How many hours a day do you plan on flying?
Four hours. The Bonanza’s endurance (hours of fuel on board) is 5-6 hours. Four is a prudent maximum leg length to allow for alternate airports and the additional 45 minutes required by regulation. My own endurance is similar. Four hours in the air will mean a duty day of eight hours, which is plenty at my age.
At what altitude/speed will you by flying?
The most efficient altitude for the Bonanza is 8000-9000 feet. I will fly the last leg through the Rockies at 12,000 feet. The route will be the old Green One Airway, the same route flown in 1939. The MEA (Minimum Enroute Altitude) along that airway is less than 12,000 feet.
What about cabin pressure?
The Bonanza has no pressurization. But the cabin altitude of an airliner at FL350 (35,000 feet) is about 8000 feet. So flying the Bonanza or an airliner is more or less equivalent with respect to cabin pressure. But flying through the Rockies at 12,000 feet I will be breathing oxygen through a cannula.
What are you most looking forward to in this mission?
Everything! Flying is always an adventure. Astronauts in orbit see our planet with its thin envelope of atmosphere and experience the beauty and fragility of our existence. At 12,000 feet in the Rockies I will feel like I can touch the mountain peaks less than a mile underneath me. The deep valleys of the Columbia and Fraser Rivers will unfold in dramatic 3-D. But the people are even more important. I hope to meet and talk with many people of all ages during this trip.
What are you least looking forward to in this mission?
Being away from home. Adventure is great, but at the end of the day your own bed is best.
What is your approach to the inherent danger of your mission?
There is an old pilot maxim: don’t run out of gas and don’t hit anything solid. And I don’t intend to do either.
Still, preparation is a good idea. First, the aircraft must be in good shape. Arcadia just went through her annual inspection, and even though a lot of restoration work has been done this year, there were things that needed attention.
And I also carry a full survival/camping kit, as well as chocks and tie-downs.
Before taking flight, planning is essential, with important consideration given to flight altitude and length, and weather.
But once airborne, that live to air quality is all that remains of the inherent danger. Sure, the danger is still there, but you’re flying, it’s happening, so what’s left is just the excitement of dealing with it in real time.
By what measures will you consider your Arcadia Mission 2014 a success?
I want to raise awareness about flying. I want to reach people, especially
young people, and help them appreciate how far we have come in 75 years and how they can continue to fly safely. If a few people at each stop get excited about the technology and the human skills needed to fly an airplane across the country, they can tell their family and friends. And then perhaps aviation will mean more to them than a cheap ticket.