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Two Miles High

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Well-known member
Apr 11, 2002
Two Miles High, the Mighty 150 and Me

In every pilots life, there comes a day when some new experience calls to the heart of adventure. To strike out and find something new is a life changing event. I had spent the last hundred or so hours touring the Oklahoma countryside from the modest altitudes of 4 to 5 thousand feet. Always though, I wondered what would be like way up high, close to the service ceiling of my wonderful little plane. Today, I would find out.

Though I had thought about going for the flight level altitudes before today, conditions had never been too favorable. Usually there were clouds, or the temperature was too high. However, today was just perfect. The temperature was in the low to middle 60's and high pressure was dominating the area. It was severe clear as far as the eye could see. The Mighty 150 might just have a chance in weather like this. Lots of cool, dense air would make the journey less of a burden on my little bird. My decision was made, up we go into the wild blue yonder. Today, we go high!

I would combine my record breaking altitude attempt (my previous solo altitude was 7500') with a cross country to Blackwell Oklahoma. Building time in preparation for instrument training requires a certain number of going someplace time, so go someplace I would. As we rolled on to the runway the stop watch started. With full tanks we lifted off and pointed north toward Kansas. Along the way I had hoped to exploit some thermal activity to speed up the ascent. Others had told me it would take an hour to get as high as I wanted to go. However, though there were lots of bumps, and the occasional 1000fpm push, I could not exploit any steady lift. So, leaving thoughts of easy ascension behind, the Mighty 150 and me resigned ourselves to the work we had ahead. My job was relatively easy. Keep the airspeed at max climb, watch the oil temperature and keep her coordinated for best performance. I was after all trying to get up there as fast I possible. The Mighty 150 hummed along, and we passed 5000' at about 12 minutes.

As soon as we reached 5000' I started leaning out the engine. I knew from reading and others advice that above 5k, the engine can no longer produce more than 75% power, so aggressive leaning according to the POH could cause no harm. From then on, when the climb performance would start to fall I would lean some more. Having no engine gauges to use for reference, I would lean until the engine started losing power, and enrichen from there. Each time I did this, my climb would improve. I was very impressed that I was still getting 200-300 fpm above 8000 ft. It really was a good day for the record attempt (mine).

At 9000' I realized that I had a problem. My ground speed was a blistering 44 knots, while climbing. At this rate it would take a while to get to Blackwell. However, there was no particular reason to go there. So, after consulting the chart I turned south toward Duncan. Now, I watched my ground speed spool up 90 knots at climb airspeed. That was more like it. Just then, I saw a Cessna 210 coming directly at me off my left wing tip at about 9000'. By now I was up to 9500' but it was still a shock. As he passed directly under me I realized that he must have been on an IFR flight plan and aware of my presence. I can only imagine the look on his face as he passed under me, wondering how the heck and why the heck a Cessna 150 was up this high in flat Oklahoma. It was startling, but also a good feeling not to be all alone up there. As I finally reached my destination altitude, I stopped the clock. It had taken me 33 minutes to climb from 1200' MSL to 10,500'. I had arrived.

Staying at 10.5k proved to be a bit of a challenge. The airspeed had to be just right or the she wanted to come down. Ironically, the Mighty 150 still had climb left in her. Though, for today this was high enough. With the legal limit on flight above 10k without O2 at 30 minutes I didn't want to push it. I enjoyed the view flying over OKC and Sundance at 10.5k and took lots of pictures. My ground speed up there was a pleasing 115 knots with the tail wind. My airspeed to maintain altitude was about 80 mph. It was an experience I will never forget. Once past OKC, to knew I needed to start down for Duncan. The rest of the trip I was in a gentle 200fpm descent and my groundspeed spooled up to 125 knots.

Not to bad for a 150. Maybe next time I can borrow an O2 bottle and see what its like a little higher. Until then, I will always remember my first time, alone in my lovely little 150 2 miles high tasting life like few people ever do. Does it get any better than this? Well, I guess not, at least until my next adventure.

"Sundance traffic, Mighty 150 XX175 crossing over the field at 10,500' transitioning the area to the south." Yeah, life is good.
I should have known better. Oh, well I guess we got too many sticks lodged in the south end of some of this group.

Question? Can you still remember when you enjoyed flying?
I remember one afternoon after school when I was 16 I took the mighty Luscombe 8-A with a Cont. 65 h.p. 4 cylinder opposed engine up as high as it would go. I still have picture's of the accent. I got it to 11,800 feet, no radio, no transponder, no electrical, real flying. Instead of o2 in those days I could run a mile in almost 4 flat and 100 yards in 10 seconds, great to be young. Besides I was a student pilot and wasn't suppose to be aware of such exotic regulations. All that experience paid off one day 3 years later as I horsed a loaded Ercoupe 415C with an 85 horse engine with a radio over the Rockies, I had to get to 11,300 just to get over the pass.
When I was doing ag work as a teenager in Kansas, I got a wild hair on a slow day, and decided to experiment with a Cessna 150. My boss had one for doing field inspections and visiting local farmers and ferrying parts. I had free reign to do whatever I wanted with it. I decided to see how high it would go using thermal activity.

17,500 in three hours, and probably higher if ATC hadn't pitched a fit. I don't recommend it, but it can be done.
Got an empty 727 to thermal going into GCN one day, we were climbing at about 1500 feet per minute with the engines at idle. Can you imagine what that would have done to a C-150...
Fun flying

I don't recall taking either a 152 or 172 as high as did Dracos. I learned to fly in Oklahoma, just like Dracos did, down the street from his field, at Wiley Post. I remember that I really enjoyed my cross-countries. The terrain was flat, but interesting in some parts of the state, especially near Lake Eufala. Flying near Lake Thunderbird was also interesting as well.

I took all my initial training in OKC. Great IFR environment. Several different kinds of each approach. Little traffic and cooperative ATC. Good place to get actual in the spring and fall; there were low clouds but no icing during those seasons. Sometimes, if it was a good IFR afternoon a couple of us would get the airplane, file, and shoot approaches. It wasn't just idle time punching holes in clouds; we'd sign off IPCs for each other. But, no pressure. It was fun.

The last time I was at the controls of an aircraft was eight years ago. I got .7 in a glider. It took me a little time to learn how to fly formation properly with tow plane. Flying the glider was fun, and very peaceful.
Actually, VRB115, flight levels start at whatever altitude you set your altimiter to QNE.

In the US you only do that above 18,000 ft. If you fly outside the United States, you will encounter the use of flight levels below 18,000 ft


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