By Tyler Allen, ExploreBigSky.com Staff Writer
BIG SKY – A yellow Piper Cub sped down the runway early on Friday morning Aug. 3, lifting into the bright blue skies above West Yellowstone. After two days in southwest Montana, Dana Holladay and Meredith Tcherniavsky were headed for Boise, Idaho, back in the air to embark on the rest of a two-month journey around the country. Flying between 500 and 1000 feet above the ground, and at a leisurely 75 mph, the couple aims to visit all 48 of the contiguous states this year.
Their 1938 Piper J-3 Cub airplane can fly about 400 miles, or three hours, on a tank of fuel. However, they usually stop more frequently than that, “since the cockpit is small and very cramped,” Holladay said. The 90 horsepower plane weighs just 720 pounds, he said, so they take advantage of the cool mornings to fly, since hot air reduces lift and knocks the small airplane around.
Holladay and Tcherniavsky, who are from Rockville, Md., said they’ve “always dreamed about flying around the United States and exploring the American countryside from this unique perspective.” They’re writing a book about their adventure called Fly the Airplane, which they hope to publish at the end of 2012.
Both are commercial pilots and flight instructors, though Holladay quit his job to take this trip, which began July 1.
“We’re healthy enough to do it, and we’ve seen a lot of friends die recently from cancer, drunk drivers, et cetera. You just don’t know how much time you have on this earth,” he said.
During their two days in southwest Montana, they stayed with their friend Paul Bousquet who has a second home in Big Sky, exploring Yellowstone, walking up to Ousel Falls, and riding chairlifts at the resort. This was the first time either of them had been to Montana, and they were impressed by the view of Lone Mountain.
“This resort is so spectacular,” Holladay said. “I can’t wait to return here in the winter to do some snowboarding.”
The trip had gone smoothly until they left Montana, when the couple had to land in Burley, Idaho due to strong headwinds that slowed the plane to 45 mph. They hope to be back in Maryland by Labor Day.
Follow Dana Holladay and Meredith Tcherniavsky’s journey at holladayaviation.com.