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Long Cross Country

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 8:49 pm
by Ron Spiker
A couple weeks ago my son and I did a 1200+ mile (round trip) cross country in my Brantly. I flew from near Pittsburgh, PA to St. Louis, MO and back. I made the trip to do the annual inspection on my previous RotorWay Exec 162F. Including some advanced training in the Brantly in Indianapolis, IN, I ended up with 15.2 hours flying for the weekend. I've been trying to finish up my documentation of the trip, but it will be too large to post in a message here. I'll make it available for reading as a Word document when finished. It follows our preparation, route planning, fuel stops, sights we saw, problems encountered, and lessons learned. Hopefully it will make for some interesting reading. Until I have it finished, I do have most of the pictures on-line if anyone is interested in seeing them. There are too many to post here. Go to my web site and click on the Cross Country June 2003 link. Hope you enjoy them.


PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 9:48 pm
by Steve Chenoweth

Excellent photo journalism. It looked like a great trip, and that the Brantly did well despite the little generator hic-up. Look forward to seeing you at Homers!


PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 4:53 am
by Ron Spiker
Thanks. Soon I'll post a picture and caution for what caused the generator problem under the Servicing and Maintaining section.

long X-C

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 5:33 pm
by donlew
Neet flight. I'll bet it was great fun.

Have you done this before?
Did you have any concerns about such a long flight?
What kind of ground speed did you get on the flight?

I have been toying with this idea for a while.
EAA Airventure wood be a great flight to.

Don L.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2003 6:33 pm
by Ron Spiker
Hi Don. Yes, it was a great experience and a lot of fun. I would do another one again. I'm planning on flying another cross country to Homer Bell's fly-in next weekend. It will be about a 500 mile round trip.

No, I've never done a flight anywhere near this far before, helicopter or airplane. I was, let's say... apprehensive, about the trip because I hadn't done one that long before. But, I spent a great deal of time over a 3 week period planning the flight, on the computer, sectionals, etc. I wasn't worried about the planning, just the unknown.

I planned the route using 94 mph as the target speed. It ended up being closer to 85-90 most of the way, but did get up in the 95 area for periods of time. When it got too bumpy (from wind) I'd slow down to 80 or so.

I'll hopefully have the trip log finished in a couple of days. It will give everyone a lot more information about the planning, things that happened (hint: bird strike, among other things), and what I learned from the flight. It was pretty cool.


PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2003 9:19 am
by Ron Spiker
Steve and I decided to just post the trip log here on the forum and also provide a link to download it to read off-line. Your choice. Click this link to download the file XC Trip Log, or just read it below.

Warning! Long Post

It was annual time for my previous RotorWay Exec 162F and I agreed to do the inspection for the new owner. Once we decided on a weekend that fit into both of our schedules, I started thinking on how I would get there. Airline travel didn’t appeal to me very much. Driving was the most likely method, but was an 11-hour trip each way. How about flying my own helicopter the 1200+ mile round trip? Preparations began for the possibility. I spent many hours over the next few weeks with my airport directory and route planning software calculating the route, time, distance and fuel usage between airports, alternates, airspace restrictions, FBO and fuel availability, GPS coordinates, hotel accessability for overnight stays during the trip, etc. I planned the route to stay clear of any and all controlled airspace.

As the target weekend drew nearer, the flight depended entirely at this point on a good 4-day forecast from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to St. Louis, Missouri. The Brantly B-2B helicopter, with GPS, sectionals, tools, and supplies was all ready to go, as was the truck, in case I had to drive.

Friday came and the weather was good. Winds were up in the 15 MPH range, but other than that, it was only partly cloudy, great visibility, and so far only a little chance of rain that day, with the next 3 days looking perfect. The flight was a “go”. All times will be Eastern Standard Time, for consistency.

One final weather radar check showed some rain forming in Ohio that we may have to go around. We took off at 1:50 PM from our home base near Zelienople Municipal airport [8G7], Zelienople, PA. We made it 30 miles or so into Ohio and started running into some rain. We could see a lot of rain to our south-west so we diverted north-west to go around it. Only a few minutes of light rain and we were clear once again.

We maintained an altitude of 1700-2000’ MSL, or about 1000-1500’ AGL most of the trip. Our target airspeed was 85-95 MPH, and depended a lot on winds encounted and fuel usage. One of the nice instruments in this helicopter is the fuel flow indicator. With it, I can adjust my speed or power as necessary to get better fuel mileage. Just a minor adjustment to the throttle, such as going from mid-green to low-green on the engine tach will save up to 1.5 GPH. I used this gauge frequently, to keep fuel usage close to what my planning calculations were.

My 10 year old son took most of the pictures on the trip, as we were flying. I wanted a picture of the airports as we were on final approach and just scenery shots otherwise. These pictures can be seen at my web site.

Our first fuel stop was at Holmes County [10G] in Millersburg, OH. We landed here at 2:55 PM, filled up, and in the air again at 3:23. Next stop was Grimes Field [I74] in Urbana, OH, where we landed at 4:27. Even though it looked like they were open, and the restaurant in the terminal was open and busy, no service personnel could be found. Even calling the FBO phone number didn’t help. A look at the sectional showed we had enough fuel to make it to the next airport. At 4:50 we left Grimes and headed to Piqua [I17] in Piqua, OH. Landing here at 5:16, we had found out that they have a 24-hour self-serve fuel system, so we filled up and took off again at 5:33.

We had made arrangements with the nice folks at New Castle-Henry County Municipal [UWL] in New Castle, IN airport for transportation to a local motel. We landed here at 6:08. After refueling again, we were taken to the motel for the night. We were told that the Wright Flyer replica had been here several hours earlier this day.

Saturday morning we arrived at the airport before 8:00 AM. There was a fly-in breakfast here today, and a lot of aircraft were arriving. We pushed the helicopter out of the way from where it was left for the night and had breakfast. After a thorough preflight we were ready to head out. We started to taxi out towards the runway, but there was a lot of aircraft moving around. We diverted and departed over a corn field to stay away from the fixed wing aircraft all over the place.

From here we skirted down below the controlled airspace at Indianapolis to some lat/long coordinates I had for a Brantly flight instructor. The GPS took me right to his back yard! After looking at his helicopters, removing our luggage and other unnecessary weight, and doing another preflight, we were off to a grass strip to work on advanced maneuvers. We started out with just a couple normal patterns to a hover. Then moved to run-on landings and takeoffs. Almost every landing after this was a run-on. After this was simulated autos, where we went to 500’ above the field, flying a normal pattern, and fully lowered the collective, while keeping the engine and rotor needles together. These we also did to a run-on landing. By now we had spent about an hour and was going to need fuel soon, since I had close to 40 minutes on the clock before arriving at his place. We headed back and took a break. My son and I then flew to Putnam County airport [4I7] in Greencastle, IN to refuel. Saw a nice “civilianized” OH-6 there on the ramp that is privately owned. Once filled up, we headed back for more instruction. In this next half hour we worked more on straight-in autos, then went to 180 autos, OGE hovers and recovering from settling-with-power, and a confined area maximum performance takeoff. I was starting to get a little fatigued and was a couple hours behind my schedule for the remaining 3.5 hours to St. Louis, so we headed back to his place. While here we had a quick sandwich and chips, had to replace a clamp, loaded up, and was off, heading west once again.

We returned to Putnam County to fill up again. We left here heading to Sky King [3I3] near Terre Haute, IN to stay out of the controlled airspace at Terre Haute International, and on to Vandalia.

As we were approaching Vandalia Municipal [VLA] in Vandalia, IL, I heard a lot of radio communications about parachute jumpers, so we were watching extra close. I diverted slightly north of the field and called in my position. I notified them that I did not have the jumpers in sight. They said the jumpers would not be an issue. As we crossed the numbers of runway 18, I saw a jumper just about to land just east of the runway, near the terminal building. We came to a hover on the west side of the runway until we were sure there was no one else that would even come close to us. We then hover taxied up to the ramp, sat down and shut it off. There was a jump plane at the pumps that we needed to wait for.

When we entered the terminal, there were jumpers everywhere! I would imagine there was 60 or more people there, most of which had jump suits on. Many had “Staff” t-shirts to assist them. When I questioned one of them, she said they were having an accuracy jump competition going on, and jumpers from all over the country were there to compete, even the Army’s Golden Knights. Their target is a circle about 2-3” in diameter. The jumper that gets closest in all jumps combined wins. The current leader had hit the target dead-on 6 jumps in a row. The second place holder hit it 5 times and the 6th time was 1 cm off. Pretty impressive.

Once the next load of jumpers loaded the plane, we pushed the helicopter up to the pumps and got filled up. We left here at 5:03 heading towards our destination. This was our last fuel stop.

As we were approaching St. Louis, the GPS batteries died. This concerned me, since I had been relying on it so heavily during the trip. I had my sectional on my kneeboard, but the GPS made the navigation so easy. I had brought along my extra batteries for the digital camera, so my son got them out and put them in the GPS. We were back in business again.

In order to stay out of controlled airspace (again), I flew up around the north side of St. Louis, using a small private strip as the GPS waypoint. Then headed nearly directly south over the river to the STL VOR. We saw many airliners flying overhead heading to St. Louis International, but we were below their airspace at about 1500’ MSL.

Once past the VOR we tuned in Creve Coeur airport [1H0] into the GPS. This was our destination. The RotorWay owner we were going to see had provided us with an aerial photo of the airport with all key areas identified, including where we were to park. There was a huge fly-in going on here today also, so the airport and airspace was very active. Runway 16 was the active this day, so several miles north I moved to the east of the airport to stay out of traffic, and came in on the turf runway 25. I hovered in and parked right where they wanted, and we shut down. It was now 6:05 PM. A hangar had been arranged for us to use, so several guys helped us push it down there, where we got it wiped down and covered the floor so no oil would drip on it. It had been freshly painted.

After a short break we got started on the RotorWay annual. When we finished for the day we headed out for dinner and to the hotel. An early start on Sunday morning had us ready to head out shortly after noon. After a preflight and refueling, we began the trip home at 12:15 PM. Once again, the sky was clear and there was a light wind.

The first fuel stop is Casey Municipal [1H8] in Casey, IL. We landed here at 1:55. Some plank-winger was at the fuel pump, so we sat down and idled waiting for him. The clown then did a whole preflight while sitting at the pump instead of pushing it out of our way so we could get in there. We took off from Casey at 2:28 heading east.

Next stop is Shelbyville Municipal [GEZ] in Shelbyville, IN, just east of Indianapolis. We’re hot and dry so we get a lot of water and walk around some after refueling. We’re now strapped in and ready to go. Hit the starter button and… the battery is dead!! What? The ammeter is part of my normal instrument scan, and I saw that it was down near zero, but it still showed a charge. I found out later that it wasn’t, even though it looked like it. So, we push it out of the way so I can start digging to find out what is going on. Generator belt; good condition, not wet, tight enough. Battery cables; negative was slightly loose so I tightened it up. Still should not have been enough to cause the loss of battery charging though. Looking some more. The generator wiggled some. Uh-oh, the top hole of the mounting bracket is busted. The middle one is too. I start taking things apart to get to it, but didn’t have enough tools and it was late Sunday evening by this time. After letting the lady in the terminal know of our predicament, she called a motel and reserved us a room. Then she took us there and arranged to pick us up at 6:30 Monday morning.

Monday brought a day of a lot of work and frustration. There was an A&P on the field that gave me a hand and let me use some of his tools. We got the generator bracket pulled, and found that the bottom hole of the bracket was also broken. He got it tig welded so it would hold for us to get home and have a new one put in. Once finally back in, we were ready to pack up and get going. It was now well after lunch. It was harder than usual to start, but finally got going. During the warm-up checklist I notice that the ammeter is not showing a charge still. Shut it back down and see what’s going on.

We checked the regulator. Seemed to be ok. A couple more hours of tests and talking with auto mechanics who had generator experience didn’t help anything. We weren’t sure what the problem was. A call to Brantly didn’t help resolve the problem, but I was told what I could do to get us home. Get the battery charged up good. Start it up then turn off the battery, generator, fuel boost pump, radio, transponder, etc. “It will still fly”, I was told. So, we loaded up again, said our “thank-yous” and got ready to go.

A bit nervous about turning off the boost pump, I tested it again during warm-up. Still had enough fuel pressure with it off. Picked it up in a hover with battery and pump on and had around 23 pounds of pressure. Turn off the pump and it was down around 18. Ok, let’s go. 3:19 PM and we’re on our way. I watched the fuel pressure closely the remainder of the trip and it held a pretty steady 17.5 pounds.

We were most of the way to our first stop. The GPS keeping us on track, but without a radio or intercom, we did a lot of pointing and hand signals. I was showing my son items on the ground and then where those items were on the sectional. Once, as I was looking down at the sectional, WHACK, a bird got in the way and hit the front of the helicopter, just in front of my seat, in the area of the middle band of the canopy. I saw a glimpse of the bird deflecting to the right of the helicopter and down. A very quick scan of all instruments, windshield, anti-torque authority, etc. revealed nothing wrong, but the “pucker factor” was very high, and it took several minutes before I relaxed. Further checking of the canopy later revealed no damage at all, but it sure startled us.

At 4:47 we landed at Union County [MRT] in Marysville, OH. We did not make our approach to the runway here, just in case there were other aircraft that we didn’t see in the pattern. We had no radio. There was a MD 500E parked on the lot. Nice helicopter. A couple guys were beginning to get their balloon ready to launch. I told them I would be gone before they were ready to go. Once we were refueled and filled up our water bottles again it was time to try starting. It was difficult starting and the battery began wearing down. I knew we would run into trouble at the next fuel stop. It did start though, then the battery, generator, and other unnecessary switches were turned off. Departure time here was 5:06.

As we were getting into central and eastern Ohio the land started rolling and hills started forming. We knew we were starting to get close. At one point I saw a column of black smoke ascending. I saw it probably 25 miles away and kept wondering what it was as we got closer. At about 4 miles from it I saw an airplane circling the smoke. Then I saw that it looked like a barn that was on fire. This plane, and one helicopter on the trip out, were the only other aircraft that we saw on the entire trip, except for right at or near another airport. I found that odd.

At 6:11 we landed at Harry Clever Field [PHD] at New Philadelphia, OH for our final fuel stop. I had chosen this airport because it had 24-hour self-serve fuel with a credit card. I knew it would be later in the evening before arriving, so didn’t want to take a chance on an attendant not being there. I checked inside the terminal and there was still someone there. I asked if they had access to a way of jumping my battery if needed. He did. We refueled and tried starting. After just a few cranks the battery was dead. Take the passenger seat out, the supplies that were carried inside the cockpit, the cover under the seats and down to the battery. We jumped the batteries just to let mine charge for several minutes. Disconnected so they could move out of the way and give it a try. It almost started but killed the battery again. It’s really difficult starting at this point. They found another set of jumper cables, connected the two sets together, and moved back out of the way of the rotor so we could continue jumping while trying to get it started. It finally started this time so I very carefully removed their jumper cables and put the stuff back in. We left Clever at 6:58. That took a lot longer than planned.

We only had about 50 minutes left of the trip. As we got closer things were starting to look familiar again. We could see some of the buildings at Pittsburgh, about 30 miles away to our southeast. Soon we saw a local smoke stack and I told my son to turn off the GPS. Only about 20 minutes to go and I knew the way from here. We arrived home as it was just starting to get dusk. It was about 7:45 or so (8:45 local time) when we touched down. Greet everyone, get the helicopter put away in the hangar and call it a day!

It turned out that the generator was burned up. Further discovery revealed that a support brace that goes between the generator and starter was missing. This allowed more vibration to the generator and, over time, caused the mounting bracket to crack at all 3 holes mounted to the engine. When this happened, the generator tilted slightly, but allowed one of the wires coming from the regulator to contact metal and shorted, then burnt out the generator. The regulator and ammeter were both fine.

I learned a lot of things on this trip. I spent a lot of time planning the route, fuel stops, alternates, etc. and this paid off. I used AeroPlanner on the internet ( This is a subscription service, but my EAA membership included a limited subscription there. This tool was the most valuable time that I spent. I planned the entire route with fuel stops, then changed wind direction, speed, fuel consumption, and ground speed many times to make I still had enough fuel and reserve for each leg of the trip. Once finished I printed out a kneeboard trip log, which had the sectional in 5” x 7” pages, with the route plotted on it.

I also used AOPA’s Airport Directory quite extensively ( I checked almost every airport along the entire route to see whether they had fuel and their hours of operation, if they accepted credit cards, etc. I also have this directory on my Palm computer and took that along with us.

I used a Lowrance Airmap 100 GPS also. I had both routes (to and from) entered into the GPS, with each waypoint. As we passed over or departed each point, we’d select the next one and it gave us the direction, distance, time enroute, ground speed, etc. Quite a valuable resource to add to your normal cross country navigation.

Besides these things, we had also taken extra engine, transmission, and strut oil, windshield cleaner, paper towels and shop rags, and a cover to put over the rotor systems if the weather looked bad (overnight). We packed our clothes and accessories into a backpack, which fit nicely into the storage compartment. I had also bought a small plastic tool box, and included a few wrenches, screwdriver, pliers and some bolts, washers, nuts, wire ties, duct tape, flashlight and a few other misc. items. The storage compartment was full, but we did not exceed the 50- pound limit.

Since we had to do some work on it, I found out that I had not taken enough tools. This was the primary thing I learned. I’ll now take a few more wrenches, individual box and open end, instead of ones with two open ends of different sizes. I will also take several sockets (3/8”, 7/16”, 1/2”, 9/16” at least) and a couple extensions and probably universal joint. I skimped on tools to help hold the weight down, but it cost me a lot of time messing around with a wrench when a long extension on a ratchet would have had bolts out in a minute or two.

One thing we were prepared for, and needed, was spare batteries. I always had at least 4 AA and 1 extra 9v battery up in the cockpit at all times. If the intercom, GPS or camera batteries died, we had a spare right there to change it out.

That’s about it for the trip details. Looking forward to several other cross country trips this year, but they will be less than 300 miles each way. The Brantly is a very reliable helicopter, if maintained properly. It flies great, is pretty comfortable and visibility is excellent.



PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2003 5:50 pm
by donlew
Great story glad to see you had the time to post it.

I am curious about a couple of things on W&B. Did you ever come up with a gross weight with full fuel, luggage, tools etc.?

Were you ever so loaded down that you had to do running take offs to get back flying after loading up on fuel?

GPS: I have a Garmin 195. I purchased a small cigarette lighter like power supply with 2 aligator clips on it. I run them under the cover under the passengers seat and connect them to the positive battery cable next to the cylenoid and negetive to the fuselage. My GPS came with an adaptor for it. This may help with your battery problem.

What wire was chaffed that caused the generator to burn up?

I do know what you mean about relying on the GPS.

I am thinking of installing a VOR for back up.

Good flying. Can't wait to hear about your next one.

Don L.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2003 7:04 pm
by Ron Spiker
Thanks Don. I used the W&B spreadsheet that I downloaded from the forum here, put in my weight, my son's, estimated 30 lbs of baggage, and full fuel. Even inflating the numbers I ended up ok. I always had enough power for regular hovers and takeoffs. The only time I did a running takeoff was with the instructor for practice.

On the generator, just under the heat shield, between the oil fill tube and the generator are the connectors that come from the regulator. The one closest to the oil fill tube, with the rubber boot on it. It got pinched by the generator when it moved and burned a hole in the rubber boot, then shorted out the generator.

I'm having startup problems again now, and don't think its just a procedural thing. I'm trying to test the starter vibrator, mags, etc. to see where the problem lies. If I get it running w/in the next week I'll be taking it to Homer Bell's fly-in, and I'll document that trip and event again with pictures and perhaps a trip log (but much more brief!). I enjoy reading of other people's flying experiences. That's why I posted the "book" here of this trip.

[UPDATE] - the starting problem ended up being a blown in-line fuse between the starter vibrator and the starter solenoid.


Re: Long Cross Country

PostPosted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:22 pm
by seneca2e
If anyone has not read this post from Ron chronicling his first long cross country in the Brantly it is well worth the time! He provides a link to many photos of the trip as well. Most people think of trailering their helicopters any distance at all but here you can clearly see they can make effective cross country machines with a view unsurpassed in any other type of transportation conveyance!

Re: Long Cross Country

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:30 am
by Ron Spiker
Wow. Nearly 10 years ago now. Pretty amazing how many other long cross country flights I've done in a helicopter since then (Brantly and Enstrom). New York, Nashville, Outer Banks, Oklahoma, Myrtle Beach, San Diego, Dallas. Lots of memories and lots of lessons learned. Thanks