Strange Tales from the Backseat pt. 2


Here’s part 2 of Jamie Willis’s story of the flight out to Reno. Perspective makes a difference in any story.

The winds had not let up on us. In fact they seemed to be getting worse. The climb was slow and bumpy as we set course for Vandalia, Illinois. I watched for traffic as well as the cool little towns passed by. I also watched the weather ahead and the winds seemed to be getting

worse. We passed north of the city of Evansville, Indiana and there surface winds were reporting gusts of over thirty-five knots. We kept barreling toward our next stop though. The winds just had to get better.

By the time we got to Vandalia the winds were bumping fifty miles an hour. I would have been out of my league if I had been flying. As usual Mr. Jonte made it look ridiculously easy. The routine starts and I start rolling out the gas hose from the pumps. As I was dragging the hose I saw the wind rolling the T-6 backwards. I was shocked and didn’t snap out of it until Mr. Jonte suggested we chock the wheels. It takes a really good wind to move a 5000-pound big chunk of metal. We hung out in the empty airport office for a few minutes to grad a snack and get something to drink. I was thankful for the food and water but more thankful for the heat. I always pack light and didn’t pack good warm clothing. My fault and I don’t want you to be the least bit sorry for me. I really have to get better on the clothing situation. We got our butts handed to us on the taxi out due to the winds but the takeoff was uneventful and impressively short with the wind right down the runway. Next stop was to be Lee’s Summit, Missouri just a little southeast of Kansas City. You know where the Chiefs play some football.

Leaving westbound from Vandalia we flew relatively low due to the high winds aloft. It seemed a slight right turn was needed to avoid the Class Bravo airspace of St. Louis and soon after we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. I remember the first time I flew over it as a pilot like it was yesterday. Onward we flew and then the Missouri River fell past us.

We were making great progress and the winds seemed to be letting up just a little for us. Thank goodness. What seemed like a couple of minutes later I could make out the skyline of Kansas City on the horizon.

I did not know if we would keep going after we landed or call it a day.

Normally we taxi up to the fuel pump but this time we taxied up to a good parking spot and shut down. That’s the sign that we are done for the day because we got beat up by the winds. We unloaded the plane and put the canopy cover on as the attendant fueled the T-6 up. The fun part of stopping at the local airport is a courtesy car. What kind will it be and what kind of shape it will be in are the questions most transient pilots ask. Per the norm, it was an old retired police cruiser. It still had the spotlight on the driver’s side and the old police radio in it. It was awesome.

I turned the heat on full blast and we rode into town like two tired cowboys looking for a hot meal and a place to rest. And get some rest we did. After a great breakfast it was time to get back on the trail. It took a few minutes to repack all our gear but we still made good time with it.

Mr. Jonte started the engine and slowly began taxiing out to the runway.

During the taxi we passed by some local hangars and noticed a young lady waving at us with her camera. “Should we give her a good picture?”

Mr. Jonte asked. My reply was a simple “Yep”. He flipped the airshow smoke on and it seemed to make her day because now she was jumping up and down. I would be doing the same dang thing if I were her. More in part three.