195 Club Fly-In, Tupelo, MS

(September 26 – 29, 2013)

Ever since Kurtis and I were warmly welcomed at our very first annual Club fly-in based at Creve Coeur (in 2009), we have been determined to attend all the fly-in’s since then; wherever and whenever they are scheduled to take place.  As soon as the dates are announced for the upcoming annual fly-in’s they are blocked off on our calendar.

The 43rd annual fly-in (aka “family reunion”) of the International Cessna 195 Club was held in Tupelo, Mississippi from September 25 – 29, 2013.  The 4-5 day event was co-hosted by Aubie & Leslie Pearman and Mark & Joy Kellum.

A work conference that I had to attend prevented Kurtis and I from being an “early arrival” and as a result we missed the dinner at the Kellum’s home on Wednesday night. There were 42 people that were able to enjoy the delicious food prepared by the Kellum’s, which included shrimp bisque, Asian noodle salad, twice baked mashed potatoes, grilled prime rib and cookies and brownies for dessert.  By all accounts the food was amazing which only made us even more disappointed that we missed it!

In order for us to make it to Tupelo in time to participate in the planned fly out for the catfish lunch on Thursday we had to get up very early.  Since our hangar is a 1 hour drive from home we opted to spend the night at the hangar so that we could “sleep in” an extra hour on Thursday morning.  When we got to the hangar on Wednesday evening we arranged for US Customs, packed up the airplane and Kurtis did the walk around.  All we had to do the next morning was get up and go.

Thursday morning the alarm went off at 5:30 AM (EST).  We got ready, made a coffee (which was definitely in order) pushed the airplane out of the hangar and then departed in the dark!  The view of the sunrise over the lake was beautiful.  There was quite a bit of morning ground fog in the northern part of Ohio along our route of flight.  Things cleared off as we may our way south west.

We arrived at Dayton International Airport (KDAY) right on time for our Customs appointment. A friendly border agent met us and actually apologized for being late. She was making herself a coffee before heading around to the FBO. We had used fltplan.com to file our IFR flight plans the previous day so after clearing customs we departed from KDAY IFR southbound. The weather was gorgeous. More than once we thought about cancelling IFR so we could descend and enjoy the scenery.

However, as we approached Tupelo, so did the weather. Clouds and reduced visibility descended on Tupelo mid morning as us and others arrived at the airport with hopes of departing for Mr. Lee’s for lunch. The last 30 minutes of our flight was IFR and we were cleared into a hold to accommodate a couple of aircraft flying an ILS with a tailwind while we waited for the RNAV approach into the wind. We were glad to break out at 400′ to land at the Tupelo Regional Airport (KTUP) at around noon (CST).  There was a small group hanging around the Bancorp South hangar giving out welcome hugs and hellos.  It was great to have arrived.

The weather around Tupelo and towards Mr Levi Lee’s catfish farm was the big topic of discussion.  The flight from KTUP to the catfish farm was about 30 minutes, compared with a 90+ minute drive, so there was great debate about whether or not the ceilings were high enough to make it there for lunch flying VFR.  Two vans had already departed loaded with people and there was one more van waiting to go.

We opted to leave CF-KCS parked at KTUP and got in the van.  Even though the flight by 195 was only about 30 minutes, Kurtis and I didn’t want to push it, especially being a bit tired after getting up really early and flying for 5+ hours to get to Tupelo.  The drive there was definitely close to 2 hours (detour included 🙂 ).  We had watched a couple 195’s fly over us as we made our way along the highway.  The gang in our van was the last of the 195 Club group to arrive but thankfully there was still lots of food for us to eat.  The fresh cooked catfish was certainly amazing.  After we finished eating there were more hugs and hellos exchanged as we wandered around the farm property.

One thing I didn’t realize until I did some research is that the state of Mississippi is actually the largest domestic producer of catfish and there is approximately 100,000 acres of ponds in the state.  Following lunch the whole group got to watch the feeding frenzy in one of the catfish ponds.  A large truck drove along one edge of the ponds and sprayed food pellets into the water.  The pond came to life as all the fish came to the surface to eat.  It was very interesting to see some of the activity of a local farm “up close and personal”.

Everyone made their way back to the Bancorp South hangar at KTUP and the vans began shuttling people to the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Tupelo to get ready for drinks and dinner at Park Heights restaurant.  The restaurant was very conveniently located just across the parking lot from the hotel.  Pre-dinner drinks were served on the restaurant’s rooftop lounge overlooking downtown Tupelo.  This was followed by an excellent group no-host dinner held in a private room in the restaurant.  The food and service were excellent and it was a definitely a great way to “kick-off” the weekend’s festivities.  A bit more socializing and imbibing were “committed” after dinner by some Club members in the hospitality suite in the hotel.

On Friday morning, part of the gang headed out to KTUP for the flight briefing and then departed for Cleveland Municipal Airport (KRNV) for a tour at Air Repair, Inc.  Air Repair owns the Jacobs type certificate and their business includes everything from engine overhauls to spray plane maintenance. Pete Jones and his plant manager Tim split the group into two and gave a deluxe backstage tour. The two groups saw where the incoming engines were taken apart, cleaned and inspected. Then they walked through the plant and watched how Air Repair puts them back together again. Many parts included in an engine overhaul are new. Air Repair has an incredible warehouse full of WWII era crates and boxes housing many new parts for our engines.  The two groups also got to see and touch the new aluminum rear case for the A2 (300 hp) engine. Our Club is extremely fortunate that even still, businessmen like Pete are investing in the certification process to keep quality parts available that ensure we can enjoy safe airworthy aircraft for years to come. Everything is painted, balanced, cleaned and inspected at stations throughout the plant. They even have a dedicated ignition system repair area. After touching all the parts and seeing the engines in various states of re-build the group got to watch one get fired up for the first time in the test stand.

The other half of the gang had departed Tupelo in the vans, headed for Oxford, MS.  Among other things, the town of Oxford is known for being the home of the University of Mississippi (aka “Ole Miss”) and the location of William Faulkner’s former residence, Rowan Oak (which is actually now owned and maintained by the University).  We enjoyed lunch at one of the local restaurants downtown, took a tour of Rowan Oak, and then wandered around the historic town square lined with unique shops and restaurants.  The tour at Rowan Oak was pretty much self-guided with an informative introduction provided by one of the staff.

The group that went to Air Repair made their way to Oxford (KUOX) for lunch and then some opted to participate in a tour of Rowan Oak.  Following this everyone started making their way back to KTUP, either in the vans or by plane.  Jeanne and I were offered a ride back to KTUP in Pat Atkinson & Greg Smith’s Beech 18 which was definitely flying in style!  Kurtis couldn’t resist flying some formation with the Beech on the flight back.

Dinner Friday night was held at the Bancorp South hangar at the airport.  One of the local catering companies put on a delicious spread of BBQ meats, with side salads and veggies and decadent banana cream pudding.  Some pre-dinner flying entertainment was provided by the Beech 18 (Greg Smith & Pat Atkinson), N195HA (Gillaspie’s), N9895A (Robertson’s) and CF-KCS (Arnold’s).  Musical entertainment was provided by Ashley G. Tutor from Pontotoc and post-dinner comedic entertainment was provided by Christy Barden.

Following dessert Kurtis and I set up a table to showcase and sell some of the new 195 Club logo merchandise that we had ordered.  The new 195 Club logo had been developed earlier in 2013.  Subsequent to that the Board had been working through the idea of selling merchandise, featuring the new logo, to Club members to wear/use.  We had samples of men’s and women’s button down short sleeve shirts and mens polo shirts, all with the logo on the left breast.  We also had coffee mugs and window decal stickers of the logo.  There was quite a lot of interest and we actually managed to sell a fair number of items.  (A Club Web-store is coming soon.  We are just finishing the set-up and getting a stock of inventory before we go live.  So stay tuned to the 195 Club website for further details.)

On Saturday the majority of the group made their way by airplane to Hawks Nest (4TN3).  Jim & Val Slocum graciously invited the 195 Club to their “Shangri-La” for the annual maintenance forum and for a group lunch.  CF-KCS was part of a flight of 5 headed for Hawks Nest.  In all there were about 20 195’s that flew in as well as a Stinson Reliant, Baron 56 and Beech 18.  Before the maintenance forum got going, Val gave some of the ladies a tour of their hangar-home and told us to come and go as we please.  After exploring a bit of the grounds around the hangars, the front porch was the perfect place to relax and visit.

The maintenance forum, in the main hangar, was a group effort this year.  Stephanie Stephenson gave a presentation on Aircraft Insurance.  Lynn Nelson gave a presentation on risk management in our flying and Bill Milton referreed a discussion on what you should try and include in your traveling tool kit. In additon to getting the grass cut to park all of us, Val found time to prepare a chili lunch with all the trimmings that was served to everyone in the main hangar.

This day also provided a glimpse into why it’s so great to be part of this Club. Two members had service difficulties. One a stubbornly flat tail wheel strut and the other a rather large oil leak. Throughout the day members of the Club jumped in, diagnosed the problems, sourced the required replacement parts and put everything back together and everyone flew safely back to Tupelo.

The Saturday night banquet was held at the Bancorp South Conference Center which was very conveniently located right behind the hotel.  Musical entertainment was provided before and after dinner by Pontotoc’s own Terry “Harmonica” Bean, who specializes in down-home blues.

Throughout the weekend The 195 Foundation sold raffle tickets for various prizes.  Following dinner Lloyd Sorenson kicked off the post-dinner events.  With the help of a couple young ladies in attendance, they drew the tickets for the lucky winners of the raffle (Alice Collette won the Round Radials framed photo and Brian Byl won the 195 themed quilt made by Sharon Sorenson).  There were then presentations about this year’s 195 Foundation scholarship recipients – Savannah Weaver and Sam Barth.

Savannah had been encouraged to apply for the scholarship by Dave & Mary Ramsey and she and her Mother were in attendance at the banquet.  Dave introduced Savannah and explained some of her aviation accomplishments thus far.  Savannah then said a few words to thank everyone and explained that she planned to use her scholarship towards her AME license.

Sam, who was the other recipient of a scholarship, had been encouraged to apply by Bill & Jeanne Milton.  Bill shared some of Sam’s background and accomplishments since they had met him less than 2 years ago.  Sam had hoped to attend the annual fly-in to thank everyone in person but he was not able to afford the weekend away.  Bill played a video that Sam made thanking everyone for the scholarship money and talked about his plans to use the money towards getting his IFR license.  It was really wonderful and inspiring to see the drive and passion that these two young individuals have for aviation and to know that the scholarship money was going towards helping them reach their goals.

A group welcome was then given to the first time fly-in attendees – Chris Thomsen (who was still getting checked out in Arnold Peckar’s 195, N4331N), Robin & Jeannine Donnelly (N126JD), Phil & Tia Robertson and family (N9895A), Richard & Julie Ward (N4401C) and Greg Smith (Beech 18).  It was great to meet everyone throughout the weekend (and we hope to see everyone again at next year’s fly-in)!  Congratulations were also extended to the newlywed’s – Craig & Maggie Layson – who tied the knot a few days prior to the fly-in!

It had now reached the time of the night for the door prize draws, many of which were supplied by Club members and various businesses, including some owned & operated by Club members.  The draw began as usual but part way through there was a surprise visitor.  Elvis’ ticket had been called and he won a door prize!  Needless to say Elvis caused quite a stir.  After a few pictures with Elvis, the remaining door prizes were handed out.  Following that there was lots of fun and fellowship with the party continuing for another few hours.  Fun was certainly had by all!

On Sunday morning, after a little confusion about when the caterer was supposed to have breakfast ready, we all headed back to the Bancorp South Conference Center for the annual general meeting.

Following breakfast, the annual general meeting began.  Kurtis, the Club Secretary, revealed the results of the Club Survey that was conducted in August.  A lot of useful information was gathered about the various Club events and provided some insights into what Club members are interested in participating in.  Brian Byl, the Club Treasurer, presented a report on the Club’s financial position.  Following this Larry Nelson, the Club President, talked about various items including the 2014 fly-in.  The Survey results had revealed that a lot of Club members were very hesitant to fly a 195 to Calgary for a fly-in.  Larry and the whole group thanked Brian and Maggie Byl for graciously volunteering to host the 2014 fly-in in Calgary but the decision had recently been made to change the venue to Harbor Springs, Michigan, which would be hosted by Craig & Maggie Layson.  It was a very productive and informative meeting.

Another great fly-in had officially come to an end.  In all, there were 28 190/195/LC126’s that made it, one Stinson Reliant, one Beech 18, one Piper Archer, one Cessna 170, one Cessna 182RG and one Baron 56 and by all accounts everyone had a wonderful time.  It was time to say good bye, but hopefully we will all meet again next year in Harbor Springs, Michigan!

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