Monday, May 18, 2015

The Flying Horde

"Hello, Lisa! I'm Genghis Khan. You'll go where I go, defile what I defile, eat who I eat!" 
-Virtual Ghengis Khan to Lisa Simpson in "Marge vs. the Monorail", The Simpsons

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
26 Apr 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.2 1400.9

For me, the word "horde" conjures images of Mongols or Goths, nomadic scourges of ancient civilizations. Is it really fair to characterize a large group of hungry pilots that way?

Nomadic? By definition.

Swarming the landscape in an insatiable quest for food? Certainly.

Seems fair to me.

When the Williamson Flying Club descended on Oswego County Airport in late April 2015, I wondered if the owners of Puddle Jumpers restaurant thought they were under siege. To be fair, when I organized this club fly-out event, I contacted Susan at Puddle Jumpers two days in advance with a warning. Unfortunately for Susan, I underestimated the number of participants by about one third (this is why we have RSVPs, people!).

Thus, a ravenous flying horde, twenty-seven strong, arrived at Oswego for breakfast in eleven airplanes. We created enough of a commotion on Unicom that other pilots on frequency asked if there was a fly-in event at Oswego that morning.

"Just a few people going for breakfast," transmitted one of my comrades in deadpan understatement. When you travel in a group this large, you make your own events wherever you go!

In the spirit of inclusiveness, we try to make open seats available to club members who are students or otherwise unable to reserve a club aircraft. Rob joined Kristy, The Bear, and I in Warrior 481 that morning because all the club aircraft were already reserved. We had not met before, but as we chatted en route, we realized that we had unwittingly crossed paths last summer in Watertown, NY (Rob had parked the club's N701DT on the ramp there with Warrior 481 that day).

Rob, The Bear, Kristy, and Me. Photo by Kim.

Several minutes after departing home, we began to crowd the ramp at Oswego County.

As we waited for other arrivals, we used the airplanes as wind breaks against the cold breeze blowing from Lake Ontario. Some of us wore more sensible footwear than others.

John and Dave arrived in N9855W to find a substantial complement of club members on the ramp scrutinizing the landing.

So many eyes fixed on my airplane would have induced a lousy landing, but John brought the Cherokee 140 down and flared her into a graceful touchdown. Bravo, John!

This is a rare sight; two airplanes that I have flown parked side by side. In May 2014, I flew rides for the public in Archer N1185X for the 50th Annual Williamson Apple Blossom Festival Pancake Breakfast.

Speaking of pancakes, The Bear was more than ready for hers.

That morning was Kristy's first time in the air since our last family trip to Michigan in September 2014. Thankfully, she's still smiling.

Kristy, The Bear, and I were nearly the last ones served; our penalty for showing up with too many friends.

Tony, our fearless Activities Committee Leader; Don, who flies a beautiful Piper Tri-Pacer; Dave, who coached me and a retired Air Force colonel through cold starting the club's Archer I last May (yeah, it's always a great start to the day when two supposedly experienced pilots can't start an airplane while half the club is watching); Dave's daughter; and Mike, master of taildraggers and future A&P (far right).

Lee, Tim, and Rick. Lee is a student pilot who rode with me in Warrior 481 to the first fly-out event we organized in 2014. At the time, he had stalled in his training (pun intended; he was figuratively generating insufficient lift). A year later, he has passed the written exam, completed his solo cross country flight, and is nearing check ride readiness. Way to go, Lee! Is it any wonder that he looks so happy here?

Rob, Dave, and John. Dave and John have both lent their eyes to me as safety pilots this year. Thanks, guys!

Jeff, Chris, and Denny. Jeff works in the maintenance shop on the field and assisted with the annual inspection of Warrior 481 this year. Chris was pleased to have his airplane featured on this year's promotional poster for the Williamson Apple Blossom Festival Pancake Breakfast. Denny was generous enough to offer three empty seats in his gorgeous Piper Comanche to club members seeking rides that morning.

Poster for 2015 pancake breakfast featuring Chris' airplane. Poster by Mike B.

Mike, Tammy, and the kids were almost left behind. They had reserved the club's flagship, a 195 hp Skyhawk, for that morning. Loud backfiring was Mike's first indication of a bad mag. They switched to an available Cherokee 140, but it required removal of a massive bird nest from the engine compartment before flight. Despite these dubious birthday presents, Mike and his family made it. Although his son is a seasoned aviator, it was his daughter's first time flying. By all reports, she loved it.

Jack and Dick. When Kristy and I first moved to Rochester, we considered buying a house from Dick's son, a local builder. Cue the music..."it's a small world after all..."

Before dispersing on the wind, the flying horde paused for a photograph. The photographer, a staffer from Puddle Jumpers, had to back away in order to fit us all in frame. At least, that's the excuse he gave for backing away from us.

Mike posed with his favorite ride, a 1946 Champ.

A club Cherokee 140, now 100% free of bird nesting materials thanks to Mike and his family.

John and Dave switched roles for the return flight in Five Five Wiskey. I think Dave wanted to be one of the first aircraft in the air so that he would not have as many witnesses to his landing at Sodus as John had at Oswego.

I recently checked out in Five Five Whiskey, a 1967 Cherokee 140 with a 160 hp power plant, to fly rides at this year's pancake breakfast (May 17). This is a nice flying, smooth running airplane, though I spent a lot of time in the left seat trying to pull information from the instrument panel (it's a "shotgun" instrument arrangement predating the standardized layout of the 1970s) and consistently turning the overhead trim crank the wrong way. All of that is a story for another time.

We departed in a great flock, setting a westbound course to Sodus along the south shore of Lake Ontario. It was a wonderful morning for flying, food, and camaraderie. I ended the adventure extremely grateful for the good fortune to have fallen in with such a terrific group of aviators.

Finally, thanks goes to Puddle Jumpers for successfully feeding all of us! I also offer my most heartfelt congratulations to them for surviving the horde and living to cook another day. Maybe hungry pilots aren't as fearsome as the Mongols or Goths after all.


  1. Looks like a great success! Always fun getting together with other pilots for good eats and airplane conversation. The Bear just needed a fork in hand, standing on end. :)

  2. Ha! Gary, don't give her any ideas!

  3. Congrats on crossing 1400! :)