Jeff Helmericks takes N4178 to Alaska

Jeff Helmericks, of Palmer, Alaska sent us the following report of the flight of his M-18C55 up to Alaska after having purchased it from Jim Bergo of Minot, North Dakota. In an e-mail to the Mite Site, Jim had mentioned that Keith Silver was present when the sale was made, and we asked Jeff where Keith fitted into the picture...

Wickenburg, AZ
Southern California
Bruce Besse
Southern California
Southern California
Northern California

Keith Silver is my VP of Finance for my company and a mutual lover of airplanes, he volunteered to fly the Mite to Indiana where I was staying at the time. I had purchased a Decathlon last fall when I was down there, and would have two airplanes to get back here to Alaska.

The Minot to Indy flight went well for Keith with the exception of crappy weather most of the way. He continued on to Arizona a few day later in the Decathlon to a place called Indian Hills Airpark where I am in the process of building a hanger/home for my parents as a winter home. Indian Hills will most likely be the permanent home for the Mite when the hanger is finished. Keith flew back to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines from Phoenix.

After getting my wife launched back to Anchorage on American Airlines I headed to Arizona in the Mite: 1,400 nm in 16 flight hours. Can you say head winds? I made it as far as Santa Rosa New Mexico the first night, 950nm, not too bad I didn't think for my first day in a Mite. I even got to try a 20 knot, 45 degree x-wind landing in Texas. I was pleasantly surprised how well the Mite handled it.

After the details of picking out the floor plan for the house and hanger, I met up with one of my other employees, Bruce Besse who has a PA-11 Cub here in Alaska, and Gary Baker, the owner of a flight school based at Palmer (Alaska) that leases his aircraft from me. He was getting his commercial glider add-on south of Phoenix and wanted to fly back with us.

I checked Bruce out in the Mite and he racked up about 5 hours ripping around the Indian Hills area getting used to the plane. We all departed on Saturday the 13th and made it as far as Klamath Falls, with fuel stops in Apple Valley and Columbia, CA. We managed about 110 kts most of the way. the Mite being only about 5 kts slower than the Decathlon. I think it would keep up if it had a little more pitch to the prop, as it turns up 2500 if you don't pull the throttle back to about 20-21" mp.

The next day we got up to Kelowna, BC before the weather shut us down. There was a low jet stream kicking up high wind as moderate to extreme turbulence across the mountains. At our second fuel stop at Wenatchee, WA the surface winds had been gusting to 30 kts. Nice they were only 15 degrees off the centerline. Sure made for a short take off roll. To add to the enjoyment, we managed to get the gas cap on wrong on the Decathlon and had gas pouring out whenever we hit a bump, and that day there were lots of bumps, so we got to go back to Wenatchee and enjoy the gusty winds for a second time.

The third day greeted us with a great flight from Kelowna to Prince George, but the next leg to Fort St. John, was not so grand with low visibility and snow thru the mountains and winds gusting to 32 kts on the surface for our arrival. The radar showed level 3 and 4 CB's moving our way so we spent the night there: Pizza and beer - $35.00 CDN, Heated hanger for the Decathlon and the Mite - $125.00 CDN.

The last day started out great, just like the day before - clear skies and light winds for the trip up to Fort Nelson. But by the time we were a few miles to the west we had found the weather again and were in spring snow showers, sun one minute, heavy snow and 1 mile vis the next, for the rest of the way to Palmer. We stopped in Watson Lake and Whitehorse, YT, and Northway, AK for gas. We arrived in Palmer at 18:30 local on Tuesday the 16th [March, 2004]. That last day we covered 1,100 nm in 11.5 flight hours, and that was with a average of 10-15 kts of headwind most of the way. Not too bad for a 65hp airplane.

All total in the last two weeks Keith, Bruce and myself covered about 5,900 nm in 65 hours in the Mite with no break-downs. Fuel burn has been around 4 - 5 gph depending on altitude. The oil consumption is a little more than I would like, averaging about a quart in 5-6 hours. I will put a 4 probe CHT on the engine to check the cylinder temps, I suspect the engine is running so cold the cylinders have glazed up. I will let you know my findings.

I have attached some more pictures. The shot of the two airplanes on the ground was at Wickenburg, AZ the morning of our departure. The desert background pictures were taken in the Twentynine Palms area of Southern CA at 6,500 ft. I have no idea as to the air temp, as neither airplane has an OAT gauge. The ones showing trees and water were taken the same day in Northern CA, about 100 miles south of Klamath Falls, OR. As I am sure most Mite driver know, the heater is good at keeping your right foot warm and not much else. However Bruce did fine with only a medium jacket and a pair of insulated Carhart pants. I will be address the heat issue before the Mite goes south.

19 March, 2004