Polar Flight 90 - The Polar Pumpkin's Journey to the North Pole

Flight Log 2009

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November 2009 | October 2009 | Summer, 2009 (including Oshkosh Airventure 2009) | Spring, 2009

November 21, 2009

Moontown Airfield, Alabama to Far Calling Farm private airfield near Table Grove, Illinois - 2.9 hours

Art Mortvedt, Dr. Richard Hoover, Dr. Asim Bej and the Polar Pumpkin at Moontown AirfieldArrival at Moontown Airfield, on a pleasant "Southern Morning", offered quite a pleasant surprise. Many airplanes of various sizes were already parked on the grass ramp; and others were in the landing pattern. A Fly-in Breakfast was in progress! Since an approaching weather front was still quite some distance to the southwest, I was in no particular hurry to get airborne. As I sorted through gear and packed the plane, I had the pleasure to meet many more fine folk - with a basket full of questions about the orange Polar Pumpkin. One gentleman, Mr. Dan Satterfield - weatherman at a local television station - came to get a few photos and talk Antarctica. He'll be going to the Antarctic this season as a recipient of a National Science Foundation grant. Moontown staff were particularly gracious by getting out their portable fueling apparatus; so I didn't have to taxi over to the primary fuel pump. Moontown is a non-towered airfield; so it was particularly important to listen carefully on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) as I back taxied on the active runway for a takeoff to the east.

Climbout to the north and west offered fabulous views of the farmland of Alabama. I altered my course from time to time to stay clear of Restricted Areas, Military Operations Areas, and Class B Airspace - concerns that are not so common where I fly in the Alaska bush. I veered a considerable distance to the west to stay clear of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Weather over 95% of the route was fabulous. Visibility, however, during the last 5% was starting to drop - lower clouds and haze. With these lowering conditions, I was getting a bit concerned about landing on the unlit grass airfield at Far Calling Farm. Usually, in the evenings, there are herds of deer grazing on the runway; and I certainly did not want to damage the Polar Pumpkin with a piece of venison.

But, no worries, the landing was uneventful ; and the Polar Pumpkin is now tucked snugly away in the hangar until I return from Alaska in January. I'll then fly her through the Rocky Mountain States, Western Canada, to Alaska and North to the Pole.


November 15, 2009

Heaven's Landing, Georgia to Moontown Airfield near Huntsville, Alabama - 1.6 hours

Mike Ciochetti is the owner and founder of Heaven's Landing, a gated community of several hundred acres. Folks purchasing lots have their choice of mountaintop locations or locations down closer to the airfield. Facilities include hangars for resident's personal aircraft, a club house on the hill, and a gourmet restaurant. As part of the dedication ceremonies, two WWII fighter aces - Mr. Bud Anderson and General Chuck Yeager turned up to participate. Most pilots would reckon that they have just "landed in Heaven". Prior to developing Heaven's Landing, Mike was a professional NASCAR driver.

After a nice breakfast of "biscuits 'n gravy" and country ham at a well known Clayton, Georgia "mom and pop" restaurant, it was time once again to get airborne. Terrain was typically mountainous headed west for quite some distance; but, as I flew just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, the terrain flattened the rest of the way to Huntsville. One of America's great engineering accomplishments was the Tennessee Valley Authority - developing a navigable waterway and hydro power. As I intersected the Tennessee River, I had a fabulous view upstream and downstream.

Art in front of the Apollo 16 Lunar Module in HuntsvilleApproximately one year ago, as I was working at the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation - an institution associated with the Marshall Space Flight Center - in logistical preparation for a 15 member Antarctic Expedition, I had the pleasure to visit Moontown Airfield, just east of Huntsville, Alabama. I've always liked the informality of small grass airfields; and Moontown is one of the nicest. So I then decided that if I ever was in the area with my Polar Pumpkin, I would land at Moontown.

Folks at the airfield were typically so helpful. When I had the Polar Pumpkin parked and tied down, folks had a variety of questions about this strange and oddly colored aircraft with the polar bear/penguins displayed on the side. Most aircraft at the field were small single engine aircraft; but, in addition, gliders were being towed as well - to sample the non powered flight around the area.

traditional pit barbecue at GibsonsFor the next 6 days I was busy giving lectures at various venues - school groups, scientists, the Sigma Xi honor society at the University of Alabama Birmingham, etc. Of course, it was necessary to keep up one's strength with local traditional pit barbecue at Gibson's. When I commented to the proprietor on just how excellent I thought his menu was, he said "why, I think I'll send y'all on home with a bit of my special sauce" - which I'm not enjoying on some moose ribs here in Alaska!



November 14, 2009

Heaven's LandingHeaven's LandingLincolnton, North Carolina to Heaven's Landing, Georgia - 1.0 hours

After the storms of the last few days, I took a cup of coffee out on my friend's boat pier to enjoy the sunrise. Cynthia then very kindly took me to the Lincolnton Airport for an early morning departure. Quite a beautiful drive. As I walked to the hangar to reorganize my load, get the aircraft refueled, and do my preflight, I walked by "not exactly a gazebo" - but a rectangular shaded balcony, somewhat similar - where local pilots were already busy "hangar flying". A tough job; but someone has to do it. From that spot, one had a good view of most "goings on" at the airport.

In just a few days, I find that I can develop quite an attachment to beautiful new places and fine people. But, I had to head out. The weather was excellent to my westerly course; and in order to stay well below the floor of Charlotte Class B airspace, I cruised along at 1500 feet enjoying the scenery. One huge danger, that we don't usually have to consider in flying the Alaska bush, is hugely tall radio towers. I knew of two towers southeast of Lincolnton; but, carefully checking the charts to the west, I felt confident that I was well clear of any such obstacles on a west/southwest course.

Folks locally call the Great Smokys and Appalachians "mountains". Of course they are; but they're so different than the rugged topped ones we have in Alaska. The Southeastern U.S. mountains are equally beautiful - especially with the changing autumn foliage. From the air, I could see all sorts of inviting "hollers" - in the valleys - with crystal clear streams and lakes. As I approached Heaven's Landing, I entered Rabun County, Georgia - one of the main set locations for the filming of the famous movie "Deliverance". I listened carefully for any strumming banjos!

My host at Heaven's Landing, Mr. Mike Ciochetti, rolled out a huge truckload of Southern Hospitality. After getting the Polar Pumpkin secured at the base of Mike's hangar, Mike and family - with me tagging along - took off in Mike's Cessna 210 to another local airfield to enjoy the airshow/carshow. Then back to Heaven's Landing for dinner with friends and family - and a welcome night's sleep.


November 9, 2009 Raleigh Exec Airport to Lincoln County/Lincolnton Airport near Charlotte, North Carolina - 1.0 Hours

Good uneventful flight, although visibility started to drop as I approached Charlotte - due to approaching weather associated with Hurricane Ida.

My friends Mike and Cynthia Jones met me at the airport. Initially I had planned to tie the Polar Pumpkin down outside; but - with hangar space suddenly becoming available - and with Ida approaching, I put the ol' gal inside. Many thanks to Kathy, Jeff Lynn, and the other staff at the airport for this opportunity.

Although there were driving winds and torrential winds the evening of November 10th, Explorers Club members from the Greater Piedmont Chapter based in Columbia, South Carolina drove up for my lecture. Prior to the lecture, I they treated me to a nice seafood dinner. Many thanks to them for dinner, their presence, and the wonderful book on aviation which they presented to me.

As I travel, and lecture, more people are joining Polar Flight 90 as Polar Pumpkin Project Partners. Realizing the generous pledge of Col. James Pritzker for matching funds up to $150,000, a Polar Pumpkin Project Partner Pledge in any amount is important. I am pleased to note that just this week Hudson Farm - and the Peter and Cynthia Kellogg Foundation has pledged support in the amount of $25,000.

We believe that Polar Flight 90 for is a worthy endeavor. Therefore, we persevere - humbly and methodically, with gratitude - to the best of our ability.

My sincere thanks goes out to the multitude of good folks - too many to name - for their assistance, financially, logistically, emotionally, and in any other way.



November 8, 2009

Bristol, Tennessee to Sanford-Lee County Regional Airport near Raleigh, North Carolina - 1.5 Hours

After perusing the flight charts, and realizing that the new home of 93 year old Auntie Zona was only a small distance out of my planned flight route, I decided to take the opportunity to visit. She had passed out, and fallen, in her bathroom recently; so I was reminded that it may be timely to go for a visit. She is Mother's sister; and the two girls grew up on a South Dakota farm in the early 1900s. It was truly a pleasure to see her again, and visit with cousin Mary and her family.

The Sanford-Lee County Airport is adjacent to the "Research/Commercial Triangle" of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill - including Cary - so now the airport has been renamed the Raleigh Exec Airport.

November 7, 2009

Roanoke, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee - 1.4 Hours

My brother Bob, wife Jan, nephew Steve, niece Heidi and family, with friends came to see/photograph the Polar Pumpkin - and to see me off - for which I'm very grateful.

Excellent weather - CAVU - as we'd say in Alaska, "Severe Clear". The flight was fairly smooth, with a few bumps in places - mostly in the vicinity of the mountains. These "mountains" aren't exactly the Alaskan model; but in places they range to an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet. As I've been flying through the Southeastern USA, I've seen many race tracks; and just north of Bristol, I saw one of the largest NASCAR stadiums, flanked by a drag strip nearby.

My good friend Randy Cook - with whom I worked 6 Spring seasons in the North Polar vicinity, based out of Northern Greenland - met me at the Bristol Airport. We had a lot to talk about. One of the points noted the soonest was regarding the time 3 polar bears walked through our camp! Randy, and his gracious wife Nancy, are now retired; and - among many other things - volunteer their time with "Habitat for Humanity".

Katie, one of Cook's friends, came to visit and provided me an opportunity to learn about a group of Appalachian folks called the "melungeons" - a dark skinned people of mixed Caucasian, Negro, and Indian stock, inhabiting the Tennessee mountains. Katie was an expert on this group. I've long had a very keen interest in traditional groups around the world, that have been closely connected to the land - "subsistence people", if you will.

November 5, 2009

Richmond, Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia - 1.6 Hours

Visibility was good, ceilings were high; but winds from the southwest were increasing, there was a forecast for low level wind shear, and it was quite turbulent enroute. As I approached the Richmond Airport, on final approach, I was asked to do a 360 degree turn to allow a jet to get airborne in front of me. When on the ground, I could see just how gusty the winds were; and then understood the "why" of the turbulence. I must duly note how very exceptionally friendly and cooperative were the flight controllers in Richmond - for which I am very grateful.

My sister-in-law Jan Mortvedt met me at the airport; and, after securing the Polar Pumpkin, we went to their house on Sugar Loaf Mountain. The next couple days were spent visiting family; and giving a lecture regarding Polar Flight 90.

November 2, 2009

Melfa, Virginia to Richmond, Virginia - .8 Hours

Early in the morning, clouds were right to the ground with 3 miles visibility and drizzle; so I wasn't so optimistic about getting to Richmond in time for my noon lecture. But the clouds began lifting; and when I took off, there was a ceiling of about 1,000 feet. As I flew over the whitecaps of Chesapeake Bay, I was listening carefully to the sound of the engine. Should the Polar Pumpkin engine have quit, I would have gotten a bit wet. The situation reminded me of the advice that I had gotten from a veteran Arctic pilot in Canada, when I flew my Cessna 180 across Hudson Strait. He told me, "if the engine quits, you point the airplane straight down - and then take your tool box with you"!

Fortunately the weather was just adequate for me to arrive Richmond a-ok; and then park the Polar Pumpkin immediately adjacent to the Virginia Aeronautical Museum - two hours prior to my noon lecture. It was a pleasure to be speaking to a group comprised of two Rotary Clubs - and a very special pleasure to be speaking immediately adjacent to Admiral Byrd's Antarctic aircraft the "Stars and Stripes"

Admiral Byrd's Antarctic aircraft - the Stars and Stripes
Since I needed to take the train from Richmond to Washington, DC for a couple days of errands, I left the Polar Pumpkin in the capable maintenance hands of the Richmond Jet Center - to change oil, give the engine a general look over, and check/grease the wheel bearings. Polar Pumpkin maintenence
I always enjoy the stimulation of the Nation's Capitol. One of my specific goals was to photograph the Grumman Northrup 2B - called the Polar Star - with which Bernt Balchen was associated, as Chief Pilot, in 1933 on the Ellsworth Transantarctic Expedition. I was particularly keen to see this aircraft; since the Explorers Club had loaned me Explorers Flag #53 - that very same flag Balchen had taken on the Ellsworth Expedition. The Polar Star, Ellsworth Transantarctic expedition
In our busy "workaday" lives, we sometimes take certain aspects of life for granted. One that we should never value lightly, is the fact that we live in a free country. As I walk amid such a grand city as Washington, DC, I'm so thankful for this fact. The White House

November 1, 2009

Georgetown, Delaware to Accomack County Airport Melfa, Virginia - .7 Hours

Flying down the Delmarv Peninsula required a bit of zigging and zagging, in order to avoid a military airfield and restricted areas. Prior to takeoff, I had a good visit with T-28 pilots Gordon Bowers and Becky Luther, who were also flying on to Richmond, Virginia. They made the flight successfully IFR; but the low cloud put a stop to my VFR flight at Melfa, Virginia. Ceilings were just too low to try to cross Chesapeake Bay VFR - especially as darkness was approaching, in unknown territory for me, and in an area where radio towers sometimes loom up into the clouds.

Once again, hospitality was superb, as the airport manager loaned me his car to drive across the peninsula to the Atlantic coast at the small town of Wachapreague for a nice lunch of raw clams, oysters, and crab. Since the weather remained bad, he then took me to a local motel - right next to a good Mexican restaurant - for the night.


Polar Pumpkin and T 28sOctober 30, 2009

Wings Field, Philadelphia to Georgetown, Delaware - 1.4 Hours

Visibility wasn't the greatest, with ceilings only at about 2,000 feet. I had wanted to fly west to Elkins, West Virginia to visit my buddy Neil Conant - who had worked at South Pole Station for 17 summer seasons. Low ceilings over the Appalachians, however, made me change plans to then head east of the Washington, DC "ADIZ" or "SFRA" -

Polar Pumpkin and B25s

Special Flight Rules Area, to fly over the Delmarv Peninsula on the east side of Chesapeake Bay. Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) areas prohibit access to light aircraft. So, in the interest of avoiding the TFR around Vice President Biden's home near Wilmington, Delaware, I flew west to Smoketown, and thence southeast between the two Class B Airspaces of Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Georgetown (Sussex County) Airfield appeared to be a logical place to land for a sandwich. A fabulous restaurant was located right on the airfield, along - once again - with many wonderful folks.

Auto show attendeeOne rather memorable individual was christened Corporal Klink. While visiting, I discovered that an airshow was planned for the following morning; so, with the invitation to participate, I stayed overnight. Sean Carroll - Reno Air Racer and Yak Demonstration Team member - along with Larry Kelley - Panchito B-25 owner and pilot, were particularly hospitable with invitations to stay overnight in their hangars.

Besides the airshow, a vintage car show was also in progress. Numerous food stands - seafood, barbecue, etc. - were set up in the vicinity for people's enjoyment.



October 26, 2009

Academy of Sciences, PhiladelphiaAeroflex Andover, New Jersey to Wings Field - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - .7 Hours

John, from Hudson Farm, dropped me off at Aeroflex Airfield; and, as I prepared the airplane, I had more good visits with Damian and the "Aeroflex Boys".

The flight to Wings Field was non eventful; and a pleasure once again to get airborne - particularly to get further away from urban areas and get out into my more familiar "country habitat". I chose to land at Wings Field, since it was so close to the home of my most gracious host Gardner Cadwalader. I also had the pleasure to spend time with Gardner's sister Sandy at her home in central Philadelphia.

Robert Peary's Flag article

Art couldn't miss the opportunity for a real Phillie Cheesesteak sandwichTed Burkett, and his wife Nancie, organized my lecture at the Cosmopolitan Club in association with the Geographical Society of Philadelphia. Since my lecture date corresponded to the night of the first game of the World Series, I was surprised to see nearly a full house in attendance. Claire Fleming, archivist at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, very kindly gave the Burketts and myself a tour, "in the back" - which included a perusal of Robert Peary's North Pole memorabilia, lantern slides, and papers.

October 14 & 15, 2009
Nantucket AtheneumOctober 14 and 15 were most special days for me, as I was honored with the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award and associated receptions. The primary event occurred at Cipriani's restaurant on Wall Street - an amazing example of 20th century architecture. Five other Explorers Club members received this year's award. Miles O'Brien - past CNN host - was the master of ceremonies; and the supreme elegance was nearly more than this ol' bush pilot could handle.
Another quite special event occurred on October 16. As I was distracted while flagging down a cab, to leave New York City - with my luggage on a hotel trolley right behind me - a thief saw his opportunity, moved in, and stole my computer bag with two laptop computers, backup materials, and years of my work with documents and photo images. Two security cameras caught the theft on tape - for what it was worth. A thief disappearing into a crowd of 10 million people is a bit difficult to isolate! Education is sometimes expensive, as in this case.
Lecturing at the AtheneumFortunately the world is full of far more good people than bad. The kind folks at Hudson Farm are perfect examples of that, and helped me a great deal - getting me down to the Apple Store for a computer replacement, loaning me a car to drive to Taunton, Massachusetts - in very bad weather - for my lectures in that area.
My lectures at the Atheneum on Nantucket Island, at American Aero Services in Taunton, and with the Explorers Club in Boston were well received; and an opportunity to discuss Polar Flight 90. The pilots with American Aero were particularly gracious and generous; when they flew me to Nantucket Island in a Cessna 182, and returned to pick me up the next day.


October 12

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania to Andover, New Jersey - .8 hours.

After yesterday's turbulence, it was a particular pleasure to fly along with a glassy smooth early morning ride. Shortly after takeoff over the Susquehana River, I flew over numerous coal mines with communities interspersed between. Both soft and hard coal are mined in the area. A number of years ago, leaching from the mines killed much of the life in the river; but with environmental awareness and action, the river again has a healthy ecosystem, which includes catfish, carp, and muskellunge.

Aeroflex Andover airstrip is a relatively small country airstrip west of New York City. There is a paved runway and a grass runway running parallel. With the Polar Pumpkin, I used the grass. Although its a small airport, much general aviation activity occurs here. Tailwheel airplanes - such as Piper Super Cubs, J-3 Cubs, a Cessna 185, and others are common here. Damian GelGaizo operates a bush flying academy called Andover Flight. He, and everyone I've met here so far, has been so incredibly friendly and hospitable; and, it seems, folks are keen to have a look at the Polar Pumpkin, and learn about Polar Flight 90.Tomorrow I will go into the concrete jungle of New York City to prepare for activities with the Explorers Club, including the Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner at Cipriani's Restaurant on Wall Street on October 15.

One of the fine folks that I met at Andover Airport was Mr. George Gibson. I asked George, "would it be ok for me to put up my tent along the airstrip". George said, "yes, that would probably be ok, but I may have a better idea for you". So off I went with George up to Hudson Farm, a private reserve of George and his partner Mr. Peter Kellogg. George then offered my wife Damaris and I accommodation there in the most elegant farm house, as we prepared to go into New York City to attend the Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Awards.

October 11, 2009

Jamestown, New York to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania - 1.3 hours

Last evening a wonderful audience assembled for my lecture at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. Great preparations were made. Prior to the actual event, Dan Weinstein, Nancy Keeler, and I did an interview on WJTN Radio with fabulous hosts Russ Dietrich and Jim Roselle. Then at the Institute, folks were able to get acquainted with each other and Polar Flight 90 at a wine and cheese reception. A number of the folks at the lecture came out to the Jamestown airport to see the Polar Pumpkin, and its departure for points east.

A very strong northwest wind was blowing for takeoff, and right down Runway 31. Airborne, however, it was quite turbulent. Clouds were down fairly low over the mountains of western Pennsylvania; so I wasn't able to climb very high to get away from the turbulence. I was quite amazed at just how remote and "wilderness like" were the mountains. Much fabulous habitat for white tail deer and black bears. Small communities nestled in the picturesque valleys between mountains seemed to offer the life of "shangrila".

My friend Dave Crispell met me at the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania airport; and off we went to the local May's Restaurant for some regional cuisine, which included "pickled cabbage". Even though Dave and his wife had to leave for Maryland, they kindly offered me the use of their house and van.

I'm proceeding along, flying during the good weather windows between the bad. I'm now in Jamestown, New York with a radio interview scheduled for tomorrow morning and a lecture at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute tomorrow night. I plan to fly on to the New York City vicinity on October 12.

October 8, 2009

Packer Airstrip, Ohio to Jamestown, New York - 1.7 hours

Got airborne at Packer just as the weather was coming in from the west. A Pitts biplane pilot that came from Binghamton, New York reported that the weather was fine in that direction. There was some haze on the horizon; but visibility was generally good. Had a fabulous 20 knot tailwind from the southwest. My longtime friend Dan Weinstein - a "polar guy" for many years - was waiting for me at the airport. We put the Polar Pumpkin in the local hangar; and proceed to Bob Evans restaurant for a meal. Granola bars and bananas inflight leave a bit to be desired. Dan gave me a quick tour of the area, and let me know that Lucille Ball is originally from Jamestown; and the Crescent Tool Company also originated here. There was a nice article in the local newspaper about the Polar Flight 90 Expedition on October 8. The morning of October 10, Dan and I have an interview on a local radio station; and then I will give a lecture at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in the evening.

October 5, 2009

Macomb, Illinois to Packer Airstrip (grass airstrip approximately 30 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio) - 3.0 hours

A fabulous severely clear day with a much appreciated tail wind. Had an excellent view of the countryside. Most of the corn and bean fields are as yet unharvested; however, some farmers are getting into the field to do so just now. While flying nearby Purdue University at Lafayette, Indiana, I could hear several students on the radio while doing their flight training. When I asked Kathy Sullivan, the astronaut, about the Ohio State University airport, she said, "yes, that's a fine place to land". "But consider another smaller airport, Packer Airport". I'm glad that I did. It's an idyllic little airfield out in the country with the wonderful Packer family as the proprietors. Hospitality could not have been better. The Packer family, my nephew from Cincinnati, Kathy Sullivan and I met for a wonderful Mexican meal at the El Vaquero restaurant. While in the area, I visited the Byrd Polar Research Center and Polar Archives at Ohio State University. The BPRC Director, Dr. Berry Lyons, graciously invited me to a student cookout, gave me a tour through the facility; and Laura Kissel at the Polar Archives made it possible for me to listen to original recordings of phone conversation between Admiral Richard Byrd and Colonel Bernt Balchen. Local cuisine while at the Packer airport included a fried sausage sandwich at the G&R Tavern in Waldo, Ohio.

October 4, 2009

Rock Falls, Illinois to Macomb, Illinois - 1.4 hours

After the installation of Electronics International instruments in the Polar Pumpkin at the Radio Ranch, my intention was to fly the aircraft to brother-in-law Curt Richmond's grass airstrip near Table Grove, Illinois. Darkness and the likelihood of deer on the runway precluded that plan. So instead I landed at the lighted airstrip of Macomb, Illinois.

Art Mortvedt and the Polar Pumpkin at Oshkosh FlyinOshkosh 2009

In late July, Art Mortvedt flew the Polar Pumpkin to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to give a series of presentations on the plans for his flight to the North Pole at the annual fly-in for the Experimental Aircraft Association. Here are notes from that journey with particular attention to a host of folks who have volunteered their help along the way.

8/03/09 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Rock Falls, Illinois - 1.7 hours (With a stop at JAMA airstrip next to Albion, Wisconsin - a small grass airstrip, in the lee of the cornfields, due to the high winds). I hitchhiked to the local truck stop for a "breakfast all day long" meal. On the way back to the airport, I saw a good bit of the countryside; because my driver couldn't find the airport. Waiting for the winds to die down, I curled up in the shade under the wing of the Polar Pumpkin - on my Thermarest mat - and took a snooze for an hour or so, letting the wind subside so I could continue on to Rock Falls.

Airports with grass strips are some of the most delightful - usually quiet, with no jets, no waiting buses or limos, usually no stringent security - BUT potentially with animals such as deer, sheep, and holsteins on the runway. Thanks to the help of my brothers-in-law Curt Richmond and Phil Richmond, I managed to get the Polar Pumpkin off the farm airstrip just fine, picked up some fuel at Cobb Aviation in Macomb, Illinois, and proceeded up to Radio Ranch at Rock Falls, Illinois - for the installation of an S-Tec 30 two axis autopilot. This unit will stabilize the Polar Pumpkin for scientific measurements, as I fly across the Arctic Ocean sea ice.

Radio Ranch, operated by proprietor Ron Hammer, and his fabulous staff, exhibit the very best in professional expertise and courtesy. Similar skill and courtesy was shown by M&M Aviation - Doug being the director of maintenance.

The S-Tec 30 performed flawlessly as I flew the Polar Pumpkin to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the Oshkosh Airventure 2009. Flying the Midwest, amid the corn and soybean fields - and many emergency landing locations - is a pleasure indeed. There are, however, radio towers and power lines of which to be aware - not a normal consideration in the bush of Alaska.



With many thanks to the gracious consideration of Mark Forss and Dick Knipinski, EAA Staff, the Polar Pumpkin was parked in the Aeroshell Square ExtensionWith many thanks to the gracious consideration of Mark Forss and Dick Knipinski, EAA Staff, the Polar Pumpkin was parked in the Aeroshell Square Extension, giving airshow attendees ample opportunity to see the aircraft and learn about the Polar Flight 90 Expedition.

Normally camping is not allowed in Aeroshell Square; but - with the objective of exhibiting my specially built polar tent - I received permission to camp under the wing of the airplane.





Throughout Airventure, Mark Forss arranged for me to give a total of 8 expedition lectures at varied venues. Also, Mark Roderer provided valuable technical expertise. Normally camping is not allowed in Aeroshell Square; but - with the objective of exhibiting my specially built polar tent - I received permission to camp under the wing of the airplane.

Burt Rutan's White Knight 2Oshkosh Airventure draws thousands aircraft and hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. One of the very special aircraft present this year was Burt Rutan's White Knight 2. This aircraft, supported by Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Galactic staff, will provide a launching platform for private flights to space. There seemed to be quite a contrast with the Polar Pumpkin parked next to such a sophisticated state of the art aircraft.




Two adventurous South Africans, Mike Blyth and James Pitman,From Guinea in West Africa to Belem in Brazil, it's a flight of approximately 2,000 miles over water. Two adventurous South Africans, Mike Blyth and James Pitman, built a single engine low wing aircraft - called the Sling - at The Airplane Factory (www.airplanefactory.co.za) in or near Johannesburg, South Africa; and flew that leg over water in 20.5 hours. On takeoff, they knew that they did not have enough fuel on board (118 gallons) to complete the flight if they did not have a proper tailwind. They did have the tailwind; and continued on to Oshkosh. Mike and James had the Sling parked next to the Polar Pumpkin.

Young enthusiastsThe Wright Flyer also was parked near the Polar Pumpkin; as was an Aircoupe, flown by Jennifer Cox. Jennifer, a delightful young lady, was born with no arms; and besides now being a private pilot, she will soon receive her certification in scuba diving. Jennifer flies the Aircoupe with her feet.

With such a diversity of aircraft on exhibit, there was an equally diverse crowd with fabulous questions. Some of the best questions came from youngsters.

Since the Radio Ranch and M&M Aviation did such a fabulous job with the S-Tec 30 installation, the Polar Pumpkin is now back in their hangars for the installation of an Electronics International UBG-16 Ultimate Bar Graph Engine Monitor and FP-5L Fuel Flow Meter. Electronics International is a world leader in such technology; and I certainly need the best when I'm flying over hundreds of miles of Arctic Ocean sea ice - concerned about the total integrity of my engine, and the management of every drop of fuel.

When the Peace of Selby Wilderness Lodge (www.alaskawilderness.net) closes the latter part of September, I will then rendezvous with the Polar Pumpkin and its new instruments at the Radio Ranch. One of my first stops in early October will be at the internationally renowned Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University near Columbus, Ohio. This center is associated with research in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. I plan to make one stop, in Jamestown, New York - to visit one of the early pilots of the Polar Pumpkin, Mr. Dan Weinstein, and give a lecture in the local community. Next stop: a small airfield in the vicinity of New York City. I will be receiving The Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award in Manhattan on October 15. Afterwards, I will be doing fund raising lectures along the Eastern Seaboard and through the Carolinas during latter October and early November.

7/23/09 - Rock Falls, Illinois to Oshkosh, Wisconsin - 1.8 hours

5/20/09 - Macomb, Illinois to Rock Falls, Illinois at the Radio Ranch - .7 hours

5/20/09 - Aerial photo shoot and reposition for fuel in Macomb, Illinois - .8 hours

5/19/09 - Local evening flight with Curt Richmond on board - .6 hours

Spring 2009

12 April 2009 Lebanon to Far Calling Farm; 1.8 hr flight; pushed Polar Pumpkin into hanger at Damaris' family farm; total trip flight time 17.4 hrs.

12 April 2009 Hot Springs to Lebanon, Missouri; 1.7 hr flight; fueling stop; tail end of fly-in; offered sandwich and pie

12 April 2009 Palestine to Hot Springs, Arkansas; 1.9 hr flight; flew over Carthage, Texas and past Hope, Arkansas; lots of private jets at Hot Springs ramp; courtesy car to downtown to Stubby's BBQ pit

11 April 2009 Lakeway Airpark to Palestine, Texas; 1.6 hr flight; wind satisfactory on neither 9-27 or 18-36, but landed ok; outstanding tailgate feed of feed of catfish, french fries, crayfish, boiled potatoes, and fried dough

7 April 2009 Junction to Lakeway Airpark, Austin, Texas; 0.8 hr flight; wind right down runway; crowd collected while I refueled

7 April 2009 Pecos to Junction, Texas; 1.7 hr flight; good visibility; checked wind at Lakeway Airpark

7 April 2009 Truth or Consequences to Pecos, Texas; 1.9 hr flight; flew south down the Rio Grande to El Paso and then east to avoid missile range restricted area; saw lots of desert

6 April 2009 Mesa to Truth or Consequences New Mexico; 2.5 hr flight; turbulent over hills; saw petroglyphs

Roll out to begin 1 year journey to North Pole

4 April 2009 1735 Roll out to begin 1 year journey to North Pole. 1811 Lift off from Hawthorne Airport, Los Angeles, California; 0.8 hr flight to Redlands, California

Redlands to Mesa, Arizona; 2.2 hr; passed huge wind farms and landed at Falcon Field where I earned my private license in 1981

2 April 2009 Taxi/final refueling

1 April 2009 Hawthorne, California
test flight

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