One Last Flight for 2023

We passed over another low layer of clouds as we crossed the San Bernardino Mountains and began our descent. There was a high overcast layer and the setting sun was shining golden off the Pacific Ocean giving a beautiful backdrop to our arrival back home. …
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
31 Dec 2023

We had planned to fly to AZ to visit family for the New Year, but instead we went to UT.

About 14 years ago my oldest sister received heartbreaking news that the son she was carrying had Trisomy 18, three of the 18th chromosome. She was told that “if” he lived through childbirth that she needed to be prepared to say goodbye. Trisomy 18 is often labeled as “Incompatible with Life” and most don’t live more than a few hours. Through miracles too many to count Aaron lived for 13 1/2 years. The impact that he had on my sisters family and others too many to count is beyond our understanding. It is a number I believe is known only to God.

Saturday, December 23rd, at 12:20am Aaron passed peacefully from this life into the next. He had a beautiful spirit, and a wonderful personality. My sister’s family decided that while the medical world might call Trisomy 18 “Incompatible with Life,” that Aaron’s life proved it should be called “Compatible with Joy,” and she kept a blog by that name throughout his life and continues to share.

So, instead of a New Years Celebration in AZ we went to UT to celebrate Aaron’s life.

I hoped the weather would be agreeable to flying, it often isn’t in the mountain southwest during the winter. However the foreacst looked good for the flight there and the return flight, so I worked a half day on Friday before meeting my wife and son at the airport.

The flight there was beautiful, clear skies with some high clouds and a colorful sunset just before landing in Provo. As we were descending over Utah Lake the mountains ahead reflected off the smooth surface creating a picture perfect view.

They pulled the rental car up to the plane and we loaded our bags in and headed to the church for the viewing. As anyone that has been to a funeral knows, it is a mix of emotions. It was wonderful to see family, and there were so many beautiful memories, and the pain of knowing that we won’t see him again in this life.

Russell M. Nelson once said, “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” I believe that is true, a and I also believe that the more love there is in life, the greater the sorrow at death. With Aaron, there was so much love!

The services the next day were wonderful. There were stories shared, some I knew, but most I didn’t. There were tears, and smiles, crying and laughing. I was grateful for the ability to easily travel so far so fast to be able to be there for my sister and her family.

The next day was Sunday, and after going to church we stopped by my wife’s brothers house and changed clothes before heading to the airport. It had been cold overnight and was 37°F when we got to the airport. On the shady size of the plane there was some frost so I turned that side to the sun while I conducted my preflight inspection. Before I finished it had almost all melted away and I knew it would be gone long before the engine warmed up enough for a run-up.

When we are in CO I will plug in the engine heater overnight before our departure that keeps the cylinder head and oil temps nice and toasty. Lycoming says that below 10°F you should preheat, but I learned that even at temps higher than that I need to preheat as well. The engine was cold soaked from the overnight temps and when I turned on the master switch the engine monitor said the cylinder heads were 27°F.

I went through the pre-start checklist, turned on the fuel pump for pressure, turned it off, pumped the throttle three times, and tried to start the engine.

It turned over, slowly… I let go of the key, waited a moment and tried again with the same results. The oil was so thick that the prop couldn’t’ turn fast enough to fire up. After a couple more tries I gave up, not wanting to run the battery down.

I asked the lineman if he had a power cord and someplace we could plug in to warm up the engine. He got an extension cord and I pulled the plane around the corner of the hangar where we plugged it in, and waited.

My wife went inside the FBO and got my son some hot chocolate and made herself some herbal tea while I called up the airport in St George. We were going to drop my son back off at school on our way south and KSGU still requires a PPR (Prior Permission Request) number for landing and take off. With the delay there was no way we would make our scheduled time.

Airport Operations gave me new PPR numbers and then we waited. After 10 minutes I flipped the master switch on to see if there had been any change to the temps, the cylinder heads were up 2°’s. There was no way to know how warm the oil in the sump and oil cooler were because the oil temp sensor is up in the engine and reflects the temp of the oil running through the engine, not that sitting in the sump.

However, 2° wasn’t very promising so we waited some more. After about 20 minutes the cylinder heads had climbed 4° and I was hopeful the oil in the sump had warmed more than that. It was the culprit in the failure to start.

We unplugged the engine heater, I pulled the cowl plugs, we got in and while the line guy stood by I tried to fire it up. This time the prop spun faster and on the 5th blade it caught. It wasn’t the typical 3rd blade, but I’ll take it.

The winds were from 250 at 3 knots and they were using runway 13, but when I requested the southwest departure Ground asked if I wanted runway 18. I was happy to take it for the shorter taxi and more on course heading.

It was a smooth flight to KSGU and we dropped my son off and said our goodbyes. There was a wait for the fuel truck as the inbound Citation took precedence over our request for a top off, but they got to us soon enough and we were on our way. 

I had filed an IFR plan from the Hector (HEC) VOR as I wasn’t sure if we would need it to get back into the LA Basin. It’s a great place to pickup an IFR clearance enroute as it is before the STAR arrival and in Center Airspace where they have a little more time for you than the busy approach guys.

We passed above some low clouds over the high desert between Vegas and SoCal and as we got closer I kept checking the weather at the various airports. San Bernardino and Ontario were reporting some low clouds, but Riverside and Corona were reporting clear skies with Fullerton reporting nothing below 12,000′ so I opted to pass on the IFR and continue VFR.

We passed over another low layer of clouds as we crossed the San Bernardino Mountains and began our descent. Whatever clouds they had been reporting had dissipated, with the whole Inland Empire and LA Basin clear of clouds. There was a high overcast layer and the setting sun was shining golden off the Pacific Ocean giving a beautiful backdrop to our arrival back home. 

Subscribe to newsletter

Stay informed and inspired! Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive my latest posts, stories, and exclusive updates straight to your inbox. (I will never share or sell your information)

 And get free stickers!

Similar posts

More from Long Cross Country

Enjoyed the read? See more similar posts that you’ll also love.

One Last Flight for 2023

We passed over another low layer of clouds as we crossed the San Bernardino Mountains and began our descent. There was a high overcast layer...
Richard Brown

31 Dec 2023

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay informed and inspired! Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive my latest posts, stories, and exclusive updates straight to your inbox. (I will never share or sell your information)

 And get free stickers!