Today Tammy and I set out for an evening cross country flight with the intention of having dinner at Wings Bar & Grille at the Eugene Airport. However, very little went according to plan. The first sign of difficulty appeared in the flight planning phase; as I was preparing to file electronically through my flight planning software, the power went out in my apartment complex! Without access to electricity, I was forced to plan it all the old-fashioned way: with a paper sectional chart, paper navigation log, plotter and an E6B. Then I called a Flight Service briefer, obtained a standard weather briefing, and filed my flight plan to Eugene in 386ME. Actually it was pretty fun having to do without the modern tools for a change.

During my preflight inspection of 386ME I noticed the right strobe-light was out. Maintenance had gone home for the day, and since I knew I’d be back after dark I decided to get a different airplane: 478ER. After calling Flight Service again to switch my flight plan over to the new airplane and completing another inspection, we were off to Eugene!

We started out by heading East to Clackamas and Estacada and spent a while exploring the beautiful area along the Clackamas River. Tammy asked if there was anything I needed to practice, to which I replied “stalls”. She was ok with a power-off stall, so I slowed the airplane down, dropped the flaps, and spent a couple minutes maneuvering in slow flight with the stall horn squealing. “Ready?” I asked her, and after acquiring her approval I reduced power to idle, pulled back on the control wheel, and held it there as the airplane slowed below the white-arc on the airspeed indicator, the stall harn blaring. The airplane stalled abruptly, and I quickly added power, reduced 10 degrees of flaps, and returned the airplane to a clean configuration, no problem. I asked her if she was up for another, but her stomach didn’t care too much for the first one, so we climbed to 6,500 feet and intercepted the victory airway V448 and followed it to the southeast towards Eugene.

There was quite a lot of haze in the valley, and there was a cirrostratus layer at 25,000 feet that obscured the sun, so we weren’t treated to any cool atmospheric effects or a sunset… it was blah weather for aerial photography, but Tammy still captured some neat photos, I think.

Eugene is in Class-D airspace, but it works like a Class-C or Class-B airport, right down to Approach Control, assigned transponder codes, two Tower frequencies, and a complex taxiway system (check out the airport diagram!). Fortunately I had the airport diagram handy, and was able to follow Ground Control’s taxi instructions on the map. I requested taxi clearance to the north GA parking ramp, and we hopped out of the airplane. To our dismay, there was no way to get to the main terminal building where Wings Bar & Grille was located from the north GA parking ramp. All of the gates were locked, the FBO was closed for the day, and nobody seemed to be around. So, we got back into the airplane and requested clearance to taxi to the south GA ramp, where there is a Flightcraft FBO. There was a lineman at the ramp who guided us to our parking spot using hand signals—Tammy thought it was hilarious that they use the hand signals for little airplanes—she was under the impression that the procedure was reserved for the airliners. Nope! And after all that, we were too late; Wings Bar & Grille was closing in 2 minutes. I chatted for a bit with the lineman, and we decided instead to grab dinner at the familiar Chinese Restaurant in Albany. Once again Ground Control gave me a taxi clearance to Runway 34L, and we departed straight out to the north. Well, at least I got some good practice following complex taxi instructions at an unfamiliar airport, but we were getting pretty hungry.

Tammy was surprised by how quickly we made the 31 nautical mile flight to Albany… the hefty tailwind from the southwest didn’t hurt. I manuvered the airplane for a left base entry for runway 34, announcing my position over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as appropriate. I was high on short final which resulted in excess airspeed as we crossed the threshold, which in turn resulted in quite a lot of floating as the airplane entered ground effect. But the touchdown was fine. We taxied right up to the restaurant and met another pilot from Hillsboro Aviation in the parking lot. “I thought you were going to Eugene!” he exclaimed. I explained our plight, wished him luck on his upcoming Multiengine checkride, and headed in to the restaurant for a Kung Pow Shrimp binge. I called Flight Service and Hillsboro Aviation to inform them of our diversion to Albany.

After dinner we departed once again to the North, followed the 160 radial to the Newberg VOR, and arrived in Hillsboro minutes after the tower controller had gone home for the evening. I coordinated with another pilot in the pattern over the CTAF frequency as we performed 2 stop-and-goes, followed by a full stop.

That was quite the adventure! Had it all gone according to plan it probably would have been a fairly routine flight, but as it turned out it made for good experience and will certainly be memorable. We probably would have been able to keep our original dinner plans had we not switched airplanes at the last moment, dallied so long over southeast Portland, done the stall, and taxied to the wrong GA ramp in Eugene, but no harm done (other than perhaps annoying Eugene’s ground controller!). We’ll try it again soon!

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