After a fun evening and morning spent with family and friends, my copilot and I reconvened a little before noon at Republic Airport for the return trip back to the Mid Atlantic. Aircraft fueled and preflighted, we set off north this time. The plan was to circumvent the busy NY airspace around JFK and LGA airports from the northeast and fly down the Hudson River from the north heading south before flying back home.
The airwaves were quieter on Easter Sunday and the air smooth as we made our way south. There was not a cloud in sight but sadly haze still clung around the area preventing crisp, crystal clear photographs and videos. We flew southbound reporting all the check points along the way: Alpine Tower, GWB, Intrepid, Clock and Statue of Liberty. We descended lower to 800 ft as we practiced our turns about the point over the Statue of Liberty.
Tracing the eastern New Jersey shore past Long Beach Island, Atlantic City, Ocean City and Sea Isle City we landed at Cape May, the southern tip of New Jersey a little after 2:00 pm. Cape May Airport (KWWD) is a general aviation airport with 2 major runways.
Once a Naval Air Station, it is currently a civilian airport and houses the Aviation Museum in Hanger 1. The Flight Deck Diner is located in the main terminal building and open daily from 6:00 am to 2:00 pm. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to check the operating hours of the restaurant, after feeding the aircraft at the self serve fuel station, my copilot and I headed home, sans any veg(ham) burger. If you did get one at Cape May, drop me a line 🙂
After a hiatus of almost 6 months, the dc99s kicked off their flying season with a flight to Lewisburg (LWB) WV. It was one of those days when the forecast weather was glorious at the departure airport: 80s with sunny skies with a chance of rain in the afternoon which is common on most days during summer in the east coast.
Debbie and I set off in her C182 G1000. The decision was last minute. Since her aircraft was off for maintenance. Given the glorious weekend weather we pushed our monthly flyout to Sunday so her aircraft would be back in action and also not to overlap the International Learn to Fly day.
We departed Frederick Airport (FDK) to clear, blue, warm skies. Before we knew it, 30 miles out we hit dark gloomy skies with rain bearing clouds! Wasn’t this supposed to be one of those glorious summer days? Unsure what lay ahead I prompted Debbie to turn around 180 degrees. Fortunately her C182 G1000 was equipped with Weather, and Traffic information. Looking at the rain cells and considering our options, we plotted a route to circumvent those cells. A little longer route but still do able. So we pressed on. What looked impossible in that instant, watching Debbie navigate and see her comfort zone, I knew she was okay with flying through a little rain and dark gloomy weather. “Look below,” she said,” we are still VFR.
We lucked out this past weekend. I had planned a flyout to Blue Ridge Airport and the weather actually was perfect! Unfortunately the holiday weekend meant there were fewer pilots interested in the flight. But Gert and I had the aircraft reserved all day long and there were opportunities to fly, grab a vegeburger, collect stamps and maybe shoot approaches!
We set off as usual a little later than planned. I don’t remember a time I left ahead of schedule. This time, I had somehow unknowingly filed FLUKY -> HEF as opposed to HEF->FLUKY. And living inside the SFRA meant that ATC couldn’t let us depart without a valid flight plan in place or refile the flight plan for us. This meant we had to shut off the engine, call in a new flight plan and wait the necessary few minutes for the flight plan to arrive at the tower.
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.
“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.