as the day progressed. The weather was perfect. A truly memorable day.

Dick Curtis just after shutting down the radial and removing his helmet

The team readies The Sport Racer

At various times throughout the day Doug Moler would take people up in The Sport Racer. He told me it will do about 220 mph.

The Krumins and their 1955 Cessna 170B

Mrs. Krumin was laughing because they had driven from the north part of Wichita down south to Mid-Continent in order to fly their Cessna back up north to the fly-in. The things we do for aviation…

The Bobby Massey Family in front of Jim Wiebe's hangar

Brother Al Gregg and I have a Men’s Bible Study that has met weekly on Tuesday Mornings for over 12 years. One of our members is Coach Bill Ham of Derby, Kansas. Bill goes to LifePoint Church in Valley Center, Kansas. He was after me for months to come with him to witness the preaching and worship service there. Since I am a deacon at CCC and perform a number of duties on Sunday morning this was not an easy thing for me to position in my mind. Anyway, about a month ago, I finally decided to go with Bill to Lifepoint by leaving our service about 15 minutes early. I figured I could do that without being disruptive or shirking my duties. I must say I was greatly blessed by the service, preaching and ministry I witnessed that day at Lifepoint Church. Since then I had told a number of people if I was ever wanting to leave my church, LifePoint would be the one I would join.

Anyway, I am wandering around the runway during the Fly-In and lo and behold who do I see but Bobby and family. To my amazement I learn that they live on the field but do not have a hangar. Bobby’s wife Beth is the music leader and plays the piano for their service. Their music was uplifting indeed. If you are seeking God, don’t delay another day, get in touch with the Massey’s at LifePoint Church.

Don Forse & Steve Ewing

I spoke about Don earlier so this picture is about Steve. Back in the 1980’s and into the ’90’s, Steve Ewing and his partner owned a Quicksilver franchise and general ultralight FBO called Morningstar Aviation. It was located at The Gliderport on the northeast edge of Wichita, Kansas. After about 20 years of doing this, Steve retired from the active ultralight business. He still owns a Quicksilver two seater and a Bleriot homebuilt. Steve has helped me innumerable times with the maintenance and upgrading of my MXL. Everybody and anybody involved with ultralights around this 5 state area knows Steve.

Check out the bright flash at the center right

Again I decided to take to the air. Naturally I can’t just fly the plane but have a need to take more pictures. Earlier I had said the Sonex was the shiniest plane at the ball and said I would prove it later. Here is a shot from almost due east of the runway. That bright flare you see at right center of the frame is the Sonex. In addition, if you look really close you will see Paul Fiebich making a low pass across the field. Hint: Triangulate from the airplane shadow in front of the Triplane.

Ace on Fire

This is the shot I was going for. Paul Fiebich and I were in the pattern together at 180 degrees across the circle. Paul (as does Doug Moler) likes to make his plane smoke. Sometimes all the knobs and switches, pumps and hoses work together in harmony to produce the desired billowing clouds from their exhausts. Half the time, though, there is no joy. When these complex smoke production systems do work, though, the crowd is treated to one of the wonders of the aviation world – a smoking plane. I think this picture turned out grandly.

Ed Merkel's 1973 Mark II

Famed Aircraft Designer Ed Merkel used to live at High Point but he and his wife Bonnie have since moved into town. Here you see his design called the Mark II. It is still hangared at High Point. There was a lot going on that day and I did not find out if Ed was in the back seat or not. Maybe someone else can comment. At one time Ed had planned to produce this design for sale but that never came to pass.

A Europa fly-by

The photo is sub-par but I wanted to show the Europa that made about 4 or 5 passes down the runway that day. This is one of the quietest airplanes on the market today. I have read about them in the flying magazines for years but have never seen one in person. Saturday was not that day either because it never landed. The Europa has been configured as a motor glider in order to benefit from some regulations regarding gliders vs. regular single engine land planes.

Folks watch as Doug Moler grabs air in his Airbike

Next are a series of shots proving that when all the elements come together, smoke emanating from an aircraft can be a thing of beauty against a blue sky. Captain Doug Moler does the honors.

Airbike on Blue 1

Airbike on Blue #2

Airbike Low Pass Smoke On

Richard Geide's Homebuilt "Hawk" built in 2001

After Doug Moler returned from smoking the Wild Blue, Richard Geide landed in his own design called the Hawk. It has a Volkswagen engine.

Debra, Sabrina and Beth

Here is a shot of my lovely wife Debra posing with Sabrina Moler and Beth Rodriguez. While the subject matter is pleasing I was not happy with this shot at all because the pocket cam view screen could not be seen at all because the sun was shining on it. Thus, because I couldn’t see the frame is too close to Sabrina’s head for my standards. I decided I had to use it, though, because the picture Mike Rodriguez had taken of Debra and I somehow disappeared from my system. I am thinking the oft criticized pocket camera is getting revenge on me…

By now it was about 4 in the afternoon and I was ready to make my way back to Selby Aerodrome. So, I said goodbye to our hosts Doug and Sabrina. Debra said she would see me for diner when I got back home.

A horse racing track

Right south of High Point is this straight horse racing track. I had never noticed it before so I took a quick shot of it. You can see the starting gate on the track at the top of the frame.

81 Speedway just southeast of High Point

Hartman Arena and The Kansas Coliseum

I decided to get both of these venues in one shot. They straddle I-135 and are directly east of High Point. It looked like Hartman was starting to fill up for some event.

Wild West World - Park City, Kansas in the background

Just south of The Kansas Coliseum is Wild West World, a project of Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge that turned sour. Etheredge was eventually judged to have bilked investors out of significant amounts of money and is now in prison. The park closed the first week it opened. I found a description of WWW HERE on the web.

Heavy equipment lot

Above is an interesting scene to me because you would never know all this heavy equipment was parked here if you didn’t fly over it. The main reason I put it in this story, though, is because the night after the Fly-In I was watching TV. A show I saw discussed the largest heavy equipment auction in the world. It was the Richie Brothers Auction of Lincoln, Nebraska. They run more equipment through their auction in a few hours than you see in the scene above. Regardless, this is a pretty massive sight.

The GliderPort

Split the distance between Benton Airpark and Jabara Airport and you will drop into the GliderPort. This is where Steve Ewing conducted business as MorningStar Aviation for many years. I hangared my old Quicksilver MX there for years, too. We had a lot of fun there. Currently Belite Aviation occupies the north hangar.

Terradyne Country Club & Golf Course

This is looking south from about 1,200′ AGL. I took this shot because I had just read that Terradyne was opening their restaurant up to the general public. It looks like their golf course is well taken care of.

Today's Art Shot - "Wichita Under The Sun"

Sewage Plant

Perhaps you have wondered what a sewage plant looks like from above. Now you know. Yes… Particularly in the summer, when you are downwind, you know you are near one…

Hidden Lakes Golf Course

A balloon over Mulvane, Kansas

After I shot the picture of Hidden Lakes Golf Course I noticed a familiar sight on the horizon. It was a hot air balloon gaining altitude. Twenty years ago we would see many more hot air balloons during the flying season but this summer I only saw them twice.

I powered up a little bit to close on it and then took this picture. Then I gained a little more altitude so I could show its color against the landscape.

A brilliant orb decorates the afternoon sky over Mulvane, Kansas

You can’t tell from here but the three or four folks in the basket were waving enthusiastically at me. I could have gone a little closer but one of the news stories from the previous week was on my mind. It was about a collision of a powered parachute and a hot air balloon in another state. I was not concerned with my ability to make a closer pass but I did not want to cause the balloon people any alarm. (The proximity of the news story was of more concern than the proximity of the aircraft if you get my drift.)

If you look below the balloon you will see a flying field that is used by Radio Controlled hobbyists in the Derby and Mulvane area. There were a few fliers down there at the time this picture was taken although I didn’t notice any of their planes in the air. Occasionally I will make a pass at the field and wave. Sometimes I will even land there. Today was not such a day. I attempted to take one more shot of the hot air balloon but my camera flashed me the “Battery Dead” icon instead.

Since I had plenty of pix it was perfect timing for a perfect “Air Day”. I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures of it as much as I did experiencing it.

Blue Skies & Tailwinds!

Brian FitzGerald