What can you do with a Mooney? The list seems to be endless, but here is another to add to the list. How about a flight where you deliver parts to a plane stranded on the ground and transport back a couple people to save them from a seven-hour drive?
Incoming Rescue Request
I was sitting there on a Sunday morning in church meetings, the day after my EPIC 13 airport flight when I got a text from a friend.
“Are you finished with church?”
He knows I am in church every Sunday, but this sounded like more than a “What’s up?” text message.
A few more texts back and forth led to me giving him a call. He and his wife are good friends, and they along with a friend of theirs were on their way back from Colorado and stopped for fuel in Williams, AZ. Their trip had been great right up until that point. When they went to start up after the fuel stop, the plane wouldn’t start.
They called the local AP who thought it might be the starter solenoid and that he could get there Monday morning to look at the plane. He and their friend needed to be back in California Monday for work. His wife is the pilot and planned to stay there in Williams until the plane was fixed and she could fly it home.
By the time I was able to call they were on their way from Williams to Flagstaff, 40 minutes the wrong direction, in the airport courtesy car to pick up a rental and begin the seven-hour drive back to Southern California. My wife and I had a commitment Sunday evening that I couldn’t make if I was going to fly to their rescue. “Keep driving,” I told him, “Let me call my wife and get back to you.”
I called my wife and explained the situation. I could make the two-hour flight and pick them up, but I would miss our evening appointment.
“They called and asked you to come?” my wife asked?
“Yep,” I replied.
“Then I think you need to go, I’ll cancel tonight,” was her answer.
I gave him a call back and told him to turn around and head back to the Williams airport. We both use the same AP/IA and I suggested they text him to see if he had the parts at his shop so I could swing by there and bring the parts out with me.
I must give a plug for Ben Kellogg at Ben’s Motorworks. He is honest, caring, and an excellent aircraft mechanic. I have been fortunate to have him as my mechanic since moving the plane to Fullerton (KFUL). Although it was a Sunday, he texted back told me to give him a call when I got to his hangar. On his recommendation I picked up the master and starter solenoids along with a starter, just in case.
I filed flight plans before leaving home for both the outbound and inbound legs of the trip and picked up my briefings. It looked like a smooth flight of about two hours each way. With the plane fueled up, pre-flight done, and the parts loaded in the plane I climbed in and started her up.
I finished the run-up and pre-takeoff checklists, sent a text to my wife that I was taking off, a text to my friend that I was taking off in a few minutes and that I’d be there in about two hours, and finally called up Ground for taxi clearance.
The flight at 9,500’ was uneventful and I enjoyed the views of the desert below. Two hours and eight minutes after lifting off from Fullerton I was on the ground at H.A. Clark Memorial Field (KCMR) in Williams, AZ. I pulled up next to them, shut down, and climbed out.
“Do you want to hear what it’s doing?”
“Sure,” I answered.
She got in and went to start it up. I could hear the starter spinning but it wasn’t engaging the ring gear on the prop. I was glad I brought the starter along and not just the solenoid. If it had been solenoid, nothing would have happened when she turned and pushed in the key. The starter was spinning, which meant that the Bendix gear was stuck. I was glad Ben had suggested I take the starter along with the solenoids.
I taxied over to the fuel pumps, leaving the starter so the mechanic could install it in the morning, and put in enough fuel to get back to KFUL plus a 10-gallon reserve. I could have taken advantage of the less expensive fuel, but the density altitude when I landed was 9,000’ and with three adults plus their bags I wanted to be lighter, regardless of the savings on fuel.
The temperature had dropped a degree, but the density altitude was still at 8,900’. I explained that the acceleration would be slower than expected and it would take longer to get off the ground than normal. I looked at the chart and picked out my abort point. If we weren’t either off the ground or at least 60 mph by the second taxiway we would abort. It was less than half the total distance of the runway, about 2,400’ from our starting point, and would be easily identifiable.
I made sure to go to the beginning edge of the runway instead of following the centerline out so that I would have as much runway as possible. After sliding the throttle in I fine-tuned the mixture, leaning it out until the EGT’s (exhaust gas temps) were where I wanted them, and we were easily off the ground and climbing out before my abort point.
I leveled off at 8,500’ for the flight back where the winds were forecast to be more favorable, and we began chasing the sun west. As we approached the Banning Pass between San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the sun was setting into the haze on the horizon. Just before the sun dipped below the horizon it briefly shone up through the haze and looked like a reddish orange puddle on the ground at the horizon line. Attempts to capture the moment by camera were predictably unsuccessful. The camera is not able to replicate the view in the same manner as the human eye.
The flight home, at two hours and twelve minutes, was just slightly longer than the flight to Williams. Monday morning the mechanic met my friend back at the field, replaced the starter, and she flew back home late Monday afternoon. My other friend was at work Monday morning.
Without my Mooney it would have been seven-hour drive to be at work Monday. Probably more than seven hours, as I think of the line of car lights we saw crawling down the Cajon Pass during our descent. The mechanic would have arrived at the field Monday, then ordered the starter which hopefully with overnight shipping would arrive sometime on Tuesday and she wouldn’t have been home until at least Wednesday. I love my Mooney, and on this particular Sunday, so did they.