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Day 8 - Saturday 4 August 2007 - Five records to aim for today and 1427 miles to fly . . .

At least the whole flight was in the same Eastern Time zone, but once again all the records would all be international. Hillsboro was the starting place for the flight and Steve would return there later in the day to refuel as the extra distance from the direct route between Columbus OH and Knoxville TN was just one mile.

Off to the airport before dawn with the idea to get flying at sunrise to minimise the effects of the expected storms later in the day. 'Goofy' had been prepared the day before with fresh oil and full fuel tanks so shortly before the sun started to rise Steve was doing his pre-flight checks ready for take off. With no wind the downhill runway 05 was the idea choice and soon 'Goofy' was heading off into the mist, but fortunately Steve had filed an IFR flight plan so the poor visibility of the early morning would not delay him. The view of the Hillsboro countryside awakening through the mist was, with the sun rising in the east, a total contrast to the sunrise over Lake Superior just a couple of days earlier.

Dayton OH, the birthplace of powered aviation, was Steve's first destination to over-fly Dayton International airport and start the first international speed record attempt of the day from Dayton to London. Back in May Steve had set an international world speed record from London to New York in less time than it took Concorde to fly from London to New York. Of course, the London involved was not London in England but was in Canada! Indeed, London would feature in each of the five international records to be attempted today. Dayton has also featured before in Goofy's flight adventures as for three years running Steve flew in the AirVenture Cup air race from Wright Brothers airport in Dayton to Oshkosh, WI. Not that Steve 'raced' as there was little point since 'Goofy' was the slowest airplane in the race and was allowed to depart first rather than in speed order, fastest first, of the other racers. Steve had planned to take part in the 2007 race which took place on 22 July but an ignition failure of one of Goofy's two Lightspeed electronic ignition systems delayed his departure and then the weather turned bad across the route to Oshkosh so he did not make it to either AirVenture or the air race.

storm brewing

At the time Steve was totally frustrated at the delays, but with hindsight it turned out for the better as he happened to hit a weather window which, apart from minimal storm diversions, allowed him to continue flying around the whole of the 'four corners' route without any weather delays. Today was to be no exception although there were a couple of times when it looked almost impossible to get through and then the storms ahead suddenly dissipated. But first the challenge was to find Dayton through the early morning mist which was starting to rise in wisps into the first signs of the billowing clouds which would develop later in the day.

GPS technology came to Steve's rescue in getting directly overhead Dayton airport Whilst the forward visibility was not too good, as often happens the view to the ground was better and shortly before reaching KDAY Steve got a good view of the National Museum of the United States Air Force which is located right next to Wright Patterson Air Force base. For two of the three years Steve has been flying in the AirVenture Cup air race the racers have visited the museum on the evening before the start of the race. The museum opens specially for the racers and provided a splendid dinner set inside the main display area. These, and the other exhibits, were quite spectacular and it was interesting that some of Steve's friends had actually flown a number of the airplanes on display. The large widely spaced twin runways of Dayton International were very soon in sight and then it was time to get started on the record flight to London.

The great circle distance for the first record of the day was just under 280 miles and this included some 70 miles over Lake Erie, the tenth largest lake in the world and the shallowest of the Great Lakes with an average depth of just 62 ft. Lake Erie is fed by the Detroit river and in turn feeds the Niagara falls both of which, by coincidence, Steve flew over just two days before. By the time Steve had reached the southern shoreline at Sandusky the sun was climbing higher into the sky and the forward visibility had improved dramatically. So much so that both shores of this huge lake could be seen from the 5000 ft altitude at which 'Goofy' was flying. Donning with his life jacket and making sure the life raft was to hand, Steve flew smoothly onwards across the lake with not a cloud in the sky, quite a contrast to the storms two days earlier across the very same stretch of water.

For some strange reason the Nexrad weather radar on-board 'Goofy' was showing severe weather over London but even from over 60 miles away the sky over London looked settled. As Steve flew ever closer the Nexrad continued to show the heavy rain, yet nothing was visible from the air. Quite what happened with the display Steve was not able to work out, but perhaps some data had been left over in the computer from Goofy's flight across this area two days earlier and with no fresh data the original information was still there. Needless to say as Steve neared London he could see the city and airport from many miles away with the weather all around totally CVAU, the military term for 'ceiling and visibility unlimited'.

CYXU, London Airport had featured in Steve's record setting flights in May when he set new FAI international world speed records from Orlando to London, London to Detroit and London to New York. Today, as well as the Dayton to London record, Steve would attempt to set international world speed records from London to Cleveland, OH, London to Columbus, OH, London to Knoxville, TN and London to Atlanta, GA.

Everything was looking good as 'Goofy' turned almost 180 degrees overhead London airport to head back across Lake Erie and fly the 117 miles to Cleveland-Hopkins International airport just to the south west of the city center. This time the lake crossing was almost 90 miles. Again the weather was perfect for the crossing with a slight tailwind at the 8000 ft altitude 'Goofy' was now cruising. But down below the water was starting to get choppy as the wind on the ground increased - one can hardly imagine what the winter storms must be like howling down from the Artic over this vast lake. Cleveland's city center could be seen for miles away as 'Goofy' flew what seemed ever so slowly over the lake. In reality with a ground speed of over 150 mph at times Steve was making good headway south and very shortly was overhead the airport to record the finish time for Cleveland. The average speed of 142 mph from London to Cleveland was slower than the 155 mph speed from Dayton to London, such are the vagaries of shifting winds aloft.

Cleveland has its own approach control such is the amount of traffic flying in the area. Originally they wanted Steve up at 11000 ft to fly overhead Cleveland but today, being a Saturday, they were quite prepared to accept the flight at 8000 ft. This was just as well as there were headwinds both above and below 8000 ft so Steve decided to stay at this level all the way back to Hillsboro.

Next on the record books was Columbus, OH where in 2005 and 2006 Steve had stopped over the night before the AirVenture Cup air race arrival day in Dayton. There he flew Young Eagles for EAA Chapter 9 based at KOSU, Ohio State University airport just to the north west of Columbus. This airport was to be the finish point for Steve's record flight from London to Columbus but before he could get there he had to thread 'Goofy' through the rapidly building clouds which were developing between Cleveland and Columbus. No doubt a forerunner of storms later in the day these build-ups were soaring to over 10000 ft in places but still Steve was able to fly 'Goofy' around the cloud towers with the wing tips in and out of the clouds, something he could not have done if he had been flying VFR. There's nothing Steve likes better that skimming the tops of the clouds and weaving through scattered build-ups knowing that ATC is watching out for you.

The sky cleared by the time 'Goofy' had reached Columbus and Steve was able to see the three runways of OSU 8000 ft below. With an average speed of 140 mph for the London to Columbus record, compared to 142 mph for London to Cleveland, it was clear that the headwind had increased after Cleveland and this would be the case until 'Goofy' reach Georgia. By now Steve had been flying for around 4 hours and there was just 30 mins to go before he would land back at Hillsboro for fuel and then set off south again to set the final two records on the way back to Florida.

Steve hoped he would get a quick turn around at Highland County airport and this time was able to land on runway 23 and turn off the runway just opposite the fuel pumps. Fuel is relatively cheap at HOC and with it being a Saturday there were a number of visiting airplanes near the pumps. Fortunately they had just finished so Steve taxied 'Goofy' straight up to the pumps to take on another 40 galls of fuel. Even with 50 galls on-board Steve had planned to stop at Baxley in Georgia for fuel as last time he flew south from HOC his new engine was burning over 10 galls each hour as it only had 5 hours flight time and was being 'broken in' at a high power setting. Today was to be different, and more about this later.

With storms forecast to develop over Kentucky and Tennessee Steve needed to have his Nexrad weather system working well. Unfortunately his experience with the 'phantom' storms over London earlier in the day led him to believe there was a fault with the information he had down-loaded from the internet before he left Hillsboro. So he had no choice, even though the clock was still running for the final two records, but to down-load the program again time consuming though it was.

Eventually, shortly after noon, Steve was able to once again use the downhill slope of runway 05 to advantage getting the now much heavier 'Goofy' back into the air and headed south for the next finishing line at Knoxville, TN. By now the cumulous clouds had started to develop in earnest and Steve needed to climb to 12000 ft to stay out of the developing weather. Steve's plan was to fly a cruise ascent to keep up his ground speed and conserve fuel, but ATC had other ideas. They wanted an expedited climb, possibly due to airline traffic descending into Cincinnati International, otherwise they would have to divert 'Goofy' from its direct route. Faced with this choice Steve climbed 'Goofy' at Vy, the climb speed of 90 mph which gives the best rate of climb for the distance travelled. This was some 20 mph slower than the cruise climb speed but at least it would get 'Goofy' through the clouds as quickly as possible and please ATC.

Flying over the rising mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee it was not surprising that this was where the storms were developing and again, once the climb had stopped at 12000 ft, Steve found himself weaving 'Goofy' through the rising build-ups. How long he could stay at 12000 ft Steve was not sure, but at this altitude the headwind was not too strong allowing a speed of 142 mph to be maintained. Slight diversions became necessary around the storm cells where heavy downpours could clearly be seen on the now working Nexrad weather system. The problem now was if indeed Steve would be able to fly overhead Knoxville's McGhee Tyson airport, to the south of Knoxville, which was enveloped in a major thunderstorm.

Flying above the clouds at 12000 ft makes time pass slowly and with the autopilot engaged Steve was able to devote his time to watching the storm's progress around Knoxville. Traffic was called by ATC and with a closing speed of perhaps 500 mph the US Airways regional jet passed quickly by as it descended on the approach into Charlotte, NC. Below 10000 ft it would have to reduce speed to 250 kts (or around 290 mph) but for now the pilot was obviously trying to make up time in the descent, such was the speed he passed by at!

Once again Steve was lucky as the storm suddenly increased its speed across the ground and left Knoxville in its wake, developing at it headed east towards Charlotte. Perhaps this was why the US Airways plane was so keen to get to Charlotte quickly. At 14.00 pm local time Steve was overhead TYS and timed by ATC for the finish of the London to Knoxville record. Of course the average speed was considerably down on the other flights of the day as time had been spent on the ground at Hillsboro - 116 mph compared with 142 mph for the London to Cleveland record, but at least the storm had cleared allowing the record to be claimed after all.

Ever onwards 'Goofy' flew south towards Atlanta with the clouds clearing once the western end of the Appalachian mountains had been passed. Atlanta is where Steve has always had problems with ATC each time he flew south wanting to transit their airspace at 11500 ft, a VFR altitude. This time not only did he want to fly through their airspace from north to south but he also wanted them to allow him to pass directly overhead the busy Dekalb-Peachtree airport less than 20 miles north of Atlanta's Hartsfield International, the world's busiest passenger airport. Perhaps the controllers were in a good mood, or the magic words 'world speed record flight' on Steve's IFR flight plan had worked wonders, but today Steve was amazed at the cooperation from ATC as he not only flew directly overhead PDK without any deviation from the shortest route but also was routed straight through Hartsfield’s approach path, still at 12000 ft. The fact that the weather was now clear may have had something to do with ATC’s handling of 'Goofy' or possibly, as with other controllers along the way, they had realised just what the '600FY' in the airplane's registration signifies!

It turned out later that the controllers thought he was still on a record flight after PDK, whereas in reality the record to PDK was the last one being flown. Not wanting to spoil the controllers day Steve was quite happy to go along with a direct route back home. So much so that once he had finished the record flying he pulled the power back a little to conserve fuel and started calculating if indeed he needed to stop at Baxley, GA for fuel after all. Baxley was around 1.5 hrs flight time south east of Atlanta so Steve had plenty of time to do his calculations. Things looked good as flying at 12000 ft Goofy's ground speed was now over 150 mph with the engine burning just 5.5 galls each hour. A decision was made to change the destination to Spruce Creek, 7FL6 flying direc, but little did Steve know what was going to develop later!

With 200 miles to go Steve was soon abeam Baxley and flying in smooth air over scattered fair weather clouds. What could be nicer listening to CD's with just an occasional message from ATC to warn of traffic. As Steve flew further south through Georgia he thought he was past the worst weather, but then he noticed a massive storm system way out on the horizon, directly on his flight path. One good thing about the AirNav Nexrad weather system Steve was using was that it allowed weather to be viewed at long distance as well as close by. Zooming out the range Steve could clearly see the storms to the south of Jacksonville looking as though they covered the whole width of northern Florida. It was amazing how far ahead the storms could be seen, well over 100 miles, such was the clearness of the air behind what turned out to be a weakening cold front.

Steve started planning his options - land ahead of the front and wait for the storms to dissipate later in the evening, or try and thread a way through. At this stage he could divert to a more central path through Florida, or even over to the west coast if need be, without too much of a problem with fuel. As time went by Steve could see the main line of storm cells heading straight for St Augustine, one of his preferred options for a fuel stop. Continuing to monitor the developing situation Steve could see a possible path through the storms down the center of Florida past Ocala. The problem was that Ocala is known for sudden storms to develop and with such an unstable air mass nearby it was likely that this afternoon would be no exception.

Talking with ATC as he neared Jacksonville Steve was told that other aircraft had managed to get through to the west of St Augustine, so perhaps the storm was moving away over the Atlantic after all. There had been a glimmer of hope from the Nexrad display, but this was always at least 5 mins old and a lot can happen with a major storm in 5 mins!. This was to be the case today as Steve flew 'Goofy' on a direct path to Spruce Creek, which would take him just to the west of St Augustine. As the storm grew closer, from 12000 ft Steve had a birds eye view of what was happening. He could see the heavy rain in the center of the storm and the cumulonimbus clouds rising perhaps 40000 ft or more. A thunderstorm goes through three stages - the cumulous stage, the mature stage and the dissipation stage - each of which can take from 20 mins upwards to progress. Today Steve had been watching the storm for towards an hour as he flew ever closer and he had clearly seen first two stages develop from miles away. The question was would there be another storm develop and follow this severe storm right across Steve's flight path?

As it happened the storm had been particularly severe but was now in its dissipation stage. Being so severe the dissipation was pushing cooler air far outwards from the storm's center which, at around 16.30 pm, was rapidly lessening the chances of another storm developing. A couple of hours earlier then it might have been a different matter. Abeam St Augustine Steve could see the storm continuing to dissipate over the Atlantic so the advice from ATC had been sound. The air south of the storm line was now crystal clear and Steve could see for many miles over the flat Florida countryside. Descending from 12000 ft certainly made up some time and Steve was able to cancel his IFR flight plan well to the north of Daytona Beach to avoid possible last minute diversions which can often happen nearing busy areas such as Daytona. Soon it was directly overhead Daytona Beach International airport, with the famous NASCAR speedway right alongside, and the a rapid descent into Spruce Creek, just 7 miles south, and the end of a challenging seven days of record setting flight. All that was now left was to fly a quick overhead pass and break, with Goofy’s ‘smoke on’ in celebration of course, and land on runway 05.

'Goofy' had performed well despite the initial setbacks which delayed the flight in the first place. To fly 10000 miles around the 'four corners' of such a vast Country as America without being delayed by weather was a rare opportunity and to set 29 new FAI international world speed records during the flight meant the job was well done!

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