Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Tripper

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total
  Jun 2010
5G0 (Le Roy, NY) - K09 (Piseco, NY) -
RUT (Rutland, VT) - 1P1 (Plymouth, NH)
3.1 821.4
  Jun 2010
N21481 1P1 - CNH (Claremont, NH) - 5G0 3.1 824.5

When a friend of 30+ years needs help, but lives two states away, an airplane is a useful thing.  On a moment's notice, I cancelled meetings, took a vacation day, and flew to Plymouth, NH.  I was fortunate to have a beautiful day to make the trip.

Flying over Griffiss International (RME) in Rome, NY, I saw this airplane sitting on a taxiway.

While the previous airplane looked normal enough, one of these on an adjacent ramp seemed to be missing something.

Just over an hour into the trip, I realized that I needed to make a rest stop.  I thought for a moment that I could make it all the way to Rutland, VT.  Then the first bump from an Adirondack peak bounced me in my seat and I realized that a pit stop was definitely in order.  Piseco Airport (K09) was just north of my route, a decent 3000' strip in the Adirondacks that I have visited before.  Unfortunately, my unplanned diversion here resulted in FlightAware showing my ground track to stop abruptly at the Adirondacks (above).  This caused my wife some consternation until she reached me in New Hampshire via my cell phone.

Pictured above is Sacandaga Lake, photographed upon departure from Piseco.

I planned lunch at the Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport (RUT), which sits in a valley surrounded by the Green Mountains.  It was my first time setting foot on Vermont "soil".  I ate at the "Plane Bagel" in the second story of the commercial terminal.  The restaurant opened at the beginning of the year and specializes in homemade bagels (though I did not have one).  The owner, obviously a pilot himself, was friendly and talkative.  He opened our conversation by complimenting me on how nice Warrior 481 looked, so he definitely knows the right hook to win over customers!  Lunch was good and I hope the "Plane Bagel" and its friendly owner succeed.  From my table, I could see Warrior 481 sitting on the ramp below, framed by a mountain backdrop.  I should have taken a picture, but I left the camera in the plane.  How's that for poor planning?

The Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport is bordered by mountains to the east (above) and west.

My destination was Plymouth Municipal Airport, a 2400 foot long grass strip in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains.  It is the first turf-only airport I have ever visited with its own AWOS (automated weather observing system).  For an airport specifically noted in the Airport / Facility Directory as frequented by aircraft without radios, I found this to be a bit incongruous.  After all, if the airport is mostly used by NORDO ("no radio") airplanes, who's listening to the AWOS?

I spent about four hours in New Hampshire and sincerely hope that my being there was helpful.  I returned to Plymouth Municipal in the early evening, bid my friend farewell and good luck, and took to the sky.

The Connecticut River forms the border between New Hampshire (left) and Vermont (right).  This photo was taken on approach to the Claremont Airport where fuel was $4.19/gallon.  With fuel prices that low, it was as if Claremont existed in a little bubble of time burped up from the past.  The combination lock to enter the terminal was based on some aeronautical trivia: the Unicom frequency for the nearby Keene airport.  Funny, I thought to myself, why not the Unicom frequency for this airport (122.7)?  The reason became obvious when I saw that the numbers on the lock did not go beyond six.  Ah!  With that insight, I didn't even need to check my chart to guess Keene's frequency.

With my belly full of Thai food from Thai Smile in Plymouth and Warrior 481's fuel tanks loaded with cheap 100LL from Claremont, I settled in for the two hour flight home.  The view out my windows from 6500 feet was hazy as I crossed back over the mountains of Vermont.  My ground speed varied from 100 to 130 knots as the winds first fought, then aided, my westbound airplane.

As the sun began to set, I reached western New York and cruised over I-90 parallel to the Lake Ontario shoreline.

I was rewarded for my day's efforts with a spectacular sunset and a post-flight phone call from a grateful friend.  It was a good day for me, but even more importantly, I was able to help a friend in need.  It's the simple things that make airplane ownership so worthwhile.