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Day 2 - Spruce Creek, Daytona Beach, Fla to Lubbock, TX

This was the first day of 'serious' flying! The flight down and back to Key West was just a morning out, but heading west across the Gulf of Mexico could cause all sorts of problems with the weather. Talking to the briefer and looking at the Nexrad radar showed major storm cells developing over the Gulf coast from Florida right through into Texas. This meant there was little choice but to fly a northerly route well inland from the Gulf, across Arkansas and clipping Oklahoma.

Winds aloft were also of concern as flying west into the prevailing winds could dramatically slow the ground speed and in turn increase the length of the flight and the number of fuel stops required.

At 1286 miles from Spruce Creek to Lubbock this flight was long enough so it was a pleasant surprise to find that the winds aloft were relatively favourable, a rare event, particularly when Steve had little choice, due to weather, but to fly at 6000 ft which is a height where the winds oftern start to dramatically increase in strength.


The route took 'Goofy' across the panhandle of Florida, into southern Georgia, across the center of both Alabama and Mississippi, southern Arkansas and clipping Oklahoma into northern Texas. To the south the storm cells were clearly visible and Steve could hear airliners diverting due to the severe weather throughout the day. All the while Steve was albe to maintain 6000 ft throughout the morning until reaching the mid-flight fuel stop at Koscusko County airport in Mississippi, the birthplace of the TV start Oprah Winfrey.

With a fresh 50 galls of fuel on-board Steve left Koscusko and continued west across Arkansas and into Texas, to a planned fuel stop north of Dallas, at Sherman. An hour into the flight the cloud tops started lifting, the sign of storms to come, which meant Steve had to climb to 8000 ft. Expecting to loose ground speed at the higher altitude, Steve was surprised to find that the ground speed actually increased to 163 mph, compared with the expected maximum of around 120 mph!

What was more astonishing was that the fuel burn at altitude was around 6 galls per hour and Steve was able to calculate that he could make it to Lubbock, the overnight destination, without a further fuel stop. But looking at the on-board Nexrad weather radar showed storms developing to the south east of Lubbock which were moving slowly towards Steve's direct flight path between Dallas and Lubbock itself. Fuel was cheap at Sherman so a decision was made to stop and fill all four tanks, which meant less of the more expensive fuel at Lubbock would be needed on arrival.

Sherman was only 163 miles from Lubbock, or just over an hour's flight time away in a direct line, so it would have been so easy to continue on without refuelling, But another factor was considered by Steve. By landing and waiting a while before departing he could see if the storms near Lubbock were increasing or dissapating., and which way they were moving. These were a series of major storm cells which were slow moving and would encroach into Steve's flight path as he approached Lubbock.

Steve decided to launch and if necessary divert from Lubbock to Amarillo where the weather was CAVU (totally clear). As it happended Steve had to climb to 10000 ft to keep clear of the weather, and also head on a more northerly route towards Amarillo. About 100 miles out from Lubbock it was clear that it would be touch and go to get into Lubbock as the storms were edging ever closer and not disapating as expected.

Even travelling at over 150 mph at 10000 ft (around 2 miles high) there is almost no sensation of speed so Steve passed the time looking closely at how the storms were moving. The on-board weather radar proved its worth as it finally allowed Steve to fly a route into Lubbock from the north, rather than from the east as planned. With the higher ground speed, Steve arrived at Lubbock earlier than expected despite the diversion north to miss the storms. Arriving about half an hour before sunset meant the air was smooth despite the nearby storms, which in the end stayed away from Lubbock itself but continued developing all night and into the next day just to the south!

Lubbock was a place Steve stopped at during his first 'four corners' flight when he found at the last minute that there was no accomodation available thanks to a Texas Farmers' conference. Lubbock Aero came to the rescue and allowed Steve to use their pilot's lounge to sleep overnight. This time, as Steve wanted an early morning departure the next day he asked Lubbock Aero if he could again use their facilities which they generously allowed, and they also lent him their crew car to go into town to eat. They kindly put 'Goofy' in a hanger just in case the storms edged towards Lubbock. Thankfully Lubbock stayed clear all night and Steve was up at day break ready for the onward flight to California.

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