Our next planned leg is to Davenport, IA (KDVN), just crossing south of the busy airspace surrounding Chicago O’Hare and Midway; Jean-Baptiste is in the left seat for this leg. There are some slow-moving and isolated thunderstorm cells east and south of Chicago, so we go about 20 miles south of our planned route to stay well clear. We take off from Wood County Airport and contact Toledo Approach then Fort Wayne Approach. The landscape is now completely flat, with freshly planted corn fields, and the farms are further and further apart from each other — they will be even more apart in Iowa and Nebraska later in the day. We eat lunch as we cruise west, taking turns flying as we enjoy sandwiches from Ithaca Bakery — not bad for an in-flight meal!
Even as far east as Fort Wayne, we are starting to see (not just on the radar but also out the window) two impressive thunderstorms moving slowly East of Chicago. They are beautiful, but we stay way clear and south of them. This also happens to place us in the arrival stream of Southwest 737s going into Midway… we are at 6,500 ft, but the jets are descending to 6,000 ft as they come in. Chicago Approach points this out, and when Jean-Baptiste asks if it would be better for ATC if we descend, the controller response with “I don’t care, but it’s certainly better for you!”. Even after descending to 4,500 ft, we still get a great view of a few 737s as they pass within 1,500 ft and two miles of us.
We’re eventually handed off to Minneapolis Center (really, Minneapolis? It turns out we’ll be with them on and off until Western Nebraska!). We leave the scattered thunderstorms behind (for now) and fly over miles and miles of corn field with beautiful weather until Davenport, where we land with a stiff crosswind while the crosswind runway is torn up and repaved.