Sunday, April 6, 2014

Warrior Meets Sundowner

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
6 Apr 2014 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - IPT (Williamsport, PA) - SDC 2.8 1258.9

The third time really is the charm. Gary from Gary's Flight Journal and I have tried to meet up a couple of times previously, but never quite managed to connect.  Weekend chores and dead airplane batteries take their toll on pilot's social lives.

With winter on the decline, the door to the cage (i.e., the local area) was finally left open for a trip across state lines.  I suggested to Gary that we meet at Cloud 9, the nice restaurant on the field at Williamsport Regional Airport (IPT). Williamsport fit the bill perfectly, a worthy destination located halfway between Rochester and Gary's home base in southern Pennsylvania.

Knowing that he had been out of the air for a while, I invited fellow aviator Joe to join me in the Warrior. It was Joe who recruited me to move to Williamson in the first place and Warrior 481 resides in his former hangar there. He is also a "power-broker" (heh... OK, moderator) of an aviation forum that Gary and I both use such that they were aware of each other.

Our flight south was smooth, hastened along by a 20-ish knot tailwind.  I chose to file IFR that morning just for practice in the system.  As we approached Williamsport, New York Center was unable to contact the tower at the airport and offered me a hold at the Williamsport VOR. Though a real world hold assignment would have been great practice, we were already running ten minutes late. I cancelled IFR and contacted the tower directly.

I need not have worried, Joe and I were the first to arrive.  From our table at Cloud 9, I watched for Gary's red and white Beech Sundowner to land. Unlike my previous visit to Cloud 9, the ramp quickly filled with airplanes and the restaurant was quite busy.

Joe and I watched Gary and Bob taxi to the ramp in 08R. Little did we know that Gary was bringing an entourage with him!  Not long after Gary and Bob arrived, we were joined by Adam and Gary S out of Doylestown, PA.

Though the service was a little slow, breakfast was good and the company was terrific. Conversation flowed easily back and forth. At one point, discussion turned to a group of characters we all knew from some of the aviation forums and how their on-line incarnations sometimes differed significantly from their real world selves.

Gary opined that he was exactly the same on-line and in-person. I had to laugh, because he was absolutely right. I know that I will enjoy Gary's blog posts even more going forward now that I will be reading them in his voice. Funny, somehow I always imagined him as a bass!

Bob C, Gary M, me, Gary S, and Adam Z squinting into the sun. Photo by Joe.

I thoroughly enjoyed breaking bread with a terrific group of kindred spirits. But when I noticed that the time had crept past 11:00 am, I knew that we needed to start the journey back home. Kristy and I had tickets to a show in downtown Rochester at 2:00 that afternoon.

Gary had parked 08R right next to 481, which served as a perfect photo opportunity. When pilots meet, it is a moral imperative to check out each other's ships. Warrior 481's freshly installed LED landing light (a cleverly named Whelan "Parmetheus" replacement for the original PAR36 bulb) garnered a lot of attention and interest. Unfortunately, I had only tested it against the inside of my hangar door and could not provide much of a report on how well it worked.

I committed a bit of an aviator faux pas because, in my hurry to depart, I did not take the opportunity to examine Gary's immaculately maintained Sundowner up close. Next time, Gary!

Gary was the first to fire up and was already at the departure end of the runway while I was running my engine start checklist. I was alarmed when I put power to the avionics and heard Gary inform the tower, "...08R aborting take-off." Gary's subsequent communications made it clear that the problem was merely an unlatched door rather than something more sinister.

Once established at a VFR cruise altitude, I passed control to Joe who flew us home. It was a race against the clock, this time upstream rather than down. At best, we managed to achieve 105 knots groundspeed.

Back at Williamson, Joe helped me push the Warrior into the hangar. I simply shut the door and ran for the car; tidying up had to wait. At the wheel of the Accord, long dormant Oakland County, MI driving habits kicked back in and I "compensated" as best as I could for lost time. Kristy and I reached the downtown Rochester exit at the time the show was scheduled to begin and reached the theater door five minutes late. This worked out well because the show, a thought-provoking play called "Informed Consent" in its world premiere run, actually started six minutes late.

They must have been waiting for us.


  1. Nice shots of 08Romeo! Not so nice shot of my fat arse. ;) Great time catching up and looking forward to doing it again soon.

    Your headwinds were our tail winds going south. We made great time heading to 58M to check on Bob's plane.

    1. I thought you might like those. I can email you higher resolution versions if you'd like. It's a shame that the sun wasn't on the other side of you for better lighting.

      As for the latter, that's entirely Joe's fault!

      I was sorry to read that you guys weren't able to retrieve Bob's plane - that's always disappointing.

  2. Great seeing so many friends together! Hope to see y'all again at Wings!

  3. Heh, this aviator fully appreciates and understands Oakland Country driving habits. I may even partake in such nonsense from time to time! :)

    As for the third time thing, I think that's just how it works with Gary. If I recall, that was how many tries we took to achieve a successful outcome when he and Rob flew out to Stewart a few years ago.

    1. No matter where I've lived over the years, every time I go home to Oakland County, I notice that my driving habits have ratcheted up toward the aggressive when I return.

    2. I-696 ain't known as the Michigan Autobahn for nothing.

    3. And I-75 is both the designation and minimum driving speed on my favorite highway.