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Copyright 2013 by
Randy Pflanzer
Technology Professionals Consortium
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As I was building the airplane, I knew that I wanted John Stahr of Artistic Aviation to paint my airplane.  The challenge to that is John is in Eugene, OR, more that 2,500 miles away from central Indiana.  Well, as our Aussie friends would say, "No worries mate!"  I built an airplane so let's use it.  Now I will admit my wife, family, and aviation friends thought I was a little nuts.  However, I decided back in 2012, when I was diagnosed with pancreatic lymphoma cancer, that I was going to start exploring this wonderful country of ours while I could.  So I started planning this big trip in spite of concerns.

Following my youngest son's wedding, I decided the timing was right to start the adventure.  This would provide ample time to complete everything and still make it to AirVenture (Oshkosh) in July.  A look at the weather indicated a start date of May 20th.  However the weather was not cooperating in Wyoming, my desired route of flight.  As a result, I decided to take a more southern route and then stay a few days with my sister in southern California.  I learned a long time ago that you have to remain flexible and not fight the weather.  Bad things can happen when you do that.

Packing enough stuff to be away from home for 3-4 weeks takes some planning.  Not only did I need enough clothes, but I also need such things as tools, an oil change kit, flight supplies, beverages, snacks, etc.  You know, all the important stuff.

Where to put it in the airplane also took some planning.  I'm a little weight limited in the back so the more heavier stuff went into the empty passenger seat and the seat cushion went in the back.

I also prepared checklists to remind me what to do upon arrival and prior to departure so I wouldn't forget when it gets a little hectic.  My plan was to text the family prior to each departure and then again when I landed so they could follow me as I progressed across the country.  As a safety measure, I also carried a personal locating beacon (PLB) that I could activate in case of an emergency.  This would send out a satellite signal and my location when activated.

On the morning of May 20th, I rolled the airplane out of my hangar at 5:00 AM and took off.  My plan for the day was to make three fuel stops and try to get as close to New Mexico as I could and as the weather would allow.

Here I am cruising along over central Illinois in smooth air.

Before long, I made the crossing over the Mississippi River into Missouri.  My first fuel stop in Mexico, MO. was uneventful and I quickly resumed my travels westward.  Next stop was planned to be somewhere in central Kansas.

However, I didn't make it quite that far.  Somewhere over Missouri my electrical fuel pump failed.  I noticed it right away as the fuel pressure dropped while the mechanical fuel pump on the engine did it's best to keep up.  Since the engine countinued to run normally, I decided to continue on to my destination, where I would stop to repair it.  I didn't make it.

While flying south of Kansas City, KS., the engine stumbled badly twice in quick succession.  Not hesitating, I called up Kansas City Approach and declared an emergency.  They vectored me to the closest airport which was just outside of Olathe, KS.  I landed and taxied up to the nearest FBO to get help.

The good folks at New Century Air Service pulled me into their maintenance hangar and offered my whatever I needed to get my fuel pump repaired.  First step was to pull everything from the airplane so I could start pulling up the floor boards so I could even get to the fuel pump.

What a mess.

 After about 3 hours I was able to get the old pump out.  I borrowed a car and drove to the local NAPA auto parts store and located a replacement pump.  It took another 3 hours to get the new pump back in and tested.  Since it was late in the day, I decided to stay the night and get a fresh start in the morning.  Not a good way to start my trip.

The next morning I left bright and early for Arizona as my goal.  I made a fuel stop in the Texas panhandle and then continued on into New Mexico.  As I did, I started to catch my first glimpses of the Rocky Mountains.  For a flatlander like me, these things are always intimidating.

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