Friday, June 10, 2011

A Bear's Odyssey, Episode 3: "Because They Wanna Be Able To Play Golf"

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
10 Jun 2011 N21481 09J (Jekyll Island, GA) - LCQ (Lake City, Florida) -
FMY (Fort Myers, Florida)
3.1 940.9

When we returned to the Jekyll Island Airport on Friday morning, the terminal building was closed and the ramp was deserted except for the PT-19, now dozing under a canopy cover.  The Bear capered about in anticipation of flying to see Granny and Granddaddy in Fort Myers.

Because there is no fuel available on Jekyll Island, we planned a short hop to Lake City Municipal Airport (LCQ)  in northern Florida for gas.  I chose Lake City because fuel costs were comparatively low ($5.16/gal) and flying there would put us clear of military operating areas lying along the direct route to Fort Myers.  Lake City is unusual in that it has an operating control tower overlaid by nothing more than Class E airspace.  Weird.

We launched to the south, flying past the wharf where we ate dinner the previous evening (above).

Our departure track took us along Jekyll Island's historic district.  Above is the famous Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the island's answer to Mackinac's Grand Hotel.

We climbed to 4500 feet to clear haze.  Our route took us over a corner of the Okefenokee Swamp, where a temporary flight restriction (TFR) had been established to clear space for firefighting.  The TFR topped-out at 2000 feet, so we simply proceeded over the top.  As we crossed the Florida state line, we could smell smoke from the fires burning below.  We flew upwind of one of the more massive fires, clouds of smoke billowing northward in the light morning breeze.

Jackson ("Jax") Center declined to provide flight following that morning, so I monitored the tower frequency at Lake City as we drew near.  We overhead a Grumman ahead of us talking with the tower controller, who mentioned that the "tankers" were not flying yet.  No one else was on frequency and the tower was chattier than most.  After further exchanges between the inbound Grumman and the controller, I realized that the "tankers" were water bombers tasked with fighting the Okefenokee wildfires.

"Lake City tower, Warrior 21481, ten northeast, we have the AWOS."

"Warrior 481, call me when you're on downwind for runway two eight."

I acknowledged, then added, "that's quite a fire you have up north of here."

"Warrior 481, glad you mentioned that.  The tankers will be running soon.  If you need fuel, you should expedite."  I asked if we would be in anyone's way by landing.  "Not yet," came the response.

And so, our visit to Lake City Municipal was brief.  Bob fueled us while Kristy and The Bear made a beeline for the bathroom.

Bob and I chatted about the virtues of Cool Scoops for Cherokees while he fueled the airplane.  He exhibited a carefully controlled blase' demeanor throughout much of our conversation, but I did get a surprised reaction from him when he learned we had flown there from New York.

Then I asked, "do I understand correctly that you're running water bombing operations out of here?"

Bob nodded.  "Yup.  They run on an eleven minute cycle back and forth.  You'll want to be gone before they start.  Once they get going, there's no getting in or out of here."  As if on cue, some large aircraft with four radial engines apiece (DC-6s?) began starting up on the opposite side of the airport.

Bob's comment sounded like good advice.  I paid my bill, settled everyone back in the airplane, and launched.  The tower helpfully provided an intersection departure to hasten our exit and offered the frequency for Jax Center to get flight following.

We cruised to Fort Myers at 8,500 feet, which allowed us to clear most of the cumulus popping along the way.  We diverted around the exceptions.  I had to work hard to remain on flight following.  Tampa Approach refused the hand-off from Jax Center and we were dropped from the system.  I was able to resume advisories on a new beacon code by contacting Tampa directly.

We overflew Lakeland to remain clear of Tampa's airspace.  South of Tampa, no hand-off to Miami Center was negotiated and we were dropped again.  With a direct call to Miami Center, we were back in the system on yet another squawk code.

Kristy and The Bear were looking out the window and discussing how flat Florida is compared to other places we had flown on our trip.

The Bear looked at Kristy and explained authoritatively that Florida was flat "because they wanna be able to play golf."

We began descending for Fort Myers while east of Port Charlotte (above).

Unlike our previous trip to Florida, Page Field was quiet when we arrived and we were cleared for landing on runway 5 while still north of the Caloosahatchee River (above).

Photo by Kristy

The Bear watched our approach and landing at Page Field with anticipation.  Granny and Granddaddy were waiting below!

Photo by Kristy

We stayed in Fort Myers with Kristy's parents for five days.  We visited the great-grandparents...

Photo by Kristy

...went swimming (The Bear LOVES swimming, just look at that grin)...

...played miniature golf at a cool Medieval-themed course (the look on the proprietor's face upon seeing The Bear walk in with her own putter was priceless!)...

...visited Mote Marine in Sarasota (which was free for us thanks to a reciprocal agreement with Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester), went to the beach, visited with friends, went to a cool park...  Heck, we did all kinds of stuff.


GPS ground track for Day 3

The best part was that our adventure was not even half over, yet!


  1. "Lake City is unusual in that it has an operating control tower surrounded by nothing more than Class E airspace. Weird."

    Huh, I remember reading about such airports in ground school but never have encountered one myself. Thanks for letting us know that they do indeed exist somewhere!

  2. This one was certainly my first, Steve