Coast to Coast in N4105

by John Jorgensen

I had the pleasure of ferrying a Mooney Mite, N4105, from the west coast; Porterville, California, to the east coast; Brookhaven, New York, from 28 Nov. to 3 Dec., 2008.

Dave Rush purchased the red-and-white Mite from Bill Vandersande, but Dave was unable to fly the Mite back to Long Island himself. When I found out that the seat was available, I jumped at the chance.

A Southwest Boeing 737 brought me to San Francisco quite quickly. After visiting an old friend at the S.F. Public Library, I drove out to Porterville in a rental car. The weather turned sour upon my arrival, but during the Thanksgiving week I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Van, and also Chris and Harry from Delliker Aviation. Bill had driven from Camarillo, CA to acquaint me with the Mite. He showed me his other plane, a Temco T-35, one of two in existence.

The day after Thanksgiving, 2008, the weather at Porterville cleared enough for a southeasterly departure. They say Porterville is located in the San Joaquin Valley and this translates out to pilots as being in the middle of a catch basin for clouds. After the rain stopped and the clouds and ceilings lifted, Chris made it plain to me: "Now is the time to get started, no more procrastinating. Go out that way and the clouds will stop at the end of the valley." All of this proved to be true.

Getting the little Mooney above the cloud deck was an inspirational moment and I snapped a couple of cell phone pictures which turned out o.k., all things considered. [see below]

The Mite flies real well, with quite a lot of fun returned to the pilot. Three creature comfort problems arose right away, however, by the time I had got to the east coast I had them figured out. First, do not attempt to fly that airplane without a pillow to sit on. In Bill’s words, on the subject of fuel endurance and range, “After 2 or 3 hours you’ll want to get out of it anyway.” The pillow is a complete fix for the pain in the butt problem.

Second, it was cold outside most of the way, and N4105 had no heater. I did the best I could with what I had, but if I had continued winter flying I imagine a motorcycle suit or some kind of layered-up arrangement with warmer foot and hand protection would have been in order.

Third, I struggled time and time again to engage the [landing gear] uplock pin in its receiving hole. Lowering the landing gear was pretty easy, but anyone watching my takeoffs would have noticed wings rocking back and forth and the nose pitching up and down in an erratic manner. Finally, upon reaching the east coast, I devised a method of retracting the landing gear and getting the uplock pin in its receiving hole which makes it as easy as pie.

My first hop took me to 29 Palms, California. The airport appeared to be deserted at first, but as I was putting ropes on the airplane a Jeep SUV pulled up. A guy named Tait got out and we struck up a conversation.

Tait had come down the check on the 680 Aero Commander that he was flying. Turns out the Commander had a giant “black box” in the cabin, a laser-input photogrammetric-mapping setup which recognized topographical information (elevations) fed into a computer, which then allowed data to be rolled along an x, y or z axis. In short, the viewer could translate topography as it would appear from a side view, information of this sort being of value to the United States Marine Corps who have a base nearby. Anyhow, Tait gave me a much-needed ride to the Motel 6.

The route of flight was Porterville CA, 29 Palms CA, Buckeye AZ, Bisbee AZ, Deming NM, Horizon (El Paso) TX, Llano TX, Fort Stockton TX, Derider LA, Gulf Shores AL, Southern-Americus GA, Hilton Head SC, Chesapeake VA, Lakewood NJ, Brookhaven NY.

The ride north from Hilton Head was more fun than I’ve had in a dog’s age. Most everyone walking the beach up to and including the model airplane runway by the Jones Beach parkway waved at me as I came by. I formed my flying style from flying with my dad when we had the Tri Pacer: flying too low, skimming down the waves breaking on the beach (I haven’t chased ducks in quite a while), doing whatever I wanted, essentially, dad having flown 20 years with the Navy including Wildcats and Hellcats in the South Pacific, some Crusader time and other good times at Patuxent River, etc.

There was an orange and white cat at Deridder LA, while I was flight planning and programming the GPS, who decided taking a nap right on my chart was a good idea. I had to put him on a chair in order to finish my paperwork.

I hope when the weather warms up I can take a break from this 18-wheeler and have a chance at flying a Mooney Mite again.

John Jorgensen, 631-949-8453, South Bristol, Maine.