Jul 232012

Another Beautiful Saturday Morning in Kansas

I had not been up to Beaumont yet this flying season so on Friday I told my lovely wife Debra that Saturday would be a good day to head up there. As always, she asked me what the weather forecast would be so I checked it. The winds were forecast to be around 10 mph from the South. Beaumont, Kansas, nestled in the Flint Hills, is East Northeast of my home field Selby Aerodrome. A South wind of 10 mph would be negligible as it would be a crosswind to my course and hardly affect my progress in either direction of travel.

Saturday morning heading to the airport, I wasn’t a block from my house when I was compelled to pull over and take my first photo of the Beaumont Flight. The sky usually looks this colorful only at Sundown, but who am I to complain? This shot is pointing East Northeast across the South end of Jabara Airfield. If you look closely you will see the airport landing lights just to the left of the “left-most” set of trees.

Red Sky at Morning

The “Laserbeam in the Eye” Issue

On purpose I took my time getting the plane ready to fly. By the time I rolled it out of the hanger the sun was already on the climb as you can see in the next shot. I had a reason for letting the sun rise a little before heading out.

You see, everything is excellent about flying out to Beaumont for Breakfast in the summer – except for one thing… From my departure point at Selby Field, the bearing I  take to get to Beaumont puts the rising sun directly in my eyes. This situation lasts for the better part of an hour. On occasion I have worn sunglasses but that is not possible with the goggles I wear now. I thought this time I would let the sun climb a little to see if it helped alleviate the “icepick to the brain” eye strain. It didn’t… So, like the Indians in the Old Western Movies, I just held my left hand above my eyebrows to break the beam. Frankly, it’s not that big a deal. It’s a small price to pay and you don’t have to look directly toward the sun all the time anyway.

“MXL 10 Minutes After Sunup”

Soon after takeoff I noticed that our dear friends at the weather bureau had erred. This was totally unexpected since they have a nearly perfect record of predicting the weather (sure…). Regardless, on this Saturday morning the wind forecast to be from the South was coming mostly from the East. This changed its impact on my flight from a crosswind with negligible effect, to a quartering headwind that was slowing my ground speed to about 20 mph – at least at 1,000′ AGL it was. From experience I knew that early morning winds almost always diminish as you drop closer to the earth’s surface. So, after I crossed the South end of Derby, Kansas, I descended to about 100′ and “sho-nuff” the ground speed picked up to about 33 mph on an air speed of 40 mph. That would be fine.

I stopped at Butler County Airpark to see if my buddy Chuck Gantzer was up and might want to fly over with me in his Pietenpol. (see some pictures of his huge Hangar Home Here) He was sleeping and did not arouse after one yell into his hangar so I figured the answer was “No”. (In emails subsequent to this flight Chuck says if I start just a little bit later in the morning he will come along. Okey doke.)

The landing was not a total loss, though, and led to a minor epiphany.

As I prepare to enter my airplane seat I always take off my baseball hat and tuck it behind my back in my belt for the flight. As I was doing this, it occurred to me that with my earmuffs holding it on, the hat would possibly remain on my head in the breeze and provide the Sun Visor Utility my outstretched hand had been performing up to that point in the journey. This would be a vast improvement in eye protection and change trips to Beaumont FOREVER! I instituted this change without testing and it worked! (mostly…) Below you see a picture of me with the visor in force and the Flint Hills stretched out behind. I am flying at about 100′ AGL.

Brian Models a Breakthrough in Aviation Technology

On the way to Beaumont I always like to look at The South West Butler Quarry LLC as seen below. It is usually quiet on weekends but this Saturday there was work going on.

At the East end of the Quarry I noticed this abandoned farmstead near the bend of the Walnut River.

Abandoned Farmstead

After crossing the Rock Quarry The Flint Hills start to happen. One of God’s Gifts to Man, The Kansas Flint Hills are a marvel to behold – a truly beautiful area to fly over.

Cattle graze next to a pond

Suddenly I see some action on the rolling plains below…

If you look closely you will see a coyote running ahead of me just left of center near that horizontal “line”

He was running “flat out”. I have never seen a canine run like that. His legs were pumping more in the manner of a cheetah or a horse at full gallop. Their coloring blends in perfectly with the background so you have to look closely to see him. As I overtook him he continued to run like crazy.

Coyote – Just Left of the Center of the Picture

The last shot was taken directly over him. You can see him right near the center of the shot. His long tail is stretched out behind him.

Coyote Right Below

I was flying between 75′ to 200′ AGL. Just as I left the 1st coyote (the second moved so quickly I couldn’t get the camera out fast enough to capture him), I saw the scene shown below. This is way out away from all the houses and towns. These guys have a 5th Wheel Trailer out there they are living in either on weekends for hunting/recreation or during the week while they work the fields and cattle. Maybe they use it for all the above…

As I came closer to Beaumont I saw this interesting marker. I figured it might be the “K Dash” brand of the ranch so I looked it up on the web. I found out the “K Dash” brand is owned by the Kardashians… I don’t think I guessed that one right.

Anyway, it is only visible from the sky so I circled around to get this picture having crossed over it too suddenly in the first place to take a picture.

The “K Something” Brand

About 10 minutes later I landed at Beaumont, Kansas. I pulled off the runway to line up the shot below with the water tower in the background. Well, at least that was part of the reason…

The MXL near Beaumont’s drinking water tower

Another “I learned about flying from…”

The other reason I stopped next to the runway was to search for my hat. As I alluded to earlier, the “visor experiment” was “mostly successful”. (If you belong to the cult of the movie “The Princess Bride” as we are, this would be similar to Billy Crystal pronouncing the hero “mostly dead”) I discovered as I entered the traffic pattern, though, that I should have used my left hand to better afix the hat/earmuff combo to the top of my head while whipping my head all around looking for other air traffic. If I had done that, I wouldn’t have had to suddenly grab at it as the bill of the hat pitched up in the wind when I looked over my shoulder. It lifted up just enough to pull said combo partly off my head. I was able to grab the earmuffs but the hat fluttered to the ground. Upon landing and taxiing off the runway, I knew about where it would be and found it laying on the airfield.

Even though the temperature would hit 105 degrees that day, my fingers were actually a little numb from “wind chill” at the end of the flight to Beaumont. Before going in to eat some breakfast I wandered about the area and saw something new. The airplane next to the Historical Marker had not been there the last time I visited Beaumont. I think it is a Twin Beech but there was no sign on it.

No engines, either…

I had a great French Toast breakfast while reading the local newspaper. It was very pleasant and I think anyone with a light plane in the 4 state region should drop into Beaumont a few times a year. I asked my waitress and the hotel manager to pose for the shot below.

Kim Neves & Linda Pechin

 On to Stearman Field

Since the wind that morning was coming out of the East Southeast, I decided the winds would be favorable for a flight to Benton, Kansas‘ airport Stearman Field. If you have been reading any of my Sky Surfing entries lately you know that June 28, 2012 was the 5th Annual Stearman Field Fly-In. I have a write up of the event HERE.

I had never made the trip from Beaumont to Benton so this would be a new adventure and would put me over territory I had driven through countless times on I-35 Highway. Even when going to areas I have traveled before it is still a challenge to pick out the different towns I see below. Going this direction, some were easy and some took some thinking.

Crossing over The Kansas Turnpike I see one of the trucks of “America’s Store”

This home has its own lake and wide prairie vista

Same Shot – A Little Closer

I think this is the Walnut River

A Nice Pad out in The Flint Hills

Leon, Kansas in the distance

On the left side of the horizon of the shot below you can see El Dorado, Kansas in the distance.

A Flint Hills / Smokey Hills Panorama

As I headed closer to El Dorado I took this telephoto shot of El Dorado Lake.

El Dorado Lake seen through the haze from about 1500′ AGL looking Northwest

Leon, Kansas from 1500′ AGL looking South

Looking right down the barrel of Captain Jack Thomas Airfield runway just outside El Dorado, Kansas

A lake South of El Dorado

The House on the Shore of It

El Dorado, Kansas in the Distance as Seen from 1500′ AGL looking North Northeast

Below you can see the large Holley Frontier Refinery just outside of El Dorado, Kansas. I have had the interesting opportunity to shoot some movies in this facility on the behalf of a client of mine called PK Industrial of Augusta, Kansas. Being inside a refinery was a very interesting and informative experience. The regard these people have for safety is impressive. One of the arms of PK Industrial is PK Safety Services. One of their accounts is the Holley Frontier Refinery. A year ago I did a movie showing a drill they conducted (not at the refinery). If you want to see it look HERE.

Holley Frontier Refinery – Closer

At 1500′ Above Ground Level (AGL), I passed directly over these cattle and they didn’t even notice me.

Looking straight down on a cattle feeding area

Ahead in the haze you can see the only air traffic I saw all day

Augusta, Kansas from about 1500′ AGL looking to the Southwest

Towanda, Kansas – 1500′ AGL looking Northwest

Next time you make a Gas Station/Fast Food stop on a Turnpike, you will know what it looks like from above:

Micky D’s

I was too busy scanning the air for traffic to take a picture of Stearman Field from the air as I entered from the East. As I rolled up to the gas pump, though, I snapped this shot of the folks inside the “open air” portion of the restaurant.

Christian people don’t believe in “chance“. We call it Providence. Below is Randy Shields and his family. Randy lives in Wichita and is a member of my Tuesday Group Men’s Bible Study. The previous Saturday while on my journey to the Salt Flats of Oklahoma I stopped at the Anthony, Kansas airport for gas. I had never been there before. Randy was in Anthony that day visiting his family and told me they saw me fly over them. Interesting… Then this Saturday, Randy and his family were all in town (Wichita) and thought they would go out to eat at Stearman Field just in case I showed up there. That morning on the drive to Selby I had decided that I would probably go to Alley Field at Douglass, Kansas rather than to Benton once I left Beaumont. I had no idea the Gates Clan would be going to Benton. Because the wind had changed from the forecast, though, I decided to trek over to Stearman Field. Because of this “change of the wind”, I had the delightful opportunity to meet Randy, his new Wife, his Father, his Brother and his Sister in Law. Providential? You be the judge but my answer is YES!

Randy Gates, Becca Gates, Rick Gates (top)
Konnie Gates and John Gates

After showing the Gates my flying machine their breakfast was served and I fueled up at the gas pump. I figured I would then head over to The Gliderport, aka The Wichita Airpark, to see what was going on there. From afar I could tell this was another Providential event in the making. The Gliderport is home to Belite Aircraft. Belite is a true ultralight flying machine built in Wichita by the Belite company of James Wiebe. As I entered the pattern, I ascertained by the presence of the Penske Truck and the large trailer adjacent to opposite sides of the hangar door, that Wiebe and company had not yet left on their journey to the annual AirVenture Show at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Belite Aircraft of Wichita, Kansas

The Scene as I Taxied In

Even though they were hustling about making last minute preparations for the trip, James took a minute to show me some NEW, Soon-To-Be-Unveiled at Oshkosh offerings and improvements to the Belite line.

James Wiebe and Gene Stratton pose with the “Wonder Bread” Belite

A Major Breakthrough in Ultralight Flying

I have been flying ultralights since the 1980’s. If you are not familiar with the regulation concerning ultralights (FAR 103), one of the most challenging requirements for designers of legal ultralights to overcome is the arbitrary weight restriction. An empty ultralight (this excludes the weight of fuel, pilot and specified safety devices) can only weigh 254 pounds. One way we make it work is to use 2 Stroke Motors to power our propellers. 2 Strokes are useful in this application because they yield considerably more power per weight than 4 Stroke engines such as are typically used in automobiles. So, they are good for power but they have their downside. Here are some negatives regarding 2 Stroke Motors:

  1. They are comparatively inefficient in fuel use. Not only do you have to mix oil with the gas but also they will burn 2 to 3 gallons per hour keeping you in the air. FAR 103 limits you to 5 Gallons of fuel so you can’t stay up very long.
  2. They must turn much faster than a 4 Stroke to get the power required. My engine turns 6100 RPM on takeoff. This is too fast for a propeller so a reduction drive must be employed to slow down the prop. This adds weight and complexity to the design. The generally higher RPMs of 2 Strokes also contribute to the potential for “seizing” due to piston ring issues.
  3. They can be “finicky”. They exhibit “mysterious” symptoms that can be quite a challenge to overcome. Overheating is one of these. I won’t say they are undependable (Rotax anyway) but they are less “robust” than 4 Strokes.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or analysis. The reason I bring this up, though, is that ever since I started in the sport, EVERYONE has dreamed about being able to put a 4 Stroke on an ultralight.

Maybe Jim & Company Have Made This Happen! At Oshkosh they are unveiling their 4 Stroke Ultralight Belite. Below you are seeing it first.

Christian Stratton makes final adjustments to the 1/2 VW engine. Christian has just finished his first course of study at The National Center for Aviation Training located at Jabara Airport.

Constantly seeking to improve the performance of the Belite, James & Company have added a new tab with a small winglet to better trim the wing after previously incorporating Hoerner Wingtips to the design. The Hoerner design makes better use of the vortices generated at the tips and now the trim devices will further enhance the effort.

New Trim Device

On the 4 Stroke Belite, they are testing what I would call a “wingtip fence” to better control the vortices.

A New Wingtip Fence

I am very impressed with the attention to detail and continuous study Weibe and his crew are putting into the Belite line. They offer the craft in trike or tailwheel editions and with a variety of engine selections – soon with the 4 Stroke Motor you just saw!

The price is right and I think anyone looking for a good “all weather”, fun, flying machine should check out Belite.

“Hard At It”

I bid adieu to the crew and headed over to Douglass, Kansas to see if anyone was hanging out at Alley Field. As I cut around the metro area I saw Terradyne Golf Course below. I thought it looked nice and green and needed to be seen. (Yes, my folks read Dr. Seuss books to me as a child)

Terradyne next to I-35

The course from The Gliderport to Alley Field puts me just to the West of Augusta Municipal Airport. I was checking for traffic as I passed adjacent to the field and only saw a land vehicle moving at a high rate of speed down the runway South to North. I didn’t think much of it and put most of my attention on the air surrounding the field to look for any other aircraft approaching. The rule is “Seek And Avoid”. A mid-air will ruin your day. As I passed the field I took one more look over my shoulder to make sure somebody wasn’t taking off and coming at me without seeing me drifting along at 40 mph. That’s when I noticed a lot of action at the South end of the field. On closer examination it was obvious a plane had gone off the end of the runway. It looked to me like a Piper Tri-Pacer. I turned back and shot a few pix.

Aircraft in the Ditch at the South End of the Runway

When I returned to my home I looked up the incident on the web and confirmed that it was a Tri-Pacer piloted by a woman giving her son a ride. She sustained a “minor” injury (undisclosed) and he was unhurt. It was reported they had “brake problems”. I was glad to hear the injury was minor but sad that they had a bad day and the airplane was damaged.

I left the area and continued toward Douglass. On the way I saw these guys making all these strange cuts in this field below with some pretty large graders and front-loaders. My guess is that they are trying to improve the watershed for better irrigation.

Douglass, Kansas from about 1200′ AGL looking South

A few miles Northwest of Douglass is the evidence of a recent fire. To me it didn’t look like a “controlled burn”. I didn’t see any burned houses or barns so I think they were fortunate.

Douglass, Kansas from 900′ AGL Looking South

I flew over Alley Field and looked carefully and did not see anyone stirring. By now it was about 100+ degrees on the ground and I decided since I saw no one down there, I would stay up where I was and continue on. At 1,000′, the temperature was about 80 degrees and breezy. It was quite pleasant.

Alley Field Owned by Lawrence Alley a Korean War Fighter Pilot

Douglass, Kansas From About 600′ Looking Northwest Just Off The End of Alley Field

As I headed West toward Selby Field I saw the fast moving tractor below in the distance. As I got closer, I saw it was my favorite John Deere “dual dooley” (they call them 9R/9RT Series Tractors) with a blade on the front. I have never seen one in such a configuration and I have no idea what he was piling up, spreading out or why…

After passing over the big John Deere I looked up and saw a nice horizon. Although there is nothing special about it you can see the South side of Derby, Kansas at the right edge of the photo.

Heading West

The Arkansas River flows adjacent to Derby on the West side. As soon as I crossed it I could see Selby Aerodrome in the distance. I was flying at about 1,000′ AGL. I entered the pattern but wasn’t ready to land yet. I made 4 or 5 circuits of the field, approaching in different manners – steep with power at idle – at cruise speed down the length of the runway – etc. Finally I put it down, taxied in, put the Quicksilver in the hangar and buttoned it up for another day. (That day turned out to be the next day after Church. I flew to Udall, Rock and Douglass, Kansas without documenting the entire event for a change…)

Overall, a flight that I didn’t intend to write up on The Flight Blog became notable for a number of unforeseen reasons.

But, that is foremost of the reasons for a Fun Flight! Just to see what happens!

See you next time.

Blue Skies & Tailwinds!™

Brian FitzGerald


  One Response to “Beaumont and Beyond • Brian FitzGerald”

  1. Great stories with pictures! I really enjoy them. If you are ever in the area of Basehor Kansas and Hoelting Field, let us know. Gary and I will sponsor a free lunch for you (using his credit card)!
    I had a Quicksilver MX for 3 years when our airfield was at Muncie (Lansing KS). But the river “ate” the airfield and we had to move our stuff to Basehor. The Quicksilver would not fit, so I sold it. I am finishing up the building of an Airdrome Airplanes Nieuport 11, and my hanger mate is building a Nieuport 28. I am heading to the airfield in just a few minutes to finish painting the upper wing, then load it on the trailer, and move out to Oshkosh for the rest of the week. We are a part of the Kansas City Dawn Patrol, but our planes are not quite finished yet. Close!
    Again, have really enjoyed your website info, keep up the great work. I will tell all of my friends.