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Flying Family to Yellowstone June 2007
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First Family Trip in a Diamond Star DA40

View photo album of trip

The June 30, 2007 weekend was coming up and my wife was really pushing for us to go boating (it could be worse).  I really wanted to go fly instead and we came up with a fun family trip.  I was inspired by another pilot's web site to go to Yellowstone Park for the weekend with the kids.  If you have a few minutes it is worth checking out Tim's website.  Tim did his trip in his RV10 four place experimental 200 mph airplane that I am considering building some day.

I was excited and anxious for the family to have a good experience this trip.  If it went well I knew we would go on many other family trips via small plane.  If it didn't, I might be going on a few family trips by myself ;)  We needed to beat the heat and turbulence of the day and leave as early as possible for a family with small kids.  Take off time ended up being 9am which turned out just fine.

We were loaded down to full gross weight to the pound but I felt confident about my calculations for the weight and balance and aircraft performance in high density flying.  Takeoff was smooth and we flew with flight following through the Salt Lake City and Ogden air space.  We turned a little east at Brigham City and flew into Logan Valley.  From there it was a straight shot north through a bunch of small mountain ranges past Soda Springs, ID and east of Idaho Falls and Rexburg by about 30 miles.  We could see the Grand Tetons to our right and the "flat lands" of Idaho to our left.  It was impressive how green everything is up there compared to Utah.

The kids and wife did great on the flight.  My little two year old Ashley refused to keep the ear plugs in or wear a head set.  I was pretty concerned about the prolonged high noise levels on her little ears and we need to get her to wear them on the next trip or else let her stay at Nana’s house while the rest of the family goes.  The DA-40 or Diamond Star has huge windows and great visibility.  I knew the sun would be fairly low in the east during our trip there and so had Heidi use the reflective sun shade in the rear window during much of the flight.  We used the same technique on the other rear window on the flight home.  We pointed out the cool things to look at but in the end little Bruno fell asleep the last 30 minutes of the flight and Alexis played her Play Station.  Even though the view is fantastic flying just don’t count on the kids staying entertained for more than the first 15 minutes.

I ended up using autopilot for most of the flight after we turned into Logan valley.  I debated with myself if I should rather hand fly it but in the end decided to go with autopilot to try to make the ride as smooth as possible.  I have found that if it gets bumpy at all hand flying the airplane ends up being better because it seems like the auto pilots has problems holding an altitude in any air that isn’t smooth.

Flying into West Yellowstone airport is no big deal from the south.  The FBO was quite friendly and gave airport reports to pilots on their initial call up.  The flight took us only 1:55 to get there.  Nice!  I was proud of the landing and we were met by a golf cart to show us where to park and tie down.

We used the Avis rental car place there at the airport.  The Avis guy was great on the phone when booking the car and just as nice in person.  We asked for a SUV and got an H3 Hummer.  It was really red and really fun to drive and we were surprised at how much we liked it.

Yellowstone Park is fantastic for a 2-3 day mini vacation.  I think that any more time might not keep the interest of most younger kids.  2 days were perfect for us.  The first day after landing we made our way to Old Faithful to make sure we got that out of the way.  The park was very busy!  The guyser remained faithful and we had a good show.  That night we went to the little town theatre and saw Annie Get Your Gun.  It was quaint yet fun.  The second day we did the upper loop of the park.  We saw the famous waterfalls and then drove north into the mountains and saw a few black bears.  The top of the loop had the petrified tree and the Mamoth Guyser.  Mamoth was pretty darn dry this time of year but still fun to see.  I didn't know until getting to the top of the thing that you can drive around and park right by it.  Save yourself the walk unless you need to lose a few pounds like me.  ;)

The flight home was great again.  The wife and kids were comforable since they now knew what to expect.  My oldest, Alexis, was excited to sit in the front seat and be co-pilot.  The flight was in smooth air again and we got home in less than 2 hours.  That sure beats an 8 1/2 hour drive!  What a fantastic weekend getaway!  I am starting to get a feel for all the wonderful little trips the family can do with a small plane.  Hopefully we will do another within a month or so.  We are considering New Mexico, Jackson Hole, and a few other places.  Fun!!!

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