Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Living the Dream" on Alton Bay

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
27 Feb 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - LCI (Laconia, NH) - B18 (Alton Bay, NH) - SDC 5.6 1381.6

A Unique Attraction

Finished with my lunch at Shibley's at the Pier in Alton Bay, I stood and absorbed the view outside the window, contemplating my airplane parked below on the frozen surface of Lake Winnipesaukee.


"How was it landing on ice?" inquired a neighboring diner.

"I've landed on ice many times over the years," I answered. "But it always had pavement under it before," I added with a smile.

Sectional depicting Alton Bay (B18)

Alton Bay's Ice Runway is unique in that it is the only FAA-approved ice runway in the continental United States. The "field" is charted as a seaplane base, though it is evidently much less active in that capacity than it once was. However, when the winter ice on Alton Bay thickens sufficiently (12" is the minimum), it becomes an active airport and a popular destination for pilots seeking a unique experience in the Northeast.

Pilots owe this experience to the facility's volunteer manager of the last seven years, Paul LaRochelle. Airport status is updated in the NOTAM system and pilots can call (603) 875-3498 for a detailed recorded status update (consider it Alton Bay's version of ATIS). By its very nature, the airport lives a transient existence. It typically opens in January and the government mandates that runway operations cease by March 15.

Alton Bay has been on my bucket list since I first learned about it. I am already very familiar with the area, having landed at nearby Laconia Municipal (LCI) and Plymouth Municipal (1P1), the latter being a turf field nestled among the foothills of the White Mountains. Unfortunately, a lot of weather can occur between western New York and central New Hampshire in the winter; weather that thwarted all prior plans.

Unforecast


I arrived at the Williamson-Sodus Airport in the midst of an unforecast snow shower that was significant enough to cut visibility to 1.25 miles, but lacked sufficient substance to be detected on weather radar. Fortunately, the snowfall abated by the time I shoveled away the accumulation drifted against my hangar door. All paved surfaces on the runway were covered with about two inches of pristine snow for my departure.


Aloft, I skirted a broken layer east of Sodus while arranging for Flight Following with Rochester. Once above these nuisance clouds, I flew direct to Laconia Municipal (LCI) at 7,500' for fuel.



Ice on the surface of Lake Ontario, like the body of water from which it formed, extended to the horizon. Per NOAA, the current ice coverage on Ontario is about 70% and trending higher.


Flying over Oswego County Airport, I could not help but wonder if it was possible for an airport to be born albino. Wearing this thin covering of snow, the airport below looked much as Sodus did when I departed.


Vermont always passes quickly when travelling west to east by air. In spite of their name, the Green Mountains near Rutland were seasonally gray.

Yo, Taxi!

Laconia with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background

Lake Winnipesaukee is a massive lake in central New Hampshire that boasts approximately 288 miles of shoreline owing to an amorphous shape and a multitude of islands (258+). Winnipesaukee extends pseudopods in many directions and the prominent one stretching to the southeast contains Alton Bay.



On approach to Laconia, I flew past many islands stranded in the ice; mountain tops projecting above a frozen stratus layer.


In configuration, Laconia Municipal is the product of a curious evolution. It is predominantly oriented east/west(ish) with most structures aligned along both sides of the runway. However, a former crosswind runway extends to the north that now serves as a ridiculously wide taxiway through no man's land to facilities otherwise isolated from the rest of the airport. Being so far off the beaten path might explain why those who willingly taxi to these northern boondocks are rewarded with $4.35/gal self-serve avgas from Emerson Aviation (score!).

GPS track from Emerson Aviation to departure on runway 26 (GoogleEarth)

From the fuel pump at the northern end of the field, I programmed Alton Bay into the GPS and noted a direct distance of 10.5 nautical miles. Once the Warrior and I waddled to the departure end of runway 26 (I challenge you to name any airplane that is truly graceful while earthbound), I saw that the distance to our destination had shrunk to 9.6 miles. We had taxied nearly 10% of the way to Alton Bay!

Slick


I followed a meandering path along the shore to reach Alton Bay. There was no mistaking the location of the ice runway.


The runway often has a parallel taxiway, but frequent snowstorms over the past weeks have made it difficult for the volunteer team to clear everything. Priority, of course, goes to the runway itself and the parking area. Clearly, some recent progress had been made on the taxiway, but there was more work to do.


The runway is oriented as 1/19 with runway 1 being the preferred calm wind runway. It is about 3,000' long and 100' wide. Once officially open, the DOT marks the outline of the runway with yellow cones just like the ones commonly used to visually define grass runways in Michigan.


This unusual airfield shares the bay surface with snowmobiles and ice fishermen whose enclosures sit beyond the runway boundary. We called these structures "ice shanties" in Michigan, but they are known as "bob houses" in the local vernacular.

I do not like posting photos with window reflections in them, but I decided that this one had some value beyond the aesthetic.

On final approach to runway 1, the "bob houses" were visible dotting the ice west of the runway. After making a ridiculously short landing on Laconia's 5890' runway that morning, I was high on final and touched down much farther from the ice runway threshold than I would have preferred. Still, with full back pressure on the controls to provide aerodynamic braking, I was stopped well before the runway end without using my brakes (which would not have been useful anyway). The basic premise of landing at Alton Bay is no different than winter landings at Le Roy in the days before the runway was lengthened beyond 2,600'; if you can't land and stop in the available distance without using your brakes, this is not the airport for you.


An odd translucence of the surface gave unequivocal evidence that no solid surface lurked beneath this runway.

GPS track of ice runway landing plotted in Google Earth (east is up).
The yellow push pin icon marks where I parked.

I plotted the landing in Google Earth as a way of saying, "yup, I just landed a Warrior on the surface of a lake!" After all, one usually needs floats, skis, or bushwheels (depending on season and surface) to accomplish such a feat.

"Living the Dream"



Pilots who land at Lake County Airport in Leadville, CO receive a certificate from the FBO recognizing the accomplishment of navigating to and landing at the highest elevation public use airport in the United States. Alton Bay offers an analogous certificate of achievement. Lacking an airport FBO, however, these certificates are distributed at Facet Jewelers by Donna LaRochelle, wife of airport manager Paul. Though famished, I chose to visit Donna before seeking lunch.


As I picked my way across a thawing and muddy parking lot, a passing car suddenly veered directly at me, a window powered down, and a harried-looking driver pleaded, "can you tell me how to get back to I-93?"

"Uh..." I began. Off to a good start so far. "Sorry, I'm not familiar with the area. I just landed here." Rather than attempt a verbal explanation, I pointed to where my airplane sat in the middle of the bay.

"What?" asked the driver, his brow wrinkling in further consternation. Then his eyes shifted to Alton Bay's airplane parking area. "Oh!" he exclaimed, brightening. "That's cool!"

From within the car, I heard a faint echo of this exclamation from his wife. "That IS cool!"


When I entered Facet Jewelers, Donna was busy with a customer. The customer's husband gave me an appraising look followed by a knowing smile when his eyes settled on the P-38 silhouette on my hat. "Out living the dream, eh?" he asked with a friendly smile.

Everyone I met in Alton Bay was very friendly and welcoming. "Where did you fly in from? How long did it take? Which airplane is yours? What kind of an airplane is it? Is this your first visit?" Refreshingly, the locals seemed excited about the airport. Businesses along the bay prosper in that the airport attracts pilots (who spend money) as well as the curious who want to watch airplanes land on the ice (and, of course, spend money).


I chatted with Donna for a time. It was clear that the ice runway demanded a lot of time and energy from her husband, but she appeared to genuinely enjoy meeting visitors brought to Alton Bay through her husband's efforts. She related an anecdote of two helicopters making a five day journey from California to the East Coast that landed at Alton Bay while in the region. One annual visitor takes a commercial flight to Boston where he rents an airplane solely for the purpose of flying in. I received my personalized certificate from Donna, bought a "B18 Ice Runway" hat, and signed the visiting pilot register.


Shibley's at the Pier has a direct view of the airplane parking area and I enjoyed a late lunch there. Were it not for the airport, I suspect that the restuarant would have been empty at this odd afternoon hour. Of the four tables along the bay side windows, three were occupied by fly-in visitors. Seated at a fourth table next to mine was a former aircraft owner and Huey pilot who had driven with his wife to Alton Bay specifically for the spectacle.

As she seated them, I heard the hostess excitedly explain to my neighbors, "if you sit here, you'll have the best view of landing airplanes. Now, the people sitting in that corner came in that airplane and the man next to you arrived in that blue and white airplane down there!"

For lunch, I devoured a haddock sandwich with cole slaw, both entirely satisfying. As I ate, I enjoyed the view. I watched a taildragger (a Cessna 170, I think) practically spot land at the runway threshold. Show-off.



As I was carefully navigating the ice parking area by foot, a helicopter arrived and landed nearby. I worried momentarily about losing my footing on the ice while being buffeted by rotor downwash, but I was not actually affected by it. I had brought my Yaktrax from the hangar in case I needed to move the parked Warrior on the ice, but did not use them.

Yup - it's ice. Perfectly solid, thick ice. That crack was already there, I swear!

Back to Boring Old Pavement

Taxiing to the runway for departure, I waved to the driver of a newly arrived plow truck. I assume that this was Paul, but it might have been another volunteer. I was disappointed that I did not meet Paul to personally thank him for his leadership in maintaining such a unique place for aviators (and interested non-aviators) to enjoy.


After an abbreviated run up on the roll (recall that brakes are more or less useless at Alton Bay), I performed a normal take-off to the north over Lake Winnipesaukee.

Gunstock Ski Area south of Lake Winnipesaukee

Once clear of the nearby terrain, I turned on course and contacted Boston approach for Flight Following home.


To the north, a massive, white-capped mountain dwarfed all others. Despite being over 40 nautical miles away, there was no mistaking Mount Washington.


Westward, the Green Mountains continued to fail at living up to their name.

Over the Adirondacks, I was called by an AirTran flight crew (funny, I did not realize that AirTran call signs were still in use). I either failed to hear a hand-off (it seems unlikely, I was not exactly busy) or was out of range when Boston Center called with the frequency of the next sector. Either way, air traffic control relayed the next frequency to me through an airliner up in the flight levels. Though I have overheard such exchanges in the past, it was my first time as the subject of one.


Most of the route home was clear of clouds, though some cumulus floated above my cruise altitude as I crossed the southern Adirondacks. Not unexpectedly, there was quite a bump under each one. Cloud cover also lingered near Syracuse. Beneath the deck, ice particles churned in the air, reducing visibility and reflecting the sunlight in an inverted sun pillar (above photo).


Deep Freeze


Ice on the surface of Lake Ontario extended beyond the limits of perception to the west.




Compared to the smooth surfaces of  the bays, the ice on Lake Ontario exhibited obvious evidence of the more turbulent water in the Great Lake.

Back at Williamson-Sodus, only a single set of airplane tire marks marred the remaining snow on the runway. They were mine, as verified by Helicopter Ray (my daughter's nickname for him) in the maintenance shop who confirmed for me that Warrior 481 was the sole airplane to operate on the field all day. One of the more senior club members appeared at the nose of the airplane offering to help me push her back inside the hangar. He was better dressed than I for the low temperature and brisk Sodus wind in his Carhartt overalls.

"I'm jealous, you know. You keep sneaking off to fly and none of the rest have us have been out for a while," Denny said.

Yes, it was cold and windy, but well worth it for a bit of adventure and a new experience. The fellow in Alton Bay was absolutely spot on. I am just living the dream. My heartfelt thanks go to Paul LaRochelle for all he (and his fellow volunteers) have done to provide such a novel destination for us dreamers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Old Haunts

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
22 Feb 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - GVQ (Batavia, NY) - 5G0 (Le Roy, NY) -
DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC
2.2 1376.0

February 2015 has been tough on local aviators. It has not just been the snow -- don't get me wrong, there has been plenty of that. But the surface temperatures have been absolutely brutal. When surface temperatures are stuck in the single digits (Fahrenheit), even completely covering the Warrior's oil cooler fails to develop the desired oil temperature.

Today, the ceiling opened up and the surface temperature climbed above 30°F (time to break out the shorts!). Taxiing was tricky. Though the plow crew at Sodus did a fantastic job this morning, many of the snowbanks were higher than the Warrior's wings and her 35 foot wingspan put airplane bits quite close to them. This translated to a rather long and painstaking journey from midfield to the departure end of the runway.

In flight, the engine oil temperature nearly reached 180°F, a significant improvement over my last time aloft. I decided it would be best to continue running the engine for a while. I did some airwork (mostly steep turns), then undertook a short round robin flight to some of my old haunts from the days when I was based at Le Roy.




En route to Genesee County Airport in Batavia, I flew directly over downtown Rochester at 3,500'. After a nice full stall landing at Genesee County, it was a quick trip to Le Roy. I broke off the approach to landing at about 50'. I could see no hint of pavement through the pristine snow on the runway and thus had no way to assess how deep it actually was (so much for that restroom break I was hoping for). From Le Roy, I ventured southward under the overcast and landed at Dansville for lunch. Then it was back into the air for a VOR check off the Geneseo VOR before returning home.

Driving home from Sodus, warmed by intense and direct sunlight, I popped the sunroof partially open and allowed fresh air to circulate through the car. After a long stretch under the influence of arctic air near 0°F, today was practically like spring. Except, of course, for the huge piles of snow everywhere.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Find Your Voice

Learning to Talk

Becoming an aviator requires learning several new competencies ranging from the intellectual to the physical. When I began flight training, I anticipated needing to develop many skills, but did not expect that learning to talk would be one of them.

Time spent with experienced pilots reveals that many have a "radio voice". A good radio voice is crisp and direct, confident and professional, but comfortable. In a realm where the primary connection between pilots and controllers is established verbally over the airwaves, a pilot's voice is his or her first means of making an impression.

October 2, 2003: The beacon at Three Rivers Municipal Airport (KHAI)

I had not found my Voice at the time I earned my private pilot certificate. I could communicate effectively at non-towered fields because I was comfortable in that environment, but I was horrifically awkward any time I needed to key the mic and speak with air traffic control (ATC). Part of this was an artifact of training at an non-towered field where I simply did not get in-depth practice with ATC.

Even after I purchased Warrior 481, I continued to be ATC-shy. This was partially due to my peer group, many of whom shunned towered fields and talking to ATC. They planned cross country flight routes that avoided controlled airspace and rarely availed themselves of flight following. Thus socialized, I followed suit for a time. For example, my cross country flight from Guthrie, OK to Three Rivers, MI after buying Warrior 481 was flown largely (though not entirely) without the use of flight following.

September 21, 2003: N3470R (rented out of Three Rivers) on the Air Zoo ramp. It was my first time flying into AZO without an instructor, my first time talking to Clearance Delivery, and the first time (after departing AZO) I let a non-pilot passenger take the controls. It was evidently quite a day.

However, as a new aircraft owner in 2004, I came to realize that avoiding ATC would limit the utility of my airplane. Not only is flight following a fantastic safety feature, but there are a lot of terrific destinations encircled by controlled airspace. "Mic fright" would rob me of those opportunities. I decided to develop my Voice so that I could take better advantage of all aviation has to offer.

Building Blocks

To my mind, developing the Voice entails a few steps that build on each other. The most fundamental is knowledge. Understanding the verbal protocols between pilots and different types of controllers (e.g., approach versus tower versus clearance delivery) is essential. I knew some of this information when I received my private pilot certificate, but there were holes in my knowledge. If there was a significant gap in my primary training, this was it.

From a foundation of knowledge comes the ability to practice with ATC to internalize radio procedures. At first, transmissions from ATC seem rapid and voluminous. However, they are typically well organized and context-specific. Simply knowing which information to expect at which times attunes the ear and makes it easier to hear and understand what is being said.

With internalization eventually comes confidence born of comfort and familiarity. A confident voice is the verbal equivalent to a firm handshake and direct look in the eye. It conveys to the controller that the pilot knows what he or she is doing (though actions can certainly undermine that first impression later).

Impressions Matter

Why is it important to make a good impression on ATC?

The answer is simple: because air traffic controllers do a lot of optional things to make pilot's lives easier. Want flight following (an optional service)? Seeking a better routing? Want to sight-see in controlled airspace? If a pilot has the Voice, a confident and professional manner, controllers are often willing to help out above and beyond their basic mandate of separating IFR traffic. On the other hand, if a pilot is verbally "all thumbs" and the controller gets an impression of low competence, they might be far less accommodating. After all, why invite trouble?

For example, I recall an evening VFR flight from Le Roy, NY to Pontiac, MI in 2008. I had just crossed the border from Canada into the United States and was prompted by Selfridge Approach to contact Detroit for continued flight following. It was near the end of a long day and I had just spent 1.5 hours droning along over southern Ontario without much stimulation. I was tired and my call to Detroit lacked the necessary crisp professionalism. I may not have been behind the airplane, but I was behind my own mouth. After hearing my muddled call, the Detroit Approach controller promptly dropped me from the system ("squawk VFR") and suggested I call Pontiac tower when I got a little closer. In other words, my call did not inspire confidence, he was under no obligation to deal with me, so he chose not to. If I had my act together that night, I am certain that Detroit would have provided flight following all the way to my destination. After all, Detroit Approach had accepted the hand-off from Selfridge in the first place.

Like many other flying skills, the Voice has a shelf life and can spoil if not maintained.

Developing the Voice

I set about developing my Voice by hitting the books (or, book, in this case). I purchased the fifth edition (1998) of Paul Illman's "The Pilot's Radio Communications Handbook" and studied it carefully. The book is well organized by scenario. After digesting each chapter, I practiced. By this I mean that I talked to myself -- a lot; usually in the car on the way to work. I would play out different scenarios and talk through both the ATC and pilot parts. This became such a habit that sometimes, a decade later, I still catch myself doing it (I know, I'm weird).

February 14, 2004: A younger me (no gray hairs!) as a docent at the Air Zoo, comfortably ensconced in the cockpit of an F6F Hellcat.

I was fortunate that the Kalamazoo / Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) was nearby for practice. Not only that, but I had a good motive for actually landing there. As a docent at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, I gave tours on Saturday mornings. Though my home was a mere 10 minute drive from the museum, I would drive 45 minutes to South Haven, launch in my airplane, and land at Kalamazoo to volunteer at the Air Zoo. When my time at the museum was done, I would make the same trip in reverse.

I burned a lot of gas doing this, but really honed my radio technique.

Though Kalamazoo is not a terribly large airport, it has radar and thus possesses the key ATC functions present at much larger airports. In addition to tower and ground frequencies, Kalamazoo has two approach/departure frequencies and requires all departures (including VFR) to contact Clearance Delivery prior to Ground. The latter is not a universal practice (though Rochester does it, too), but it was terrific experience for me.

[Side note: when I reviewed my logbook for this article, I discovered another factoid. My first five flights into or out of AZO while flying left seat were in five different airplanes: N734XX (C-172), N8082F (C-150, deceased), N9327U (C-150, deceased), N3470R (PA-28-180, pictured above), and, of course, N21481 (PA-28-161).]

I gave myself a good foundation of knowledge, internalized it through practice with ATC at Kalamazoo, and over time developed my confidence on the radio. It was a gradual process and I was not consciously aware that it was happening. As a result, I still remember the day I realized that I had finally found my Voice.

Flexibility


Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hours) Total Time (hours)
26 Mar 2005 N21481 AZO (Kalmazoo, MI) - LWA (South Haven, MI) 0.6 297.9

I was on the ramp at the Air Zoo, sitting at the controls of my idling Warrior. In the right seat was another Air Zoo volunteer who had been begging me for an airplane ride. I had obtained departure information from Clearance Delivery and contacted Kalamazoo Ground for taxi instructions.

The current taxi diagram for AZO, which has changed only slightly since 2005

"Warrior 481, taxi runway one seven via Bravo, Alpha, Charlie."

Ugh. This would require taxiing over most of the airport to get to the departure end of 17. I read back the taxi instructions and applied throttle to get underway. Shortly after turning onto taxiway Bravo from the Air Zoo ramp, Kalamazoo Ground called again.

"Warrior 481, I have a change for you. Will you accept an intersection departure from runway 17 at Foxtrot?" I smiled. This was a relatively common practice and eliminated a long, indirect taxi to the other side of the airport in favor of departing on runway 17 about midfield. Though this halved the amount of available pavement, there was still more than enough remaining to launch a Warrior.

"Affirmative, 481." I responded immediately. I noticed that my passenger seemed confused and explained that we were being given a simplified taxi route that would have us depart from the middle of the airport rather than the north end.

I advanced the throttle and resumed taxiing. Before we reached Foxtrot, however, Ground called again.

"Warrior 481, another change for you. I've got traffic inbound for one seven. Taxi to runway two seven via Bravo, Foxtrot, cross runway one seven - three five." With a southwest wind, I had no concerns with the runway change. I keyed the mic and crisply read back the instructions. Again, my passenger eyed me with some concern.

While running up at the threshold of runway 27, we watched the aforementioned traffic, an airliner, land on runway 17. Soon enough, we were climbing away from Kalamazoo en route to South Haven.

"Wow, that was crazy how they kept changing their instructions to you," exclaimed my passenger. I had not given it much thought because each change made sense in context. Then I realized, had such a scenario been dropped in my lap just a year earlier, I probably would have found it harrying. In that moment, I wondered if my prior communications with the controller had given him confidence that I could handle the changes as he threw them at me.

I had found my Voice!

Dividends

As Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie once wrote, "I'm not young enough to know everything." I certainly have not reached a state of self actualization on the radio. But I do passably well and worked hard to get myself there.

I still remember the day I logged my 500th flight hour. I landed at a local airport and another pilot said to me, "You have great radio presence! Do you instruct out of this airport?" Not surprisingly, I was very pleased with this compliment.

June 15, 2011: 4,500' over Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International

I am certain that the Voice is what gained me an invitation to fly VFR directly over Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport at 4,500' in 2011, despite the fact that I planned to skirt the Bravo airspace. A direct route over the airport made logical sense, but I suspect that the Atlanta Approach controller would not have suggested it had I been tongue-tied when I initially contacted him for flight following. After all, Detroit Approach was disinclined to provide even VFR advisories to me the night I was off my game. As a VFR pilot, receiving an invitation to enter the inner core of Bravo airspace, particularly some of the busiest airspace in the world, was a very novel experience.

Overdoing It

This brings me to a recent episode that inspired my thinking about the Voice in the first place. Although I think that confidence is a key ingredient of the Voice, I think it is possible to become too comfortable with ATC. I recently overheard the following exchange between Rochester Approach and "Stan" (not his real name), a highly experienced instrument rated instructor with whom I have flown before.

November 17, 2012: Greater Rochester International (KROC)

"Rochester Approach, Experimental 123 at four thousand, practice VOR alpha approach into Le Roy."

"Experimental 123, squawk 1234 and ident."

"There you go." Yup . . . he actually said, "there you go" and nothing else.

[As an aside, on a recent tour of the Rochester tower, I asked a controller for his biggest gripe with GA pilots. His response: not using call signs in radio communications. He went on to note that it was not just the GA types who had this problem.]

Rochester responded with "radar contact", an admonishment to maintain VFR, and a reminder that no separation services would be provided. While cruising through Rochester's airspace en route to Sodus, I eyed the broken cloud deck at approximately 3,000 feet. I wondered how Stan was going to remain VFR as he came down through that ceiling from 4,000 feet.

Sure enough, "Rochester Approach, Experimental 123, what do I gotta do to make that IFR?"

The Rochester controller was clearly taken aback and responded with what I can only describe as a patronizing and mildly pedantic tone. "Well, you would need to request an IFR clearance and I would need to issue you a new squawk code." His transmission ended crisply, as though punctuated with an unspoken, but strongly implied, "duh".

Stan responded with something to the effect of "OK, let's do that."

After a slight delay, Rochester returned with, "Experimental 123, squawk 4567."

"There you go," announced Stan. Seriously? Again?

Stan absolutely knows what he is doing. He has been flying for decades and, in the time I have known him, he has taught me some valuable things. But I wonder if he has perhaps become so comfortable with ATC that he no longer strives for professionalism in his radio work.

Find Your Voice

As a member of the Williamson Flying Club, I interact with a broad cross section of pilots on a regular basis. They run the gamut from highly experienced to relatively inexperienced. Many of them are students or recently certificated. I see a lot of myself in the less experienced pilots, particularly where reticence to chat with ATC is concerned. Some fear crossing that magenta circle into Rochester's airspace. This is unfortunate because Rochester is a great facility and the controllers are not only welcoming, but actively encourage training operations. Still, having been possessed of mic fright myself, I empathize with the anxiety of the less experienced.

I encourage them to practice with Rochester, to find their Voice and their confidence with ATC. It's worth it. Good communication is a gateway to more interesting destinations and bigger, safer aeronautical adventures.

After hearing Stan the other day, however, I wonder if this message should be tempered a bit: become comfortable with ATC . . . but maybe not too comfortable.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Surface Patterns

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
03 Feb 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - local flight 1.4 1372.6

After a relatively mild winter to date, snow finally arrived in Rochester this week; a lot of it. In the throes of winter, despite cold and snow, all it takes is a little sunshine to inspire circulation of engine oil.



It was a utilitarian flight and I did not plan to take photographs, but I was struck by the patterns on the surface of Lake Ontario. Fortunately, the camera is always along for the ride. Luck favors the prepared!


The parallel streaks seen here are composed of chunks of ice floating on open water. At first, I thought this was a standing wave phenomenon, but waves of surface water crossed these parallel lines of ice at a forty-five degree angle. Perhaps it was an artifact of the wind, which was well aligned with the pattern below. No matter the cause, I had never seen anything like it before.


Though it was a beautiful day, it was not a good day for a pleasure cruise; too bumpy. Above a 5500' scattered layer, cloud forms hinted at the presence of higher altitude shear. But conditions provided a good opportunity to practice take-offs and landings in a gusty crosswind, practice that I needed.


With the engine oil run at temperature for a prolonged period of time, completion of a VOR check (I was a couple of weeks overdue), and some opportunity to polish my airmanship, I considered it a mission well accomplished.