Doug & Sabrina Moler’s 3rd Annual Turning Leaf Fly-In • Brian FitzGerald
The Right Decision
Autumn in Kansas features the beauty of the multi-colored leaves, the changes in the ground cover hues and weather temperatures that can swing from the mid 40’s with rain one day to a balmy sky with temps in the 70’s the next. I had planned “a run” for Saturday I was calling “The Fall Fly-In Trifecta”. The day was to start early with a flight over to Lawrence Alley’s Field on the East Side of Douglass, Kansas. Lawrence organizes a Fly Over of the annual Douglass Frontier Day Parade. The call was for us to make the pass over town at 10 AM. That was going to be Fly-In #1. Then a number of guys were going to leave from there and head over to Augusta Municipal for their Annual Fly-In (#2). After that we were going to end up at Doug and Sabrina Moler’s 3rd Annual Turning Leaf Fly-In at their hangar on High Point Estates, Kansas (#3).
Below you see how the Saturday “Trifecta” turned out.
Even though the sky was overcast and dark at my house I decided to drive down to Selby Aerodrome to see what the weather was like there. On the way there I passed through a downpour. It was raining so hard all the cars had to slow down to 45 mph on the highway. Not wanting to waste the trip I ducked into the hangar and did some “clean up” work on my MXL and then headed home. When I got there I saw in my email that the Augusta Fly-In had been postponed until October 27 and the Moler Fly-In had been postponed until the following day (Sunday). The cancellations were The Right Decision.
Sunday Was A Perfect Day For Streamers
Just like I have been saying about this time of year, the next day was completely different. The sky was clear and the weather was warm. There would be a significant headwind for my trip to Moler’s Turning Leaf Fly-In but that would not represent a problem. For special festivities I have made some red, white and blue streamers that I attach to the trailing edges of my Ultralight. This would be a perfect day to tack them on. So, I took an extra 15 minutes before takeoff to do just that. I called Doug Moler on my cell phone to tell him to alert the media. Prepare for The Sky Surfer’s Triumphant Entry to the Turning Leaf Fly-In!
I like the streamers because they accentuate the “fun flying” aspect of Ultralight Flying. Even though they don’t affect the flight characteristics, they do affect the way I have to handle the airplane on the ground. When attached, I must be specially attentive to the wind direction and velocity because a crosswind while taxiing can throw the upwind wing streamer right into the prop. Now these streamers are just cloth ribbons. So, if a streamer did get into the prop there would be no mechanical problem. The streamer would be destroyed. The bad part would be the mess it would create around the propeller speed reduction pulley adjoining the prop. To keep this from happening requires special takeoff and landing considerations. The picture above is a good example. The wind down the field was about 12 mph and the occasional gust would loft them into the air. That is the condition that can put them into the prop. So, I had to push the plane down the runway so that I could face it into the wind as you see above. Only then could I start the engine without a streamer getting caught in the prop.
Three pulls and the Rotax came to life. I was off to “The Turning Leaf Fly-In“!
Not long after leaving Selby Aerodrome I snapped the two shots shown below. Again you can see how beautiful the weather was that day.
The Best Shot Of The Day
Yes, it really was. But, alas, I missed it...
Shortly after passing Rucker Field I was scanning for traffic. My path had me turning into the wind so my ground speed had dropped to about 20 mph. I looked to my left and was amazed to see 5 doves in formation about 10 feet off my left wing. Maybe the streamers attracted them. I was transfixed by this sight as they beat their wings furiously to keep up with me. I started to throttle back in order to facilitate their action when it occurred to me the moment required photo documentation. In the three seconds it took me to reach down for my camera and look back to the left wing position they were gone. Well, at least I saw it.
Round About Path
High Point Airpark is directly on the other side of Wichita from my field Selby Aerodrome. “As the crow flies”, they are only 21 miles apart. Ultralights are not allowed to fly over “congested areas” like cities and large towns. So, I cannot take the direct route to High Point from my field. Instead I take either the “East Route” or the “West Route”. This day I chose the West because I figured it would lessen the amount of time I would be flying directly into the Northeast headwind. That it did, but the entire flight still took a little over one hour. Seein’s how this circuitous path around the city was about 40 miles, 1 hour is not too bad. I did hold higher than normal power settings, though, or it would have taken even longer.
Lower Than Usual
I have made this trip many times and usually stay at 1,000′ to 1,500′ AGL. Because of the 20+ mph wind from the Northeast that day at that altitude, though, I decided to stay much lower and thread my way around any housing developments and farms. Down low the headwind was only about 10 mph but the air was much more turbulent due to the wind’s interaction with the tree lines. At one point a guy in a new 3/4 ton dually tracked along watching me fly. It was pretty easy for him to do because I was only making about 25 mph ground speed at that moment. He may have never seen an Ultralight before and I’m pretty sure he had never seen one with streamers all over it so I dropped down to about 15 feet over the plowed field adjacent to him and did some gentle turns to show off the feathers. After about 3 minutes of this I did a “max pull-up” and exited the area.
Below are a couple of shots of the Colwich, Kansas Antennae Farm from about 200′ looking North. I used to work for KSNW TV (even back when it was called KARD). I worked as a news cameraman and later in the documentary and promotion departments. Their antenna is one of these. Another one is for KAKE TV. I’m not sure who the other ones belong to.
About a mile Southwest of Maize, Kansas I saw this water plant. I had never noticed it before but I thought it was quite attractive for a water plant. It turns out my instincts were correct. This is the Cowskin Creek Water Quality Reclamation Facility. It is part of a concerted effort in our area to protect the fresh water and increase its availability as the Wichita Metro Area grows. I like to draw attention to things like this because people take them for granted in America. If you have traveled overseas as I have, you become acutely aware of how rare this type of facility is in the world. I have been in parts of what used to be called “The 3rd World”. Water plants such as this are non-existent. I would venture to say that most of the disease evident in those parts of the world stems from lack of clean water. This is truly one of the areas we need to thank our State and Local governments for their diligence. The consequences of clean water management to civilization are paramount. (SIDE NOTE: I do NOT want Wichita’s water fluoridated and will be Voting NO)
The last 3 times I have flown by here there was a drag race in progress. The other shots were taken from about 1,500′, though, so I thought you might like to see what it looks like closer up.
High Point Finally Reached
Not long after passing The Drag Strip I reached High Point. I didn’t take any more pictures because I was down low and I needed to watch for air traffic. Also, the air was pretty turbulent. Below you can see the airplanes congregated around the Moler Hangar. I had just made my first pass to wake everyone up. Most people have not seen an airplane with streamers before. One of the interesting effects of having wingtip streamers is that it allows you to see the wingtip vortices as they rotate the wing streamers in a spiral fashion.
Doug Captures The Moment
The following are some pix Captain Doug Moler took of my MXL when I buzzed through with the streamers attached. I have always been flying the plane and have never seen how it looks. Now I can see it looks as good as I had hoped. The pictures turned out great! He shot a bunch but I will only put a few of the best ones in the report.
Time To “Get Down To Earth”
After traveling for over an hour and then putting on my little “Fly-By Show”, it was time to put ‘er down. I parked next to the North End of the Moler Hangar. The Quicksilver was shielded from the wind there and I didn’t need to tie it down. As I was shutting down and unbuckling my seatbelt I saw a familiar face from Church and my Men’s Bible Study Group: Brother Allen Winter. Allen had brought his Daughter and her Boyfriend and his Son. The Son’s name is Aiden. He was very interested in the colorful craft and so I figured he needed a chance to sit in the Driver’s Seat.
A wonderful fall day, lots of people were in and around the hangar and sitting around the fire pit cooking hot dogs and bratwursts (aka: “Brots”).
The Sonex shown below was in the air much more than on the ground during The Turning Leaf Fly-In. These guys like to fly. The Sonex is co-owned by Dale Gregory and Jens Muncheberg.
Lots of “Young (& Old) Eagle Rides”
As he has taken to do a lot during Fly-Ins any more, Dave Blanton of High Point was in constant motion giving rides in his new Breezy. The first time I saw a Breezy was at a Fly-In at Woodland, California back in the 1960’s. I thought they were cool then and they still are. Like the flying I do, aviating in a Breezy puts you out in the air where you can really feel it.
Another notable arrival was this sharp looking 1949 Piper PA-11 owned and flown by Hank and Terry Weyland of Wichita. They keep this fine bird at their hangar in Udall, Kansas which is 34 miles Southeast of High Point.
This 1972 V35B Beech Bonanza is one of the nicest I have seen. I believe it is owned by Howard Botts of Wichita.
Brian Gets Airborne Again
Everybody else was flying around so I took to the air for a bit. Here is what the scene looked like from about 300′ AGL.
The Host Fires It Up
“Mr. Gregarious” (Doug Moler) had finally spent quality time with each and every person that had shown up to the Fly-In. Also, he had personally inserted a bratwurst in each and every hand. It was time for him to add to the thousands of airtime hours already in his logbook by cranking the Airbike to life.
Time To Leave
It was about 5:30 pm when I noticed the shadows were getting long. I took the streamers off the plane and prepared to depart. I thanked Doug and Sabrina for their hospitality and started up my motor. Just as I was getting ready to strap in I noticed Selby Field Hangarmate and Good Buddy Don Forse arrive with his “like new” and spotless Titan Tornado. I tried to get Notable Airman Earl Long to join Don in the picture but Earl declined. He must still be in the witness protection program… (Not really) That’s his shadow in the foreground, though, so I still got him in the shot.
Turning Leaf Fly-In Back In 2013
In keeping with the day’s theme I snapped some pictures of the autumn leaves on my way home. These first two were right next to the Moler Hangar.
It was still Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited (CAVU) as I headed back to Selby Aerodrome. The wind had died down a little by then but I was still able to pick up a 10 mph tailwind boost from it on the way South to my home field.
The Final Leg
Just after swinging over the hangars of Rucker Field I beheld the scene below. I liked the texture of the plowed field overlayed by the shadow of my plane.
Every Guy Should Have One
After the previous shot was taken I had to climb to 1,000′ because I was getting ready to cross over more densely inhabited areas and then the Turnpike. Even at that height in the waning light, though, the brilliant yellow in the back yard of the house below caught my eye. I have always thought it would be cool to drive one of those D-9 Bulldozers or some other Heavy Equipment. This guy has his own Earth Mover Tractor Scraper. That’s like taming and riding your own dinosaur!
Letting Down To Pattern Altitude
Shortly after passing over the I-35 Turnpike is Selby Airfield. I rarely approach from this angle so I took this shot so you can see what it looks like. The landing field is the left-to-right field between the horse pens near the top left and the pale yellow hangar next to the quonset hut.
Artwork For Aviators Only
To mark the season, the Farmer who owns the field adjacent to the Northeast corner of our airfield had cut a Jack ‘o Lantern in his field. It’s the kind of artwork you have to be “high” to see.
Better and Better
So ends my trip to The Moler 3rd Annual Turning Leaf Fly-In. Each year they just get better and better. God willing I’ll be reporting Turning Leaf Fly-In #4 next year.
Blue Skies & Tailwinds!™