Second Long Cross Country
"Patrick, do YOU really want to continue on to Bloomington, it's starting to get dark?" My wife's question after a long afternoon into 50kts headwinds and the beginning of a three-day forced vacation in Wilmington, OH. We called it a day; the FBO arranged a room at a nearby hotel. As we slept, the overcast sky lowered, fog crept in, and then--sleet followed by three days of snow, ice, mist, fog, and a missed Turkey dinner in St Louis. We were just at the western edge of a low. The ride home was terrific, 55 kts tail winds and we all weighed a little less after missing our holiday feast...our Thanksgiving Dinner was something to behold, us and the Captains of the Interstate--dining at the lovely Exit 45 "24 hour" Subway next to our hotel. It will become one of our treasured holiday stories.
Undeterred by the Thanksgiving "holiday", the next big cross-country was planned several months later, visiting my Uncle in Florida. Heck, the last XC was 400 miles and this one would be 900+ miles of fun, flying solo. Charts were purchased, courses plotted, friends consulted, planning software invoked, supplies acquired, calls made to friends in Florida. Plans call for a Monday morning departure if the weather is good, file a plan with FSS, activate, request Flight Following, keep in contact, one fuel stop each way, off the home airport, New Garden (N57) by 0700, Monday morning.
The morning of departure: FSS called--good weather all the way along the course except the Southern Georgia area Flight Service calling for clouds and maybe fog about Savannah...need to monitor via Flight Watch getting updates. Plan on file, off to the airport. 84W was loaded with my kit, and tanks topped off the evening before; so it was just a matter of a good walk around, out the hangar and getting on the way.
In the cool late-February morning air, NXX84W our 1967 PA 28 235B, fires up immediately and off we go--"New Garden Traffic, this is Piper Cherokee 84Whiskey, taking active runway 2-4, with a departure to the South"...check list going...BLT (power Boost, Lights, Time/Transponder) full throttle. Activate Flight Plan with Williamsport via Modena VOR, the route plan is in the GPS...down south over the Delmarva, then Norfolk, taking the inland route to Lumberton, NC stop for fuel then on to Georgia and Florida via several VOR's and GPS's waypoints...first check point Newark, DE in sight...why is the cabin so noisy?
Looking at the door, gosh daylight--the latch is ajar...well it's pretty hard while airborne to open a door and slam it shut on a Piper so what's the next best option? Land somewhere and close the door! This door will have it's own story a little later. There's an airport just off my line, Summit (EVY), DE; let's make a quick landing and get things right. Dial up Summit, never landed at EVY before but it's a pretty typical place, wide open fields, the pattern is standard, CTAF silent, nice landing, 84W is pretty loaded down and settles in nicely, not a greaser landing but acceptable, second taxiway exit, clear runway, take a deep breath only 18 miles from home and already a goof up...what next?
The door is now secured in place. A call is made on the CTAF and we head south once again. Some cross country--18 miles and already one landing. Call up Dover Approach for Flight Following, tried Philly they were too busy, never mind heading south anyway.
"Dover approach, this is NXX84W, over Smyrna VOR climbing to 5point5, on a southerly course, request Flight Following, time permitting?" "84W, Squawk 0345 an' I'dent...Radar contact; altimeter is 30.10, say destination." "Lumberton, NC, 84W"..."Roger, 84W maintain current course, climbing to what altitude?" "To 5point5--84W", "Roger, that", silence fills the air. It's a beautiful over Delaware this February morn. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun has begun its journey as we have. We're going to spend most of our waking day looking at each other, it going from east to west and us from north to south.
Crackle; crackle, in the Lightspeed 3G's 8 minutes later, my silence interrupted. "Cherokee 84W, Dover Approach", Acknowledged, "84W, squawk, 1-2-0-0". Heck not even to Dover yet and already bounced off of someone screen. Guess they've got something to do. Well let's continue flying along and enjoying the morning. Currently out of range for Washington CTR or Patuxent Approach but we've flown down this way before as it's in our $100 hamburger range.
South of Georgetown (GED), now with a little more confidence a call is made into Approach requesting and receiving flight following. The strip number is plugged into the transponder and a reminder is received saying the Restricted areas are active today. Now down over the Salisbury airport swing a little to the east, down the highway to Accomack and then out over Chesapeake Bay. Looking over to the east, our Marines are doing some practicing along the beaches, where's John Wayne? Tangier Island is in the distant haze, crab cakes and eggs would be good about this time of the morning, skipped breakfast in the excitement of departure.
Just over to the east, live the ponies of Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, Each year some of the ponies are sold to help support local volunteer fire departments. When my boys were small they enjoyed the many stories about the orphans and how "Stormy" and the other brave, little critters survive to this day. These castaways arrived on the islands jumping from Spanish galleons run aground during hurricanes and vicious storms at sea, hundreds of years ago and settled on the barrier islands. Can't quite make them out but they are down there some where on that thin sliver of sand and scrub bushes below our wings continuing their adventure in America.
Approaching Cape Charles VOR...Patuxent Approach transfers us to Norfolk Approach keeping our transponder strip, Norfolk want to know our destination and clears us to Norfolk. Guess the Patuxent Navy guys called Norfolk and transferred us via landline. As it turns out, the Patuxent assigned transponder code will remain all the way to Lumberton (LBT). We'll just change dancing partners along the line. ATC's dime a dance.
Passing south over Cape Charles, there's water on both sides of the wings-- ocean to the east (port) and the Bay to the west (starboard). Looking out to the ocean, there are several large container ships that look like big flat islands, churning southward; also some Naval Vessels, guessing them to be cruisers as they look small, fast and have bulkheads above their bows that may be housing tomahawks or some other weapons system. In the bay is a number of small boats, some are commercial fishing boats and a couple of sail ships, guess the fisherman are picking up my fresh crab cakes...must be cold down there luffing along this morning. The sun is just brilliant, hanging well above the horizon, giving a lovely rosy wintry glow to the land below.
Nearing the Delmarva's tip and turning on a westerly course, a decision's got to made...add 1,000' or lose 1,000'...let me think...winds aloft this morning 250/20 at 3,000' and 240/25 6,000', currently at 5,500' and about to cross the bay.
A call is made into Norfolk and requests a clearance to six-point-five. Being the "clucker" we take the extra thousand feet. A little power in and up we climb, feeling more comfortable but knowing with winds over the bay we probably cannot make it back to shore if the engine stops in the middle of the bay. A certified life vest is aboard perched in the back seat. Time to change fuel tank before we get over the water...fuel pump on...switch from left main to right main...looks good, fuel pump off...OK we've got good gas in that tank!
Creeping over the bay at a GPS ground speed of 102 kts with an indicated 135 kts makes this water crossing seem a bit longer. Stay busy, don't think about Chessy, it must be time for a drink of water as my mouth seems to have suddenly gone dry. A double espresso would taste great about now. Take a sip of bottled water instead; we've really got to invent good espresso tasting, self- warming, bottled water!
Below are several large ships painted in gray with big white numbers, there's an aircraft carrier in the distance in anchor. 84W is purring along and the pilot is listening for sounds that remains silent, thank goodness. Looking out, 84W is now in the middle of the bay cruising high over the Chesapeake, the Atlantic Ocean is to our left out the mouth of the bay. Traffic is on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel system and we're beating the toll. The plotted GPS course is taking us directly to the Norfolk regional airport.
Minutes later, which seems longer over the water, "84W, contact, Norfolk tower" we're instructed. "RJ, be advised there's a Cherokee over the bay at 6500' southwest bound"..."Roger, looking---Negative contact"..."It's 10 miles your 3 o'clock"..."RJ, No Joy"...Waiting a moment for them to finish their transmission, "Roger, RJ...he won't be a factor". WOW, that makes me feel good.
"Norfolk tower, Piper Cherokee Nxx84W, with you at 6.5, southwest bound." "84W, turn heading 250 for one minute then back on course". "250, 84W". Sixty seconds later, back on course heading directly over Norfolk regional, the tower tells us to watch out for the RJ, it's below us and off to our left a couple of miles, and remain on our course.
I wonder where that Regional Jet will be off to this fine morning?
If we weren't taking the inland route this morning, we could nose over to the coast and run south along the Atlantic taking a line to KFFA, First Flight Airport that most of us call Kitty Hawk, NC. Those hallowed sand hills where the bicycling Wright Brothers invented powered flight one fine December 17th morning about 100 years ago. On that day they were the only 2-powered pilots in the world. As an 8-horsepowered glider took them into the sky's for the first time. Today maybe there are one million aviators that have powered licenses out of the six billion current ticket holder's to the ride on our blue marble.
But with predicted fog along the coast this morning our planned route will be inland down over central Virginia, with its rolling countryside, horse farms and "gentleman" ranches all along the flight. Norfolk passes us to Washington Center, maintaining our current strip then into North Carolina. We pass by a few MOA's and none are "hot" today.
After nearly 3 1/4 hours just one plane sighted, the Regional Jet at Norfork, all in all a nice smooth morning. LBT in sight, call into Lumberton Unicom, follow the GPS and VOR to the field, cancel fight following, close the flight plan and land at Lumberton, call for gas. First leg is done!
"Wel, I'd bee a fuw minut's o'n dee gaas, wed'bee a'chanin' da filt'da." A few North Carolinian minutes become 50, before we taxiing down to the POL where the fuel truck is stuck with the "service tech". Taxi back to the FBO, take the slip into the "shack", pay the bill, call FSS get the latest weather, file and take off. Weather south of here around Savannah, the skies continues to hang low. No lunch place near LBT, what the heck, do without lunch, (got a candy bar somewhere in the kit and a bottle of water) or stop at Flagler, FL. They've got a luncheon place just to the side of the FBO, my buddy Roger tells me, who's made this trip a number of times, and it's only 2 1/4 hours south of here.
Lifting out of Lumberton with a full load of fuel, 84 gallons, the plane once again feels a bit heavy but handles nicely. We scoot out over the localizer course heading south, the plan calls for a flight down over several military bases into Savannah area then along the Georgia shore. Flight plan activated, calling Approach--requesting Flight Following, new transponder code entered, climbing to cruise altitude and about 30 minutes on this leg over South Carolina it looks like a gray curtain and haze is forming...slightly earlier than briefed. No matter, cruising at 5,500' the clouds look pretty high...Down over Gamecock MOA's on to Beaufort and there's slate-gray colored steam raising...what that? Gawd, these folks are burning the fields...are we back in medieval times of slash and burn agriculture?
They are beginning the sugar cane season; the wispy smoke is ascending to my altitude and is being trapped by the heavy overcast--classical inversion. The air is thickening, there's a taste of burned caramel and acrid smoke in the cabin. It must not be too bad, my CO meter has not started buzzing and visibility is better than most east coast summer afternoons.
"Approach, 84W needs to descent to maintain VFR." "84W, maintain VFR and report when reaching a new cruise altitude." Descending, the smoke and haze is getting worse. Looking out, it is clearer to the east...so we nose over that way...seems better but we're now down to 3.5 and have been switched to Savannah Approach, the clouds are coming down as the coast approaches in the distance.
"Savannah Approach, 84W descending to maintain VFR"..."Roger, 84W, maintain VFR, remain clear of Savannah airspace." Descending further to 2,500 feet and remaining clear of clouds...then to 2,000'...some towers on the charts but none at our altitude, still its cloudy, misty and smoky. We continue to descend to 1,500'.
"84W, terminate Flight Following, squawk, 1-2-0-0" kicked out of the system as we're probably too low for radar. OK, keep a keen eye out for other traffic, plug in the tower frequency as the secondary and listen to both Approach and Tower to see if any thing is coming this way. A bit of IFR going on in and about Savannah, mostly heading north and west/southwest, none heading out over this swamp. The SAV airspace is on the GPS moving map as we skirt east around the space and the skies begin to brighten. Smoke is dissipating and forward visibility is increasing. Mouth is getting dry. Where's the bottled water? A little out of reach at this altitude as the bottle has made its way into the corner of the rear seat, RATS! Another lesson learned. Keep important things at hand!
Ceiling is increasing, GREAT! Renew my relationship with Savannah Approach, up in the "System" again. Get a new strip number and head down to St Mary's, Georgia.... all the places look alike below, small homes and businesses with strip malls. Unlike the caramel smell above Savannah, here a lovely hickory wood smoky scent begins to fill the cabin, it sure smell's tasty. With no lunch at LBT, the smoke rising from that red roofed restaurant along the Georgia countryside makes my mouth water. Oh well, Florida and the FBO at Flagler are just ahead.
84W is happily charging along, switching tanks on schedule keeping up with centers and Flight Watch, this is actually getting to be fun and more radio work than the average $100 hamburger runs requires.
As we near Florida, today's 8th and final state, the controller calls out a temporary TFR and we're given a new heading 090 degrees. Gosh that blue stuff down there sure looks like the Atlantic Ocean and the shore line seems to be behind our tail..."84W, OK to turn back on course" the controller barks in our ears, back to course 178, the GPS shows me on course parallel to the plotted line and there's water on both wings...a mental intercept course is plotted back to the beach.
Looking over to 3 O' clock, now that's the reason for the TFR; a sleek, darkly colored nuclear submarine is coming out of the Naval pens at St Mary's. The pens are huge beige colored carport type structures sitting in a bay between the small strip of ocean shore and the calm waters beyond. There's a tug along side the sub, crowding the channel. Guess she's just dropped tow on her as the sub is making a wake behind her like a high-speed jet ski. The sailors, some dressed in Blue's, are on topside waving at 84W or the tug? It must be us; we've got to be more interesting that an ol' tug boat. Where's the camera when you need one?
Getting to Florida, you feel like you're almost near your destination, but there are two more sectionals to fly before getting to Pompano, Jacksonville and Miami. With the head winds or the lack of tail winds one normally expects, we are just on the target time to Pompano. Stopping at Flagler will put us behind plan, so we continue to drone south/southeast. Skies are once again clear with a mild overcast, the ocean is steadily beating against the shores with a long procession of white frothed waves headed into the empty wintry beaches.
Now for the I-F-R part of the trip, "84W maintain current altitude and follow Interstate 95 south through Daytona". Lot's of chatter on the radio as we pass the heavily used "school" airports. One hears unique accents, funny call outs, tower corrections and bric-a-brac exchanges; an education all in it's self. Nothing going on at NASA's Cape, lots of planes doing touch and goes as we pass various airports. The eastern Florida coast is dotted every couple of miles with 1940's vintage ex-military diamond shaped airfields.
We scoot on past Vero Beach, rocking our wings saying hello, 84W's birth place in October '67 before her initial trip up the coast to Maine and her first owner. That "Rosy" sun has now switched to our starboard side as we follow I-95 south bound, it's nearing 5:30 local. It's been a long day as I say thank you to the final Miami Center Controller and say hello to Pompano's tower...a class D airspace with Class A service folks.
Good, we're given a left turning approach to PMP, check list out, slow the plane down, getting in the landing mode. I'm hot, tired and thirsty, never did get to that bottle of water nor used the autopilot just followed the GPS course hand flying and trimming.
"84W cleared, left turns to runway 1-5." "Roger, left to 1-5, 84W". Look at the DG and get the course set up...come off of I-95, sweeping left turn to runway 1-5, reduce power, add flaps, fuel pump on, full prop, full rich...seems like yesterday the last time 84W was on final. Wind is reported from 120 degrees 15 gusting to 20, a little left aileron, right rudder a touch; keep the nose on the center line...not as gusty as reported on ATIS, ease off a bit, landing light on for safety in the controlled area, there's "Delta" space both north and south of here that make's the area seem like one continuous group of segmented circles, as shown on the Miami sectional.
Waddle down the approach, slow to 80, then 70, dial up some trim, over the fence, power reducing, slowly close off, and terra firma! Not a "10" landing but after 4+ hours it's good to be on the ground again. "84W take the next exit, where do you want to go?"--"Anthony Aviation". We're cleared to Anthony. Out of the corner of my eye, there's a car driving out to the end of the taxiway. It's my buddy Roger; hand on his portable transceiver and waving out the car window. He's come out to meet and lead us to a parking space. My personal FOLLOW ME car...thanks, Roger for all your help in planning, local information and calls to Anthony on our behalf setting things up.
"84W clear of the active for Anthony, good-day"...it has been an interesting day and my first 7:45 cross-country. Over 900 miles flown and not getting lost for a moment even in the haze of Georgia, thanks to GPS technology even I can find Pompano Beach, Florida.
After house keeping details, we go to Roger's favorite restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory...got to love that food and cheesecake. But the company and aviation talk was even better. Before meeting today, "Roger and me" were electronic chat buddies on a Piper list. We had never been together before but when announcing on the list that a trip was going to be made, he swung into action smoothing the way for this adventure. Thanks, Roger!
Made the rounds with my Uncle at the Nursing Home, hope it never happens to me that their services will be needed...nice folks but ending up in there, ugh.
About mid-week, a stationary low-pressure system camps over Palm Beach creating ground fog and low ceiling. Flight plans over to Ft. Myers visiting friends are scuttled; me being a VFR only pilot, driving over was the option. They predicted the low would lift by Friday. The weather at Ft. Myers area is terrific and visiting one of my best friends is even better, but the Gold Coast remains misty, foggy, and cool. Rats, once again. The low continues past Friday to the weekend.
Early Saturday morning, 4 a.m., got in the car, driving back across Gator Alley, over to Pompano (PMP), a low curtain continues to hang heavily in the morning light. FSS called, ceiling less than 1,000,' IFR only, but clearing to the north. It should lift by 1000. An hour later the same report, now it's going to be clearing about 1100, let's get breakfast plus a sandwich and bottle of water for the trip.
At 1030 the nice lady at the FSS says the ceiling is lifting, by 1200 it's going to be 2,500' and VFR...they're reporting the Glades are clear, and suggests a NW course out of PMP to the Glades where the sunny sky's are; then head up north, should be clear by Palm Beach--reporting Unlimited.
Although the FBO received instructions to fill all tanks, they only filled the main tanks. There is enough gas with mains and tips to get us out of this area and well into Georgia. Calling for a fill up will only get us further behind the time curve. OK, pay bill, file a plan, it's now approaching 1245.
Fire the engine up--call for clearance, departing runway 2-8. Let's go, full rich, full prop, throttle to 2650 rpm's and we launch to the NW, quickly clearing PMP airspace, call FSS--activate plan, call Approach request Flight Following...these folks are great down in FL. Although flying at 1,500', Flight Following is immediate. We're on a NW course for the Glades. After 20 minutes aviating, it's looking worse out there than back along the Interstate, so let's head to "IFR" country but stay a couple of miles west keeping clear of the tower farms along "95"; some towers are up to 2,000', keeping clear of the guy wires, also! OK, got I-95 in sight, it's about 4 to 5 miles to my east; we're over the glades at 1,700'.
Cough, Sputter, Cough, the yoke is starting to feel instantly heavy and we're in a good pressure turn to the right, the prop is slowing down and can be seen not it's usual fan like blur. Instant sweat...A-B-C-D-E---Airspeed get to 80...nose up Best place to land...forget it gator country all around, Check list...do gas...fuel pump on, full rich, full prop, switch tanks...shit, been flying on the left tip tank...must have run dry...left main quickly...come on baby--keep wind milling--hand to starter button but before it's needed the engine catches---Roar, and full power.
We jump forward up to the left--right rudder-- "right rudder" get under control, don't panic, wings level, find the course. Start breathing again. Thanks, Ron, (my CFI), I'm glad we practiced this several times. Sure glad we did not get to D--Distress call, or E--Escape procedure.
Switch to right main balancing the weight a little. We're still with the scud, running along "95", heading in a general N/NW direction. Let's think what to do; fuel is now under control, all dials in the green, we've got Flight Following but it's continuing to look pretty crappy. Let's continue north for a while, if it doesn't look better in the next 20 minutes, we'll head to one of the coastal diamond shaped airports.
"84W, immediate right turn, traffic 12 o'clock". Got 'em insight, another Cherokee ahead and off to my right about 800 yards making the immediate turn would have probably added some new tin cans in the Glades. "Approach, 84W has the traffic in sight"...the Cherokee passes to my right with two people on board neither head turns...guess they never saw another great Cherokee.
OK one deal done...twenty minutes later, it's clearing up a little, up another 500'--"84Whiskey, traffic your 2 o'clock--3 miles, a Cessna not in contact"...it's a C172 heading out into the Glades. Slight turn to the traffic and pass behind them. Getting closer to the tower farms and I 95 but at our current altitude they "won't be a factor"...if the barometric pressure is correct. We'd better check a local ATIS; controller has not reported an altimeter check in a while, as he's been busy with real IFR stuff. Checking the ATIS at the airport we've just passed...it's increasing from 29.15 to 29.40...good news getting beyond the low and the ceiling is lifting slowly.
After 1:45 of low ceilings, the clouds suddenly disappear, it's like a knife sliced them in half. Getting beyond the layer looking back, the front is a low hanging layer maybe 200'-300' thick with clear sky's above, unlimited. Oh, to just be IFR for 30 seconds out of Pompano would have saved a whole lot of sweating!!!
IFR again (I follow roads) up I-95 directly to Flagler, a needed "time out" is called. We'll fill the tip tanks, have a sip of water and a mental rest. A crosswind landing is required at Flagler's diamond field as several school twins from Emery Riddle and a couple of other schools are crowding the airspace while they work on their ratings and cross wind technique, a beehive of twins. Merging in, shoot a crappy landing being chased by a zealous C 310 driver too fast too close, a Seminole and a squadron of other planes, we taxi to the FBO and take a break.
Back out and on up north, the afternoon is gaining on us. The slight tailwind from FL has now done an about face, headwinds blowing at 20 knots from the NW so that will slow us down. Pretty uneventful up to Savannah, skies are crystal clear this time over the airspace on up to Lumberton. Landing at LBT, the line guy is just about to leave. It's now 6 p.m. and the sun is setting, wind is continuing to blow hard. QUESTION: do we want to continue up to New Garden at this rate and possible do a crosswind, night landing--we'll be working on an 18 hour day at that point or..."TIME OUT".
Filling up 84W, a loaner car is given for the night, camping out at an I 95 tourist trap temporary roadside home. Have dinner with the locals and catch a few minutes of the weather channel. The long day drifts away with the scent of non-designer colored, freshly painted walls, spotted carpet in the only room left that evening. A Day's Done at the Day's Inn.
A clear starry night brought a heavy wintry frost to this Carolina country. The 1977 midnight blue Olds Delta Royale loaner car is coated with ships gray solid crystals in the morning grip and is balky starting with the rising sun.
Arriving at LBT, 84W looks surreal with a solid white blanket of dew, glistening and scattering the sunlight into a multi-colored blanket. The fellow from the evening before was nowhere in sight. Said he'd be here early. Wonder what early is? Apparently his early is later than my early. Having time on our hands $10 gas is pumped into the line car. After an hour's wait he shows up, had a problem starting his car on "dis' col' mornin' ". Keys are returned, thanks made...they didn't have a frost removal service as most folks just wait for the "mornin' suun" to take away "Ol' Jack Frost." Now we're on a Roman sundial clock's schedule...that's OK, not in any big hurry anyway.
El Sol clears off winter's breath. We're now homeward bound on the final leg or not? Lifting out on runway 2-3 turning to the north...key the mike to activate the new flight plan with the local tower as the VOR repeaters don't work well in this area.
"Fayetteville," the avionic stack goes blank--GPS, Transponder, Radio's--the entire center stack...off--blank...nothing...zilch...nada...midnight black faces those lovely orange diodes silenced!!!
OK, we're making amps, the engine is running, things are going well. We're flying, we just can't communicate, but we've got a chart, we're VFR with 7.5 hours of fuel on board. OK let's be cautious, make a slow, standard turn back to Lumberton and set up for a landing at LBT. Sure looks vacant down there. While on "final" my line buddy is drive through the gated fence and out to the highway, breakfast must have called--Eggs, grits, ham'n gravy.
Landing, the center stack pop on--must be a "short". Luckily no spike! The radios, GPS, Transponder are all working again, good to see orange again. Stop on the ramp, look things over, do a radio check, there is someone in a hangar answering. With no one in sight, it's time to head north once again. Here's the drum, if there is a problem we'll call into another airport maybe Class D with services, and it will be good practice to do light work with a tower.
Ok, we're settled down again, cruising along at 5.5 with a little tail wind, charts sitting next to me on the right seat along with my flight plans and course cartoon.
What's that rumbling noise...looking down, my flight plan is sucked under the doorframe and out into the slipstream, the sectional is about halfway out the door. Grab that chart before this beautiful North Carolina countryside is littered. Probably my flight plan will make a cow additional fodder.
Luckily, there's a second flight plan in the flight bag on the back seat--but not two current Charlotte sectionals so let's create a wind wall along the door. The plane is equipped with an IFR GPS and a current database. Thanks to both my partner Mike and buddy Roger, there are several sets of printed flight plans off of their services in the file. Feeling the bottom of the door, it's a sirocco blowing under there... new door seals for 84W in the near future!?! Gosh, this wonderful door, it's been so much fun, allowing me make an additional landing at EVY, now littering the Carolina countryside and trying to expel my sectional...doesn't that door know sectionals are expensive!
The second plan has all the radio frequencies, checkpoints, VOR's and distances on it as did the expelled plan; plus, it has a course line and altitude gouge for this segment. But it's the backup copy. So take a file folder and place it vertically across the door base to keep my charts and plans inside the plane...DA PLANE...BOSS...DA PLANE is coming. Yes, Tattoo, I'm on my way north, still.
Plan activated, get Flight Following with all the now more familiar procedures. While in contact with Washington CTR, "84W...advise that there's a rocket launch TFR, 10 mile off VOR XX North of you for the next 3 hours, advise you change your course to a heading of 090" (I had the TFR plotted along my course line and I would not gotten any closer than 12 miles to south of that VOR, but what the heck I'll follow CTR's suggestion) after 10 minutes of flying along at 130kts..."Center how's this course for the rocket shoot"..."84W, Center is advisory only; we don't have to provide you this service"..."84W, understood" OUCH someone having a bad morning!!!!
(2 minutes later, same lovely ladies voice) "84W, switch frequency to xxx.xx they will have information for you" (Wonder if a supervisor over heard our conversation)-- "Center this is..." ---breaking in---"84W, you're clear of the TFR, resume course"! Only chat by this controller, other than being passed to Norfolk APP. Up over Norfolk (CPK) airport, this day they had a number of folks working the pattern. There were other planes over the bay, then back up the Delmarva, Ocean City, MD--beaches were empty only a few dogs with their walkers skimming the shoreline.
Back in our $100 hamburger territory...Dover APP with Fight Following for a couple of minutes then back to 1-2-0-0; we ease our way N57, New Garden--home, and land on runway 2-4, taxi back to our hangar, shutting down.
Got to be IFR for the next long XC!!! Could have punched through the overcast in Florida and gotten home with a lot less sweat also got to look at the FUEL switches berry, berry carefully as Artie Johnson said on Laugh In!!!
What made this flight special and easy was help from a number of friends, Ron, a wonderful instructor who gave great lessons and information getting me up to speed after my 20+ year hiatus from the left seat; my partner Mike, on planning advice and council and sitting in with me of a few $100 runs; and my Piper buddy, Roger for his planning help and local knowledge of the route, his friendship and welcoming not forgetting the wonderful meal on Day One in Florida! That cheesecake is still tucked north of my belt line. Thanks guys, you all sat in the right seat on this trip and made it easy.
Where to next?? IFR school then the left coast?
This story is created from an actual flight that begin one late February morning at N57, New Garden Airport, a privately owned facility near Toughkennamon, PA, and returning to Pennsylvania in early March 2004. It is not meant as flight planning or instruction, or for any aviation-learning tool but as shared information and entertainment for all flyers. All the events actually did happen as and where described including the "poor" fuel management technique by the pilot. Hopefully, this incident will aid others in fuel planning with tanks that need to be manually managed. Keep a "Berry, Berry close eye" on those fuel tanks Piper aircraft have. Managing 4 fuel tanks is an acquired skill that hopefully the pilot will get better at over time. More West Bend timers are needed on board, so that some day we can rival Roger's collection of 4 aboard his Dakota!
This is a story written by Patrick A Scott, all rights are reserved.