Best of 2015


Life is full of choices

I bought a T-shirt one year at Airventure that read “Life is full of choices”. How true.

2014 was an incredible year. I flew a lot. I flew to the Bahamas. To Sun ‘n Fun. To Airventure. I flew to Virginia airports for $500 Vegeburger runs and stamps. I finally got my tail wheel rating. It was fantabulous!

2015, on the other hand was tame. As they say, life is full of choices!

Here are some fun posts from 2015:

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January: Words on Wednesdays: From AAA to FLY

February: Bahamas Blues

March: Indian Women Pilots

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April:May Day, May Day, May Day

May: Heroes in Fiction

June: December

July: Postcards to OSH: Wish I was there

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August: Logging Memories V

September: Remembering this day

October: It’s Beautiful out here!

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November: Monday Morning Reality

December: Limited Edition Airplane Cookies

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Top Ten Popular Posts and New Year Resolutions


My adventures flying to the Bahamas in a C172 continued to be the most popular post for a second year in a row.  It seems there are a lot of people interested in or at least dreaming about doing this trip. To all of them, just do it!

To some who might wonder, I have a cooking blog too… Flyncook

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TOP 10 Popular Posts of 2014:

Flying to the Bahamas in a C172
$500 Vegeburger
DCA From the Catwalk
The Bahamas
Blacksburg, VA
Flying Lessons
Oshkosh
Book Review: Fifty Classic Destinations for Pilots
Flying Buddy
How to Speak like a Pilot

As for New Year Resolutions? I am resolving to Just Wing It! How about you?

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Stay Safe and Have a Happy New Year and I hope to see you back here next year!

See Also:

Flyncook: 2014 Year in Review

To Bahama or not to Bahama


That is indeed the question!

It is the time of the year when plans for the 4th Annual Bahamas Bash are in full force.  Over chilli, this past weekend, most of the details were finalized. In fact this year, the details were finalized back in June. The Chilli, was merely to enjoy the beautiful fall weather, hanger talk and lure in the wanna goes. Since the must goes, have already committed to their schedule, the Bahamas plan. Heck, they designed the plan 🙂

I have strictly stayed away from the temptation so far, staying away from the occasional meetings and even the chilli night.  Having done it twice already, I know what to expect, what I will see and how incredible the experience is, even if repeated. As I have written in the past, there are 29 islands and 57 airports in the Bahamas. So far, I have landed at 11 airports, but there is plenty more to see and do out there.

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To Bahama or not Bahama, that is indeed the question! The next few months will be challenging as I battle with myself to make a decision. Can I resist temptation? Or will I succumb to the lure of the Bahamas?

Only time will tell.

 See Also:

Flying to the Bahamas in a C172
The Bahamas

 

My Ten Favorite Flights


Flying is everything to me. After every new adventure, I start thinking and planning for the next one 🙂

There are some adventures, that are so out of this world, that I don’t mind repeating them… again and again!

Some time ago, I posted my Favorite Destinations!

Here are the latest ten of my favorite destinations, that I have done at least twice, if not more, so far!

#10: Monterey

#9: Santa Barbara

#8: Half Moon Bay

#7: Tangier Island

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#6 Kill Devil Hills

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#5: Key West

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#4: SFO: Up Close & Personal

 

#3: NY Hudson River Corridor

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#2: Bahamas

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#1: Oshkosh

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And, I will very likely do them again 🙂

 

 

 

If wishes were horses….


The best experiences cannot be planned, so…
Remember to Get Lost
— Jonathan Petrino, Reader’s Digest (02/2014)

Last year when we planned the Bahamas trip, we set off with a hotel reservation in Fort Pierce, FL, which by the way, we had to change since we departed one day later than planned.  Of course, we did need to prepare ahead of the time: radio licenses for the aircraft as well as the pilots, decal for the aircraft, and eAPIS accounts to submit passenger manifests. That was the extent of our planning. I roughly planned what stops we would make on the outbound, so we could have a rough estimate of flight times to expect and where we would stop for fuel, food and customs. But that was it.

return1This year we had to do a little more. In addition to the Fort Pierce, FL reservation, we had to plan the Bahamas reservation several months ahead. Last year, few of the others, had stayed at the Fernandez Bay Village (FBV) Resort and liked it so much, that this year the choice was unanimous. At the start of our planning, almost 30 people were seriously considering the trip, and FBV resort did not have sufficient cottages and villas to cater to everyone. So we had to plan ahead of time, in order to ensure we had a spot.

Two years in a row, we almost winged the trip. Flying is that way. We can plan however much we want, but what transpires might be different from what is expected. So usually, we go as far as we can, and stop as needed.

The 4 days and nights at FBV were extraordinary: the perfect setting for a Tropics getaway. Almost. FBV resort is set on the beach, with an open clubhouse that faces the beach. Half the seating is outside and doors remain open 24/7. The greatest prey in the Tropics are the mosquitoes! Once the sun set, they plagued and harvested on poor unsuspecting victims and had a particular affinity for me. Don’t forget that mosquito repellent!

last4Flying to the Bahamas  is an incredible adventure, in any small General Aviation aircraft. This year we had 9 aircraft: 3 Cessna 172, 1 Cessna 182, 1 Piper Arrow, 1 Cessna 206, 1 Bonanza, 1 Twin Comanche and 1 Twin Star.

If you are only interested in getting there and back, then the bigger, faster and higher might suit you. If it were up to me, I would love to fly low and slow over the islands in a single engine airplane. A Cessna 172 suits that purpose well. I love to see where I am going and the Bahamas are magnificent, when you trace the islands, a few hundred feet from the ground.

return2We got to do some decent island hopping this year–  7 islands and 8 airports. Totally awesome.

It took us 8.2 hours to fly south from the Mid-Atlantic to Fort Pierce, FL under some stiff headwinds. The return instead was easy-breezy 7.0 hours from Fort Pierce back to the Mid-Atlantic, with a stopover at Orangeburg Airport, SC, where we grabbed the courtesy car for some lunch, while our aircraft was being fueled.

This year, other than having to do some flying in IMC, we lucked out. We had absolutely no delays, and got some excellent experience flying through some good IMC weather.

return3The Bahamas trip for now appears to be an annual to-do flight. This is the third year in a row some of the group members have made this trip. Doesn’t matter if one of them has moved to Stearman Field in Kansas…  I am sure they still would love to join the group next year 🙂

If wishes were horses, I would love to make this trip again, year after year.

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Last day in Paradise


In a way I was glad that we were not planning to fly direct from Nassau back to the US.  While Paradise Island was not really Paradise in my mind, we still had half day in the Bahamas. The plan was to do some island hopping before heading back to the States.

After breakfast we headed back to the airport, filed our VFR flight plan (Nassau requires all pilots departing from Nassau to file one), and departed for the short hop to Fresh Creek airport on Andros Island. Andros Island is the largest island of the Bahamas. As with the other Bahamas islands, tourism is the major industry here. There are beautiful flora, fauna and marine life and untouched beaches for a peaceful getaway.

lastLast year when I  made this trip, I had hoped to land at as many airports as I could. But the 2 nights, three days we allocated to the Bahamas prevented us from doing much island hopping. The major problem with island hopping in the Bahamas is that most of the public use airports are away from the main populated area. The small islands have little sight-seeing sites  and most importantly most of them do not even have a food stall to grab that vegeburger flyin meal. A few have beaches nearby, and taking a beach blanket and picnic basket would be a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

There was nothing to do at Fresh Creek, and after stretching our legs, we taxied for departure ahead of a Coast Guard flight that was inbound for landing. The next hop was to the island of Bimini. Bimini is composed of three small islands: North, South and East Bimini and the airport lies on South Bimini. The ocean surrounding these islands is supposed to have some excellent spots for big-game fishing. Bimini is the closest island to the United States, just 53nm away from Miami, FL.  Juan Ponce de Leon and his search for the Fountain of Youth references Bimini, and it is rumored that the Fountain of Youth exists in the shallow pools of South Bimini.

last1This was going to be our last stop in the Bahamas. We planned to conduct our exit customs and head back to the States from Bimini.  As clouds thickened around us, we were concerned for a short while. As I indicated before, there is no weather information in the islands other than Nassau weather. Only day VFR operations are allowed and possible, since there are no instrument approaches anyway at the small GA airports.  Nassau and Freeport are the two airports with approach procedures and since we had just departed Nassau earlier in the day, Freeport became our alternate airport of choice. But we needn’t have been worried. When we sighted Bimini, it was crystal clear.

It was already lunch time when we landed at Bimini. Upon recommendation of the customs agent, Linda and I hopped on a taxi and headed to the Bimini Sands restaurant near the marina for some lunch: vegeburger plus fries 🙂

There is no fuel on Bimini, but it is an airport of entry (AOE). Interestingly enough, none of the blue phones available to allow pilots to check weather or file flight plans worked at the small airports we landed and the airline desks were less helpful. Ever optimistic, I had planned and filed my departure time as 11:00 am from Bimini. It was now approaching 1:00 pm! While Linda called customs, the customs officer was gracious enough to allow me to use their land line to refile my International flight plan, since it couldn’t be found! Not sure if I had filed it properly since I had used Foreflight that morning to file it. What was interesting was, as I told the briefer my aircraft registration number, she exclaimed: “Oh you departed Nassau this morning!”

Florida, yet again was mostly cloudy and I had filed an IFR flight plan. Bimini lies less than 10nm from the ADIZ, which meant we had to contact Miami or Nassau immediately on departure in order to get our squawk code and open our flight plan. We climbed as expeditiously as we could, while avoiding encroachment into the ADIZ zone and tried different communication frequencies to pick up our clearance. On the third attempt we picked up Miami and headed back home.

The trip back to Fort Pierce was mostly in clouds and IMC conditions. There was this one moment when the heading I was given was going to take us towards some turbulent, moisture laden precipitation over Melbourne, when I felt a little nervous. Miami had indicated they couldn’t give us direct Fort Pierce just yet. As I was preparing myself to head into it,

“Skyventures 31, I see some precipitation at your twelve o’clock, do you prefer direct Fort Pierce?” Miami Center asked.

While I was curious how it would feel like, this definitely felt like music to our ears. Landing at FPR, we taxied over to the customs building next to the Airport Tiki. The procedure requires an arriving pilot to taxi into a yellow box outside the customs building, parking the airplane in a fashion that the registration number is visible clearly. There are two kinds of yellow boxes: one if you just want to do customs and depart and another if you want to do customs and get some fuel and depart.

last4I got some excellent IMC flying experienc this trip. Much of the flight from Low Country down to FPR had been under IMC. The flight from Bimini to FPR as well as the flight the next day from Fort Pierce, FL to Orangeburg, SC was also mostly IMC.

Although, we had hoped to return our vests, refuel and head to Ferdinanda Beach for the night, we changed our plans and instead retired for the night in Fort Pierce. A storm was brewing ahead and any flight up north was still going to be in IMC until we left Florida behind.

Night in Nassau


After several turns about a point over Paradise Island, we were finally cleared to land on Runway 14. But the wait was not done. We had chosen the Odyssey Aviation FBO on the opposite side of the field from the main terminal at Nassau Lynden Pinding International Airport. This meant we had to wait: while commercial jets landed and taxied off to the ramp; before Tower could clear us to back taxi on 14 (expedited) before we exited on the right to the FBO.

nassau1Although we had landed here last year, we had merely got lunch, fuel and done our exit customs before we had flown back to the States to Key West, Florida. In retrospect, I think we had used Executive Flight Support last year, that was on the terminal side of the airport. After a wait sorting our transport to the Paradise Island Resort where we expected to spend the night, we finally got there in a cab, weaving past traffic, that almost reminded us of any major US city. Brand name commercial stores in downtown Nassau such as Gucci, almost made it feel like we were back on Park Avenue sans the skyscrapers.

nassau2A new resort is in the making on Providence Island to compete with the Atlantis on Paradise Island. If traffic was bad now, I wonder how it will be a year from now when the resort is ready?

After a short meal at the resort (we had no lunch since our breakfast at FBV), we headed out towards Atlantis Resort. The Aquarium at Atlantis was known to be free after 6:00pm. After walking the short distance from Paradise Island resort, we made it to the Atlantis resort. Unlike the out islands where everything was open and there was no locks and key, in Nassau and Paradise Island, like any metropolitan city, things have to stored under lock and key. Mugging, and petty theft on the streets are common. Resorts were packed and crowded. I realized then, why people preferred the out islands. nassau3The Aquarium at Atlantis was really nice to stroll through. The beach at night was deserted. There were no musicians that entertained the guests as they did 20 years ago. There were no beach events as Linda remembered from before.

nassau4After a short stroll through the marketplace, looking at shops, we made the short trip back to the Paradise Island Resort, for a late dinner. It was nothing compared to the Fernandez Bay Village. But I needed to see it once to know the difference.

nassau5Night in Nassau? Absolutely. My last one!

Columbus landed here


Almost every island in the Bahamas makes some claim or the other to Christopher Columbus. Last year, Linda and I, had attempted to track down the Columbus monument on Long Island. We never made it.

sansalvador0It is widely believed that Christopher Columbus in 1492, during his first voyage  to find the New World,  landed on San Salvador island in the Bahamas and gave it it’s name. For a long time, Cat Island was thought to be the island where Columbus landed. Maybe because until 1925, Cat Island was known as San Salvador, while San Salvador was known as Watlings island, bestowed by an English colonist of the name John Watling who resided there in the 17th century.  The name “San Salvador” was officially transferred from Cat Island and given to Watlings Island in 1925.

sansalvador1I had hoped to make the flight to San Salvador the day before our departure, so we would have sufficient time to explore the island and track down the Columbus monument. But we had changed our plans and decided to join the group the following day for the flight to San Salvador. It was also the date of our departure from Cat Island and we expected to get to Nassau to spend our last night in the Bahamas.

San Salvador lies slightly south east of Cat Island, a short 53nm away. All those planning the day trip had already left ahead of us. Linda and I departed Cat Island after checking out of Fernandez Bay Village, and headed east for the 30 minute flight to San Salvador.

exumas1Transportation to explore the island was limited. There were only a few bikes available for rental and the other choice was to persuade a cab driver. Within walking distance from the airport is a Club Med, Columbus Isle, an all-inclusive resort that offers views, plenty of water activities and food. A few us decided to walk down to the ClubMed instead.

exumas3After an hour on the island, we departed San Salvador and headed towards the Exumas, my favorite archipelago of islands in the Bahamas. The Exumas comprise of 360 islands and the entire island chain is 130 miles long. Although there are 14 airports in the Exumas, most are restricted, with only 4-5 of those accessible to pilots.

exumas2To truly experience the beauty of the Bahamas, one has to be  a few hundred feet off the ground. The greenery of the islands, interspersed with the white and pink beaches, and the vibrant azure hues of the ocean amidst the clouds and the blue skies all forge an unforgettable panorama that remains etched in one’s memory long after. Many people make it to the Bahamas for a weekend or week long getaway to relax, and enjoy the innumerable water sports offered such as  swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing and many more. For me, the lure is the flying. A few hundred feet above the earth, amidst the untouched natural beauty of the islands, resplendent in all it’s colors, waiting to be seen and savored.

atlantis1Ten miles from Nassau, we had the lucky fortune to do turns about a point over Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, waiting to land at Nassau 🙂

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