Mollie warming up Lil Blue in Nicholasville, KY.
Check out this great video put together by Mike Murphy, of this cross country flight.
By Mike Murphy
The sun was just coming over the Eastern horizon as we were laying out our parachutes on a gorgeous Kentucky morning. After a pre-flight inspection with an additional check on supplies, tools, maps, frequencies, headings, and items for our cross country, we ascended one after another and headed toward Field of Dreams airstrip just outside of Broadhead, KY. On the sectional for Cincinnati you will find Field of Dreams just across the road from Crawford Ultra light Park. The fog was hanging over the Kentucky River offering a scene fit for a postcard. Gil had checked the balloonist forecast and suggested that we climb to 3000 AGL for a smoother flight. The length of this leg was 34.4 miles and took 1.2 hours flight time. Flying West of Richmond, KY and East of Danville/Junction City, KY, we arrived without incident. I noticed that one of the barns had “Hello” written on the top as we descended to refuel with fuel we had carried along with us.
Having topped off my tank, I ascended first to capture photographs of the rest of the group. That morning the group was: Steve Ferrell from Lexington, KY, Mollie and Gil Miller from Richmond, KY, Jimmy Rogers from *****, TN, Jim Mac Leay from Morristown, TN, and me, Mike Murphy from Lexington, KY,. We all steered for the London, KY airport which is just off I-75. Traveling south the thermals started to pick up a little more and the group maintained around 1500 to 3000 AGL depending on what each was comfortable with.
As we flew over Woods Creek Lake dam, which is just before I-75 at London, we encountered a medical emergency helicopter headed north out of London. The pilot seemed to closely monitor our location until he was passed each of our winged vehicles. We arrived at the London/Corbin airport and requested a fly by. All six of us did a fly by and landed on the grass between the runway and taxi way. This leg was 33.6 miles and consumed 1.3 hours. We had completed 2.5 hours flying and needed a good stretch
The airport manager, the gas truck, and a couple of others came out to greet and assist us. The guys fueled our tanks and our reserve cans. After a bit of light conversation we decided to once again get into the air to take off having completed a little less than half the distance to our destination. Once again I took off first for photos of the group. Just after I photographed Mollie and Jim an aircraft announced their approach to the airport and we three headed toward Middlesboro, KY. Gil, Steve, and Jimmy got into the air shortly after the incoming plane landed and joined us as we all headed toward Middlesboro, KY. We had radio contact with the last half of our group, but could not see them. The mountains got higher and the thermals became a little rougher. We were still around 2500 to 3000 AGL, or should I say, “above the mountain tops”. Jim announced the approach to Middlesboro for Mollie and me. The others were not within the four mile area. Middlesboro is one of two cities in the world that is inside a crater. I have heard that a meteor strike is what caused the Cumberland Gap at the KY/TN state line at Middlesboro. The light wind and thermals made the landing interesting. Jim, Mollie and I were on the ground when Les, the volunteer worker for Middlesboro Airport, came out to assist us. We then heard the other three with their approach to Middlesboro. This leg was 40.8 miles and expended 1.3 hours. We all stretched, fueled up and took off.
The mountains around Cumberland Gap are above 3000 MSL and I had to fly through the Gap. The wind was coming from the North and rolling over the top of Cumberland Mountain and it noticeably slowed my rate of ascent. It took a couple of miles to get back to 3000 AGL. The thermals were quiet evident and the forecast for Morristown was scattered thunder showers later in the afternoon. The time was just after the noon hour. The clouds were coming in from the West but not threatening. The route is meandering along US 25E mostly. We flew near New Tazwell and the Clinch River .The most comfortable altitude that I found was around 4000 AGL (or mountain tops.) We finally made it to Clinch Mountain where the Veterans outlook is located over looking Cherokee Lake. Gil was the first to land at Coopers, I followed and then the rest came in. Of course Steve had to do a fly by just to be the last one in. This leg was 46.2 miles and took 1.3 hours. We had finally made the first half of our cross country.
We drove our planes across the road to the hanger and completed a post flight check and headed for some food. We met Dean Finney for a late lunch and then to the motel to clean up for an afternoon flight. The thunderstorms did make it to Coopers that afternoon so we were unable to fly. We prepared our planes for the return trip the next day and headed out to get a well deserved night’s rest.
We rose early on May 19, 2012 and all arrived before sunrise to prepare for the return trip. After pre-flight and warm-up we ascended from Cooper’s and proceeded over the road for take off. Jim, Mollie, Jimmy, Steve and I took off. Gil radioed us that he had engine trouble and I headed back to Coopers to assist but before I could get turned around and headed back, he located the problem. Gil got into the air and joined us as we headed for Veterans outlook on Clinch Mountain.
After flying for awhile we were over the mountain headed toward New Tazwell airport. Jim switched to 122.8 to notify the airport of our intentions. Gil was having radio problems and breaking up badly. Jimmy came on 122.8 and alerted us that Gil was descending. I turned around to see him drop below a mountain top North of Clinch Mountain and flew back and located him on the ground. He changed the battery in his radio and was once again able to communicate with the group. I stayed and circled around Gil for moral support. Gil taxied to one end of the pasture, turned around, laid out his chute, and took off. It looked like he barely cleared the fence at the other end of the pasture. He said he cleared it with room to spare, by at least two feet. Gil and I headed to New Tazwell to check for any damage caused by the unexpected landing. We arrived; the others took off and headed to Middlesboro, KY. Gil had no damage. We fueled up and headed to Middlesboro also.
Gil took the high way and came in over the big mountain, while I came in through Cumberland Gap. My experience was better than the day before. The rest of the group had landed when I arrived. Steve Ferrell was going to fly by his old homestead near Corbin on the way back. Jimmy Rogers and I decided to fly by Chain Rock in Pineville, KY on our route to London/Corbin. Jimmy and I had US 25E in sight most of the way to Pineville. I saw the flea market on 25E and was surprised at how large it was. Just prior to Pine Mountain we flew over the golf course and then around a small cloud and there it was; Chain Rock. We flew around it for a few minutes and then headed to London/Corbin.
We had radio contact with the group for the entirety of our separate flights. The thermals were getting bouncy which drove Jimmy higher. He was around 4000AGL while I stayed around 2000AGL. We flew just North of Barbourville, KY and heard Steve give his announcement for London/Corbin. We landed and had lunch at the airport café.
We were now off to Field of Dreams near Broadhead. Steve was last into the air; we could not get him on the radio so I headed back to London/Corbin. I was able to get part of a transmission from him but it was breaking up. I located him and stayed with him back to Broadhead. While enroute we flew over the Civil War Camp Wildcat exit. I did not see the camp but I did see the exit where all the RVs and tractor trailers stopped. Just up the road from there was the original Renfro Valley Barn Dance and soon after that we landed at Field of Dreams.
While taking off from Field of Dreams I encountered a wind gust and had to abort the take off. I thought I was going to turn over but didn’t. Jim and Jimmy took off and then I got into the air and we headed off toward Nicholasville, KY. I do not know what happened to delay the rest of the group but they got into the air about ten minutes later.
We all arrived back at our original starting point in Nicholasville, Kentucky after 11.4 hours flying time and 370 miles. We were ready to land. I had fulfilled many dreams while flying a powered parachute these last two days. I flew a great cross country from Nicholasville to Coopers TN; I flew through Cumberland Gap; I flew over Chain Rock in Pineville, KY; I flew a cross country with a great group of friends; Mollie and Gil Miller, Jimmy Rogers, Steve Ferrell, and last the best powered parachute pilot ever; Jim Mac Leay.
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