Full throttle, right rudder and we were headed down the runway. The airspeed indicator read “0”. Come on! I waited for it to pick up. Soon, the nose lifted off the runway, yet the airspeed indicator stayed “0”. “Have I forgotten anything?”, I wondered. But I am getting ahead of my story.
It had been a gorgeous day out in the California Central Coast. When my college friend Manu, decided to visit California, as fellow pilots (and wanna be pilots) we started planning a cross country flight. I had just gotten my license to fly a month ago and had barely taken my first passenger in the air. I was excited and thrilled to plan a flight. In those days most of my cross countries tended to be up and down the California coast line, either following the coastline or Highway 101 which prevented me from getting lost. This was really important since all I had in the cherished 152 I flew those days was a single NAV/COMM. No GPS, no glass cockpit with traffic, weather and all the latest avionics! I navigated using 101 highway or the coastline. So the immediate choice for destination was Monterey.
Now that I have flown both the Fisk Arrival into Oshkosh during Airventure and the Lake Parker Arrival into Lakeland during Sun ‘n Fun, I have had time to reflect on the two.
Both arrivals are well documented in a published NOTAM, ahead of time, and available so pilots can plan, and prepare for the arrival. In the case of the Fisk Arrival, there are numerous videos available on the EAA Airventure website. Flying the arrival for the first time last year, I read and re-read the NOTAM, watched all the videos, fretted and felt excited, and eagerly awaited the experience.
Despite our expectation to arrive in Oshkosh on Thursday evening, we did not get there till Saturday morning. Executing the Fisk Arrival ended up being a lot easier, than what I imagined or prepared for. There are far fewer aircraft arrivals towards the end of Airventure. Further, the number of arrivals early in the morning are far fewer than what one would expect in the evening in the middle of the week. Still there was enough excitement and nervousness to keep me alert.
“Aircraft arriving over Lake Parker, expect holding until 7:15 pm over Lake Parker,” was what we heard on the radio a few minutes after our planned group departure from Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Leesburg, Florida.
Four aircraft from the Mid-Atlantic had made it easily, albeit, at different times to our chosen airport of rendezvous. Considering the aircraft in play: a Columbia 400, a twin Baron, a Cessna 182 and a Cessna 172, we definitely needed a rally point to meet, prepare, and plan a departure to Sun ‘n Fun (SNF).
According to our original plan, we had all congregated at KLEE, briefed the arrival procedures and departed on cue around 6:00pm. The plan was to arrive at Lakeland Airport around 6:30pm for a group arrival.
Being the slowest aircraft of all, a Cessna 172, we had departed last. Hearing the SNF radio communications, Linda and I, pondered our options…
“Cessna 69N, 20 miles south of Atwater, say intentions?” asked NORCAL Aproach. “Request ILS 31 approach into Atwater” responded I. “Decend and maintain 5000, fly heading 310” “Roger” said I and eased back the throttle to 2000rpm to start a slow descent from the 8000ft we were flying on our way to Atwater and turned to a heading of 310. Nothing happened! The VSI still stayed at zero. The tachometer read 2000rpm. What was going on? It din’t look like we were descending even an inch. I pulled back some more to 1500 rpm. Still nothing happened. I scaned the other instruments to take stock of the situation. It was only a month ago that I had flown. I couldn’t possibly have forgotten how to fly. What was I missing. As I glanced over the airspeed indicator, it read 80 knots. My heart skipped a beat. We were slowing down…
It was one of those days when nothing was working in my favor. Have you experienced one of those days when you feel more like a spectator and things appear beyond your control? When you want to protest or butt in and say that is not what I want to do or how I want to do it? Or realize just a tad bit late that was the wrong thing to do? I was determined to not let the day’s somberness pull me down. After all every cloud has a silver lining.
So when Mike offered the greatest show in the world, I jumped at the chance to ride right seat in the Baron down the Hudson river corridor southbound past the Alpine Tower, GW Bridge, Intrepid, The Clock, Circle the Statue of Liberty, VZ bridge, and back home to DC at night. New York city was resplendent as always with lights turned on all over the city. The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building stood majestic as always lit up to brighten anyone’s day. If seeing New York from 1100ft during the day was awe inspiring, seeing it in all its glory at night left us breathless. It was one of the coldest days of the season, but the air was clear and crisp in the night sky. With very light traffic flying the corridor that time of the night, we flew in complete contentment enjoying the splendor of the New York skyline at night.