I remember the very first LONG cross-country I took as an inexperienced pilot, flying my new (to me) Grumman Yankee from Houston to Minneapolis, VFR, with a single Narco MK III Omnigator radio and an engine that turned out to be burning a quart of oil every three hours. Crossing the center of the country south to north with no weather information, flying by hand in the sweltering summer heat and humidity, visibility was rarely better than five miles. I think there were five fuel stops (the Yankee had short legs) and I made it to southern Minnesota before getting stopped by a wall of weather, finishing the trip the next morning. It wasn’t quite like barnstorming, or the Cub flying I did a few years earlier to get my license – but it was an adventure!
I thought about that a couple of weeks ago as I was headed to Oshkosh in my fully-IFR single-seat RV-3. Cruising along in smooth air, eastbound at 11,500' in relatively cool air, the autopilot driving far more efficiently than I could by hand, watching the miles tick off and keeping an eye on a few developing solo storms across the plains on the EFIS, courtesy of ADS-B. Truth be told, this was more an opportunity to get current on all of the fancy toys we have in the airplane but don’t get to use on shorter, local flights. With multiple airplanes, each with different EFISs and radios, it can be tough to remember if you push, turn and then push again to select a waypoint, or if you touch, the punch the button and twist the knob. Fly the airplane? Oh... that's all pretty simple and intuitive, if I needed to to that, of course.
It was a day with little wind, and looking at the pictures, what there was came from directly abeam. Leaned back beyond peak, we weren’t cruising at top speed, but 164 knots at 6.8 gph made for 27.5 mpg (nautical mpg!) and the ground speed and TAS were equal. That’s a pretty nice way to move across the country. From the Tahoe region of Nevada to Oshkosh takes about eight and a half flying hours, and two fuel stops - the toughest thing along the way keeping from getting bored. Watching the weather and guessing where the traffic was headed is about all there is to keep one awake. That says just how far we’ve come from the days of the Mark III Omnigator