When Wayne Toddun and Jean d’Assonville checked in with SoCal departure for flight following in the predawn hours, the controllers likely thought they were being played in an elaborate, if one day early, April Fool’s prank. Was the Sling TSi on their radar scope really requesting VFR flight following nonstop from Compton, California to Lakeland, Florida?
With their 0430 departure, Toddun and d’Assonville set out to make a landmark trip to the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, and they got more than they bargained for. Hoping to make the trip in a little over 10 hours, the flight turned into a 13.5-hour marathon. Cruising at 17,500′ and sipping 6.5GPH, their 155-knot cruise had the duo primed for success. Weather over Louisiana’s coast pushed them out over the water, and failing to find a way through the line of weather, they descended to just a few hundred feet above the waves, where they navigated between squalls.
Although family members following the flight worried with the sudden loss of altitude on the GPS tracker, the pilots were confident in their machine and abilities even with the challenging weather.
“We had headwinds up to 37 knots and we were pulled way back to a fuel burn as low as 4.2 GPH,” Toddun said. “We were weighing options that included a fuel stop, but the numbers kept showing we could keep going.”
In terms of the wisdom of the pair completing the flight under such challenging circumstances, we’d counsel a more conservative approach, but d’Assonville understandably defended the decision to continue.
“With the technology aboard, we felt completely safe doing this low-level crossing of the Gulf,” d’Assonville said. With the accurate fuel flow numbers and solid numbers from the Garmin G3X, weather was the only variable. Everything else was a known quantity. We made no decisions that would eat into our 1.5 hour fuel reserve.”
The Sling TSi is a four-place aircraft powered by the Rotax 915 iS. It’s the largest model in The Airplane Factory’s lineup, which also includes light sport models being used as training aircraft. It is available in varying combinations from $58,100 for a basic kit to $164,000 for a quick-build kit with engine, propeller and avionics.
Even after the descent to the wavetops and more than a little deviating for weather, their Sling TSi still had fuel on board to make the runway at Lakeland — but the airport had closed at sunset and they opted for Tampa Executive airport, then hopped to Lakeland the next day.