Welcome Home Juliet Papa!

 

Day 33

June 25, 2008 - Home Again

We were all early for the departure from Portland Wednesday morning, calling for the clearance 30 minutes early out of Portland. Jim was feeling the long previous day he had experienced doing the majority of the flying and opted to stay in the back. I took the left seat with Mercer as my copilot and headed the bird for the barn- some 2000+NM Southeast of Portland. It was the first break from the cockpit for Chris Hall since we landed in Bangor, Maine on May 2nd!

We climbed out toward a beautiful morning sun to FL410 again flying a route that took direct to the Wichita VOR and then direct to Little Rock, where our friend Dick Holbert was waiting with box lunches and some ice cold jet fuel for a quick turn refuel stop. Dick is one of Mercer and Bob’s best friends, a wonderful guy- great to see you Dick!

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Jim and Chris took the front seats for the last leg- we had been watching the weather develop all the way across the country. Juliet Papa has built-in XM Satellite weather radar capability, enabling us to downlink the country’s Doppler weather returns. This is a wonderful capability that has been available for only the last 3 or 4 years, it is a great help in planning your routing. We all watched great red blotches march across Central Florida.

The guys up front made the decision to fly down the Western side of the peninsula of Florida over the Gulf of Mexico all the way South to Sarasota before turning Northeast towards Orlando. The result was that, while we flew an extra 150 miles or so, there wasn’t even one burble of turbulence for the flight! Jim made his best landing of the trip- what timing- as we touched down at 5:20PM on good old runway 07 at Orlando Executive.

I had zeroed the ‘odometer’ on the Garmin back up navigation system as we had left that airport on May 2nd. The Garmin counts all of the miles flown, vectoring for approaches, etc. It also tallies average speed, including the time spent slowed for approaches and during our climbs. The story:

  1. 22,557 miles at an average speed of 367kts or 422 miles per hour!

  2. Flying time totaled 59.1 hours in the air.

  3. We added ½ quart of engine oil to each engine in Dubai and I had another ½ quart of oil added to each engine when we landed in Orlando!

  4. That and a top off of the oxygen system also in Dubai was the total maintenance done to the aircraft for the entire trip! An outstanding performance.

THE PARTY!

We pulled off the runway and were treated to a water cannon salute by the fine men of the ORL fire department as we entered the East Ramp for the arrival at the new GOAA facility that hosted our party. As we shut down, I was treated to the eager approach of grandson Evan Harwood, running out to the plane’s door to meet us. What a treat to have that kind of welcome, along with the applause from over 50 of our friends and family waiting to welcome us personally. WOW!

O’Boy’s BBQ tasted just fine to all of us as we fell into the warm and inviting group of folks that waited inside. Mercer’s wife and his best friends had flown down for the party from Atlanta. Jim’s wife Alexis and many of his friends waited with a ‘dirty martini’ already mixed for his arrival. Chris’s wife Patricia was waiting by the wingtip for him. My wife and the whole family, except son in law Brent- away flight training in New Jersey, were there- how great it is to be home!

Thanks to all!

Thanks to all who had a part in getting the room decorated, the flags along the walk, the tables all decorated- just wonderful THANKS TO ALL! Thanks Continued: I am praying that I don’t forget anyone important in this list, but here are the KUDOS:

  1. To Chris Hall: the most accomplished aviator that I’ve EVER been with. Always “on”, ready to watch over his flock on the ground or in the air. Competent, steady, funny, TOGETHER- Chris, you ARE the Man!

  2. To Cessna Aircraft: for building one of the most incredible machines for its size and purpose ever conceived! There is a reason that the CJ3 is the fastest selling jet in the history of the company. Not a single issue. Not a specification claimed that it can’t meet or exceed. The best aircraft I’ve ever had the chance to fly, Juliet Papa- thanks!

  3. To Universal Weather and the Red Team in general and Mr. Richard Cook in particular: An outstanding performance of an intricate mission! We made changes, you always made it work. Over flight permits, Weather and flight planning, ground handling and hotel arrangements- all went without a serious hitch.

  4. The guides on our trip: Universal had convinced us that they could provide good guides and ground transportation rather than our hotels. The theory was that their folks were more accountable to the next private plane load of people- that therefore we would get the best guides and vehicles rather get “the brother in law” of some hotel employee. Well, our guides NEVER FAILED to be competent, courteous, and on time. We never found the vehicle waiting for us to be sub-standard… and never had to wait for a vehicle- not even once! An Outstanding Performance, thanks again Universal Weather!

  5. To the team led by Kim at Showalter Flying Service: thanks for not only ‘letting me go,’ but being excited for me that I could take this “trip of a lifetime,” while all of you worked so hard at home. Thanks.

  6. To Mercer and Earl: two of the group that made all five of us blend and mix into a great team. Always ready, on time and over budget! :) Mercer, I loved your blogs and look forward to seeing your closing comments herein soon as well. God Bless you Both. There WILL be some period of time while I undergo withdrawal due to being away from this great group of guys.

  7. I’ve also noticed that I’m without the turn down service in the bedroom that I’d gotten used to at the JW Marriott’s and other great hotels we were able to stay at! Oh Well….

  8. Finally, to Mr. James H. Pugh, Jr.: Thank you sir for wanting to do this darn trip to begin with. For giving me the opportunity to plan and help execute it and, oh yes, for paying for the trip! Jim, you are the best. Always calm, on time and the veritable definition of a “low maintenance customer!”

JAMES H., YOU ARE A GREAT AMERICAN!

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AND TO YOU BLOGGERS:

My associate Brad Elliott discovered, after we had passed the halfway point in this trip, that there is a way to track how many people follow our blog. So, we set up that tracking to begin on June 45th, we are unable to go back and look at what happened before then. But, as of this morning (June 29th) we have logged more than 971 hits from 269 different people since that halfway point of the trip! Awesome. We have enjoyed and benefitted from the discipline of putting the blog up, enabling us to keep much better track of the incredible number of experiences we have had in the last 60 days since this all began.

We have enjoyed the comments, both on the blog and through emails, from so many of you, many have surprised us as we discovered that you were “watching us.” This had been a great addition to the fun we’ve had doing this wonderful journey. IT IS “almost” OVER. Well, I estimate that over 400 man hours of preparation for this trip were put in by Chris and I alone, almost all of that before the first flight commenced. It was a huge undertaking, made possible by the years of experience travelling that we brought to bear on the issues before us.

Thank God I had so much help available to me. Brent Harwood, former pilot for Jim, did a lot of the early spade work on the prototype routes. Then I had help from my years of travelling for a living. The real horsepower came to the party when Universal and Chris joined in the planning. The result was that we didn’t have a single incident in the air or on the ground that was of any import. Wow! Thanks be to all that had a part in this. There can be no doubt that the Mission was Accomplished. If anyone has seen a picture on the blog that you’d like to have sent to you, please just drop me an email with the description of it (bob@showalter.com) and I’ll be happy to send you the file. I still have friends who are promising me pictures that they have taken- especially from the arrival party- that I may post on the blog in the next weeks as I receive them. So, stay tuned. I’m sure that Mercer has some more things to add as well. - Bob

 

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Lauren Kowalski