John and Rose Dorcey, a pilot couple from Wisconsin, didn’t wait for a statewide program before they launched on their great adventure. Rose said that in 2010 the couple made a goal of flying to all 60 Wisconsin counties with public-use airports in their Cessna 172.
“It started in 2010, after John and I planned a 20-airport tour in southeast Wisconsin in June. When we did that flight, we passed on one airport, landing at 19. After that successful day, we realized we could fly to the remaining 41 airports in three separate flights, averaging 14 per flight. That was doable. And our goal was to land, go into the FBO, have snacks, look around, and talk to people! No touch-and-goes!”
Takes as Long as It Takes
They took their time, Rose said, adding that it was an exercise in flight planning and logistics.
“In the end, we did one flight to 12 airports, one was 14, and one flight to 15 airports, after the original 19. We mapped out each route days before, briefed each airport, checked weather, and while we set a goal for each flight, we were always ready to stop if the day became too long.”
Safety is key on such a flight, Rose noted. John is a flight instructor and they shared pilot duties—these must be established in advance before you begin the flight, she notes. There were a few times when weather changed their planes.
“The flight to the southwest part of the state was scrubbed at least once because there were thunderstorms in the area and more developing later in the day,” Rose said. “In the interest of aviation safety, we stayed home and waited for a nicer day.
“When we planned the 20-airport tour, we stopped at 19, not because of weather, but because I was tired. We weren’t about to push on if either one of us wasn’t feeling it. I was not feeling that last airport that day.”
Rose posted their adventures along the way on Twitter, and soon they developed a following, as people responded wishing them well. Additionally, there were people they met at the airports who were impressed by this modern-day pair of barnstormers.
“We talked with many airport and FBO managers and pilots along the way who were very supportive—they just thought it was a cool thing to do,” says Rose. “But the neatest thing that happened was after the goal was complete. Many people told us that our goal inspired them to create their own adventures, and that meant a lot to us.
“We didn’t get a fancy leather jacket for our efforts, but we made so many beautiful memories. Since we’ve completed this goal, Wisconsin does have a passport program, and we’ll likely work toward completing it next year. We’ll get that leather jacket after all!”
If You Try It
Rose offers advice for the pilots who want to execute their own round-robin adventure:
• Safety first. Plan, plan, plan ahead.
• Be flexible. Be ready to change plans because of weather and pilot fatigue.
• Be well-rested, stay hydrated, and remember to stay nourished. Be ready to end the day when fatigue kicks in.
• Be honest with yourself about your pilot skills, and consider having a more experienced pilot with you.
• Divide flight duties and be sure each pilot knows their responsibilities.
• Keep a paper flight log next to you with your route and freqs, because sometimes that’s the easiest way to get the information you need quickly.
• Take lots of photographs.