100 Hours in an Airplane! What an Adventure!

John HurlbutFlying3 Comments

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In 1977 my parents purchased land in Ocean Shores, WA. For a number of years we would camp there lots of weekends and a couple weeks a year. My parents eventually moved there in 1991 and I sold their home for them in 2003.

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s Ocean Shores wasn’t much to look at and it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now. There used to be Porsche clubs that raced their cars for a weekend a year on the back streets of Ocean Shores, of which our property was on one of. I have lots of pictures of old 911’s, 912’s, 914’s, and 928’s tearing around the streets. Our property had frontage on Duck Lake, yes there’s a lake in Ocean Shores. And for awhile, seaplanes would land on the lake right in front of our property.

Back then, the airport was right smack dab in the middle of town. It ran behind where the bowling alley is now between Pt. Brown and Ocean Shores Blvd. This photo will give you a good idea of where the airport used to be.

Location of Old Ocean Shores Airport

Location of Old Ocean Shores Airport

In 1986, Ocean Shores opened a new airport on the bay side of town and closed the old airport, expanding the golf course. After flying when I was 12, I used to think how cool it would be to fly from Tacoma to Ocean Shores! No more 90 – 120 minute car ride through the twisty hills outside of Hoquiam! Just jump in the plane and go and you’re there in 45 minutes or less.

Now that I have my pilot’s license, one of my bucket list items was to finally fly into Ocean Shores. So yesterday I reserved a plane at 5PM and Teri and I planned to fly down, do some sight seeing, watch the sunset and fly home. We got to the airport around 5:30, Meg filled it up for us and I got all my documentation in order to rent the plane. This was also going to be my inaugural trip with my new Stratus 2S ADS-B Receiver, so I was super excited to go flying. Finally, I was about 1.3 hours shy of hitting 100 hours in my log book, so I wanted the flight to 100 hours to be memorable, not just laps in the pattern. Careful what you wish for! The weather was hazy, but beautiful and the winds were between 4 Knots and 14 knots at Hoquiam, so shouldn’t be much of an issue getting into Ocean Shores.

We got off the ground just after 6 and contacted McChord tower to fly through their airspace, once through, opened our flight plan with Flight Services and switched over to Seattle Approach to get flight following. It was cool seeing the all the air traffic on my iPad that the Stratus was finding. We watched a commercial flight go along our same route, but about 12,000 feet above us, then heard Seattle Center call them and tell them to switch frequencies. It was pretty cool to see on the screen who they were talking to. 

Yep, it's flat.

Yep, it’s flat.

We filed our flight plan for 6,500 feet and held that altitude until just about Aberdeen and we started out descent into Grays Harbor. Seattle Center signed us off and we came over Grays harbor at about 1,500 feet. I set up for the 45° to land on runway 33, turned on the downwind, then to base and finally to final. The landing was good, touched down on the mains and then the nose wheel settled down. I was even pretty darn close to centerline.  Still left a bit, but it was a good landing. I could have gotten off at the middle taxiway, but decided to let it roll out all the way to the end on 15. We turned off the runway and on to the Taxiway. About half way down the the taxiway the plane started “wobbling” for lack of a better term. The plane was tough to steer and Teri looked at me and said “Do we have a flat tire?” I replied “It kinda feels like it huh?” so we parked right there on the taxiway and I shut down and hopped out. Sure as $#!t the nose wheel tire was completely flat. Now what?

Not a good parking spot...

Not a good parking spot…

I immediately called and texted my flight instructor to get her advice, I also called and texted the chief flight instructor to get his advice. Finally the word came back, just secure the airplane, we’ll send someone down in the morning to fix it. So I could think of worse places to be stuck than Ocean Shores, but it’s not super convenient. So I was able to borrow a tow bar from a local guy and Teri and I tried to pull the plane to the parking area to tie it down. That wasn’t working very well with a flat tire. So the guy that loaned us the tow bar came over and hooked up his Lawn Tractor to it. Teri was on the right wing strut and I pushed down on the tail to keep the pressure off the nose wheel and at about 1/2 MPH, we moved it the couple hundred yards to parking and got it tied down and secured.

A good parking spot . . .

A good parking spot . . .

Next issue, what to do with the dogs? We have two labradors that are counting on mom and dad to be home to let them out and feed them in the morning. I called up my buddy Gordon who has a Cherokee 140 and asked “How adventurous are you feeling tonight?” He is AWESOME and agreed to fly down and pick Teri up and fly her back home. I had also posted my dilemma on Flights Above the Pacific Northwest on Facebook and within minutes had dozens of folks there offering to help me out. I will say one thing, the aviation community is AMAZING!! Everyone is really very nice and super generous.  Thanks everyone for your offers it was incredible. I had offers for flights home, places to stay, bring tires down, really whatever I needed.

No seriously, we WERE happy to be in Ocean Shores . . . 

No seriously, we WERE happy to be in Ocean Shores . . . 

Gordon arrived about 45 minutes later and Teri was off for the evening. Now the question was, was I going to walk into town, or figure out a ride? Considering I had already gotten about 30 mosquito bites (not even an exaggeration) I had no desire to walk outdoors again. So I called North Coast Taxi. Temporarily Closed. Crap. I called the Quinault Casino Resort to see if they had any rooms, all booked up. I called them back and asked if there was any way I could con one of their drivers into giving me a ride from the airport to the Best Western in Ocean Shores. She told me to just tell the driver I was staying at the Casino, but just going to dinner at the Best Western. 20 minutes later I had my ride.

By this point I was starving and the only place that delivers in Ocean Shores are the pizza places. The first one I called had shut down delivery for the night. The second one said they were too backed up to deliver. I begged her and told her my story and she relented and sent me a pizza. I did tip the driver $20.00, so I hope that was OK. I finally crashed about 2AM.

I got up this morning and walked to one of my favorite local restaurants, the Homeport, and had my favorite, the Captain’s Omelette and wandered back to the hotel. I packed up all my gear and walked the 4 or so miles to the airport. It was really humid, so I was sweating like a pig by the time I got there. Shawn and the mechanic landed in the Seminole about 15 minutes after I arrived and set to the task of changing the tire.  We brought the tail of the plane low to the ground so the nose wheel was off the ground. It took the Mechanic about 30 minutes to change the tire and N84823 was good as new! But the weather wasn’t looking so great. Hoquiam was reporting ceilings of about 1,900 and Puyallup was still IFR. But there was a ray of sunshine over Shelton and they were reporting VFR.

So Shawn said he’d take off in the Seminole and report the conditions at Hoquiam. I’d follow him there and when I got there, he’d report on the path the Shelton and we’d just fly back that way. It was like having flight following right in front of me. So that’s what we did, flew back around 1,500 feet the whole way from Ocean Shores (W04) to Hoquiam (KHQM) to Sanderson Shelton (KSHN) to Tacoma Narrows (KTIW) and finally back to Thun (KPLU).

I came into Thun on Runway 34, fueled up the plane and Meg helped me tow it back to parking and get her secured. Shawn gave me a ride home (Teri had taken my car from the airport the previous evening). That shower felt really good! And even though the flight TO Ocean Shores didn’t get me past 100 hours, the flight home DID. So I unlocked one achievement in flying to and landing at Ocean Shores, a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. I got through my first 100 hours flying with really only one incident, a flat tire which was really more inconvenient than anything else. And I have a great story to tell! Well I guess I just told it.

I think when I’m at 198.7 hours, I’m gonna do laps in the pattern for 1.3 hours just in case.

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