Day 2: Green Bay, WI to Sault Ste Marie, MI

Stats for the day:

  • 3.5 hours flight time
  • 6 landings, 2 full stop
  • Airports: KMNM (Menominee), KESC (Delta County), KISQ (Schoolcraft County), KERY (Luce County), KCIU (Chippewa County), KANJ (Sault Ste Marie / Sanderson)
  • 18.1 gallons of 100LL burned
Map of Wednesday’s flight

I’m writing my day 2 post early in the morning on day 3… but I’ll continue to use “today” in reference to day 2 so it doesn’t get too confusing!

I started the day at Green Bay. My rental car was very convenient, allowing me to wake up early and drive back to the airport around 6. I knew I would be paying my FBO bill, and I was pleasantly surprised that I only paid $10 for the tie down / overnight, and $45 ish for the gas, and the handling and ramp fees were waived. (Hertz will bill me separately for the rental car.) Honestly, that was beyond reasonable for the service that I got.

The line guy at Jet Air was really nice and we chatted for a little while about where I was going to fly. I have to say everyone on my trip that I’ve talked to has (1) been very excited about the trip and (2) suggested places to go. I’m always appreciative, even if I am not going to take the advice on number (2). After he undid the tie downs, a twin taxied up and decided to prop blast me for a good 5-10 minutes as I was loading up Pokey again. There were no winds but I felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane as the twin took its time running up its two engines with a tiny little 150 in its wake.

Lake Michigan… somewhere as I’m climbing out of Green Bay

There was some high overcast but otherwise 100% visibility and clear skies, nice cool weather and smooth sailing as I departed from Green Bay. The controllers were all pretty great.

My intended first touch and go was going to be at KOCQ (Oconto), but Jon pointed out to me in a text that morning that it was NOTAM’d closed. I had checked NOTAMs earlier, but it was actually closed for a couple days starting this morning! Oh well, I’ll just have to come back so I can count this one in my log book at another time! So instead I did a touch and go at KMNM (Menominee) instead, which got the “Mahna Mahna” song from the Muppets stuck in my head. Green Bay TRACON let me keep my squawk and kept me on with flight following afterward to my first full stop landing at KESC (Delta County).

The FBO at Delta County was not obviously attended, so I fueled Pokey up myself, which has made me double-down on my absolute insistence on paying that ~20c extra per gallon for full service. Between getting the fuel pump on, then hauling the nozzle up the ladder to the wing tanks before the credit card machine times out, trying not to spill 100LL all over myself, trying to get the clutch to work to retract the hose back into the shed… yeah, the extra fee for full service is 100% worth it in my book.

I had landed after a larger airplane, a King Air. There was also an Ameriflight jet unloading into a UPS truck while I was there. The Ameriflight captain waited for me at the FBO, I think he was planning to take the crew car and didn’t want to strand me out in the middle of nowhere. I was just planning to stretch my legs and do some flight planning, but I appreciated the offer. The King Air pilot then came in and started talking about his career flying for the military, and then getting hired on at Delta……… right before COVID hit. So he’s still flying King Airs for now. He was thankful to be employed but I understand how difficult this time is for airline pilots or those who wish to be airline pilots. These kinds of interactions are why I love flying so much. I’ll probably never see these two pilots again, but they were nice and I appreciated getting to listen to some stories.

I also have to mention, Delta County is the first airport I hit in the Eastern time zone. My mom was happy to have me in “real time” again. I only made one time zone change, but this trip definitely made clear to me why we use Zulu time in aviation. I had to keep that in mind when taking a log of my time in / out on that leg of the trip.

Most of the CTAF frequencies were 122.8, and I have to say, I finally flew far enough north to stop having to listen to Lewis traffic calls!!! Oh man, it was so nice not to hear terrible Lewis calls every three and a half seconds while I was on frequency. 😂

After Delta County, I was off to do three touch and goes before stopping at KANJ (Sault Ste Marie / Sanderson). This was my first time this far north in Michigan, first time in the UP, and it was just spectacular. I felt like the only human on the planet, like one of the original explorers just finding new places on a new continent. However, the UP is mostly trees, what look to be swamps, and a couple of tiny little farms sprinkled here and there. I definitely was not interested in having any engine problems, because my options for an emergency landing were definitely limited.

I did a touch and go at KISQ (Schoolcraft County), which officially got me > 250 NM from my point of departure (Aurora). I guess 250 NM feels pretty far in a small, slow airplane (no disrespect intended to Pokey, of course).

Pit mine and lake somewhere between Schoolcraft and Luce County airports.

My next stop was Luce County airport. I didn’t take a ton of pictures because it’s hard to do it in Pokey, and I had the Go Pro going for the first time (finally figured out how to mount it!)… although I’m not sure when but at some point the battery died. We’ll see.

After my touch and go at Luce (which I felt was one of my crappier landings, but I did do a little slip on final, and I always enjoy a good slip) I heard an old guy get on the CTAF and say “very nice,” so I guess the landing wasn’t too bad!

Typical UP scenery. Beautiful, but nowhere I’d want to lose an engine.

There were seriously ZERO other airplanes out in the UP. I realized that it was easy to get complacent while scanning for traffic. I was no longer on with ATC, having gotten dropped about 10 miles out from Delta County, a few stops ago. I didn’t feel it was worth it to bother a bunch of controllers for some relatively short hops, and the CTAF wasn’t as horribly jammed up with terrible radio calls as it is around Chicagoland, so I didn’t mind keeping it local. However, I did hear just enough “any traffic in the area please advise” calls that I had to do some meditation and deep breathing to keep my blood pressure from going through the roof. 😬

Poking around in the UP.

I was honestly pretty tired at this point and looking forward to being at my destination for the day, Sault Ste Marie, MI. But I did have one more stop over at Chippewa County first. On my way there I noticed a closed airport on my sectional chart, which I think used to be Raco air field, I think an old military airport. There’s an MTR coming out of the field and it was pretty large for an airport in the middle of nowhere. It’s still pretty clear from the air.

Raco airport (closed, but very visible).
Relocated threshold and narrowed runway width at Chippewa County airport. (Picture from Google maps.)

Chippewa County was very interesting. The winds were calm so I decided to land on 34, because it’s 7203’ long. However, when I got there, I saw a much longer length runway… with a relocated threshold. Also, the width has been narrowed up with some chevrons on the sides of the runway as well. I had never flown to an airport with a relocated threshold before (displaced yes, relocated no). It was almost like a big runway with a little runway inside. I recommend looking it up on Google maps, it’s hard to give a good impression of just how much extra room was relocated out of the runway. However, a little Cessna 150 could probably do several touch and goes in the 7200’ left over for me, so I had no issues and was on my way!

Did I mention that I was literally the ONLY airplane in the entire UP? Well, I was. Until I got to KANJ. All of a sudden, there’s a Comanche departing, a Skylane in right traffic, me, and a Bonanza calling in at some RNAV fix. (Instrument pilots, stop calling fix locations, people who are not from the area and local VFR pilots have no idea what you’re talking about. Tell us how far you are from the airport and in what direction!) Thankfully, the sequence worked well with the Skylane landing first, me behind, and the bonanza third. I was happy to be done flying for the day.

One of the most beautiful 185s I’ve ever seen!

My new friends Ray and Wendy picked me up. They’re friends of Jon’s who happen to live in Sault Ste Marie, which was an added bonus of this being my stop for the day. I think they were just as excited as I was about all of the traffic at the airport during my arrival! We had a very nice lunch, and then I got to take a ride in Ray’s beautiful 185 amphib. I’d never been in one before so this was a very unique and exciting experience for me, and I enjoyed being a passenger after 8 hours of flight in the past two days.

Sault Ste Marie locks. To the north (upper/right of the picture) is Canada. The lower half of the picture is the US.
Short final at Drummond Island. I could finally take a picture while landing, because I was just along for the ride!
Something that I am unaccustomed to seeing when I look out the window of an airplane!

The views were beautiful around Sault Ste Marie, we did a touch and go over at Drummond Island (which saves me a stop on my next leg), and I enjoyed a couple water landings too.

Blue shaded area is class golf to 14,500’ MSL!

We got to fly through G to 14,500’ which is another thing I’ve taught about in ground school but never actually seen in real life. It’s almost impossible to find nowadays due to the ubiquity of radar and satellite reception, but still pops up now and again near the borders to our north and south.

My hosts up here were super nice, brought me to a delicious lunch, helped me find a cute hotel downtown, gave me my first amphib flight, and we relaxed with a beer after. I was exhausted but it was a perfect day and I was so happy to finally get to meet them and make new friends. The community isn’t why I started flying, but is absolutely why I continue to fly.

For day three, it’s off to do a bunch of touch and goes until hitting Traverse City. I’m a little nervous that hotels will be hard to find (even in a pandemic) and expensive, but that’s all part of the adventure! Stay tuned!

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