Sunday, August 6, 2017


Though piloting a single engine aircraft is generally a solitary activity, it is often more enjoyable to involve others, whether they are enthusiastic newcomers or seasoned pilots. Despite struggling with the decision to move from the Le Roy Airport to the Williamson-Sodus Airport a few years ago, I have enjoyed being a part of the larger aviation community in Sodus. As I have written previously, joining the Williamson Flying Club has really opened up opportunities for "social flying".  Now that we are solidly in the midst of "fly-in breakfast season", I have had a number of opportunities in 2017 to share my flying with non-pilots, aspiring pilots, and experienced pilots alike.

Here are a few of them.

One of These Names Is Not Like the Other

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
10 May 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - local flight 1.4 1633.6

First off, allow me to introduce Ed and Ed.

Ed (Jr) and I have been friends since 1999 when he recruited me out of graduate school for my first real job in Kalamazoo. Ed was part of the Kalamazoo cohort that relocated to Rochester with me in 2006. He has flown with me a few times, most notably when we took his eldest son (not named Ed, the chain is broken!) flying in 2010.

With Ed (Sr) in town, the three of us went for an evening sightseeing flight over Letchworth. It was a beautiful night! The last time all three of us flew "together", Ed (Sr) was in the front seat of Dave's Stearman and Ed (Jr) was with me in the Warrior taking photos of his dad enjoying a flight in a vintage biplane.

Pennsylvania Bound

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
24 Jun 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - IPT (Williamsport, PA) - SDC 2.8 1655.9

On June 24, I organized a group of Williamson Flying Club folks to fly to breakfast at Cloud 9 in Williamsport, PA.

Naturally, The Bear is always in for pancakes!

Aboard the Warrior, we had Scott, a student pilot in the club, and his daughter Leah. Incidentally, Scott had the best score in our club spot landing contest this year, so he may be a student, but he's no slouch! The Bear and Leah did not bond right away, but on the flight home, the two of them were belting out "Fifty Nifty United States" in unison over the intercom loudly enough that even the isolate switch was insufficient to shield us from their raw vocal power.

Jamie, Tom, and Mike joined us in Five Five Whiskey. They arrived at Williamsport with Jamie at the controls, who added a new towered airport to his map that day.

Mike, Jamie, and Tom with Five Five Whiskey

Mike learned the hard way that there are no headset jacks in the backseat of Five Five Whiskey.

Breakfast was fantastic, as always. Mike went with my favorite, the Chesapeake Frittata. As I watched him enjoy it, I regretted my more prosaic breakfast choice (which was also good, but that crab cake looked yummy).

Tom assumed pilot in command duties for the return flight. Comparing the sky in this photo versus the arrival photo makes one fact quite evident: Tom managed a bumpier ride home than what Jamie had for the flight south to Williamsport.

Fuzzy Breakfast

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
09 Jul 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.3 1662.4

On July 9, my in-laws, Terry and Penny, joined the Williamson Flying Club for a breakfast fly-out to Oswego County Airport (Fuzzy) and the monthly EAA 486 breakfast. Normally, my committee organizes these trips out, but this one just fell together by virtue of it being a stellar day to fly.

Penny had only flown with me once previously and it was a first time attending a fly-in breakfast for both.

We arrived at Oswego County as one of several aircraft that seemed to converge on the airport simultaneously. Despite some incorrect position reports from another inbound aircraft, we sorted ourselves out and landed without any real difficulty. Terry helped spot traffic during the hectic approach and everyone was still smiling after the landing.

Jamie, Tom, and Alicia arrived in Five Five Whiskey.

That Jamie, what a ham!

Jamie, Alicia, and Tom.

John, Mike, and Mike's kiddos arrived in Eight Five X-Ray.

Photo by Terry

Was this the whole crew? Not quite...wait for it...

"Because I was inverted....?"

Kudos to you, Rusty, whoever you are. It's not every day that someone inspires me to quote Top Gun.

Photo by Terry.

For an impromptu club fly-out, the attendance was phenomenal! Maybe we should just let these things happen by chance all the time? Perhaps that is not the best endorsement of our organizational skills.

From left to right we had Jamie, Penny, me, Mike and family, Alicia, Tom, a guest whose name I forgot (sorry!), John, Chris, Lee, and Alan.

On departure, we were in line behind Tom, Alicia, and Jamie in Five Five Whiskey and Lee in his Piper Colt. I did not recognize the Cessna taildragger, but it was a beautiful aircraft.

I first met Lee a few years ago when he was looking for a ride to our first organized fly-out and have had the pleasure of his company on a few flights in the Warrior. He was still a student wondering if he would ever earn his certification. I was absolutely thrilled to have him fly along with us as pilot in command of his own ship.

Michigan Connections

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
06 Aug 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - 7G0 (Brockport, NY) - ELM (Elmira, NY) - 7G0 - SDC 2.2 1675.7

Jack, the son of my first supervisor in Kalamazoo, recently moved to the Rochester area with his significant other, Sandra. I first met Jack during the last cookout that Dave and I hosted at the South Haven Regional Airport in 2005. Jack used to fly with my mentor Dave frequently in Michigan and was excited for an opportunity to get more time in the air.

That opportunity came when I organized a Williamson Flying Club fly-out to the EAA pancake breakfast in Elmira. I offered to pick them up at the Ledgedale Airport in Brockport near where they live.

On my way from Sodus to Ledgedale, I experimented with my new camera. I was roughly five miles from the city of Rochester when I took this photo. Not bad.

Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Genesee River, Rochester, NY

I arrived at the typically-quiet ramp at Ledgedale, shook my head sadly at the multiple weatherbeaten airplanes sitting on flat tires, and waited for Jack and Sandra to arrive.

Their last GA flight was with another local pilot (Jack's dad's college roommate, as it turns out) on a day bumpy enough that even I was uncomfortable flying. This day's weather conditions were much improved.

En route, my passengers had a wonderful view of the Finger Lakes. We overheard Dan in his Mooney, Rob in Six Echo Sierra, Jamie in Five Five Whiskey, and Mike in Eight Five X-Ray all checking in with Rochester for flight following to Elmira.

Our arrival into Elmira was interesting. In addition to the fly-in breakfast being hosted at the local EAA chapter, there was also a NASCAR event a few miles north in Watkins Glen (with associated TFR). Airport construction had left several ramps and taxiways closed. Many of the taxiway signs were missing. The tower controller was a tongue-tied trainee working with a supervisor who seemed to be near wit's end with the amount of traffic descending on the airport and the limited number of available taxiways to handle it.

On our first landing attempt, I was told, "You're number two behind the jet. Caution wake turbulence. Keep it in close." Well? Which is it? I extended my downwind slightly. Not wanting to cut off a Seneca that I already had in sight on final, I renegotiated with the Tower and slotted in to land behind the larger Piper. Tower sent me around because the Seneca could not clear the runway quickly enough. On the second landing attempt, we were behind Rob in Six Echo Sierra and the controller kept confusing our tail numbers. Rob was stopped on the runway and I was S-turning on final to manage the separation when taxi instructions were addressed to me.

"Was that for Six Echo Sierra?" I asked, more for Rob's benefit than mine. Tower was flustered and simply switched to calling us Cessna and Cherokee from that moment until we were both parked.

Dan had already arrived in his Mooney and took charge of the ramp situation by marshaling us to available parking. Most parking surfaces at the airport were crowded with private turbine aircraft in support of the NASCAR event.

The tower controller gave Rob incomplete taxi instructions and missing taxiway signs compounded the issue, but he and his family eventually made it to the EAA ramp in Six Echo Sierra.

Bob was my hangar neighbor when I occupied a north facing T-hangar at the Williamson-Sodus Airport. Though he has owned his Cessna 150 for nine years, he had only flown outside of New York state once until last week when he and two other 150 owners flew to Clinton, IA for the Cessna 150 fly-in. I am very excited for him and cannot wait to hear about his experiences en route to Iowa and back. Bob's airplane is one of the best looking Cessna 150s I have ever seen.

Jamie's timing was better than mine. He arrived after most of the chaos died down.

Jamie arrived in One Delta Tango with his longtime friend Jeff. They've been pals since the second grade and Jamie wanted to share the experience of a general aviation fly-in breakfast with him.

Mike and Tony arrived in Eight Five X-Ray and remarked on how glad they were that they did not arrive when I did, having heard the whole episode play out over the radio while inbound.

Photo by the EAA 533 Treasurer.

Here we are, some of the motley crew from the Williamson Flying Club. While I helped park some of the club planes, Jack and Sandra retreated to the EAA hangar to get out of the wind (it was chilly for an August morning).

In all, sixteen people arrived in seven aircraft. The Williamson Flying Club truly arrived in force!

Breakfast was terrific, with pilots and guests getting to know each other and swapping stories while the syrup was passed back and forth across the table.

"Ah, Six Two Juliet, you have pedestrian traffic at your four o' clock, same altitude."

We brought up the rear, the last of the WFC aircraft to depart.

Jack and Sandra's aviation adventure did not end with pancakes, however. At altitude, I turned the controls over to Jack.

Jack certainly looked comfortable flying the Warrior and he has a real knack for spotting traffic. We flew over the gorge and waterfalls of Letchworth State Park before returning to Ledgedale.

The soon-to-be homeowners (congratulations!) posed with the Warrior before we parted company.

For me, these breakfast flights are not about exploring new destinations (at this point, I have to fly rather far to explore new places), building proficiency (though Elmira tower definitely kept us on our toes that morning), or gaining learning experiences. They are are about camaraderie, both within the pilot community and beyond. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this great community of people and aviators.

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