Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Patron Saint of Gallinaceous Digits


"Oh, I know this airport!" The Bear exclaimed as we taxied from runway to ramp.

Indeed, she did. We have been flying to St Marys for "$100 hamburgers" since 2009 when The Bear was not quite two years old. The on-field diner originally opened as The Silver Wing before its current incarnation as The West Wind. Past flights to St Marys have included a number of firsts for The Bear such as her first airplane flight without Kristy assisting her and her first time taking the controls of the Warrior. Considering her history and that four years have passed since her last visit, St Marys seemed like a fitting destination for The Bear's first flight of 2018.

Me and The Bear at St Mary's five years ago: March 9, 2013. Photo by Dan B. 

Paging Space[wo]man Spiff

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
18 Mar 2018 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - OYM (St. Marys, PA) - SDC 2.7 1771.5

Our sojourn to The West Wind would occur as a flight of two with Tom and Jamie sharing the piloting duties in One Delta Tango, a club Cherokee.

A frigid start to the morning meant that The Bear bundled herself in multiple layers that included a very helmet-like hood. She appeared to be garbed for either a deep sea dive or a solo flight in a Mercury capsule rather than a jaunt through the troposphere in a warm airplane.

Cue The Right Stuff theme!

Come on, Dad. Let's light this candle! It's amazing what the child can convey with just her eyes.

Cockpit Selfies

One Delta Tango launched several minutes before us with Tom at the controls. In cruise flight, the club Cherokee was a tiny black fleck on the azure dome of the sky, positioned off our left wing a finger's width above the horizon.  "In sight," replied both Tom and I when Rochester Approach called us as traffic to one another.

"I should have brought my camera," lamented The Bear.

Instead, she colored on her Kindle and tolerated my attempts at photographing us together.

"The Stink Eye"

That is, she tolerated most of my photography attempts.

At her request, in-flight music was courtesy of John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack).

Conesus, Hemlock, and Canadice Lakes (top to bottom).

Surveying the ground, The Bear commented that it looked like a black and white photograph except for the brilliant blue of the western Finger Lakes.

Conesus, Hemlock, Canadice, and Honeoye Lakes (left to right).

I was reminded of the Calvin & Hobbes installment wherein the father tries to convince Calvin that old photographs are black and white not because of a fundamental limitation of early photography, but because the world was actually black and white at the time. Had the lakes been frozen over, that could have almost been true.

Hemlock Lake

Digital masterpieces were created en route to lunch, colorful works that compensated for a landscape desaturated.

It's Not a Race!

Our groundspeed was slightly higher than One Delta Tango's and we slowly overtook and passed Tom and Jamie. When we crossed the Pennsylvania state line around noon, we had a five mile lead on our companions. It was nice to be able to monitor their position by ADS-B once they were too far aft to track visually.

Progressing into the marginally warmer latitudes of northern Pennsylvania, snow still covered the higher elevations, but brown valley floors dispelled the newsprint illusion predominant in New York. Calvin's dad would have been disappointed.

After two late nights of performing in the Middle School musical, The Bear traded giving me the stink eye for getting some shut eye. Smooth air, warm sunlight, Zulu quiet, and good tunes from a master composer all were contributing factors.

On approach to the airport, the westerly wind interacted with terrain to buffet our ship. The Bear provided a passable physical explanation for this mechanical turbulence before noting that she did not like bumps as much as she used to.

We landed at St Marys about five minutes ahead of Tom and Jamie and waited for them on the ramp. Despite a brisk wind -- The West Wind was to live up to its name that day -- the warm sun was a pleasant change from Sodus.

Tom and Jamie cleared the runway and ambled to parking past a leftover pile of winter.

After multiple checks that One Delta Tango's parking brake was set so that our airplanes did not suffer an unmanned ramp incursion on the sloped parking apron, we trooped inside for an eagerly anticipated lunch.

Chickens Do Not Have Fingers

It will come as a surprise to no one that The Bear ordered chicken fingers. Tom ordered a Reuben that arrived as a half-price discounted BLT (because: whoops). I went for a cheeseburger. Jamie got the most grandiose sandwich on the menu: The Stearman, a half pound Angus burger that, in lieu of a bun, arrived cradled between a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches (because: biplane - all it lacked were flying wires). When the colossal sandwich was placed before him, a large steak knife stabbed through its heart in order to hold the whole construct together, the size of Jamie's eyes betrayed the honest truth. He had not read the menu description carefully enough to realize that The Stearman was no run-of-the-mill burger. In the meantime, The Bear grew bored of stealing fries from my plate and ate half of Tom's.

["Hey!" objected The Bear after reading that last bit. "You make it sound like I didn't have permission!" I explained to her that it was funnier that way. I also reasoned that, if she were truly eating Tom's fries without permission, he was big enough to stop her.]

The West Wind makes a tasty burger and a good time was had by all.

After Lunch, the Buffet

After lunch, Tom and Jamie exchanged PIC duties in One Delta Tango for the return flight to Sodus. The winds had increased significantly and, on climb out, Warrior 481's vertical speed indicator varied wildly as the wind buffeted our ascent, even pegging at its maximum reading of 2000 feet/min a couple of times. Much of the ride home at 7500 feet was rough until we crossed back into New York.

Somewhere in there, there's probably a joke about New York taxes and fixing potholes in the air.

Over Dansville, NY, it was obvious that the residual snow was purely a higher elevation phenomenon.

Hemlock Lake, again.

A little closer to Sodus, I worried that there was going to be a head-on collision north of the airport, but it all worked out. By practical necessity, the airplane avatars in ForeFlight are much larger than the actual airplanes they represent, making spacing look tighter than it really is.

Back on the ground and after a second nap at altitude, The Bear demonstrated her active sunlight cancelling goggles. 

Call me "short-sighted", but I just don't "see" a market for these.


  1. After looking up Gallinaceous and getting my morning chuckle I enjoyed the post. Claire is getting so big, quite the young lady. Sounds like another fun breakfast run and as always excellent pictures.

    Loved the Alton Bay hat...a well earned keepsake.

    1. Enhance your word power! Well, I figured that we hear so little about Mary that she should be assigned as the patron saint of SOMETHING! (Just kidding, folks! Put the pitchforks away.)

      I definitely like my Alton Bay hat, which is why I now have two of them!