3500 MILES TO OSHKOSH

Jack Cox

A few months back I wrote an article which saluted the efforts of our fellow members who fly little low powered aircraft to Oshkosh ... aircraft that were not necessarily designed for serious cross country work. This year another marvelous example of perseverance surfaced, one that is going to be hard to top in the years to come.

Remember the sharp little KR-1 built by Fred Keller (EAA 77940) and trucked to the 1973 Oshkosh Fly-In from his home in Anchorage, Alaska? (See January 1974 SPORT AVIATION). Well, this year he flew it to Oshkosh ... 3500 miles in four days! This remarkable flight involved 28 hours of flying time at an indicated 140 mph. Fuel consumption averaged 3 1/2 gallons per hour and M quart of oil was used on the entire trip. Outside air temperatures ranged from a low of 380 near Northway, Alaska, where Fred saw his breath condensing on the canopy, to 1020 at Minot, North Dakota ... and, no, the Dynel skin did not develop any cracks.

Fred and his Revmaster VW powered KR-1 were accompanied by three friends in a Cessna 210. Pilot Dave Daly and passengers Marty Hettinga and Lloyd Lother lugged along at 40% power to stay back with Fred and had to change lower plugs at Edmonton, Alberta, but, otherwise, the trip proceeded without incident. 15 stops, including touchdown at Oshkosh, were made along the way. The KR-1 was carrying 13 gallons of fuel, including that of a newly installed 4 1/2 gallon wing tank (transferred by a hand actuated Kohler fuel pump), but 3500 miles is a heck of a long way. A couple of times, fuel had to be siphoned from the Cessna to tide the little bird over to the next airport with pumps. The 210 served other purposes, also. At Whitehorse, no tie down rings were available, so the KR-1 was pushed under the wing of the mothership, nose toward the fuselage, and the tail was tied to the Cessna's wing tiedown ring, the nose to the main gear leg.

Despite the already considerable length and duration of the trip to the EAA Fly-In, Fred intended to go even further -- to his parent's home in Kentucky. He gave it a try but was thwarted by weather at Indianapolis.

Now, get out your atlas and trace Fred's route to Oshkosh. You will note he had to divert northward at the start ... this was to avoid bad weather. Here we go:

(1) Anchorage to Talkeetna, (2) to Big Delta, (3) to Northway, (4) to Whitehorse, (5) to Watson Lake, (6) to Ft. Nelson, (7) to Ft. St. John, (8) to Grand Prairie, (9) to Edmonton, (10) to Saskatoon, (11) to Regina, (12) to Minot, (13) to Alexandria, Minnesota, (14) to Wisconsin Rapids, and (15) to Oshkosh. Quite a ride behind a VW, ah?

I've titled this piece "3500 Miles to Oshkosh!" perhaps a truer measure of Fred Keller's accomplishment would have been reflected in the title "7000 Miles to Anchorage!".