Saturday, January 19, 2013

Prop Planes? Snow Storms? Wyoming! San Diego State University trip to Laramie is usually an adventure

By Mark Zeigler 

 LARAMIE, Wyo. — DeShawn Stephens was sleeping.

He remembers the pilot saying something about them landing in a few minutes, then drifting back to sleep and waking 45 minutes or an hour later and still being in the air. They landed finally, ducked their heads in the cabin of the 57-foot, 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D twin-engine turboprop with no bathroom and emerged onto the airport tarmac as snowflakes tumbled from the heavens. Stephens heard someone say they were in Utah.


“We thought we were supposed to be in Wyoming,” Stephens says.

And that was just the start of it.

Fifteenth-ranked San Diego State makes its annual trek into the high lonesome this weekend for men’s basketball, venturing to Laramie, the Gem City of the Plains, for a game today against the Wyoming Cowboys at the Arena-Auditorium. Give them this much: They got back on the horse. They flew charter again (and yes, they made it without drama).

“Man, the charter,” Stephens says. “That was definitely the craziest road trip. It was definitely an experience.”

A flight that normally takes two hours took 19 hours, 55 minutes, making an unscheduled overnight stop at the Crystal Inn in Cedar City, Utah, refueling the next day in Grand Junction, Colo., and arriving in Laramie seven hours before tipoff. They held the pregame walk-through in a hotel ballroom, played, won, returned to Laramie Regional Airport, ducked their heads back into the turboprop, made another refueling stop at Grand Canyon Airport in Arizona at midnight and landed in San Diego at 1 a.m.

Five states, 35 hours.

It was the Rocky Mountain version of Gilligan’s island. A three-hour tour …

The ordeal actually began 10 days earlier, when the charter company informed SDSU officials that the 30-seat jet they had reserved had a crack in the wing and was grounded. They scrambled to find a replacement, and the best they could do was a 19-seat prop plane operated by Maverick Aviation in Henderson, Nev.

“A plane,” Fisher says, “that to the naked eye looked less than flyable.”

“Hats go off to the players and coaches who got on the plane,” Alice Buchanan-Tapley, the mother of guard Chase Tapley, wrote in the comment section below a U-T San Diego story last year. “I don’t know if I would have!”

It was normally used to shuttle Las Vegas tourists for day trips to the Grand Canyon. The problem: The Grand Canyon is 169 miles away. Laramie is 868 air miles from San Diego.

The Beechcraft 1900D theoretically can fly that far on one tank of gas, but that’s before you start boarding 6-foot-9, 230-pound forwards.

“It all comes down to the amount of weight on the plane,” Brian Kroten, public relations director for Maverick Aviation, said last year. “If the plane is half full, it can make it all the way from San Diego to Laramie. Obviously with 19 athletes and baggage, it was well above our weight limit, and we needed to stop to refuel.”

Read more here:

No comments:

Post a Comment