This Flying Goal Complete!

The alarm went off at 5:45 a.m., on Saturday morning, September 25, but we were already awake and thinking about flying to Northwest Wisconsin this weekend. With 45 airports already in my logbook, just 15 more remained to complete our goal of flying to all 60 Wisconsin counties with a public use airport in four flights.    

My husband, John, and I began this adventure in July when we flew to 19 airports in 19 counties. Flights two and three took place in August when we flew to 26 more. An airport closure, airplane availability, and personal schedules delayed our completion, but it all worked out for the best. With reports of fall colors near peak in North Central and Northwest Wisconsin, we were ready to go.   

Our flight plan included the following airports:   

  1. Taylor County Airport (MDZ) – Medford, Taylor County
  2. Rusk County Airport (RCX) – Ladysmith, Rusk County
  3. Rice Lake Regional Airport (RPD) – Rice Lake, Barron County
  4. Shell Lake Municipal Airport (SSQ) – Shell Lake, Washburn County
  5. Sawyer County Airport (HYR) – Hayward, Sawyer County
  6. Cable Union Airport (3CU) – Cable, Bayfield County
  7. Madeline Island Airport (4R5) – La Pointe, Ashland County
  8. Richard I. Bong Airport (SUW) – Superior, Douglas County
  9. Burnett County Airport (RZN) – Siren, Burnett County
  10. L.O. Simenstad Municipal Airport (OEO) – Osceola, Polk County
  11. New Richmond Regional Airport (RNH) – New Richmond, St. Croix County
  12. Red Wing (Minnesota) Regional Airport (RGK) – Bay City, Wisconsin, Pierce County
  13. Menomonie Municipal/Score Field (LUM) – Menomonie, Dunn County
  14. Chippewa Valley Regional (EAU) – Eau Claire, Chippewa County
  15. Neillsville Municipal Airport (VIQ) – Neillsville, Clark County

John and I got to the airport by 7 a.m., fueled up the Winnebago Flying Club’s Cessna 172, N7770G, and departed Runway 27 at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) at 7:43. ATIS reported 2900 overcast, and that’s exactly what it was as we departed, but the clouds were clearing by the time we were flying over central Wisconsin. An hour and six minutes later we were on the ground at our first stop, Taylor County Airport (MDZ) in Medford.   

Clouds were clearing by the time we landed at Taylor County Airport (MDZ) in Medford.

Our next leg was a 25-minute flight to Rusk County Airport (RCX) in Ladysmith. The Rusk County Airport Fly-in was that day (part of the “Leaf it to Rusk Fall Festival”) and there was a lot of activity when we landed at 10 a.m. Breakfast is free for pilots at this fly-in, but we just weren’t hungry, so we looked at the airplanes, took some pictures, signed the airport register, and then departed for Rice Lake.   

We saw about 25 aircraft at the Rusk County Airport Fly-in. Didn't have any pancakes though!

Departing Rusk County we saw a panorama of beautiful fall colors. As we looked to the west, the ground was a sea of yellow, orange, and red, interspersed with stands of green pines and dozens of lakes and rivers shining in the sunlight. Those were truly unforgettable views and I couldn’t stop saying to John, “Just look how beautiful this is!”   

The Dairyland Flowage near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and a blanket of fall colors left me in awe of our state's beauty. I couldn't stop talking about how nice of a flight this was!

Landing at Rice Lake Regional Airport – also known as Carl’s Field (RPD), was exciting for me because I knew I would learn more about Carl Rindlisbacher. Carl managed the Rice Lake Airport for decades and became well-known for the accurate, hand-drawn weather maps that he created. He was an airport advocate who was instrumental in obtaining funding and local support to build the airport to the beneficial community asset it is today. Carl was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007 for his efforts. It was good to see a large plaque honoring his memory prominently displayed in the well-appointed airport terminal.   

A plaque honors Carl Rindlisbacher, namesake of Rice Lake Regional Airport/Carl's Field.

We bought an ASA 2011 FAR/AIM and then made our way back to the airplane, but not before spending a few minutes talking with the friendly airport staff and posing for our usual pictures. For all the talking and picture taking, we were on the ground for only 20 minutes and departed for Shell Lake at 10:39.  

We had a nice visit at Rice Lake Regional Airport and learned more about the area's aviation history.

Thirteen minutes later we were on the ground at Shell Lake Municipal Airport (SSQ). I was impressed with the beauty of this small town and its airport. On approach to Runway 32, we flew over the lake and got a great view of the shoreline and heavily wooded area. A quiet little airport, it’s the kind where you wish you could camp in the grass under the wing and walk into town to get an ice cream cone. In fact, inside the tiny terminal building there’s a map that shows you the short walk to nearby attractions. I think we’ll be going back next summer! 

Lots of low-key attractions within walking distance of the Shell Lake Municipal Airport (SSQ).

From Shell Lake we flew for 18 minutes to Sawyer County Airport (HYR) in Hayward, landing at 11:28 a.m. We were happy to see Dan and Patty Leslie, airport/FBO managers there, for it’s been a while since we’ve seen them. We got caught up on what’s going on in each others’ lives, met their dog and one of their sons, and talked with another pilot who was visiting from Alaska. Thirty-four minutes later we departed for one of the most highly anticipated airports of our entire tour: Cable Union Airport (3CU).  

It was good to see Dan at Sawyer County Airport (HYR).

When I started flying almost 20 years ago, many people told me about Libby Parod, the airport manager at Cable. “Quite a character,” they said, “you would love her.” And one of my aviation regrets is that I never got to meet her. 


Libby managed the airport singlehandedly for decades after her husband, Carl, died in 1959. She mowed the grass, marshalled aircraft, and served warm, home-baked cookies. Her small home didn’t have running water so she asked many pilots to haul out her tub to empty the bath water (and of the pilots I’ve talked to who emptied it, they feel honored to have done that for Libby.) Though I didn’t get to meet her, I’ve learned a lot about her, and was thrilled to finally see a memorial to Carl and Libby at the airport. We toured the mini museum that’s set up inside her former home, filled with photos, awards, newspaper clippings, and other momentos, including a Christmas card Libby received from former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.  

A fitting tribute and memorial to Carl and Libby Parod at Cable Union Airport (3CU).

After 40 minutes on the ground at Cable, we got back in the airplane right before 1 p.m. Next on our flight plan was Madeline Island (4R5). The 24-minute flight was beautiful, with fall colorama still in view, but not as close to peak as it was earlier in the day. We flew right over the top of John F. Kennedy Memorial Airport (ASX) in Ashland, Wisconsin, which is closed temporarily due to a runway intersection reconstruction project. Just ahead of us was the Lake Superior shoreline, and I marveled at the beauty of the Apostle Islands to our north. I kept saying to John, “This is so cool!” and couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. We saw a dozen or so sailboats on Lake Superior, no doubt enjoying one of the last weekends on the deep blue water.   

On final approach to Runway 4 at Madeline Island.

The largest and only commercially developed island in the chain, Madeline Island is 14 miles long and 3 miles wide. Its airport offers a 3,000-foot paved Runway 04-22,  located about 2-miles northeast of La Pointe in Ashland County. (It also offers wildlife; we saw a deer on the east side of the runway as we were landing.) When we landed, we checked the time and decided to hike into town just to be able to see more of the island. It’s as sweet as can be. A few vacationers were still enjoying the island shops and biking trails, and the locals told us that this is one of the last weekends as a late summer/fall destination. One of them even gave us a ride back to the airport, a common occurrence, I hear. We later learned that airport visitors can sometimes grab a bicycle from a rack behind the FBO to ride into town (nothing fancy!) but our walk on that gorgeous Saturday afternoon was perfect.

Sailboats, the harbor, and the town of La Pointe, Wisconsin, on Madeline Island. Runway 4/22 is on right side of photo.

We stayed on Madeline Island for almost three hours before making our way to Superior (and made a promise to visit there again.) As we departed the island, energized from our walk and the friendly people we talked to, John commented how blessed we are to be able to fly to these wonderful places and meet good people. Amen!  

We wished we could have stopped at the quaint Madeline Island library. Next time.

The day before we arrived at Richard I. Bong Airport (SUW) in Superior would have been Bong’s 90th birthday (he was born on September 24, 1920) if he hadn’t died while testing an aircraft in 1945. Bong was born and raised in nearby Poplar, Wisconsin and his legacy as America’s Ace of Aces is alive at the airport. Walking into the terminal from the airport side we were greeted by a huge wall mural of Richard and Marge Bong standing in front of his P-38, Marge

A wall mural at Superior's airport reminds visitors of Richard I. Bong's WWII accomplishments and sacrifices.

Along the halls are framed and matted photographs and newspaper clippings telling of Bong’s successes in World War II. Another painting depicts a B-17 flying over Superior, showing “the tanks” we had just reported we were over on our approach into Superior. Outside is the original stone terminal building/FBO, Twin Ports Flying Service.   

Painting depicts a B-17 and Superior's surrounding area as it looks today.

Our next stop was the Burnett County Airport (RZN) in Siren, Wisconsin. I had called Jeremy Sickler, airport manager, about a week before to let him know we would be arriving on either Friday or Saturday. He told me to let him know which day it would be so we could chat, but I had forgotten. The airport is nice, but it was quiet when we arrived after 5 p.m. Jeremy, understandably, was no longer there, so we left a note on his door and 10 minutes later we were on our way to Osceola.    

We left a note for Siren's airport manager, Jeremy Sickler, and then continued on our way to Osceola.

L.O. Simenstad Municipal Airport (OEO) in Osceola was quiet, too, when we landed there shortly before 6 p.m. We didn’t stay long, just enough time to get a photo. Soon we were on our way to the New Richmond Regional Airport (RNH), where we heard a lot of traffic over the CTAF. No wonder, it was a beautiful, smooth evening for flying. Airplanes were landing and taking off on both the grass and paved runways. We got in line and departed at 6:38, enjoying the unmistakable Minneapolis skyline against a golden blue sky as we climbed out.   

Our last flight of the day took us southeast to Menomonie, where we spent the night with our son, Luke, a Multimedia Design student at UW-Stout. Luke picked us up at the appealing new terminal and we went out for dinner and great conversation. He showed us his latest class work and business website,  

We sure enjoyed spending time with Luke in Menomonie.

We slept well at the hotel, and planned to have breakfast and go to church with Luke in the morning. Instead, I woke up with a terrible headache. I walked across the parking lot at a little after 6 a.m. to buy Excedrin and then went back to bed. By 10 I was finally feeling better, so we checked out of the hotel at 11 and then met Luke for lunch. We took our time and talked about school and flying and Luke’s motorcycle racing this summer, and then he drove us around campus before taking us to see his new apartment. There’s nothing better than spending time with your kids, but we had to get going; there were four more airports on our flight plan. 

If you haven't seen it, stop in, it's really nice. The new terminal building at Menomonie Municipal-Score Field Airport.

Luke dropped us off at the Menomonie Municipal-Score Field Airport (LUM) at about 1 p.m. We fueled the airplane with 100LL for $3.59 per gallon and then rocked our wings goodbye as we departed southwest to the Red Wing Municipal Airport (RGK).   

The Red Wing Airport and the Mississippi River and Minnesota beyond.

This airport is unique in that it’s a Minnesota airport physically located in Bay City, Wisconsin. No matter, it’s in a Wisconsin county, so we went there! We’re glad we did; the staff was friendly and welcoming and we wish we could have stayed longer. Located along the bluffs near the Mississippi River, the views were spectacular and I took lots of photos as John was flying.   

N7770G at the Minnesota airport located in Wisconsin.

From Red Wing we turned back northeast toward Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU) in Eau Claire. We landed on Runway 22 at 2:48, but could have been on the ground sooner if I had requested from ATC  landing on Runway 4. Still, I performed a stellar, full-flap landing on the 8,101-foot runway, so I shouldn’t complain!

On the ground at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, County/Airport Number 59 of our Wisconsin Airport Challenge.

John and I had been to Eau Claire to give a Wisconsin aviation history presentation in early spring. This visit, we noticed a big change at the Heartland Aviation FBO. They’re adding on, and the familiar scent of drywall and fresh paint greeted us as we walked in. The Husby family and their employees run a fine FBO and it will be even nicer when the construction is complete.   

Heartland Aviation is remodeling its FBO at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.

We departed Runway 4 from Chippewa Valley Regional Airport bound for airport/county number 60, Neillsville Municipal. About 25 miles southeast of Chippewa Valley, right on our flight path, was a 3,095 foot transmission tower. I have seen this tower when it was poking above the clouds on an IFR flight many years ago (and it’s a freaky sight!) This time though, it was harder to spot; we saw it about 7 miles out. Of course, we climbed high enough to avoid it, but I felt better once we spotted it.

About 10 minutes after seeing the tower we landed on Runway 9 in Neillsville. We got out of the airplane and did our customary things, take pictures, use the restroom. Did we do a happy dance because we had completed our goal? No, but John gave me a hug and kiss and we congratulated each other on setting, planning, and completing this goal. And besides, we still had to fly home to Oshkosh, so it wasn’t truly complete until we made it home safely.   

Whoo hoo! Neillsville makes 60 airports in 60 counties, in four flights!

One of our favorite people, Harold “Duffy” Gaier manages the Neillsville airport and owns Duffy’s Aircraft Sales and Leasing. On this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, Duffy wasn’t there, so we didn’t get to say hello. Duffy is also a designated pilot examiner, and he was the one who looked me in the eye once and told me, “You’ve passed.” And while it wasn’t planned this way, it seemed fitting that this challenge ended where it began some 20 years ago, the place where I earned my private pilot certificate. 

The flight back to Oshkosh provided one of my favorite aerial views: Bright red cranberries being harvested near my hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, where I learned to fly. Talk about coming full circle, I became interested in flying when I was a young girl growing up near cranberry marshes in the Village of Biron. When I would hear the crop dusters flying low over the marshes, I would hop on my bike and ride down the street to get a closer look. I was so impressed by the sound and size of those bi-planes and it planted a seed that took some time to grow. By now, it’s reaching middle age, and good Lord willing, will mature with many hours of safe flying in my future.   

Cranberries being harvested just west of my hometown of Wisconsin Rapids (seen in distance).

The flight from Neillsville to Oshkosh took 55 minutes. We crossed Interstate 39 and I thought about all the times I’ve driven that road and about all the times I’ve flown over it. We pointed out small, Central Wisconsin towns like Kellner and Almond along the way, verifying them on our Green Bay sectional, even though we have a GPS in the airplane. We flew over the Wild Rose Idlewild Airport (W23) and watched as a bright yellow ultralight took off and departed the pattern to the north. We noticed the small, pretty town of Poy Sippi, with the Pine River running through it and a church steeple shining in the late afternoon sun. Lakes Poygan, Butte Des Morts, and Winnebago and the city of Oshkosh loomed ahead, but it was almost like slow motion as we savored the simple beauty of Wisconsin’s landscape on the way home.   

Wild Rose Idlewild Airport (W23).

The Oshkosh air traffic controller put me on a two-mile straight-in final for Runway 9 and soon we were on the ground in Oshkosh. We had logged 9.3 hours on this trip to Northwest Wisconsin. After refueling the airplane and wiping off the bugs, we put it back in the hangar for the next club member to enjoy. And yes, we celebrated a bit, at Solea Mexican Grill in Neenah with an excellent meal, one margarita for John, and one Corona for me!

Flying to…Northwest Wisconsin this weekend!

Flight 4 of our Wisconsin Airport Challenge, “60 Airports – 60 Counties – 4 Flights,” is scheduled for this weekend. We’ve booked the Cessna 172 for Friday through Sunday to complete our mission of flying to all 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties with a public use airport – in four flights. Fifteen airports in Northwest Wisconsin remain. 

The yellow line shows the 15 airports in Northwest Wisconsin that we'll visit this weekend-with one change. We'll flying to Madeline Island instead of Ashland.

Flexibility is the key to success – or so I’ve been told. Our initial plan was to leave on Friday morning, but after checking the weather, we may leave on Saturday morning instead to avoid gusty winds and rain. We’ll keep a close eye on the forecast  in the next 36 hours!

John and I have decided to reverse the route, as well. Plan A was to fly to Neillsville, Eau Claire, and Menomonie, with an overnight stay there, and then complete our mission the following day. But it makes more sense to get most of the flying completed before landing at Menomonie. So whichever day we leave, our first leg will be a one hour flight from Oshkosh to Taylor County Airport (MDZ) in Medford and then on to 11 other airports. We’ll land at the remaining airports on our way back to Oshkosh the following day.

We’ve made another change as well. If you read the post, “Flight 4 Glitch,” you already know that John F. Kennedy Airport in Ashland is temporarily closed, due to a runway intersection reconstruction project. Yesterday I spoke with John Sill, airport manager, and though he had hoped the airport would be reopened by now, the project has been delayed due to heavy rain.

Fortunately, there’s another airport in Ashland County: Madeline Island Airport (4R5) in La Pointe, Wisconsin. Madeline Island is the largest of Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands, about 14 miles long and 3 miles wide. I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a quaint, somewhat isolated beautiful place. With an island population of 220 and fall colors providing a spectacular views, it should be a peaceful place to visit! 

As we’ve done on our previous flights, we’ll provide up-to-the-minute flight reports via Facebook and Twitter (@WisLadyPilot and @WIpilot) this weekend. We’ll post some pictures along the way, too. Follow along as we’re “flying Wisconsin” and of course, check the blog next week for a recap.

Committing Aviation – more than flying


Zach Baughman's sons excitedly point out Oshkosh-area landmarks at the Wittman Regional Airport Open House.

Saturday morning, September 11, John and I were up early, but not to go flying. Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) hosted an open house, in conjunction with the local EAA Chapter 252 pancake breakfast. We were going for breakfast, of course, but also to help spread the word about two aviation organizations.             

The open house is an opportunity for businesses/organizations at the airport to share information about their products and services. In addition, local community members can learn about the economic impact and job opportunities these entities provide. Several airport tenants, including NewView TechnologiesFox Valley Technical College Aviation Center, Basler Turbo Conversions, Wings as Eagles, Aviation Services, Sonex Aircraft, the Oshkosh Convention & Visitor’s BureauOrion Flight Services, and of course, Wittman Regional Airport, participated.

Visitors learned about Wings as Eagles missionary flying operations.

In addition, the Winnebago Flying Club and the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) had exhibits, and that’s where John and I came in. We’re so happy with our experiences in both organizations that we volunteered to staff both booths. WAHF’s exhibit highlighted 100 years of aviation in Wisconsin, beginning in 1909 when Beloit’s A.P. Warner became the state’s first aircraft owner and pilot. Dozens of attendees, young and old, stopped to learn about Wisconsin’s aviation roots and how WAHF inductees have enhanced and advanced aviation in our state.

WAHF's John Dorcey shared details about Wisconsin's rich aviation history.

Several Winnebago Flying Club members staffed its booth, sharing information about flight training and club membership, as the club is looking for a few more members. Club members Chris Percival, Tim Lemke, John Oberg, Paul Bohnert (who’s about three-quarters of the way toward earning his private pilot certificate), and I talked with potential members from various backgrounds: Former aircraft owners, a flight instructor who’s looking for an economical way to fly when she’s not instructing, and several who want to learn to fly. For all of us, sharing our aviation passion with others, no matter their backgrounds, was both invigorating and satisfying. One young man was so focused and spoke so articulately about airplanes and aviation that we’re sure he’ll be a pilot someday.      

Winnebago Flying Club Member Paul Bohnert (right) showed a flight simulator program to this enthusiastic young man.

Judging by the overwhelmingly positive comments that John and I heard, many attendees left with a more enlightened view of the value of airports to a community and its importance as an economic engine. Though this wasn’t a huge event, it was important, because it helped spread the word about the corporate, recreational, and economic benefits of aviation. And, airports across the country can easily organize similar events with the same results.  

Dozens of Oshkosh-area folks played a hand in the event’s success; thanks to all who had exhibits and who came to learn about their valuable community asset: Wittman Regional Airport.            

Adventure Planning

Though it’s only been 10 days since our last flight, it feels like forever! When people say flying gets in your blood, they’re not kidding. Lately I feel such a longing to be in the air. I suppose most pilots long to be in the air, but for me, the more often I fly, the more often I want to.

Because Flight 4, the last flight of our Wisconsin County Airport Tour, isn’t scheduled until later this month, John and I have talked about what challenge/adventure/goal setting we’ll strive for next. One idea that came to mind was flying the shape of our state. Or said another way, fly to airports along our state border. Looking at a Wisconsin aeronautical chart, there are plenty of airports that would result in a rough outline of the shape of Wisconsin, as shown below.

This would be a great vacation - take a few days to fly the shape of Wisconsin.

My goal would be to fly the route over a few days, stopping at up to 25 airports, starting and ending at our home port of Oshkosh. Maybe we would stay in a bed & breakfast or two along the way and in some of the cities, visit the local landmarks. Timeline: spring or fall of 2011.

I mentioned this to John, and he liked the idea. Then he suggested another challenge: Flying every ILS (instrument landing system) in the state. A quick look at’s website shows that 17 general aviation airports in Wisconsin have an ILS approach, and some of those airports have more than one:

  • Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) – 2
  • La Crosse Municipal Airport (LSE) – 1
  • Stevens Point Municipal (STE) – 1
  • Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport (JVL) – 2
  • Kenosha Regional Airport (ENW) – 1
  • Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) – 1
  • Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU) – 1
  • Waukesha County Airport (UES) – 1
  • Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) – 3
  • Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) – 2
  • Mitchell International Airport (MKE) – 3
  • Sheboygan County Memorial Airport (SBM) – 1
  • Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) – 2
  • Manitowoc County Airport (MTW) – 1
  • Rhinelander/Oneida County (RHI) – 1
  • Rice Lake Airport/Carl’s Field (RPD) – 1
  • Racine’s John H Batten (RAC) – 1

That’s 25 approaches. Actually, there are a few more than that, Milwaukee’s Mitchell has CAT II and CAT III approaches, but of course those won’t apply to us in our Cessna 172. We’ve talked about doing this in five or six flights, to keep my stress level at a minimum! Precision flying such as this would be valuable experience and certainly enhance my flying skills – both VFR and IFR. I think we should do it! Timeline: Spring 2011.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We won’t start a new challenge until we finish our Wisconsin County Airport Tour. Fifteen airports in Northwest Wisconsin remain. We’ve scheduled the airplane for September 24 – 25 and look forward to seeing more of our beautiful state—and airports—along the way. Planning continues…stay tuned!

Appreciating our Airports

Last night as I was updating our “airports visited” spreadsheet I realized how close we are, God willing, to finishing this challenge. It was such a rewarding feeling to think back on the three flights to these 45 airports (see Wisconsin Counties With Airports_Log3) throughout the state. But I wasn’t just thinking about the friends we’ve talked to or the 20.3 hours of flying we’ve logged in July and August. I also thought about the shining examples of excellence we’ve seen of the dedicated people who run these airports and the businesses located there.

(l-r) Jeff Baum of Wisconsin Aviation, Mark Jaraczewski of Executive Air, and Bruce Botterman of NewView Technologies are just a few of the many people who contribute to aviation

Airport managers work continually with local, state, and federal officials to find ways to improve their facilities, and it shows in the fine airports that we’re blessed to have in our state (and elsewhere). They attend training and conferences to keep abreast of new information about airport operations. Airport staff work long hours keeping the grass mowed in summer and keeping runways and taxiways plowed in winter. And because their work is so public, they generally hear more complaints than thanks.

Airports operations staff work day and night keeping runways clear so that we can land and taxi safely.

Many airports are located in communities where, try as they may, airport appreciation and support isn’t always realized. Still, airport managers and aviation businesspeople I’ve met at small and large airports throughout the state contribute more to aviation’s success than they’re ever given credit for, and I’m proud to have met them along the way.

John Reed (left) and Clint Torp hold positions as assistant airport directors, John at Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB), and Clint at La Crosse Municipal (LSE)

As pilots, we may not always say thanks to the people who keep our airports open and make their airport terminals a friendly “Welcome Center” to the hundreds or thousands of people who visit. So this post is in appreciation for the unsung heroes at airports everywhere and the work they do. By providing links throughout this blog, I hope it will help promote their airports and the businesses located there, and prompt you to visit them soon. And maybe it will inspire you to tell them, “Thanks,” as I intend to do.

Flight 4 Glitch

Flight 4 planning (to 15 Northwest Wisconsin airports) was going so well. We had our club aircraft scheduled for September 9 – 10 and made plans to meet my son, Luke, a student at University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, to celebrate his birthday. Our chance meeting with Marijean Hoppe of Becher-Hoppe Engineering during Flight 3, however, provided information that has changed our plans.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Airport (ASX) in Ashland County is going to be closed for up to 14 days, beginning September 7. The airport is undergoing a runway intersection reconstruction project.

John and I discussed our options. ASX is our airport of choice in Ashland County. We could reschedule the flight for this weekend or wait until the project is finished. We’re waiting. Aircraft maintenance schedules and Luke’s availability are the reasons. And, of course, it will be great to see the completed runway project (and my son) later this month.

Flight 4 will include an overnight in Menomonie so we can hang out with Luke. We plan to depart from Oshkosh and then stop at Neillsville Municipal Airport (VIQ – and hopefully see our favorite designated pilot examiner Harold “Duffy” Gaier), Chippewa Valley Regional Airport (EAU), and then on to Menomonie’s Score Field (LUM). The next day, we’ll leave early to visit the 12 remaining airports and then head back home to Oshkosh.

Follow the yellow line. When this route has been flown it will complete our goal of flying to all 60 of Wisconsin's 72 counties with a public-use airport in four flights.

Flight 3: Wisconsin’s Northwoods Airports

Flight 3 was the most rewarding so far because we saw so many friends along the way. Oh, and the weather was perfect! Abundant sunshine, light wind, and barely a bump in the sky throughout the day, it was one of those perfect VFR days.     

Growing up in Central Wisconsin and having spent some time in cities like Stevens Point, Wausau, and Waupaca, and even Phillips, Minocqua, and Rhinelander, these communities feel “like home” to me. And through aviation, John and I have met and become friends with people from all over the state. We were fortunate to see many of them on this trip.   

This flight, on August 26, 2010, took us from Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) to the following 12 Northcentral and Northeast Wisconsin airports/counties:        

  1. Waupaca Municipal Airport (PCZ) – Waupaca County
  2. Stevens Point Municipal Airport (STE) – Portage County
  3. Wausau Downtown Airport (AUW) – Marathon County
  4. Merrill Municipal Airport (RRL) – Lincoln County
  5. Price County Airport (PBH) – Price County
  6. Lakeland Airport-Noble F. Lee Memorial Field (ARV) – Vilas County
  7. Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport (RHI) – Oneida County
  8. Crandon-Steve Conway Municipal Airport (Y55) – Forest County
  9. Langlade County Airport (AIG) – Langlade County
  10. Crivitz Municipal Airport (3D1) – Marinette County
  11. Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) – Brown County
  12. Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW) – Outagamie County

Our preflight planning indicated that we had 3 hours and 19 minutes of flying time in store. We wanted to leave Oshkosh no later than 7 a.m. By now, stopping at Kwik Trip for a ham and egg breakfast croissant had become a habit (and I don’t even like them that much!) So even though I had eaten a bowl of Life cereal at 4:45 a.m., we stopped to pick up breakfast to eat in the airplane later. We brought along a small cooler filled with water, Low Calorie Gatorade G2, Quaker Low-Fat Chewy Oat Bars (Dark Chocolate Cherry flavor), peanuts, and some cheese and sausage sticks.    

We arrived at the airport a little after six. Engine start was at 6:48 a.m. Eight minutes later, we lifted off Wittman Regional Airport’s Runway 27. Our 22-minute flight to Waupaca Municipal Airport (PCZ) was as smooth as could be. We landed with one airplane in the pattern. As we walked to the terminal, we saw Tracy Buttles, who’s known for building an airplane for $6,500, and talked to him a few minutes before heading back to the airplane.        

While I flew right traffic for Runway 28 at Waupaca, John got this neat photo of the airport.

We said our goodbyes and then made our way to Stevens Point Municipal Airport (STE), a 16-minute flight. At STE, we spent 29-minutes on the ground, talking with airport manager Joe Wheeler and exploring the beautifully remodeled terminal building. My favorite part was the observation deck, built in 2007, where I could have lingered over coffee watching the airport awaken.   

We landed at Stevens Point at 7:50.

From Stevens Point we headed north to Wausau Downtown Airport (AUW). As we looked to the north, we saw the smoke stacks of a few paper mills. The plumes of smoke/steam going straight up verified the wind calm ATIS reports we’d been hearing. Passing Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) to our west, we talked to ATC, heard the familiar, “frequency change approved,” and then entered a left base for Runway 30 at Wausau. Our good friend, John Chmiel, his wife, Angela, and another friend, Lyman Hatz, were there to greet us. 

John Chmiel, right, runs one of Wisconsin's friendliest airports.

At Wausau Downtown Airport, you can learn a lot about the city’s aviation heritage. Dozens of photos tell the story of the airport’s development, and there’s even a Wausau Aviation Wall of Fame in the foyer. Several Wausau-area aviators have been inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame, including Marie Schuette, Archie Towle, John Schwister, LeRoy Jonas, and John Wood.

The folks at Wausau Downtown Airport value their aviation heritage.

John has created such an inviting atmosphere that it was hard to leave; we stayed there for 35-minutes. Someday, I will return to fly the Citabria that John’s Wausau Flying Service offers.

We talked with Lyman Hatz for a while at AUW. Lyman is starting an aviation maintenance business there.

As soon as we departed from Wausau we noticed a change in the scenery: Lots of trees. It’s easy to see why this area is called Wisconsin’s Northwoods. Our flight to Merrill Municipal Airport (RRL) was short, just 11-minutes, but it was beautiful. We landed at 9:21, a bit behind on the loose schedule we had set for the day. Even so, we stayed for 21-minutes, talking with airport manager John Miller, owner of John Miller Aviation.

Our 172 at Merrill. A good time to say what a flawless ride this bird has provided in the last 20 hours of flying.

On to Price County Airport (PBH) in Phillips. The elevation in northern Wisconsin was rising and so was our expectations of the scenery. It didn’t disappoint, a few trees from the dense forests were beginning to turn beautiful hues of red and gold. The lakes and rivers stood out against the forestland, reminding us of Minnesota’s motto, “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” There was a fair amount of activity at the airport, and we were happy to see that, too.

Just gorgeous views northwest of Phillips.

From Phillips we pointed the airplane northeast en route to Lakeland/Noble F. Lee Memorial Field (ARV) in Minocqua. Having many memories of snowmobiling, biking, and golfing in the area, it felt good to be back. We couldn’t stay long though, so we took some photos and were back in the airplane 15-minutes after arriving. We took off from Minocqua at 11:11.

Sixteen minutes later we were on the ground at Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport (RHI). When you land at Rhinelander, you can’t help but notice a large open structure on the ramp. This is an infrared deicing facility. Placed in service in the late ’90s, it was one of the first of its kind in the United States. The facility addresses environmental concerns and may be more cost effective than chemical deicers.

The infrared deicing facility at Rhinelander.

Our 172 was getting thirsty so we added 22.2 gallons of fuel. John ran into a DNR pilot who he’s known for years, and we talked with him a bit before checking out the airport bulletin board and paying our bill. We took off from Rhinelander at 12:02 p.m.

Checking NOTAMS the evening before we left, I learned that Runway 11/29 at our next airport, Crandon Municipal (Y55), was closed. But Crandon has a 2,730′ x 100′ turf runway, 01/19, and landing on grass is fun, so that was our plan. However, as we approached the airport we saw a tractor/mower on the runway. We radioed our intentions and circled over to watch. Sure enough, the tractor pulled off to the side, and John made a beautiful landing on the freshly mowed grass.

John signed Crandon Airport's pilot register.

As John and I took photos and signed the airport register, the mower operator came over to greet us. Turns out, he’s the Director of Public Works for the City of Crandon, Tony “Duke” Hoening. Duke should get the “Ambassador of the Year” award from Crandon officials. He gave us the grand tour. We saw the maintenance shop, the pilot’s lounge, snow removal equipment, the under-construction electrical vault, airport lighting parts, and the almost-new New Holland tractor.  

Duke is an honest-to-goodness blessing of a man to meet.

Then Duke showed us the plans for the airport’s Runway 11/29 extension project. Currently at 3,100 feet, the runway is being extended 450′. In fact, Duke told us that an engineer from the Wisconsin DOT Bureau of Aeronautics, Matt Malicki, was due to arrive any minute. John and Matt worked together when John was employed at the bureau, so he was looking forward to seeing him. Almost on cue, Matt arrived, and they spent a few minutes catching up on news from Madison.

I think his tractor's sexy.

As John and Matt talked, I turned around to see engineers from Becher-Hoppe Engineering walking toward me, including Marijean Hoppe. Marijean and I had met at the 2010 Wisconsin Aviation Conference in May and we shot a few rounds of sporting clays together. It was so good to see her again! So here at this little airport in Crandon, where we thought we might spend the least amount of time on the ground, we spent the most instead: 46 minutes! And we enjoyed every minute of it.

At Crandon, Marijean Hoppe (left) and I discussed when we're going to go out and shoot some clay.

Much as we enjoyed it, we had to move on. Langlade County Airport (AIG) in Antigo was our next stop. The NOTAM indicated that due to a construction project, the ramp would be open only to hangar users or those requiring fuel. Langlade County officials contracted with Becher-Hoppe on the project. Marijean gave us an update; the ramp repaving project had been completed at 6 p.m. the previous evening. Sure enough, when we landed at Antigo we taxied onto the smoothest ramp of the 30-some airports we’ve visited this summer.

A smooth ramp at AIG.

Crivitz Municipal Airport (3D1) was next on our flight plan. I can’t put my finger on why I thought Crivitz was such a sweet airport. Maybe it was the cornfields surrounding it or the weathered airport sign. Maybe it was the old supper club next door that reminded me of Wisconsin farm-town suppers clubs I visited with my parents so many years ago. Maybe it’s the Friends of Crivitz Airport group that I’ve heard so much about over the years. Heck, I even liked the grasshoppers that were hopping all over my legs as we walked through the dry grass to get a picture of the sign. Whatever it was, we’ll fly there again someday.

On final approach to Runway 18 at Crivitz.

After spending a lot of time on the ground on this most social of flights, we were getting a bit tight on time. We had two more airports to visit, in Green Bay and Appleton, plus, I was going to the Packers vs. Colts game at Lambeau Field that night with my sister and her two sons. John and I did a rough calculation to see how we were doing on time. We weren’t going to let “get-there-itis” spoil such a perfect trip. We still had plenty of time to land at both airports, as long as we didn’t spend too much time on the ground, so we pointed the airplane south to Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB). I contacted Green Bay approach and flew much of this leg, until we got closer to Lambeau Field. That’s when John took over flying duties so I could take some photos.

It was exciting to see Lambeau Field from the air knowing I was going to see the Packers play there a few hours later.

Keeping our schedule in mind, we taxied to Jet Air’s new facility at GRB and went inside to take a look. Oh my, it’s a beautiful place, decorated in nuetral colors with bold, blue accents. There’s even a surprise in the restroom, a television monitor mounted in the mirror for “weather while you wash.”

The new Jet Air FBO at Green Bay opened just four weeks before we arrived.

Back to the airplane we went. We departed GRB before 3:00 for a 13-minute flight to Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW). It didn’t take long to get pictures of the airplane with Appleton’s air traffic control tower in the background, and soon we were off again for our 9-minute flight back to Oshkosh.

We landed at Wittman Regional Airport at 3:25. While John refueled the aircraft and wiped the bugs off, I straightened up the interior of the plane and filled out the flight log. We had logged 5.3 hours landing at 12 of the friendliest airports in Wisconsin. Our average leg time was 19.5 minutes; our average time on the ground was 24 minutes. We saw beautiful Wisconsin forests, lakes, and rivers, and even better than that, got to visit with many of our aviation friends along the way. That was the best part!

Brings to mind a movie: A River Runs Through It.

We left the airport at 3:45. My sister was expecting me for dinner in Appleton at 4:00. I called and told her to eat without me, but I picked her up in plenty of time to make it to the game. What a fun game; Packers beat the Colts 59 – 24. And what an eventful day!

What an exciting way to end a perfect day, going to a Green Bay Packers game with my sister, Jean, and my nephews, Nick and Alex.

Flight 3 is complete! We have now visited 45 of Wisconsin’s 60 counties with a public-use airport – only 15 more to go.

Random taxiway light at our home base: Wittman Regional Airport.