Sunday, January 18, 2009

Delivering a plane

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On July 8th I got a call from Kent Scott stating that he wanted me to fly a new turbo Cessna 182 to Henderson, TX. I would then drive from there to Independance, KS and pick up another turbo Cessna 182 to deliver it to the new owner in Scottdale, AZ, then fly the new owner (who is not a pilot) to Reno, NV for a business meeting, and then back to Fresno. All of this was to be accomplished in 3 days. As it turned out, another pilot (Jeff Kutsch) went with me (his experience was instrumental in completing this task).

We left Fresno at 5:30 AM on Tuesday, July 10. We stopped for fuel in Tucson, AZ and had some breakfast, then flew on to the next fuel stop, Odessa, TX. We got our fuel and got out of there as soon as we could as some storms were moving in. After we left Odessa, the airport got pounded by thunderstorms. We had to fly north for awhile to avoid the storms but were then finally able to head east towards Henderson. We landing in Henderson, TX at the Rusk County Airport at about 8:15 PM local time. Just about 11 hours had gone by since leaving Fresno. The new owner of that airplane drove us to another airport to pick up a rental car. We stopped for dinner and were on the road toward Kansas after 10PM local.

We had trouble with the mapquest directions and could seem to get across the river into Oklahoma. After several tries, we stopped and asked directions (navigating in the air is so much easier). We made into Oklahamo and onto the turnpike, and thats where we hit the fog. Lots of it. We tried finding a hotel, but we could not seem to find one that was not a dump.

Jeff had been driving and it was clear that he was tired. We pulled of the road and switched seats. We were lucky not to be eaten alive by the bugs that were hiding in the fog. I was now driving. I had taken a vitamin B12, had some coffee, and was still awake. We still could not find a hotel. After driving in the fog, and seeing the gas gauge get way to close to ‘E’ for me, I prayed that the Lord would lift the fog, and stretch our fuel until we could get to a gas station. There did not seem to be to many opportunities on the turnpike for services.

After a time of faith stretching, the fog lifted, and then we came up to a toll booth, and a gas station. Praise God! We fueled the car, got some more coffee, and headed back out. unfortunetly, the reststop/gas station we stopped at had a confusing layout and we ended up going the wrong way and ended up at the toll booth again. After describing our situation, the gal in toll booth allowed us through and we were able to cross back over the turnpike and ended up on the other side of the turnpike (going the right direction), where I again had to explain why I didn’t think I had to pay the toll again. That gal finally allowed us through.

The new plan was to drive into Tulsa and get a hotel there. We arrived and found that the hotels were booked because of a
baseball/softball thing that was going on in town. So, we decided to keep driving. All the way. We found ourselves with the sun coming up in Coffeville, KS. The national guard was everywhere, and there were a lot of detours. Come to find out, this was one of the towns that had recently had bad flooding, and had the oil refinery pump out about of oil into the flooded community. It was like a war zone.

We finally made it to Indepence where we looked for a hotel. Now, remember I just said we drove through the flooded areas. Many people lost their homes, and FEMA was in town to help out. Every hotel room was booked. We kept checking, and I finally suggested we go back to one that had a sign stating ”no vacancy”, but we did not go in to ask. So I went in and found that the sign was true. I stated to the gal behind the counter that we really only needed the room until noon (it was now past 7AM local), as we had to pick a new Cessna at the factory just after noon. She then said she could give us two rooms as long as we promised to be out by noon. We did, and we went to sleep. About 3 hours of sleep. I got up, showered, ironed some clothes, and checked out by noon. We then drove to the factory.

If you ever have the chance to go visit the Cessna factory, do it. It was incredible. I was able to see where the new Cessna Mustang was being produced. We were treated very well. They had lunch ready for us, and then explained how the delivery process would go. We were slated to have the airplane delivered by 3 or 3:30Pm, when we should have been in the air headed west, but we found several items we felt the new owner would want fixed prior to delivery.

Now, while Jeff was out on the test flight, it was my job to take the rental car back. About 4-5 miles south of the Cessna plant on highway 75, a northbound truck carrying a modular home lost a tire. I saw it coming, and tried my best to avoid it. The tire moved off to the right and seemed like it was going to leave me alone, but much like a bowling ball, it cut back in and WHAM, hit the car. I thought, “this just did not happen, no way”. I pulled over to look at the damage. Several people stopped to help, and I found out the the truck stopped about 3 miles up the road. A sherrif stopped and took a report, and the gal that was helping us at Cessna came and picked me up. Hertz said to leave the car there unlocked with the keys in the glovebox, and that they would send a truck to get it. Wasn’t that fun now. Honestly though, God was working in that too. Had I stayed in the center of my lane, the tire would have come through the window and I would have been in the hospital. Another praise.  After the test flight, and after the items we mentioned were fixed, we ended up leaving the factory after 8Pm local.
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We were then headed toward El Paso, TX, where we planned to fuel and sleep. The storms had another idea. We had to divert so much that we were pointed at and getting close to Amarillo, TX, so that is where we stopped. We stayed the night and headed out the next day towards Scottdale. Despite hitting a big bug at 12,500 feet, the flight was great. We landed in Scottsdale and were expecting to have the owner waiting for us, but he had gotten bumped from several flights out of Fresno and did not arrive until I think around 3 or 4PM local. We were then off towards Reno, with me in the back (the new owner insisted sitting up front). The trip there and back into Fresno were uneventful. We were blessed with an amazing sunset, and arrived back in Fresno around 10:15pm. I was tired.

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