Sunday, August 2, 2015

Drew Carey Was Right (Cleveland Rocks)

"You'll Never Walk Alone"

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
2 Aug 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - BKL (Cleveland, OH) -
FDY (Findlay, OH) - EYE (Indianapolis, IN)
5.8 1452.1

Aloft over the boundary between land and lake, the shoreline stretched beyond the limit of perception. It was surely not infinite, cannot have been infinite, but from 6,000 feet it very much appeared to be so.

Radio communications from Erie, Pennsylvania occasionally crackled in my headset, directing unseen aircraft across a massive diameter of radar coverage. I gazed beyond the Warrior's right wingtip to see the shadow of Canada on the opposite side of Lake Erie, knowing from experience that the reach of Erie Approach's control extended to that very shore.

As we floated over the city of Erie early Sunday morning, there was no activity below. The streets were absent of movement, bereft of traffic. I might have perceived myself to be the only person left in the world were it not for the occasional chatter on frequency. Thanks to air traffic control, I may have been flying solo, but my flight was in no way solitary.

Marina outside of Erie, PA

"Every Year Is Getting Shorter, Cannot Seem to Find the Time"

The world in my ears changed abruptly when Erie Approach passed me to Cleveland. Here, there was abundant life. I confirmed that I was direct to Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL), a destination that has been on my aviation "bucket list" for the better part of a decade. Delayed by weather, time, and circumstance, this long sought-after destination was finally fixed in my windscreen.

I have been drawn to this towered field situated at the edge of city and Great Lake for many reasons. One of the principal reasons dates back to March 30, 2003 and the wanton destruction of Chicago's beloved Meigs Field. I was entering my sixth month as a certificated private pilot when my dream of landing at Meigs was destroyed along with the airport. With the exception of Toronto's Billy Bishop Airport, I am unaware of any other shoreline facility that provides pedestrian access to the downtown center of a major North American city. Landing at such a place, as long as it still exists, is a worthy item for any aviator's bucket list.

Beyond the allure of the airfield itself is the Cleveland lakefront. Populated with attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a World War II submarine, The Great Lakes Science Center, and the William G Mather Steamship Museum, there seems to be something worthwhile for just about anyone; all of it a convenient walk from the airport.

I lined up on final approach to runway 27R, complying with a request from Lakefront Tower for best forward airspeed to accommodate traffic behind me on a practice ILS approach. With Cleveland's skyline to the left and Lake Erie to the right, the approach into Burke Lakefront was as spectacular as promised.

Touching down, I received multiple taxi instructions delivered in a single, rapid vocal burst. My read back was delayed as I processed the information, but it was correct and I soon found myself maneuvering over a tie-down spot on the public ramp.

 "I'm In the High-Fidelity First Class Traveling Set"

As I stood on the ramp contemplating the Cleveland skyline looming high overhead, I wondered if there could be any place more antithetical to the desolate cornfield airport in Three Rivers, MI where I learned to fly.

I have planned many trips to Burke Lakefront over the years, all of them cancelled. One recommendation that has remained consistent during that time is to avoid the only FBO on the field, Landmark. They have a reputation for being rather fee-happy and fuel costs are two cents shy of $7/gallon. Parking on the public ramp adjacent to the terminal building is free, though I expect to receive a bill for the $7 landing fee one of these days. That, I can afford.

I took advantage of the available tie downs to secure the Warrior. The wind was gusting when we arrived and the forecast indicated that it would only increase over the course of the day. The ramp was well populated, but I found the terminal building to be largely deserted. With so many interesting destinations in the city, why would anyone stick around in the terminal?

"For Long You Live and High You Fly"

One reason to linger in the Burke Lakefront terminal is the International Women's Air and Space Museum. This free museum seeks to immortalize the contributions of women aviators. Yes, the adventures of well known aviatrixes Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, and Harriet Quimby are recounted there. However, there were also other lesser known, but no less courageous, women like Jerrie Mock whose stories are told. The museum is relatively small, but well worth perusing.

One of the artifacts that caught my eye was this "modern" GAT-1 Link trainer. Early 20th century wooden "Blue Box" Link instrument trainers are relatively ubiquitous in aviation museums, but this plastic variant appeared to be significantly more modern...relatively speaking.

Next to the single seat cockpit is a control panel that provided means for a sadistic instructor to control the parameters of the simulation. As opposed to its instrument trainer forerunners, the large windscreen suggests that this trainer is intended only as a basic aviation training tool.

"Then Moving In Silently Downwind and Out of Sight"

Just off the airport grounds is this example of World War II stealth warfare, the USS Cod, a submarine originally launched in 1943 from Electric Boat in Groton, CT.

My time was limited and I did not explore the Cod. Perhaps I will do so on a return trip to Cleveland.

Likewise, another interesting attraction on the lakefront is the Steamship William G. Mather Museum, a 1925 Great Lakes freighter that can be explored. I also did not visit the Mather, but would like to someday.

From the Cleveland waterfront, I was able to see the Burke Lakefront Airport. Holy Richard Dean Anderson, Batman! Is that a Stargate east of the tower?!

"You're Gonna Make It If You Try, They're Gonna Love You"

As I climbed the short flight of steps from street level to the plaza in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was greeted by the distinctive guitar riff of Rush's "Tom Sawyer". This was a good omen. Rush, one of my favorite bands, was only recently (and very belatedly) inducted into the Hall.

I paid my $22 admission and roamed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I spent three hours, but I could have easily spent much more. I did not look at everything, but the artifacts that jumped out at me included the crazily extended kick drums of Alex Van Halen's drum kit that delivered his signature sound (I was never a big Van Halen fan, but the drums were cool), record label rejection letters addressed to U2 containing form letter assurances that their demo tapes had been listened to with great care, and James Hetfield's signature guitar from Metallica's "black album" days.

An extensive Beatles collection included highlights like John Lennon's uniform from the Sergeant Pepper album cover, early handwritten scribblings of classics like "A Day in the Life", and Ringo Starr's drum kit. There were even odd items in the collection like John Lennon's school report cards and Ringo Starr's (nee Richard Starkey) childhood swimming certificate. A really wonderful temporary exhibit entitled "Paul Simon: Words and Music" included many of Paul Simon's guitars, early handwritten lyrical treatments of songs, video interviews, and films of Simon and Garfunkel performing live. Another exhibit that I found to be particularly interesting focused on Les Paul and his development of the solid body guitar. The Hall is most certainly a multimedia experience and packed with information and artifacts to pique the interest of fans of all tastes.

The Hall's placement seems appropriate given Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed's coining of the phrase "rock and roll" in 1951.

I had lunch at the Rock Hall Cafe that offered a slightly overpriced, vaguely mediocre assortment of prepared salads and sandwiches. The view of the Cleveland lakefront from the Cafe balcony, however, was spectacular. I ate my sandwich and watched airplanes launch from Burke Lakefront.

"By The Way, Which One's Pink?"

Pink Floyd, another of my favorite bands, is (was?) well known for ostentatious stage shows. The Hall contains many Pink Floyd concert artifacts, including this one.

Most notable are set pieces from the 1980 tour of The Wall displayed on the fourth floor near the pinnacle of the Hall's glass pyramid. Stand still, laddie!

"How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

These were absolutely thrilling to see and very likely my favorite part of the Hall. Scrawled across the white blocks of the set is Roger Waters' well-known account of The Wall's inspiration from personal experience.

"In the old days, pre Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd played to audiences which, by virtue of their size, allowed an intimacy of connection that was magical. However, success overtook us and by 1979 we were playing in football stadiums. The magic crushed beneath the weight of numbers, we were becoming addicted to the trappings of popularity. I found myself increasingly alienated in that atmosphere of avarice and ego until one night in the Olympic Stadium, Montreal, the boil of my frustrations burst. Some crazed teenage fan was clawing his way up the storm netting that separated us from the human cattle pen in front of the stage screaming his devotion to the "demi-gods" beyond his reach. Incensed by his misunderstanding and my own connivance I spat my frustration in his face."

"Later that night, back at the hotel, shocked by my behavior I was faced with a choice. To deny my addiction and embrace that "comfortably numb" but "magic-less" existence or accept the burden of insight, take the road less travelled [sic] and embark on the often painful journey to discover who I was and where I fit.

The Wall was the picture I drew for myself to help me make that choice."
- Roger Waters, Summer 1995

As I read these words, I considered how much that "picture" meant to me as a college student trying to find my own sense of self. I remain grateful that he chose to draw it.

"And As I Rise Above the Tree Lines and the Clouds"

I enjoyed my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and decided that Drew Carey was right. Cleveland does, in fact, rock (disclaimer: opinion rendered based on an n = 1 experience, your mileage may vary, void in some states). However, though worthy as a flying destination, Cleveland was merely a stop-over on a longer journey to Indianapolis. The Warrior and I reunited mid-afternoon and departed from Burke Lakefront on an IFR flight plan to our next waypoint: Findlay, OH (where the fuel was a full $2/gal less than at Burke Lakefront).

Burke Lakefront was steeped in heat from an unrelenting sun, but the Warrior climbed eagerly enough aided by the strong westerly wind.

The mid-afternoon sun silhouetted the Cleveland skyline, but it was no less majestic a sight.

On departure, we passed north of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As I passed FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Departure vectored me northbound over Lake Erie to accommodate their approach corridor. Then, gradually vectored to a southwest heading, the wind on the nose approached 20 knots and I experienced turbulence while still over water. My chosen cruise altitude of 4,000 feet was intended to minimize the impact of the wind, but was insufficient to lift us clear of the heat. I knew that the heat and turbulence would only worsen once back over land.

I suspected that we were in for a long, hot, bumpy ride to Indianapolis and the heartland.

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