Memorable Flights

I've done a fair amount of flying and, with few exceptions, every flight has been enjoyable in its own way. However, a few stand out from the rest. In my mind, they epitomize what flying is all about. Of course, for every pilot, the first solo, the checkride, and the first flight as a Private Pilot are all memorable. Here are brief accounts of some other flights that stick in my memory.

Flight 153 – June 21, 1998

What a day!!!! I had already gone to Blairstown for lunch but didn't want to quit yet. I landed back at WBW, got gas, parked on the ramp, and called my son Don to see if he wanted to take my grandson, Julian, for his first ride.

Julian was just getting in the pool when I called so we had to wait a while. We put Julian's car seat in the back and got him all strapped in. Kelly took some pictures of us getting ready and then gave us my camera back. Julian looked cute with the small Telex headset on! I took off on 07 and we flew over to Lake Carey with Don at the controls. I got some nice pictures of Julian in the back seat! After Lake Carey, we asked Julian if he was ready to go back and he said, "no." Don took us past 9N3 and back, asked Julian again and he still said he wanted to stay up so we went over Harvey's Lake. I suspect he still wasn't ready to go back but it was getting late so back we went. Hobbs time was 1.0 for the trip and Julian seemed to really like it. We went to their house for dinner. Great day all around.

Flight 157 - July 18, 1998

Log CanoesWhat a fantastic day; one of the best ever! Lin was throwing a shower at the house for Kelly so Dad, Don and I went flying. We'd decided on Bay Bridge, W29 on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. All met at our house and drove to WBW. The sky was less than ideal when we left but certainly flyable. I stayed at 3500 the whole way down and was bumping my head 'til we got to about Kutztown. Things cleared up as we neared the Bay. To miss the Aberdeen Proving Ground restricted airspace, I dog-legged to Summit Airport which then had us go over Chestertown to the Bay. W29 was using runway 29 so the upwind put us over the approach to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Traffic on the bridge was stopped. Landed and were directed by radio to a tie down. Believe it or not, we walked to a Citgo gas station with a restaurant serving pretty good Vietnamese food! Weird! Got gas at the FBO and headed out. Flew southeast to Tilghman Island, over Dunn's Cove and Knapp's Narrows. Then went to Oxford, Trappe, St. Michael's, and up the Wye River. Up until a few years ago, Dad had kept a sailboat in Cambridge so we had all had a lot of experience on those waters; it was fun to see it from the air. An hour after launching from W29, we were passing W29 on the way North! On the Chester River, there was a log canoe race so we got pictures of that, then found Uncle Welland's boat and did a couple of turns around it. Found Aunt Eleanor's house, too, and did the same there. Finally, we headed for home. Fantastic trip! Hobbs time 4.3; my longest and still I wasn't ready to stop!

Flight 173 - Oct. 24, 1998

Tangier Island, VAFrank called yesterday to see if I wanted to go with some other planes to TGI on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake. Linda didn't want to go and Dad couldn't so I called Clarence. Clarence is the guy who got me hooked on Cherokees in the first place. We met at the Club about 9:45 and I got off about 10:10. The others were still sitting in the clubhouse when I left; I wanted to launch before the others since I have the slowest plane. We were just South of Cambridge (CGE) when I heard George call Unicom at TGI from Doc's plane. We were still at about Crisfield when Frank called in. When we landed, all were waiting for us so I took some abuse. Frank & Pat brought John and his wife in their Mooney and Doc brought George, Harry and Jake in his C210. We walked across the island to a restaurant that served nothing that wasn't either crab or deep-fried in the same grease as the crab. The bad news is that even a hint of crab makes me deathly sick so, after flying all that way, I had a side salad and a few rolls! As a group, we walked around virtually the whole island and back to the airport. The island is quaint as hell and most of the people were friendly. The major means of transportation are foot or golf cart. We paid our $4 landing fee and launched.

On the way down, I'd flown via Crisfield to minimize time over water but this time I headed straight for Easton, essentially over Smith Island. There's a LOT of restricted airspace around the Chesapeake for military practice and I had to go around the restricted area at Bloodsworth Island. I'd intended to get fuel at ESN but decided CGE would be easier. Nice FBO there. Landed back at WBW at 5:30 and was met by some of the others who'd had time to get coffee and dessert across the street. They were needling me about how they had time to get something to eat. I reminded them that I was having more fun flying than they were eating!! The entire trip was magnificent. Visibility forever and smooth as silk except near the ground. What a day!!!!!!

Flight 203 – June 26, 1999

We'd been invited to a 30th anniversary party for Joanne and Rich (A.K.A. Curley) in Lock Haven and planned to fly if possible. As it happened, this weekend was also the Sentimental Journey fly-in at LHV so I was a little nervous about traffic. Lin was quite concerned about traffic but the difference in travel time convinced her to fly rather than drive. One of Linda's problems is that radio traffic makes her nervous. She thinks every plane she hears on unicom is near us. During the night before the flight I got a brilliant idea so, when we were about 20 miles out from LHV, I unplugged her headset. Voila!, no radio traffic! There really wasn't terrible traffic anyway; there were about 6 planes in the pattern with me. Many were nordo so that made it a bit more interesting. FAA had a temporary "tower" but were only giving advisories, no control. I did one 360 over Jersey Shore for spacing 'cause I was eating up a Stearman and did another on the 45 for the downwind or 09 'cause there was another Stearman midfield downwind.

Since we were not tying down overnight, we had to park on the north side of the field and take a shuttle to the gathering on the south side. There were lots of planes including Cubs and Stearmans. It was $6 to get on the field and it was hotter than hell out there. Grabbed a bite to eat, got the gift from the plane and took a complimentary shuttle to Curley's. Nice gathering. Curley drove us back and introduced us to Lee Gilbert who owns the L-39 Czech jet trainer at LHV. I sat in the jet; pretty neat. The flight back was beautiful; visibility was only 10 mi in haze but it was smooth as silk and that nice golden color. Once again, I hated to land.

Flight 215 – Sept. 3, 1999

Lin and I were going to the lake for the weekend so Friday night was my only chance to fly. It was agreed she'd drive up and I'd come up after flying. Bob and I left work at 4:30 for a dinner run. Based on time available, I chose Ithaca, ITH. Nice flight up but, about 20 miles out of Ithaca, we realized that was where we went the only other time he flew with me. Oh, well... Had a nice meal and headed back. At about Montrose, we saw the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. I've never seen anything so spectacular! The sky was completely red except that you could clearly see a dark arc in the East formed by the shadow of the earth! I was working Binghamton Approach so I called them and said I was going to do a slow 360 so I could soak it all in. Landed about ½ hour after sunset. Fantastic flight.

Flight 242 - Mar. 4, 2000

What a beautiful flight! Picked up Helen and off we went to WBW. I had hoped to go to Pittsfield, MA just to pick up a MA airport but FSS said it was a bit gusty up there so I decided on Sky Park, 46N. Did a little tour for Helen over our community of North Pocono, then off to 46N. AVP turned us over to NY approach and they worked us all the way up. Sky Park is something less than a great place; pretty run down in general and the runway was in pretty bad shape. Taxied right back out and flew the 6 miles or so to Kingston-Ulster (20N). What a difference! Got gas, parked and walked about ¼ mile to a deli for some great steak and onion sandwiches that we ate out on a picnic table. Launched again and flew down river at 1000 MSL. Rather than fly straight home, I flew down the Hudson, getting permission to transition POU and SWF airspaces. Great flight and the best part was flying past West Point. I need to do that again with a camera! Before we got to the Tappan Zee bridge, I peeled off to the West and started the climb to 4500. Got AVP ATIS from about 45 minutes out and they were saying NW winds gusting to 17 kts so I figured we might have to land on 34 at AVP but by the time I got there they were pretty reasonable and pretty well lined up with 07 at WBW. Fantastic day!!

Flight 250 - April 29, 2000

Grandpa & Julian day! All week they were calling for rain but the day dawned beautifully. Called my son Don but he had to take Kelly to a nail appointment so he asked if I wanted to just take my oldest grandson, Julian. Picked him up, got gas at WBW, and headed for Altoona, A00. This was the first time I'd used a field with a FSS on it and I was a bit uncertain about procedures but all was OK. We had lunch in the terminal but it wasn't especially good. Julian had chicken strips and I had a cheeseburger. As we were coming back, it started getting a bit rough. As I turned base for 7 at WBW, even though I was doing over 100 kts, the left wing dropped and the stall light came on. Pretty scary. Landed without further incident and put the plane away. What a great day! Julian is a fantastic kid. Every time I looked back at him, I'd get a big smile and an "I love you, Grandpa!" Life doesn't get any better!!!.

Flight 290 - June 9, 2001

What a fantastic flight! I'd hoped to go to the 1000 Islands with David but he had a gig. Everyone else was tied up as well. Went to WBW and young Eddie was hanging around so off we went to the Adirondacks. Piseco was delightful. The setting is beautiful; the approach from the south is between mountains and over a gorgeous lake. What a picture!! The FBO, Ron was very nice. Our next stop, Ticonderoga, was strange. A strip, some parking and nothing else, no buildings...nothing. The smell from the paper plant is still there! Rutland, VT is a nice field but the restaurant is closed. Had planned on Mt. Snow next but chose Glens Falls 'cause it has a restaurant. Nothing special to recommend Glens Falls, I think. As we taxied in, the FBO asked everyone to check ELT's as one was going off. At least I got to find where mine was but it wasn't me. Lin was at the lake so we circled it on the way up and back. Great day!

Flight 296 - Aug. 14, 2001

Went to work in the AM but called my grandson, Julian, to see if he wanted to fly. Picked him up a tad before 12:00, got gas, and flew to Penn Yan, NY (PEO) for lunch. It was a bit bumpy and we flew through light rain near the state line. Landed on 01 and taxied to the FBO. The young female line person was very nice but new to aviation and pretty clueless in terms of directing me to a tiedown. However, she said I wouldn't want to walk to Sarrasin's so she gave me a crew car. Sarrasin's is a nice place right on the NE corner of Keuka Lake, one of the Finger lakes. We ate out on the deck and it was delightful. There was a municipal park next door with a beach and lifeguard; we should have had our suits! There was also a play set there so I let Julian climb around for a while and he fell asleep on the way back. By that time it was clear and smooth. It sure is fun flying with him!

Flight 298 - Aug. 25, 2001

With the purse at $280 million, Jim and I decided we ought to get Powerball tickets but the closest state to sell Powerball tickets at the time was Connecticut. Now, I understand statistics pretty well so I wouldn't have driven even 10 miles to buy a ticket but flying is another thing entirely. Picked up Jim at Adams without incident. Landing at Adams was actually pretty smooth in spite of my limited experience on grass. We wanted to stay away from any state border because the news said people were lining up there. Jim decided on Windham Field, IJD, in Willimantic for whatever reason. Went without ATC 'til I neared BDL, then worked them. Flew right over Hartford Center City and flew just south of Manchester so I could pick out where we'd lived a zillion years ago. Swung over UCONN to get onto the 45 for 09. As we were turning base, someone warned of two C-130's coming north towards Willimantic. I looked and there were 6 of them! Parked and walked the short distance to a "package store" (That's Connecticut-ese for liquor store.) to get the tickets and to "New England Pizza" for grinders. The grinders were fantastic!! I told the folks in the FBO I'd be back with my G-5 if I won. Got gas, took off, and flew south to Long Island Sound, then over the Sound to New Haven. From there, straight back to Adams. Jim took pix of some C-5A's and C-130's on the apron at SWF. Dropped Jim at Adams and headed home. Logged 4.8 but my only regret was that the trip was too short! Since you don't see any photos of a G-5 on this page, you might conclude I didn't win the Powerball! Not a huge surprise!

Flight 326 – July 12, 2002

Jim RichardsonThis was one of the truly great ones! Jim Richardson is the guy who talked me into flying in the first place. Since he retired a number of years ago, we don’t see each other much. The last time was in Tucson. I was there on business and, at the time, Jim lived in New Mexico so he flew over so we could spend a day together. Now Jim lives near Cincinnati and I still live in Northeastern PA. Yesterday, we’d talked about meeting for lunch but the weather was windy on his end so we re-scheduled for today. The selected meeting place was Arnold Palmer Field in Latrobe, PA (LBE). LBE is closer to my home than Jim's but he has an Arrow and I a Cherokee so the time is close to equal.

Woke to a perfect day and went to my weekly Friday breakfast meeting dressed to fly rather than to work. When I got out of the restaurant, there was a voicemail message from Jim saying he’d be at LBE at noon. Called him to make final arrangements, got the plane ready, launched at 10:00 and headed west. Sky was clear and visibility was almost unlimited. Ride was like silk. Called Jim on 122.75 several times without answer. Eventually, he called me. I was about 50 miles east of LBE but he'd gotten a late start and was still almost 150 west. Yikes, 200 mile range on the radio! I landed on 23 just after 11:30. We’d decided on L&J as an FBO but they don’t cater to small planes or sell avgas. However, they were very nice. They directed me to Aviat Vee Neal next door and the folks there were nice, also. Paid for my gas while waiting for Jim. He got in about 12:10 and we ordered his gas, he looked at my plane and we walked to the restaurant. The Blue Angels is a great restaurant with good, friendly service. We ate our turkey clubs, then sat forever catching up. Eventually, we paid and returned to the FBO to pay for his gas. I taxied my plane over next to his so we could take some pictures. Stood ‘til about 3:30 chatting. I really like Jim and hated to leave but Lin had made dinner reservations so we said our goodbyes. Flight back was also almost perfect. Jim's selling his plane so we may not do this again. That's really a downer. This day was definitely MUCH too short!!

[Update: In November of '08, Jim left this life for the next. Jim was a dear friend and true gentleman. The world is poorer for his passing.]

Flight 332 – Aug. 21, 2002

Elvis found!!Fantastic day plus a clear schedule and some extra vacation time! Lin had a hair appointment at 11:00 so I only took ½ day vacation. We agreed on Mountain Meadow for lunch. I called Jim from the car to get the name of the restaurant there and found he and Judy were on Block Island; he thought we had Julian all week so hadn't called us. Damn! METAR said 10 miles but it was MUCH better. It was a sunny day so we had some bumps on the way up but it smoothed out at 5500. Worked ATC all the way; AVP, NY TRACON, NY ARTCC and Boston ARTCC. The field at 22B is pretty beaten up and the restaurant looks terrible but it was great! Looked like Poncho Barnes’ “Happy Bottom Riding Club”. Menu was interesting as hell and the good was fantastic. I had a bowl of Rhode Island clam chowder. I’m not sure I’ve seen it outside the Harbor View in Stonington! On the way back, flew over Mohonk and then the Elvis picture that’s cut into the corn at Resnick. Weird! Trip was much too short but I didn’t want to push Lin; she’s being a great sport! Got back about 5:30 but could have flown several more hours. Lin suggested I go back up since she had her car but I blew that off. Fantastic trip!

Flight 351 – March 16, 2003

The day dawned beautifully. Though I'd flown all day yesterday, Lin suggested I go flying but I didn’t want to leave her again. On the way to church I asked whether she wanted to fly somewhere for lunch. She said no. I suggested York to see the kids and she jumped at it! We left pretty quickly after church and went straight to WBW, pre-flighted, got gas and called the kids. The kids were waiting when we taxied in; Noah was all excited! I let him sit in the plane for a while, then we ate. Noah was going nuts with all the planes! The kids had indicated they didn't want Noah to fly but after lunch, Steve shocked me by asking if I’d take Noah and him up! Naturally, I jumped at the chance and up we went. Went over to Saginaw so Steve could see and photograph his house. Noah was beside himself; he was grinning from ear to ear!! When we returned to THV he wanted to go up again! Just about a perfect day.

Flight 368- Sept. 21, 2003

Our friend Eunice had asked me to donate an airplane ride to the church auction. The ride was to be 2 hours plus lunch. I feared no one would want it but agreed to do it anyway. The auction was last night and there was a lot of bidding with Eunice ending up buying the ride. This is a bit strange since Eunice has flown with me before and knows she can go for free!

I was planning on taking Lin to Latrobe (LBE) today for brunch but she felt lousy so I called Eunice and we left after church. I suggested Latrobe, Penn Yan (PEO) or Mountain Meadow (22B) and she chose PEO. The weather was great. We ended up at 6500 above a broken layer and descended through a hole near Watkins Glen. The courtesy car at PEO was unavailable but the lineman, Matt, drove us to Sarrasin’s in the FBO’s truck and gave me a number to call for the ride back. We both had filet and it was great. The waitress was even better. After we'd eaten, I called Matt and he promptly picked us up.

Departing on 28, I turned left and flew down the lake at about 600 AGL. By this time there were just a few clouds. I got a bright idea and we flew down through the PA Grand Canyon. After that we headed back but then went up to Waymart (Eunice's home town) to see the windmills. At this point, there are 26 complete and 11 towers up without the gear on them. Eventually, we headed back and put '04T away. Just about a perfect day! I think Eunice had as much fun as I did.

Flight 373 – Nov. 9, 2003

Weather has been lousy but today was great. Went on and decided on Northampton, MA. Called a number of people including Ray but everyone had something else to do so I decided to go alone. While I was waiting for the plane to preheat, Ray called back and we agreed to meet at N30. Picked up Ray and about 11:00 and got to 7B2 a bit after 12:30. It was a tad cold but was a nice walk into town. The town is absolutely charming! Lots of nice shops and restaurants. The restaurants included Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Moroccan and American. Ray is a bit timid about exotic cuisine so we settled on Fitzwilly’s. The restaurant was very pleasant, the service was great and my meal, shrimp and chèvre salad was phenomenal. We tried to call a cab for the trip back but they said we’d have a 30 minute wait so we hoofed it. The flight back was as nice as the one out; clear sky and visibility to the horizon. Just about perfect! Dropped Ray and swung over Seaman’s on the way home. Saw a beautiful hot air balloon hanging there. Sure hated to put the plane away!

Flight 382 – Feb. 28, 2004

My birthday and the 7th anniversary of my owning 04T! A huge high was still over the Northeast so I decided on Keene, NH (EEN) for Indian food and asked Hank to go along. Got off by about 10:30, then fought a bit of wind and got kicked around passing the Catskills and again as we got near Keene. Landed, got gas, and parked in front of the terminal where we found the Indian Pavilion. I had Lamb Shahi Korma (medium spice) and Hank had Lamb Mango (not spicy). Mine was perfect! I had a little taste of Hank’s sauce and it was too sweet for my taste but he liked it.

On the way back, we had a look (down) at Mount Snow, VT. Though we were at 6500 MSL, we were still getting kicked around so I climbed to 8500 and went north of the Catskills. Visibility was great. Pretty smooth ride up there but needed about a 10 degree wind correction. I had a 11 Kt. cross wind landing at WBW. Great day!

Flight 390 – June 4, 2004

Adirondack Mountains, NYThis was one of the truly great ones. The day was about perfect and the weekend forecast was lousy so I took ½ day of vacation and cut out of work at noon. Since my dad was staying at the lake, I called to arrange to pick him up at White Birch (4N8) for a trip into the Adirondacks. On the way to Schroon Lake (4B7) there were a few clouds at 7000 so I decided to climb over them and was at about 11,000 when I decided to start down again. Schroon Lake was totally deserted but a nice field with a beautiful new Cirrus in an open hangar. From there, we flew between some peaks to Lake Placid (LKP). Lake Placid is remarkable in that there is a ski jump right in the pattern. Makes for interesting flying! The field and the people were delightful but gas prices were, given the location, predictably high. The flight from there to Saranac Lake (SLK) was a short one. We landed on 05 and took off on 29 so our ground time was short. Though I’d been there before, I decided on a quick stop at Piseco (K09) just so Dad could experience a takeoff over that gorgeous lake. Surprisingly, traffic at Piseco was downright heavy; a guy took off while I was on upwind and two more were taxiing out for takeoff. I did a full stop and taxied out behind them and another guy came out from the ramp and got behind me!

As I was landing back at White Birch, I saw something on the runway while I was on short final and realized it was a man! He suddenly looked up and ran off but by then I was going around. Then I got tangled up with a couple of guys who were cutting into the pattern so I flew away for a few minutes to let them sort things out before I landed. Having dropped Dad off, I headed home alone. It sure was nice flying with him and we couldn’t have had better weather. The only downside of the whole trip was that the plane was covered with big, sticky, black bugs. It took me forever to clean it off. That was a very small price to pay for a perfect day!

Flight 394 – July 11, 2004

Block Island, RIAnother perfect one. The original plan was for a Wyoming Valley Pilot’s Club (WVPC) flyout to Kingston, NY (20N) with ground transportation to Rhinebeck for their airshow. The problem was that their van driver had quit so the ground transport was scrubbed as was the flyout. Since Dad was planning to go to Rhinebeck with me, he and I decided we’d fly anyway. I’ve wanted to visit Block Island for a long time so this was the day for it. Picked Dad up at 9N3 and set off for BID about 9:30. We stayed over the land until Misquamicut Beach, then took the shortest route over the water. I was worried about traffic at BID but, considering that it was a perfect Sunday in mid-summer, it wasn’t too bad. Landed on 10 and had lunch at a picnic table in front Bethany’s Diner at the airport. It probably would have been a bit nicer down on the shore, perhaps, but I figured it’d be crowded and a hassle. However, we each has some chowder and a nice cod sandwich (leaving the bread on the plate, of course!) and enjoyed it while watching the traffic come and go.

There’s no gas at BID so we flew to 08R and got some there at a great price. The ceiling in CT was about 4500 so I kept it at 3000 until well into NY state. Headed to the lake and did a couple of turns around that while Dad took pictures, then dropped him back at 9N3. Got back to WBW about 4:30. This one was worth waiting for!

Flight 397 – Aug. 14, 2004

This was granddaughter Madie’s first trip and grandson Julian wanted to go as well. Madie sat in back and I put Julian on a boat cushion in front. This was his first (of many) times as my co-pilot. Once at altitude, I let Julian fly. He couldn’t see over the panel so I taught him how to read the AI. He was perfect! He kept it nailed most of the time. Once in a while he’d get a bit out of control but it wasn’t by much and it was easy to get him back in line. We went to the lake and did a couple of turns around. My neighbor, Arnie was in the water waving like crazy. I flew over by the windmills to show Julian and as we continued, he spotted what turned out to be Roba’s corn maze. What a great flight!

Flight 402 – Sept. 12, 2004

WVPC Formation TeamToday was the WVPC picnic and we’d agreed to do a missing-man formation for Alex Sherinski, a WWII vet and WVPC member who had recently died. Since we were all pretty new to formation flying, we had spent a lot of time planning and actually sitting in chairs in the pilot's club going through procedures, talking through maneuvers, etc. After that, we had done a lot of flying, initially pretty loose and then tightening up a bit as our comfort grew.

We did a finger-4 formation, strong left. The planes were: #1, Emil, PIC & Rita; #2, yours truly, PIC and Harold, #3, Ed, PIC and Ron and #4, Eddie, PIC and Kevin. We were supposed to have TV coverage but, sadly, they didn’t show. The Citizen’s Voice newspaper did, however. We launched from 25 about 3:00, made a big loop and came straight in over 07 at pattern. At midfield, Ed broke to the left and, after a delay, the rest of us broke left into the upwind. Ed circled and came in behind me. Formation was fairly close and people seemed to really like it. I think with some practice we can tighten it up some more but we’ll take it a bit at a time to stay safe. It was really great to do it. When I landed, I was asked if It’d take up Alex’s daughter and granddaughter. I took them over their house in Harding. The kid is 10. She was a bit apprehensive but was determined to do it and she loved it! The whole thing had a good feeling about it.

Flight 427 – July 10, 2005

Alexandria Bay, NYThis WVPC flyout to Alexandria Bay had been cancelled 4 times due to weather but today was perfect. Lin went with me and we left AVP just before 8:30. We had a hell of a headwind and arrived at about 10:45. The flyout committee had arranged for lunch on a paddle boat with Uncle Sam's boat tours and the tour company promised to provide ground transportation. We were supposed to be met by a van from Uncle Sam’s at 11:00 but the others did not allow enough time for the trip. I’d been in touch with Harold and Jim on the radio and knew they were well behind me so Lin and I went into town with the van and I asked him to return for the others at 11:45. We got our tickets for the boat tour and walked around town ‘til the others showed up. The boat trip was nice and the lunch was surprisingly good! The trip lasted 2 hours and stopped at Boldt Castle just before returning to the dock. The others went to see the castle but Lin and I had seen it before so we stayed on the boat and headed back to Alex Bay. I went to the boat company office to ask whether someone could run us back and the woman at the desk took us in her own car! Flight back was only about 1:35 with a few bumps from the heat. Great day and certainly worth waiting for.

Flight 452 – May 3, 2006

BalloonWe were on vacation in Albuquerque and Linda wanted to take a balloon ride. Who am I to argue?! We decided on Discovery Balloons and signed up at their office just off the Plaza in Old Town.

Shortly after 6, Doug and Patty from Discover Balloons showed up in their van. It turned out we were their only passengers for the day so we went directly to the launch site on Coors Road where two other balloons were already being inflated. Because only three of us would be flying, Doug had brought a small "sport balloon". Its small size and relatively low sides had Lin a little freaked out but we were committed. Our small balloon inflated quickly and, though we were third to arrive, we were second to launch. Since Patty would be driving the chase van, I gave her Linda's camera so she could get pictures of us. Once in the air, we headed directly to the Rio Grande. Doug said we'd "play around the river for a while", then he'd let me fly. He's a Certified Flight Instructor so he said if I had my logbook, he'd give me an entry for dual time. After clearing some trees, Doug dropped us down close to the river surface. As we approached a bridge, we ascended to clear it but then went right back down. It must have looked cool to the people in the cars crossing the bridge but there are so many balloons here, they probably don't even notice any more. Back on the river, we skimmed along just above the surface. At one point we were at about 3" above the water. Soon, though, we approached some trees and had to climb again. With one balloon ahead of us and another behind, I got some great pictures.

BalloonAt this point, I took over flying. Of course, with no way to steer the only control I used was the gas valve and it was a matter of "on" or "off". The trick is to burn at just the right time and for the right duration to maintain level flight or to make a controlled change in altitude. Even for level flight and descents, it was a bit surprising to me how much burn was necessary. Like steering a large boat, there's lot of lag between control input and reaction so anticipation is key. The other incredible thing to me was the directional changed we got from small changes in altitude. We were trying to cross to the east side of the river but couldn't make it happen. We did, however, pass over Old Town and the zoo. We ended up over some pretty rough neighborhoods and had a heck of a time finding a place to land. Doug took control at this point. The winds near the ground were really squirrelly so we'd head for a field and then unexpectedly change course. Next we'd plan on that shift and set up accordingly only to have a shift in the opposite direction. Of course, there are no go-arounds in this sport so we'd have to look for yet another field. Finally, Doug made an approach to a playing field behind a school and warned us the landing could be a bit hard because of the wind. We braced for a hard landing but he greased it and, sadly, the flight was over. It had taken just over an hour of which I logged 0.5 as dual. Doug had been in radio contact with Patty so she pulled in with the van moments after we landed and they quickly got everything packed up.

The school wasn't an ideal place for the after-flight celebration so Doug drove to their store in Old Town and opened up a little patio area next door. There we had mimosas and goodies and enjoyed some very pleasant conversation. It turns out they are sailors and travel a lot so we had plenty in common. Since I didn’t have my logbook, Doug wrote out a sticker to be applied when I returned home. I'm probably part of a tiny percentage of airplane pilots with 1/2 hoour of dual balloon time in his logbook. Eventually all good things end so we headed back to the hotel. It was only10:30!

Flight 465 – Sept. 30, 2006

This was truly an outstanding trip. Ray had contacted the pilot’s club membership about an invitation to an “Airport Day” at EWR. Apparently the thing is “invitation only” and we had to provide names, pilots certificate numbers, tail numbers, etc. well in advance. Furthermore, we were given detailed instructions including the need to file a flight plan with “arrival for Airport Day” in the remarks field. Having never landed inside a Class Bravo before, I did not want to do this thing without an experienced pilot in my right seat so Ed agreed to fly with me. The organizers of the event wanted us to arrive by 7:30 AM so Ed and I met at AVP at 5:30 and launched shortly after 6:00. The flight was beautiful and the controllers could not have been nicer or more helpful. Actually, this was one of the easiest flights ever because I got vectors and step-down altitudes all the way in. We got the clearance for the Class B when still 25 or 30 miles from it and told to expect runway 11, thus much of the anxiety was eliminated. The only problem we had was that, even though I’d spotted the runway 12 miles or so out, when I lined up on 11, the rising sun was right in my face and the runway totally disappeared! Fortunately, Ed had set up the ILS and we flew that in until we spotted it again. A “follow me” truck was waiting for us and we were lead to covered parking. We were among the first to arrive but we were treated to a free breakfast. The event is apparently largely for airport employees but there were a lot of other groups represented and the main event we an airplane pull where teams compete to pull a fully-loaded 737! Proceeds go to the Special Olympics.

Ed and I got talking to a guy named Paul who had come in alone in a Cardinal and ended up spending most of the day with him. Great guy. We visited the cockpit of a 757 and the pilot and SIC profusely thanked US for bringing our planes down. We put about 2 or 3 dozen kids into my plane and lots of them looked like they were in heaven. We weren’t supposed to leave until 2:00 but wx was moving in faster than predicted so at about 12:30 many of us hand-pulled our planes away from the crowds and fired up.

Departure was as easy as arrival and we were off. The wx on the way back was legal but it was raining and not all that great. However, we landed without incident at WBW and Harold, who landed shortly behind us, gave us a ride in his car to AVP to get our cars. Great day.

Flight 469 - Dec. 09, 2006

This one was a long time in coming! During my Sept. 30 visit to EWR, one of the many kids that I let sit in my plane was Justin , an 11-year-old boy. He was hosted at the event by his neighbor, Darrell, Customer Service Manager for Continental Airlines. They wanted a picture of Justin in the plane so I took it and e-mailed it to Darrel. Through the subsequent correspondence, Darrell said Justin wanted to be an ATP so I offered a ride. Unfortunately, schedule and weather conspired against us until today. We agreed they’d drive to Blairstown (1N7) and I’d meet them there. My grandson, Julian, went with me and we launched a bit after 10:00. The sky was clear but there was a bit of a breeze. The ride was smooth at altitude but a tad bumpy near the deck.

After picking up Justin, we left 1N7 with Julian in the back and Justin in the right seat. He did amazingly well at controlling altitude and heading and said, “This is easy!” We did one landing at MPO just for the heck of it and just flew around a bit before heading back. After some pictures, they headed out and Julian and I had lunch. ATIS at AVP was 23013G25 but we had no problems putting the plane down without bending it. Great day!

Flight 490 – Aug. 12, 2007

The WVPC had arranged a flyout to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in western PA. They have their own private strip (PA88) & prior arrangements must be made for landing. I’d written an e-mail as instructed and got a reply to come ahead and call 10 miles out so they could pick me up. For this flyout, three planes carried 7 people; Ed and Ron in their Cherokee, Bill, Harold and Jay in their Tiger and Linda and I in ‘04T. The Tiger was still locked in the hangar when both Cherokees left but I told Bill that with his Tiger he’d pass us at about Altoona. It was, of course, just a wild-assed guess. ‘73W and we launched at 8:00 and headed out though not in formation. It was a beautiful day with only an occasional cloud and occasional bump going out. Amazingly, as the tiger passed our right wing, A00 was under my left one! Better to be lucky than good! We each called 10 miles out as instructed and, as promised, there was a van awaiting our arrival. The van driver, Dan, even helped push the planes back. The resort sits on top of a hill and is fantastic! After walking around a bit and a very nice (though a tad pricy) lunch in “The Tavern”, Dan loaded us back in the van for a tour of this magnificent facility and a return to our airplanes. Since they don’t sell fuel at Nemacolin, we all stopped at Somerset (2G9) for fuel on the way home. This was an absolutely perfect day and, though it was a long flight, Linda enjoyed it, too.

Flight 517 – Dec. 6, 2008

It's interesting how many of my "Memorable Flights" involve Julian! He and I decided to go flying and Ed and Ron were going to Kutztown since it will close to the public in January. We flew in very loose formation with me taking lead so I could keep my power high and steady as required for the break-in of my newly overhauled (sigh!) engine. There was quite a but of traffic at N31 with ‘73W and a Skyhawk behind me in the pattern. When I was on short final for runway 35 I saw lights coming at me and thought at first it was someone on final for 17! I soon realized that it was not lined up for the runway and that it was BIG. Shortly thereafter, I realized he was one of THREE C-130’s!!! As I was rolling out, the three of them cut through the pattern at about 500’ about ½ way between the runway and the downwind! I called flight-service to report it and he said I’d have to call the FSDO on Monday and gave me the number.

After lunch we talked about the C-130’s to some CAP folks who were doing work with two gliders when they’d come through and tried to encourage them to report it to the FAA as well. The following week I did talk to the Phila and Allendown FSDO’s but in the end, the report was that there were no C-130’s on radar in the vicinity at the time we reported it. Right!!!

Flight 539 – Sept. 20, 2009

What a day! Julian was babysitting his sister, Althea, but Linda agreed to take over so he could fly with me. I headed right for WBW and she went to get the kids to bring them over. By the time she got there, I’d just finished topping off and calling flight service. There was a huge high over the entire area so the wx was about perfect. We headed to PEO so Julian could fly without my worrying about ATC. We went up at 4500 with him flying until we got to Seneca Lake where I took it for the descent. Julian was flying quite well and is very relaxed at it most of the time. Once in a while I think he’d tense up because he’d start chasing the needles a bit and over-correcting but a word from me and he'd relax and fly smoothly again.

We parked on the grass down by the gate and I checked with an instructor who said we were fine there. That cut a lot off the walk. As we were walking down to Sarrasin's for lunch, a guy who’d been talking on a cell phone in the lot passed and asked if we wanted a ride but it was a great day so I declined. We both had ‘burgers on Sarrasin's deck overlooking Keuka Lake. It was an absolutely perfect fall day for sitting there. A twin-engine bi-plane flew past and a guy there said it was a Curtis American from the museum. It basically flies once a year.

Back at the airport again, we launched on 28 and flew down Keuka Lake as usual. Landed at WBW and as we were getting gas I called Lin. They were just getting out of the movies so we each took our respective kids to their house. This was an absolutely perfect day to fly and sharing it with Julian made it even better.

Flight 541 – Nov. 1, 2009

This was another of the great ones! Ed and I had flown in his plane to EWR’s airport day shortly before Lin and I went to Egypt and had once again met up with my friend Darrell and young friend Justin . Justin had flown with me a while back. This day, his cousin Ashley was with them and also expressed an interest in flying.

On this occasion, we met at Blairstown so I could take them up. I flew to 1N7 in formation with Ed who had Ron in his right seat giving him his BFR. By the time we landed, Darrell was there with the kids. Justin’s younger brother, Devin, was also with them and, since they are all small and I was at tabs when I left WBW, I was able to carry all three. Justin had flown before so we launched with Ashley (really Alexandra) in the front seat and the boys in the back. I said that this would be primarily Ashley’s day. Took off on 7 and headed for PA. As soon as we leveled off, Ashley took the plane and did quite well. I pointed out MPO and told her to just stay well to the north of it but go wherever she wanted. Eventually I pointed out Lake Wallenpaupack and said it was the largest in PA. She asked whether she could fly along it so I just had her swing a big arc and then follow the lake. Again, she did great!! Eventually I figured people would miss us so we headed to MPO, I took it in on 31 and taxied to the rampso we could put Justin in the right seat for a bit. Took off again and he just flew us back to Blairstown. These kids were amazingly mature, polite and appreciative. It was a treat to have them with me and I look forward to doing it again.

By the time we landed, Ed and Ron had eaten and left. Darrell and crew headed out while I went in for lunch. When I went to pay, it turned out Darrell had left money for my lunch. It was much appreciated but far from necessary since, as much as the kids seemed to enjoy the flight, I’ll bet I had more fun than they did!!

Flight 550 – April 12, 2010

This was one of the great ones!  My boss and I had to make a visit to a customer near Pittsburgh.  He asked whether we could charter a plane so I called Billy about the Aztec.  It can no longer be used for part 135 so that was out but it was certainly possible for me to take a multi-engine lesson with Randy.  The fact that the boss would ride along and we’d spend some time at Zelianople (PJC) was academic.  Now, even though I will not get my multi-engine rating unless I hit the lottery, I take training seriously so I drove to 9N3 yesterday, sat in N5972Y for about ½ hour, read the checklists and copied down the v-speeds. Billy also gave me an instruction manual and I read the whole thing. 

Randy said he’d be at AVP at 6:30 for a wheels-up at 7:00.  I was still on Rt. 307 when I heard him call tower from my handheld so he was already there at 6:30 when I arrived.  I had my GPS and headsets installed by the time the boss arrived.  He had a coffee first so we launched at about 7:20 from runway 4.  I did the takeoff and was astonished at the climb.  I had a hell of as time with the radio work since I kept fumbling over the tail number; wanting to say ‘04T rather that ‘72Y.  To make it worse, the batteries in my headset died just as I was climbing out and I could not hear ATC.  I asked Randy to pick up the radio load and off we went.  Wx was magnificent; CAVU.   The landing was a bit of a challenge as it was so fast compared to ‘04T.  The FBO was open but dark and unoccupied.

We were back at PJC in time to launch at about 3:30.  Weather was still CAVU but the afternoon sun had generated a bit of turbulence.  Certainly not to much to handle but it kept me busy.  Randy mentioned the autopilot but I really wanted to hand fly it.  As we crossed IPT Randy told ATC at AVP that we were headed to Harvey’s Lake for some sightseeing. I did two passed over the boss' house so he could take pictures and headed in.  There was a pretty stiff crosswind and, unfortunately, Randy had to save the landing.  I don’t think I’d have broken anything but it would not have been pretty. 

We deplaned and Randy put 3 hours of dual multi-engine time in my logbook.  Unless I hit the lottery or we do another business trip, that may be the last of it but it was a blast!!  I really regretted that it was over.

Flight 561 – Oct. 2, 2010

Last Saturday the WVPC had scheduled a fly-out to Fisher’s Island but wind cancelled it. They went on Sunday but I went to church.  This Saturday looked great so I sent Dad an e-mail to ask if he was available.  He was.  When I called Saturday AM, he was out for breakfast with some friends but was almost ready to head for home.  I picked him up, pre-flighted, got gas and launched just before my anticipated 11:30 for Fisher’s Island.  Given our sailing background, this had been in my mind for a long time and I knew Dad would love it.  In spite of the “CLR” in the METAR and SCT in the TAF, there was a low broken layer at WBW so I had to stay at 3,000 for the first 20 miles or so.  Eventually I climbed to 5500 and then 7500.  By this time it was CAVU and just about the most perfect day I’ve seen.  It was wonderful to be up along the Sound again and the visibility made it just great. I’d been a bit nervous about getting into 0B8 since it sits in a little notch at the edge of the GON class D.  I called from about 20 out, though, and the controller was great.  Gave me transition and told me to advise him I was changing to Unicom when I was about 5 out.  I did so and he gave me one last piece of traffic before releasing me.  Landed behind a Cessna on 30 with just about the best short-field landing I’ve ever done.  I didn’t really need to do the short field but wanted to turn off on 25 and I did. 

We were met on the Ramp by a nice guy named Bruce.  He took my $8 landing fee, drew me a map to the Pequot Inn and pointed us to the bikes we could borrow, saying if we couldn’t find some we liked, he’d look inside for others.

The map was a little confusing and we stopped twice to ask directions but people were predictably friendly.  Upon entering the bar at the Pequot Inn, I immediately spotted a guy at the end of the bar of about my age.  He had a grey pony tail and was wearing a tie-died tee shirt and a bandana.  I asked if he knew whether we could eat at the tables outside and he said to just tell “the girl” that we were here.   It turns out we had to order at the bar but they delivered it outside and, in the meantime, I young guy set up an umbrella. The burgers were huge as were the portions of sweet potato fries.  I went in to pay while Dad was finishing his meal.  When I told the girl I was there to pay she shook her head “no” and pointed at my friend at the end of the bar.  Thinking I was to pay him, I asked whether he was the owner and she said, “No, he paid for your lunch.”  I was, of course, shocked!  I protested but he said, “Of course I can pay; I already have!”.  I asked him why he’d do such a thing and he said, “You were having a nice lunch with your dad and I just want to buy you lunch.”  He asked whether we’d sailed in and I said, no, we’d flown.  I introduced myself and he introduced himself as Mike Rogers.  What a guy!

Dad wanted to go in and thank Mike. Mike said he thought we looked like sailors.  I said we actually were and he and Dad exchanged histories.  Mike has an O’Day 25 and Dad had owned a Catalina 25 for many years.

Back at the airport, I ran up to say goodbye to Bruce and we launched.  Called GON immediately after departure and got clearance through the class delta.  Called again to report clear and request frequency change.  I stayed over the Sound to HVN.  Climbed initially t0 6500 but there was too much headwind so went back to 4500.  We were able to see the Catskills from there and Dad was able to spot Matthew’s dorm at Yale.  I pointed out Elk and Sugarloaf mountains right after we crossed the Hudson.  By this time it was CAVU all the way to WBW.  Man, I hated to quit; what a day!!! Dad came out for dinner to capo it all off.  Perfect!

Flight 582 – Oct. 8, 2011

After a lot of rain, this was a beautiful weekend.  Don dropped my grandson, Julian, at WBW and he and I headed for Piseco.  The leaves were starting to turn here and were a bit past prime up there but it was still beautiful!  Julian did much of the flying going up and did well most of the way, then started wandering.  I took the plane and he was asleep in minutes!

I’d called K09 before we left, got the number for the Irondequoit Inn and called there. I was told they did not serve lunch per se but did make up take-out lunches that could be eaten there.  Choices were a chicken sandwich or a turkey sandwich.  The place was nice as I remembered from last time and we were greeted warmly.  We walked around a bit while lunch was being made and I got a little overheated so we ate inside in spite of the beautiful weather outside. 

The flight back was also beautiful and I hated to quit but was running up a hell of a gas bill! 

Flight 603 - Jan. 26, 2013 - End of an era

It has taken me just 16 days under 15 months to write this entry; I guess it was just too painful to do as this was my last flight as PIC.  I had thought that after I retired I'd be flying a lot more.  For some reason the opposite was true and my flying, which had already become intermittent, got even more so.  Given the cost per hour of owning the plane under those conditions and my deteriorating proficiency, I started thinking the unthinkable.  I had toyed with selling the plane before and finally decided that, rather than advertise, I'd just ask Ron to float its availability with students and let the chips fall as they might. I set what I felt was a fair price and promised myself that I would not negotiate; if it sold, fine; if not, that would be fine as well. 

Eventually, one of Ron's students, Gary Lavieri expressed an interest.  Ron showed him the plane and he wanted a demo flight.  We took off from WBW and headed to Cherry Ridge for a nice lunch.  Afterwards, we headed west and did some airwork with him at the controls.  He really enjoyed flying the plane and when we landed, he made me an offer before even getting out of the plane.  His offer, however, was a tad under my asking price and I told him I was doubtful but would think about it.

Based on Ron's report and things Gary said, I knew he'd take good care of my "baby" but part of me was still reluctant to part with it and I'd promised myself I'd not negotiate.  A few days later I called him and said my price was firm.  For better or worse, he accepted it.  It took about a month to do the pre-purchase inspection and get all the paperwork in order but I could not make myself fly the plane again.