Flying to Memphis, New Orleans & Nashville

Lori has put up with me through 10 years of marriage now and 9 years of flying.  I was surprised that she suggested we take a flying trip to New Orleans & Nashville to celebrate our 10th Anniversary.  I started the planning as soon as she suggested it and quickly realized that Memphis would be the half-way point between Champaign, IL and New Orleans so I suggested that we add it to the itinerary.  We decided to spend 2 days in Memphis, 3 days in New Orleans and 2 days in Nashville.  This post will just touch on the flying parts of our great adventure and we will add pictures and details about everything we did in each of these cities soon.  I’ll give you a quick preview and tell you that it was a great trip with tons of exciting activities and things to share.

Our original plan was to fly the kids up to Michigan on Thursday 7/19 but the weather wasn’t cooperative so we had to drive.  Thankfully Lori’s Mom was willing to meet us half way around Michigan City and we had a quick lunch and the kids went on their way with “Grammy” to enjoy their week.  Lori and I returned home to pack for an early morning flight.  On Friday 7/20 I checked the weather and it looked like it would be a go except for possibly a fog layer when we departed.  The flight to Memphis was smooth and we didn’t really have any significant weather to deal with.  We capitalized on a decent tailwind at 10,000 feet and landed at Dewitt Spain Airport (M01) after a 2.4 hour flight.  Dewitt Spain is a small airport that is just on the north side of the city of Memphis.  This picture from altitude shows where the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers meet and you can see the states of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky.  Click on it for a better view.

After 2 full days in Memphis we again departed early in the morning on Sunday 7/22 for New Orleans.  I was a little concerned as the forecast didn’t look that good but the flight ended up being perfectly fine.  We did have to dodge a few buildups and got some sprinkles along the way but an overcast layer above us for the 2nd half of the flight kept it a little cooler in the cockpit.  We flew into Lakefront Airport (KNEW) in New Orleans which is on the northern side of the city and right on Lake Pontchartrain.  This was the old airport in New Orleans and has a really neat looking terminal building.  The flight from Memphis to New Orleans was 2.8 hours.  Click on the pictures of the terminal building and the final approach right over the water into Lakefront Airport.

The forecast for Wednesday 7/25 seemed like it would be the best day yet for flying.  Even though we didn’t have to worry as much about weather, there was a Presidential TFR that was scheduled to be active in the afternoon.  Luckily we were able to get out of town before this as we had tickets for the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville that evening.  We still departed early at around 7 AM so we can get to our destination before any convective or gusty weather kicks up in the afternoon hours.  The flight from New Orleans to Nashville was the longest of our legs at 3.3 hours.  This is about the longest you want to sit in a small plane without stretching your legs.  It is also close to my maximum range for fuel as even though I carry about 5 hours worth of fuel I still plan with a large reserve of over an hour.  We had a slight headwind but we were still getting decent ground speeds of around 115 knots.  The approach and landing into John C. Tune Airport (KJWN) was a little bumpy as it sits on top of a hill and there are a couple of other hills around it.  It had also gotten pretty hot into the high 90’s despite being only 10:45 AM when we landed.  Lucky for us the nice lady at the FBO delivered the car with the air conditioning blasting right to the airplane.  I fueled up while Lori unpacked, pushed the plane back just a few yards into a tie-down spot, secured & covered the plane and we were off to enjoy Nashville.  This was the only rental car that we had the whole trip as we used cabs and public transportation in Memphis & New Orleans.

Finally the trek was coming to an end.  We departed Nashville at around 7 AM on Friday 7/27 and had a good flight back despite the headwind.  The trip from Nashville back to Champaign Williard Airport (KCMI) took about 2.3 hours.  I filed for 8,000 feet but after seeing ground speeds below 100 knots I decided to ask for lower at 6,000 feet.  This helped a little and we got about 10 knots back.  The XM Weather on my Garmin 496 showed a storm cell to the north and east of Champaign around Rantoul and Danville but it didn’t look like it would be a factor.  I still kept a close eye on it in case we would have to divert.  We were on the ground by 9:15 AM and the plane was quickly unloaded and stowed away in the hangar.

We had a great vacation and I don’t think we could have asked for better weather.  Everything seemed to fall in place but we try to keep our plans flexible when flying in case something comes up.  So in total for the trip we flew 1473 miles and accumulated 10.8 hours of flight.  That’s an average of 136.4 miles/hour!  Comparatively if we were to have driven it would have been 1725 miles and about 28 hours of driving.  Lori and I had a great time in each city and I’ll be sure to post details of what we did soon.  I’m very lucky to have such a great wife who will actually fly with me and can get something out of my aviation passion.  She still doesn’t love to fly but I think she really likes getting places quickly.  We’ve also done very well at managing our travels to minimize the weather issues even though it means getting up at the crack of dawn.

Here is a picture of our actual flight path, altitude and speed data downloaded from my GPS.  If you click on the picture it will take you to the EveryTrail page for the trip.  Click here for the Google Earth file.

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Sounds like a great trip!! I could not even imagine making that drive, noway!

We are both pretty lucky that our Brides don’t mind flying for some fun destinations.

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