Hotel booked. Passport in hand. We were all excited about our upcoming fall trip to Niagara Falls. We had strategically planned this for the 3rd weekend in October to see the full splendor of fall colors as we journeyed north to fly over one of the natural wonders of the world and then visit them up close and personal both from the US and Canadian side.
Seven days prior to our flight the forecast called for clear skies and 50’s at Niagara Falls. Slightly warmer but ditto in the mid-Atlantic region. Exciting! Maybe this year we would get lucky and actually make this trip.
Three days prior to the flight the forecast called for partly cloudy and 20% chance of rain and still 50’s at Niagara Falls. Not so exciting but still things could change. There were still 3 days to go.
Two days prior to the flight the forecast was still the same but chance of rain was up another notch at 30%. This was not looking good. Hotel reservation cancelled. Maybe best to put the passport away.
One day prior to the flight forecast was 40% chance of rain, windy and still 50’s. Then by the hour chance of rain dramatically kept increasing: 50%, then 60%, 70% and on the day 80%. The low temperatures also meant freezing levels were going to be low. The winds meant moderate turbulence. So both Airmet Sierra and Tango would be in place.
In the mid-Atlantic though it was going to be a glorious fall day: 60’s and sunny. Tangier called for 70’s and abundant sunshine. Niagara will have to be another time. Tangier here we come for some crab cakes and veg cakes!
Four aircraft set off from four different airports and converged on Tangier. It was a little hazy but a picture perfect day to be up in the air. Nary a bump. Not a TFR in place along the route of flight as Linda and I flew blissfully south VOR to VOR, an hour later than planned (I don’t think I remember a time when I took off on schedule!). This time the aircraft was just back from 100 hour inspection and the GPS was being checked and updated.
The runway at Tangier can be intimidating: 2427 ft x 75 ft. I remembered my previous flights there when I had to do a go -around the first time before landing safely during my second attempt. This time I was well prepared, slowing the aircraft down and giving myself enough room to execute a stabilized approach on final. For good measure Linda reminded me that the TPA (traffic pattern altitude) was only 600ft at TGI. I touched down softly with plenty of room and gently applied the breaks.
The nose wheel shimmied and continued to shimmy excessively. Luckily having experienced this before I knew I had to pull the yoke back. But it continued to shimmy and the plane kept moving forward. We were going to run out of runway here soon. Finally it required both both Linda and me yanking the yoke full back to get the shimmying to stop.
Turns out most of Tangier shuts down in October in preparation for the upcoming winter and only Lorraine’s is open for business all year round. So it wasn’t hard for Linda and I to track down the others. Maryland is famous for it’s seafood, especially crab. So it wasn’t surprising that everyone ordered crab cakes except Linda and me. Linda was not a big fan of crab meat and I of course ordered the only vegetarian item on the menu: Fresh garden salad with a side of the potato wedges.
After lunch, we took the traditional leisurely tour of the island on a golf cart. Our tour guide rattled off historical anecdotes and antidotes (as Debi calls them). It was fun and informative. With a population of only 500 people, with one police officer, mainland a stone’s throw away by boat or aircraft, with few visitors this time of the year, Tangier is an idyllic getaway. One where you could disappear without being found, all of us agreed.
The return was uneventful. Except for the periodic beeping on 121.5 and one or two broadcasts. And the final shimmy of the nose wheel on landing on return. This time Linda and I were better prepared.
Why does a nose wheel shimmy?
Turns out nose wheel shimmy is quite common on single engine Cessna. It can happen either with a problem with the nose strut assembly, the tire, the shimmy dampener or a combination of the three. The best way to reduce or eliminate nose wheel shimmy is to keep the nose wheel in the air as long as possible when landing. Ultimately best to spend the extra $$$ to get it fixed to have a piece of mind when you ace your next landing!