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PA32 XC: Illinois to Washington

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In 1996 I bought a Piper Saratoga (PA-32-301) through an aircraft broker. He flew it from the east coast to Illinois. I flew it from Illinois to Washington. This is a recreation of that flight. Although my plane was a fixed gear Saratoga, the best virtual approximation I have found is a Cherokee Six (PA-32-300). They are almost the same, and I even had more than one controller call me “Cherokee” instead of “Saratoga”.

Aurora, Illinois to Sandwich, Illinois: I depart Aurora for Sandwich, just 11 miles away. The clutter on the GPS makes it hard to see where I’m going, and the small private airport is not obvious from looking out the window. I see what may be an airport, with a row of hangars, but the runway has no VASI lights, and by the time I set up for a landing, I am going way too fast. (This plane is a lot faster than the Cherokee 140.) I cartwheel on the runway. Reset. I remember how to declutter the GPS, manage my speed better, and manage to land on the short runway and brake at the very end. I leave my virtual passenger to fly another virtual plane to another virtual client.

Sandwich, Illinois to Sioux Falls, South Dakota: I depart Sandwich and turn northwest. I maintain 291⁰ all the way across the state of Iowa. The PA32 is steady as a rock. I notice that the engine controls are more like a Cessna than a real Piper, and the instruments seem to be harder to read than in the Cherokee 140. I set the manifold pressure at 24 inches and the prop at 2400 rpm and watch the patchwork of green slide under the plane. After I cross the Mississippi, there is really not a lot to see, so I set the simulation rate at 4x, then at 8x. Communication with ATC is difficult at 8x normal speed. There is nothing but postage-stamp farms below until I cross the Missouri River. Soon enough I am approaching Sioux Falls, so I return to normal speed. I should have started my descent sooner, but I get down from 8500 feet to pattern altitude in time for a normal landing. Again, the speed control is a challenge after flying the Cherokee 140. The landing is a little rough, with a bit of wheel-barrowing on the nose, but it all turns out fine. That long, heavy nose takes some getting used to.
PA32-300 N30062 (MS2004)
From: KARR (Aurora, Il) To: IS65 (Woodlake, Sandwich, Il) To: KFSD (Foss, Sioux Falls, SD)
PA32-301 N8213Z
April 26, 1996
From: ARR (Aurora, Ill) To: IS65 (Woodlake; Sandwich, Ill) To: FSD (Foss; Sioux Falls, SD)
SEL: 4.1 hrs.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Lewistown, Montana: I depart Sioux Falls a little more west of north, to a course of 289⁰. The rectangles of green slowly give way to more open pastures, and the green turns to yellow as the terrain rises and the ground is less hospitable. I crank the simulator rate up to 8x and maintain course across the Badlands. The turbulence at 8x speed bounces me around a little, reminding me of the bumpiness of the real flight. As I approach the Montana border, mountains become visible in the distance. There is little sign of civilization: no farms, no roads. Occasional lakes and rivers break up the monotony. Lewistown is soon in front of me, and I descend to the 4,100 ft. elevation airport for a normal straight-in landing.
PA32 -300 N30062 (MS2004)
From: KFSD (Foss, Sioux Falls, SD) To: KLWT (Lewistown, MT)
PA32-301 N8213Z
April 27, 1996
From: FSD (Sioux Falls, SD) To: LWT (Lewistown, MT)
SEL: 5.0 hrs.

Lewistown, Montana to Pullman/Moscow, Washington: This route is a little south of west, at 254⁰. I climb to 6500 feet, then 7500, but the terrain keeps getting higher, too. I skim a few peaks and climb up to 10.500 feet. I look around and there are mountains in every direction, with ridges on the horizon as far as I can see. This entire leg is in the remote mountains, with no place to go in case of engine failure. Fortunately, the sim does not let me down. At 8x speed, there are huge updrafts and downdrafts, and 10,500 feet does not seem that far from the ground. Eventually, the airport at Pullman/Moscow appears as the mountains thin out. At normal speed, I make a straight-in approach. I am starting to get the hang of trim control, pitch and throttle to land with more of a flare and less of a pancake.
Pullman to Bremerton, Washington: The mountains stay in Montana as I head across the relatively flat, high plains of Eastern Washington. There is lots of yellow and some green farms, but when I reach the Columbia River, there is some dramatic terrain, and I’m in the mountains again. Over the last ridge I can see SeaTac airport in front of me, the Seattle skyline to the right and the majesty of Mt. Rainier to the left. I “talk” to Seattle approach, and descend to cross the airport at 1500 feet. From there, it’s a short jaunt across the ferry-filled Puget Sound to Bremerton. I manage to land without crashing, but still have problems holding the flare.
PA-32-300 N30062 (MS2004)
From: KLWT (Lewistown, MT) To: KPUW (Pullman/Moscow, WA) To: KPWT (Bremerton, WA)
PA32-301 N8213Z
April 28, 1996
From: LWT (Lewistown, MT) To: PUW (Pullman, WA) To: PWT (Bremerton, WA)
SEL: 5.2 hrs.

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Updated 06-17-2015 at 09:25 PM by gmurray56