Jim Belding Visits the WAMM Gang at the
Porterville, California WAMM fly-in May, 2006

This flight report was sent to us by Jim Belding, N4096. of Sedona, Arizona [2007/03/29]

Interesting experience. I took off at sunrise in the Mite from Sedona, AZ. A fuel stop at Eagle Airfield on the Colorado River, another in Barstow, CA. then around the restricted airspace of Edwards AF Base, over the Tehachapi's and into Porterville. Nice ride with about a 10 knot headwind across the desert. Total time, 4.7 hours.

Parked alongside five other Mites, (all based at Porterville) at the host's hangar, Bill Vandersande. Bill is an interesting person. He had several plastic chairs arranged in a half circle for everyone to simply sit and talk. No events were planned except a vague idea of going out for a taco dinner later. I had arranged for a motel and a rental car, and sat around talking for about 2 hours, during which time two more Mites arrived (both from California. Bill and some others tried to get me to cancel the car, saying they had plenty of cars and could take me to my motel, but I like my freedom and kept the car for which I was very grateful later. I thanked them for the offer, then I left the group.

The next morning, since I had unlimited mileage on the car, I went sightseeing up to Sequoia National Park. I saw some of the most magnificent scenery imaginable. The road climbs up along the wild Kaweah river to over 8000 feet. The giant Sequoias are up to 4000 years old.

I got back to the hangar around 2pm and found Bill still sitting in his chair and no one else around. Turns out the rest of the group were over at the airport restaurant bar drinking beer [lemonade, actually - Ed.]. This was Saturday. There was some talk about getting together for dinner, but not much interest. I had a late lunch and usually don’t eat a dinner also, so I went back to my motel for a swim.

There was a cold front supposed to come through late Sunday afternoon, but I planned to be well on my way home by then. Naturally, it rained all night. I had planned to sleep in a bit Sunday morning and wait for the scud to lift a bit, but turned out these helpful people would not hear of it. My room phone rang at 6am waking me up. It was Dave Rutherford, the website manager (one of the nicest gentlemen you would ever meet). Seems he was staying 10 rooms down from me, and had a van. He announced that everyone was meeting at the airport café for breakfast and that included me. Since Enterprise rent-a-car was closed on Sunday (I had it reserved until noon Monday), I told him I would have to drop it and the keys off at their office. "No problem," he said. "I will follow you there and drive us to the restaurant." So, with just 30 minutes to get packed and showered, no time to check the weather, off we went.

It was a light rain during the ride, during the breakfast, during fueling, and takeoff into low visibility and rain. A check with FSS showed rain showers past Bakersfield, with moderate to severe turbulence across the desert, and of course, Winds! The turbulence and high winds were as forecast. I got one monster jolt over the Tehachapi’s where I thought I was going to punch out through the canopy. A fuel stop in Barstow wasn’t too bad, but the one in Needles, CA was an experience. The wind there was blowing a gusty x-wind gale, but the little Mite handled everything okay. While fueling, I noticed a V-Tail Bonanza off the runway in the weeds, all crumpled up. When asked, the line guy said, “Yep, he caught the same wind you did while landing, but didn’t do quite so well.”

Across the Colorado River, the mountains rise pretty high into Arizona. There were times the 65hp engine didn’t seem capable of climbing over them due to downdrafts, but by utilizing ridge lift and playing glider pilot under the convective cumulous that were building, I managed to get high enough. After that, it was just a slow, bouncy ride to Sedona where another gusty x-wind landing was in order.

Jim Belding N4096