Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mountain Fellowship

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Spe 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - LKP (Lake Placid, NY) - SDC 3.7 1715.6

The goal was a Williamson Flying Club fly-out to Lake Placid for lunch with opportunity to enjoy fall color in the Adirondack Mountains as in years past. Most predictions indicated an early autumn, so September 23 was chosen in advance as the day to go. Fortunately, VFR conditions prevailed as the day developed (a similar trip was cancelled three weekends in a row last year), but with a twist for the end of September: Lake Placid was forecast to reach 80°F!

Based on their airspeeds, aircraft launched from the Williamson Sodus Airport at staggered times throughout the morning to target an 11:30 am arrival at Lake Placid. Though it was active, several pilots in the group chose to fly through the Lowville MOA. I chose to deviate around the area until Syracuse Approach notified me that the area had gone cold. At that point, I turned to a direct course for Lake Placid.

My partial deviation around the MOA allowed Tom in Eight Five X-Ray and Mike in Six Echo Sierra to catch up to me. We flew the last half of the trip within a few miles of each other.

Lake Placid, NY with Whiteface Mountain dominating the horizon

Despite unquestionably VFR conditions, the mountains were cloaked in haze that dulled foliage color.

It appeared that Williamson Flying Club pilots are good at flight planning. Four of us arrived more or less simultaneously at 11:30, including Mike in his Cessna 150 who left significantly earlier than the rest of us. The remaining aircraft landed within a few minutes of the first arrivals.

Arrivals at Lake Placid should watch out for low-flying skiers! The Olympic ski jump towers are contained within the pattern for runway 32.

Lake Placid Airport, KLKP

As the other three WFC aircraft entered the pattern, we loitered 2,000 feet over the airport for spacing.

Although there was some color to the terrain, it was not approaching the 85% of peak suggested by some sources on the morning of our departure.

Most of the Williamson Flying Club ships parked in a line on the edge of a ramp ringed by the Adirondack Mountains.

It is a foregone conclusion that the coolest airports have their own airport dog. Lake Placid does not have an airport dog, but that did not stop Lori and Denny from bringing their own. He quickly became the center of attention.

Tom and Alicia arrived in Eight Five X-Ray. It was their second trip to Lake Placid with the group. Zach, a student pilot in the club, accompanied them to learn what $100 hamburger runs were all about.

On board Warrior 481, I was joined by The Bear and my good friend Ed. Ed was the club's newest private pilot, having passed his check ride just the day before. This was cause for me to reflect: I was celebrating my fifteenth anniversary as a certificated private pilot.

Lee and Rob arrived in Lee's Colt. Lake Placid was the farthest straight line distance Lee had ever flown.

Lori and Denny recently traded up to the Cherokee Six from their Archer II in part to facilitate travel with their "puppy".

Candid shots are always way more fun than posed ones.

Five Oscar Quebec: the flying dog limo.

This is Mike and his Cessna 150. Until Ed passed his check ride, Mike was the club's newest private pilot, having passed his check ride in mid-July. Like Lee, the day's journey was also Mike's longest straight-line distance flown to date. But Lake Placid was a mere stepping stone to more serious adventure. Soon, Mike and the 150 will launch for Florida.

In all, seven airplanes from the Williamson Flying Club carried seventeen people and one dog to Lake Placid that day.

Lake Placid has a free bus service (the "Trolley") that runs on a loop around town. Though the airport is not formally on the circuit, Adirondack Flying Services will usually call it on the CB radio and it will divert through the airport parking lot. Unfortunately, Jason was the sole person working at the FBO that day and was dividing his time between line duties and flying sight seeing rides in the FBO's neon yellow Cessna. With no one available to call the Trolley, we decided to hoof it and eventually caught the Trolley along the way.

Our destination was the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. The Bear liked the three dimensional sign.This place was three stories of bustling activity and there was a wait for food, but it was all tasty. They stridently do not accept reservations, but true to their promise, they accommodated our group at a couple of different tables.

Frequent readers of this blog will know without my saying what The Bear ordered for lunch.

Proof that hangar flying does not require a hangar, Alicia and Tom regaled us with the tale of their recent cross country flight to Wiscasset, Maine. Ed talked about his check ride. Tom described his flight with Matt down the Hudson River Special Flight Rules Area. All good stuff.

Lee just looked happy to be there and we were happy to have him.

Zach seemed pleased to be along for the ride. Flying with Tom, he was in good hands. We were in agreement that the fries at Lake Placid Pub and Brewery are outstanding.

Rob first flew with us on a run to Puddle Jumpers back before they closed. The last time I saw Rob, Elmira Tower was doing a fine job of getting him lost while taxiing at the airport. The missing taxiway signs did NOT help.

These two guys epitomize the range of aircraft that arrived in Lake Placid that morning. Mike departed the Williamson Sodus airport well before us in his 90 knot Cessna 150 to arrive right on time at 11:30. Barry, on the right, probably left sometime well after us in his Piper Seneca. When not flying the Seneca, Barry often arrives at fly-ins with a beautiful Grumman Widgeon that becomes the center of attention even more quickly than Lori and Denny's dog!

Lunch was outstanding (once it arrived). Two thumbs up. For obvious reasons, none of us sampled the beer.

As we waited for the Trolley to take us back to the airport, The Bear found a tiny flower in the grass to photograph. It was the sort of thing that only she would have noticed. Hundreds of feet had probably already walked on or past it that day before a little girl with a sharp eye arrived with her camera and took notice.

Photo by The Bear

Back at the Lake Placid Airport, The Bear reunited with Lori and Denny's pup. The group dispersed pretty quickly after that and my attempt to corral everyone for a group photo fell apart quickly.

Zach assisted Tom with preparations to commit aviation in Eight Five X-Ray.

Tim and Mike found that Six Echo Sierra needed some oil and moved to rectify the situation.

Tim proudly served as ballast for the flight to Lake Placid while Mike and Tony shared flying duties.

Tony flew as Pilot in Command on the return trip and looked every bit the part doing it.

A line was forming at the fuel pump. Mike was second, Lee third, and Warrior 481 fourth.

A gorgeous polished metal vintage Cessna departed before the rest of the WFC. Probably a wise choice.

Barry and two other pilots launched for home in the Seneca. I suspect they were back in the Rochester area before we finished paying for our fuel.

I have scarcely seen the Lake Placid Airport ramp as busy as it was while Tom taxied Eight Five X-Ray for departure. While we were there, we met one other pilot out of the Rochester area and a former Williamson Flying Club member who learned to fly with the club in the 1980s.

Lee refueled Seven Zero Zulu while we waited our turn.

Ed did not want his picture taken just standing idly next to the airplane, so he pretended to be doing something useful. He wasn't. :-)

Waiting for departure, we took one last look at Whiteface through the hazy afternoon air. That same hot, hazy air would mean a sluggish climb out.

We held short of the runway for a landing Cessna.

Ground track recorded by ForeFlight

Though Lake Placid has an elevation of only 1747 feet above sea level, at 80+°F we certainly felt the effects of higher than usual density altitude as we climbed out of the valley surrounding Lake Placid. Normally, I climb right over the mountains on departure, but this time, I followed the low terrain toward Saranac Lake until we gained enough altitude to turn on course.

We cruised hands-off much of the way home at 8,500 feet, putting us just above the haze layer with the late afternoon sun in our eyes. I realized that it had been a long day when I noticed the lengthening shadows cast by wind turbines south of Wheeler Sack Air Force Base.

It was a terrific day to fly. Though I was disappointed by the lack of vibrant fall color, the mountains are always beautiful to visit, whether bedecked in reds and yellows, greens, or austere winter dress. What most stood out to me that day was the fellowship; flying to a beautiful destination with friends, seeing the experience through the eyes of a student pilot, and cheering on two low time private pilots who accomplished their longest flights to date in their own airplanes.

I was glad to have played a role in making it all happen. All things considered, it was not a bad way to spend my fifteenth anniversary as a pilot.

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