Sunday, December 17, 2017

Seven Degrees

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
17 Dec 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - local flight 1.0 1746.1

Nothing says "let's go flying" quite like 7°F!

It was cold, clear, and calm at 7:30 am. I had to shovel snow away from the hangar door and Yaktrax were necessary for traction when pulling the Warrior onto the icy ramp. As expected, aircraft performance was outstanding and I used the time to practice some steep turns, simulated engine out landings, short and soft field take-offs and landings, and some regular-old touch and goes.

It is rare to see clear ice on Sodus Bay (it's usually snow-covered), rarer still to see the reflections of morning clouds in that ice.

Cold weather flying is good for the soul.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Reflection 2017: Goal Oriented

The Objectives

2017 was the kind of year that makes me thankful for the exhilarating -- and often humbling -- adventure found in flight. I began this memorable year of flying with two objectives that I deferred for far too long:
  • Fly to Canada
  • Earn a tailwheel endorsement, preferably in a J-3 Cub
There were also the usual standing secondary objectives for 2017: visit new airports, visit new states, fly more than 100 hours, and exercise the instrument rating.

Piece of cake, right?

The Highlights

Highlights for 2017 include:
Along the way, there were some challenges (both real and tongue-in-cheek):

137.3: Hours of total time in 2017, my highest accumulated in a single year.

10.6: Hours flown in IMC this year (total: 35.3), my highest to date even after failure of the Warrior's attitude indicator in September brought an end to IFR flying for the remainder of 2017. This is the first year that I have flown more time in actual IMC than simulated (by a fraction of an hour - I logged 10.1 hours of simulated instrument time in 2017).

10: States/provinces visited: Michigan; New Jersey; New York; Ontario, Canada; Pennsylvania; Quebec, Canada; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Vermont; and West Virginia.

3: New states/provinces (Ontario, Quebec, and Rhode Island).

36: Total number of airports visited in 2017.

12: New airports visited for a total count of 184:
3: New grass runways sampled, two in the Cub (12N and 13N), one in the Warrior (6B9).

7.0: Hours flown as PIC in a J-3 Cub!

53.5: Hours flown with The Bear in 2017 (not including the hot air balloon time). She now has a total of 400.3 hours of General Aviation flight experience since birth!

17: People who flew in Warrior 481 with me in 2017. Thanks to Kristy, The Bear, Mom, Dad, Penny B, Terry B, Jamie O, Scott L, Leia L, Ed C (Jr), Ed C (Sr), Tom C, Joe E, Dave P, Matt P, Jack S, and Sandra S for joining in! Particular thanks go to Jamie O, Dave P, Matt P, Joe E, and Tom C for serving as safety pilots during practice under simulated instrument conditions.

The Photographs

These are my favorite photographs from 2017.

Warrior N21481 parked on the ramp at Lake Placid, KLP
("Mountain Fellowship")

Letchworth State Park, Middle Falls, photographed from a hot air balloon
("The Flying Bear Flies Lighter Than Air")

Aeroflex-Andover Airport (12N) in New Jersey where I did my tailwheel training
("Dragging Tail")

Morning clouds reflected in clear ice on Sodus Bay.
("Seven Degrees")

Wind turbine in Ontario, Canada

Bear is my copilot
("Over the River(s) and Through the Sky To Grandmother's House We Go")

Owasco Lake
("Ode to the Hundred Dollar Hamburger")

Warrior N21481 parked in Bromont, Quebec and photographed from inside Le Bisto M
("Le Vol Vers Le Quebec: Language Barrier")

1946 Piper J-3 Cub in which I received my tailwheel training at Andover Flight Academy
("Dragging Tail")

Interchange of I-81 and NY-12 near Alexandria Bay, NY
("From Whence Came the Dressing")

Morning at the Williamson-Sodus Airport
("Partial Panel")

Selfie captured in the spinner of a Beech Model 17 Staggerwing at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum
("A New York Piper in Beechcraft's Tennessee Court")

Ice on Sodus Bay near Sodus, NY

A portion of the former Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Station on the Rhode Island coast
("Expedition To the Outer Lands")

View of Middle Falls at Letchworth State Park from a hot air balloon
("The Flying Bear Flies Lighter Than Air")

First flight with Dad
("A New York Piper in Beechcraft's Tennessee Court")

Low clouds over autumn fields north of Cayuga Lake
("Grass Fix")

Binghamton, NY
("The Blues")

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) viewed through a hole in the ceiling

Sunbeams scattered every which way over New York's southern tier
("The Blues")

Wall of clouds over Lake Erie
("Frontal Passage")

1946 Piper J-3 Cub at Aeroflex-Andover Airport (12N)
("Dragging Tail")

High definition undercast
("Expedition to the Outer Lands")

Boldt Castle on one of the Thousand Islands near Alexandria Bay, NY
("From Whence Came the Dressing") 

Mike Wiskus performs in his Pitts at the New York Air Show
("The Blues")

Sodus Pierhead Lighthouse, Sodus, NY
("Down by the Bay")

The Catskill Mountains in autumn
("Expedition To the Outer Lands")

Downtown Rochester, NY

Wind turbines in fog, Ontario, Canada

Between layers near Buffalo, NY
("Frontal Passage")

The first example ever built of one of my all-time favorite aircraft, the Beech Model 17 Staggerwing
("A New York Piper in Beechcraft's Tennessee Court")

Clouds over western Connecticut
("Expedition To the Outer Lands")

The Toronto waterfront, photographed on approach to Billy Bishop Airport by Kristy
("Billy Bishop's Alternative Universe: Part 1")

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Breakfast Club

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
09 Dec 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - B16 (Weedsport, NY) - SDC 1.1 1745.1

A Friday evening text message from Mike: "B16 in the morning, wheels up at 7:30"

It was my first invitation to join Mike, Lee, and the group of pilots that I have loosely -- and only to myself -- referred to as "The Breakfast Club", a group of Williamson Flying Club pilots who launch on weekend breakfast missions at the crack of dawn. Mike and Alan, both flying white and blue Aeronca Champs, form the nucleus of the group. Though many members of the group fly taildraggers, not all of them do. Regular participants include Lee in his Piper Colt, an honorary tube and rag "taildragger" that just happens to have a nose wheel; Ray in his Enstrom helicopter; and Denny in his Comanche. En route, the gaggle tends to throttle back to match the speed of its slowest member; Alan's Champ does 80 mph in cruise.

B16, Whitford's Airport, lies 27 nautical miles southeast of Sodus. Used to being left behind by the faster Bonanzas and Mooneys in the club, this morning presented the opposite conundrum. Mine was the fastest ship in the group by a significant margin. Rather than fly a direct course like the others, I set out eastbound along the Lake Ontario shoreline and turned south at Fair Haven for Whitford's, my course describing a massive right angle over the Lake Ontario watershed. Even after the scenic detour, I still beat the Colt and three Champs to Whitford's by a few minutes. After parking, I watched them enter the pattern in trail.

Warrior 481, Alan's Champ, Mike's Champ, Denny's Champ (he left the Comanche at home that morning), and Lee's Colt

Family-owned Whitford's Airport does not have a formal restaurant. Nevertheless, when I entered the building there, John was busily cooking eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, and pancakes on a large griddle. Pilots simply toss a donation onto the counter and order what they want. I was the only newcomer; John knew most of the other pilots by name. While there is an inclusive spirit at Whitford's, breakfast is not an advertised event. This is the kind of place that pilots learn about from other knowledgeable pilots. It is popular, though. Our contingent from Williamson-Sodus was joined by several others that included a group from Canandaigua and another large roving breakfast group from the Rochester area that I have encountered at other venues.

It was a beautiful morning to fly with the taildraggers and visit a genuine grass roots home to general aviation.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Partial Panel

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
02 Dec 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - ROC (Rochester, NY) - SDC 2.5 1744.0

Lacking a functional attitude indicator (Garmin claims shipment for the G5 on December 15), I have not flown actual or simulated IFR in many weeks. Feeling that my proficiency was aging poorly -- my most recent approach in actual IMC was to Parkersburg, WV in August -- I decided to don the hood for the first time since July. As a break from the usual routine, I would need to fly partial panel for the entire duration of the practice session airplane only has a partial panel at the moment. Tom C was willing to fly as safety pilot. One of the perks of basing at Williamson-Sodus is that when I need a safety pilot, I usually get more offers of help than I can accept.

I arrived early that morning as the sun was just breaking over the trees surrounding the field. It was glorious.

I was the only one at the airport, nothing else moved except tendrils of fog dissipating over the runway. Chris' Bonanza was beautifully highlighted in the golden morning rays.

Tom and I launched around 9:00. I flew a southwest heading on the Genseo 050 radial to perform an overdue VOR check. For a morning that began in such breathtaking fashion, the rest of the day unfurled in a hazy and uninspiring VFR-ish manner. With the VOR check completed, I turned the Warrior northbound, put on the Foggles, notified Tom that he was responsible for visually clearing the airspace around us, and contacted Rochester Approach. While I was be-Foggled, Tom indicated that I was not missing much in the haze.

Without an attitude indicator, I relied on altimeter and vertical speed indicators to provide pitch information while the rate of turn indicator and directional gyro provided indirect bank information. I chose not to display the AHRS data from the Stratus as a digital artificial horizon in ForeFlight. That would be too easy and I wanted to work for my approaches

Ground track from ForeFlight

We flew Rochester's ILS-22, ILS-28, RNAV-25, and RNAV-28 approach procedures before departing eastbound for Williamson-Sodus. I did the hold in lieu of procedure turn (HILPT) at WALCO to establish on the Sodus RNAV-28 approach, flew the procedure to LPV minimums, then the missed approach procedure to GOYER where I established in the missed approach hold. From there, I flew the RNAV-28 approach a second time into Sodus for a full stop landing. In 2.3 hours under the hood, I hand-flew six approaches, all without an attitude indicator.

I remarked to Tom that I felt like I was S-turning all over the place the entire time.

"It's not as bad as you think," he assured me. The ground track above supports that, though the occasional wobble is visible. My interceptions were all crisp and I did not detect any mistakes flying any of the approaches. Though my flying was not as crisp as it would have been with an attitude indicator, I was pleased with how the morning progressed and, despite a lapse of several weeks since the attitude indicator failed, I still felt proficient flying my ship on instruments.

All in all, it was a satisfying way to spend the morning. I view this kind of early December practice session as being akin to winterizer fertilizer, fortifying my IFR skills prior to their going dormant for the next couple of months.

Then again, as club president Steve reminded me recently, there's always the simulator.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Difference a Decade Makes

Flight of Firsts

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Nov 2006 N21481 5G0 (Le Roy, NY) - PTK (Waterford, MI) 2.4 475.9

Niagara Falls photographed November 23, 2006.

Flight training is a dichotomy. Though rigorous, its completion nonetheless opens the door for the new pilot to have many new experiences and adventures. It is the very fact that newly certificated pilots do not know everything that makes flight training so worthwhile; there is always something new to be learned, some new adventure to be had. In the first few years after I earned my certificate, it was not uncommon to accumulate several firsts in a single flight. A perfect example was Thanksgiving day in 2006. We were newly relocated to western New York when surprisingly excellent weather and a desire to enjoy the holiday with family led to a flight with multiple firsts:
  • First flight over Niagara Falls
  • First flight through Canadian airspace
  • First time speaking with a Center controller (Toronto Center)
  • First time speaking with a Class Bravo controller (Detroit)
  • First time speaking with a military controller (Selfridge Air National Guard Base)
  • First landing at Oakland County International ("Pontiac") which was the busiest airport I had landed at to date (at the time, PTK routinely logged 670 operations per day)
One other first occurred that day, though I did not include it in the original blog post from 2006. It was also The Bear's first flight. Granted, she was the size of a peanut and would not actually be born until the following year, but it was technically -- very technically -- our first flight as a family of three.

Our first landing (of 24 to date) at Pontiac on November 23, 2006. Photo by Kristy.

At the time, this flight was a huge milestone for me.

It was also our last time flying on Thanksgiving until 2017.

Low and Slow

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Nov 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - PTK (Waterford, MI) 3.3 1739.2

Since 2006, we have celebrated Thanksgiving in New York with close friends and, in recent years, Mom has made the drive from southeast Michigan to join us. Because she was in no condition to make the trip this year, we resolved to go to her; preferably by air if at all possible. It would be our first Thanksgiving dinner with the family at my cousin's home since that day in 2006.

November weather did us no particular favors, but permitted flight on Thanksgiving day at 3,000 feet to Oakland County International against a stiff headwind. Cloud layers prevented flight at higher altitudes. Forecasts along the route presented a single pinch-point; Buffalo was likely to go IFR that morning under a low ceiling with two mile visibility in snow. Surprisingly, Niagara Falls International just thirteen miles north of Buffalo expected higher ceilings (a "generous" 3,500 feet) and no snow. As I explained to Mom on the phone shortly before departure, if we got past the Niagara River, we would make it without problem.

Normally, the thought of planning an extended cross country flight at 3,000 feet would make me cringe. Altitude equates to options by providing potential energy that can be exchanged for kinetic in the event of an emergency.  But southern Ontario is extremely flat and open, a perfect emergency landing site stretching from Buffalo to Detroit. If we were departing in any other compass direction, I would want more altitude between the airplane and the terrain. 3000 feet over the Adironacks? Central Pennsylvania? No way. But over Ontario? I could accept 3,000 feet. Nevertheless, this would be the lowest altitude I had ever flown the route.

Cruising to Michigan at a lowly 3,000 feet would introduce some additional minor challenges: the need to dodge stuff. Not cell phone towers, terrain, or anything physical, but airspace. Specifically, the restricted airspace over Niagara Falls, the Delta airspace around Niagara Falls International, and the Class E, D, and C Canadian Control Zones around St Catherines, Hamilton, and London, respectively. I plotted a course direct to Pontiac via AIRCO intersection to avoid the Niagara Falls flight restriction and decided to manage the other inconvenient obstacles en route based on which agency we were talking to at the time we encountered them.

Caution, Succulent Birds

After a flurry of activity to get underway, the first step in our journey was a whimsical one. Tuning the Rochester ATIS broadcast that morning, we heard an advisory for "succulent birds in the vicinity". Rochester ATC slipped a Thanksgiving joke into their ATIS broadcast! A familiar controller put us into the system for flight following and wished us a happy Thanksgiving as we shuffled off to Buffalo.

Our Warrior steadfastly plodded westward against the atmospheric current, her ground speed slowing into the 88-92 knot range. Ahead lay the Niagara River and a ceiling that angled progressively lower with distance from Lake Ontario, slanting earthward in our windscreen from right to left. Frequency chatter was dominated by icing reports from airliners as they descended through cloud strata on approach to Buffalo. Even if we were IFR capable that day, there would be no sampling of the clouds for us. From our position, we could see Niagara Falls and sunlight on Canadian soil beyond, but Buffalo was invisible, lost in the murk beneath that angled ceiling. The differential forecasts between Niagara Falls and Buffalo were spot-on.

Ground track near Niagara Falls International from ForeFlight.

Buffalo approach handed us off to Toronto Center well east of the international border. I realized that I had become too accustomed to IFR flying when we reached the Delta airspace around Niagara Falls International. While IFR, airspace mostly becomes invisible and, if a clearance passes through controlled airspace, then approval to enter that airspace is implicit. But we were VFR and I was speaking with a Canadian controller instead of Buffalo Approach (the controlling authority for the Delta), which meant that a hastily executed detour was in order. I cut it much closer than I should have.

With that invisible obstacle managed, the next presented itself immediately, necessitating a frequency change to St. Catherines Radio to advise on our transition of the Class E Control Zone around St. Catherines airport. I was thankful (right day for it!) for the time I spent this summer learning Canadian airspace rules. Had Toronto handed me off to St Catherines Radio back in 2006, I would have been utterly baffled as to why I needed to contact a Flight Service Station for passage through Echo airspace. These are not procedures that come into play while flying in the United States.

We also navigated around the irregularly-shaped Class D Control Zone surrounding Hamilton and ensured that our course would keep us clear of London's Class C Control Zone. Our low cruise altitude yielded a new perspective on southern Ontario; still sparsely populated, but the limited civilization below appeared in greater detail and made for a unique perspective on a route that has become so familiar over the last eleven years.

A Room at the Inn

After three hours at 3,000 feet (have I ever flown three hours at 3,000 feet before?), Oakland County International finally emerged from the gloom. It was my fourth landing at Pontiac since Mom's diagnosis in September, but only the second time in eleven years that I landed on 27R.

Parking on the ramp at Michigan Aviation, Scott emerged from the FBO to chock the airplane as he has so many times over the years. I called the day before to investigate whether I could plug in my engine heater overnight. The lineman I spoke with indicated that I could, but that it would be easier for them to push the Warrior into the hangar.

"Your sheet says that you want your airplane in the hangar," Scott said to me as I climbed down from the wing.

"Or we could just plug in the engine heater, whichever works." I'm flexible.

Like his colleague, Scott decided that the hangar would be easier.

"What is that going to cost?" I asked, suddenly anxious.

Scott shrugged. "I'll write 'do not charge' on your sheet."

Well, that was easy. A free hangar stay for the night? Who was I to refuse? Michigan Aviation has always treated us well.


At Mom's, we had some time to play with the dogs before departing for dinner at my cousin's house in Oxford. When one of the dogs mounted one of the others, The Bear exclaimed, "Aw! They're having snuggle time!"

This was quickly followed by, "What's so funny?"

We received a warm welcome from my family when we arrived for dinner with nearly everyone reminiscing about how Kristy was pregnant with The Bear on our last visit. My cousin's daughter had announced her pregnancy at that same Thanksgiving dinner in 2006. Having successfully reached the grand old age of ten, both former fetuses spent much of Thanksgiving 2017 playing together. On-line research was necessary for us to parse their exact relationship and we concluded that he was The Bear's second cousin once removed.

My uncle's absence was keenly felt on this first Thanksgiving since his passing. If anything, it made me appreciate the family still around me all the more.

Express Lane

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
24 Nov 2017 N21481 PTK (Waterford, MI) - SDC (Sodus, NY) 2.3 1741.5

A 30 knot tailwind was expected to propel us back home accompanied by an AIRMET for turbulence from the surface to 12,000 feet that enveloped our entire route. Best case scenario was smooth sailing, worst case scenario was getting knocked around the entire way home. Waiting was not an option; surface gusts and low level wind shear were expected to increase throughout the day. We stopped at our favorite breakfast spot in Clarkston for people fuel, then proceeded directly to the airport without delay.

Michigan Aviation had pulled the Warrior out of the hangar and topped off her fuel tanks. She was waiting for us on the ramp, warm(ish) and ready to go.

Pontiac Tower was too busy to put us in for flight following that morning. "Cherokee Four Eight One, cleared for take-off runway 27L, east departure approved." That was the last call directed at us by Tower.

Surface winds were eleven knots out of the southwest. Climbing out, we were shaken by turbulence and the stall warning horn squawked as we passed through a shear layer and into the high velocity air aloft. Still at pattern altitude and indicating 80 knots in the climb, Warrior 481 was already showing a ground speed of 120 knots.

Screen shot from ForeFlight near London, Ontario showing a 150 knot ground speed in level flight.

We climbed to 7,500 feet in the smooth current flowing eastward, our ground speed constant at all altitudes in the climb. Usually, wind speed increases with altitude, but not that day. My mind conjured an image of the atmosphere as a snowplow, a vertical wall several thousands of feet tall moving over the Earth just two thousand feet above the surface. It was no wonder that there was a low level turbulence warning; the shear layer between the snowplow and the surface air was bound to be abrupt and unpleasant. We maintained approximately 150 knots (173 mph) of ground speed for the entire route home in perfectly smooth air.


"Cherokee Four Eight One, radar services terminated, squawk twelve hundred."

Selfridge Approach put us in for flight following across the border, but dropped us once we were in Canada without recommending a frequency for additional flight following. The possibility of this exact scenario had kept me up the night before our first trip through Canadian airspace in 2006. In 2006, I would not have known who to call next. In 2017, I consulted the low altitude IFR en route chart, found the Toronto Center frequency for my region of airspace, and was soon back on a discrete transponder code with Canadian ATC. It is amazing what a decade of experience and some additional training can do for one's ability to manage minor issues in flight.

The rest of the flight passed incredibly quickly and, before long, Rochester was in sight. On descent, we maintained a constant ground speed until about 3,00 feet when we hit the shear layer again. Warrior 481 shook significantly for a few moments as our ground speed abruptly dropped to almost match our airspeed. There were definitely some potholes on the exit ramp from the express lane.

When we touched down in erratic wind at Sodus, the transponder showed a flight time just shy of two hours and one minute. I asked The Bear if she felt like the fastest bear alive.


Our round trip Thankgiving flight this year was an absolute mess of contradictions. It was slow and fast, routine and yet still novel, a happy family reunion and a melancholy reminder of loss. On this Thanksgiving, I found myself thankful for family, thankful for my first decade as father to The Bear, and thankful for the eleven years of aeronautical experience that I have had the good fortune to accumulate since our previous Thanksgiving flight.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ode to the Hundred Dollar Hamburger

"Hundred Dollar...What?"

Non-aviators might struggle to understand the attraction behind the so-called $100 hamburger (or $100 pancake, or $100 omelet, or -- if flying to Kalamazoo -- $100 Erbelli's calzone). Why would anyone spend money on flying an airplane just to grab a burger?

The most important thing to understand about the $100 hamburger is that the hamburger itself is not the point. It's an excuse to take wing, to explore the world, to have new experiences, and to share camaraderie with other pilots. I can make hamburgers and pancakes at home, but $100 hamburgers are always served with a side of aeronautical adventure.

By my reckoning, I flew sixteen $100 hamburger flights in 2017. A few were solo (e.g., Bethany's at Block Island State Airport). Some were with Kristy and The Bear, often as required en route during longer journeys (e.g., Le Bistro M in Bromont, Quebec or Ali Baba in Morgantown, WV). The majority of them included members of the Williamson Flying Club with up to seventeen participants flying to a destination together in as many as seven aircraft (e.g., Lake Placid, NY and the EAA pancake breakfast in Elmira, NY).

In all cases, even when the meal is good, it is the journey that makes it all worthwhile.

A First Time for Everything

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
12 Nov 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - N30 (Honesdale, PA) - SDC 2.8 1735.9

My good friend Ed earned his private pilot certificate in late September, coincidentally a day before my fifteenth anniversary as a private pilot. He recently checked-out in the club's Archer, Eight Five X-Ray. With keys in hand to something more closely resembling a travelling airplane, Ed was looking for an excuse to stretch his wings. He suggested a breakfast run and I suggested a destination: the Cherry Ridge Airport Restaurant in Honesdale, PA. From there, a mission was born. I invited Scott and Jamie to join me in the Warrior for the trip.

Owasco Lake

We set out shortly after 8:00 am with Ed flying approximately five miles ahead in Eight Five X-Ray. The first snowfall of the season occurred earlier that week and the remnants still lingered on higher  terrain between the Finger Lakes.

For some reason, the Pink Floyd song "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" came to mind as we flew southeast toward Cherry Ridge. Scott forgot to bring his sunglasses, so I shared with him the wise words once imparted to me by my first flight instructor:

"The trick to dealing with the sun in flight is to not look at it."


It was a beautiful morning to fly and the air was utterly still. Warrior 481 tracked so true that Jamie asked if the autopilot was engaged. Autopilot? Clearly he has my airplane confused with a fancier ship.

Ground track from Williamson-Sodus to Cherry Ridge from FlightAware.

Though Ed had a five mile head start, Eight Five X-Ray gradually transformed from a tiny dot in the windscreen to an airplane-shaped flying object as we gradually overtook him.

Cherry Ridge

While planning the trip, I was concerned about available ramp space at Cherry Ridge during the breakfast rush. I need not have worried. A relatively early arrival meant that ours were the first two airplanes on the ramp that morning. They were soon joined by many others, but for us, parking was a snap.

Scott, Chris, and Ed. Photo by Jamie.

Ed and Eight Five X-Ray

Mission accomplished! It was Ed's first flight of any distance in the Archer, his first landing in a state other than New York, and his first "destination" since passing his check ride! It was a big day regardless of the particular $100 foodstuff he chose to consume at the point of landing.

Some Pipers are bigger than others. Walking around the twin, it became clear to me why the Aztec is so often referred to as the "Az-truck". It was a monster.

A full ramp after breakfast. Photo by Jamie.

Apparently, the early bird gets the ramp space. The parking apron at Cherry Ridge filled quickly with a variety of aircraft after we landed. While watching aircraft arrive for breakfast, we were surprised to see Six Echo Sierra, the club's Skyhawk. We introduced ourselves to Bob, the WFC member flying; we did not already know each other.

Ten years had passed since I last dined at Cherry Ridge. Mom was with me on that flight. Restaurant ownership has changed, but everyone's breakfast was excellent and the view of the runway from the second story eatery was as excellent as before.


Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
21 Sep 2003 N3470R HAI (Three Rivers, MI) - OEB (Coldwater, MI) - AZO (Kalamazoo, MI) - HAI 2.3 148.8

I remember my first breakfast flight as Pilot in Command well. I launched from Three Rivers in Seven Zero Romeo and rendezvoused with the "South Haven Tribe" (two Cherokees and a Super Decathlon out of my future home base) en route to Coldwater, MI.

Ron and Carl over southwest Michigan, photographed 21 Sep 2003.

I recall seeing the other airplanes emerge from the morning haze and following them to our destination. Inbound to Coldwater, I had my first experience with wake turbulence when Carl, who was flying some distance ahead, abruptly veered in front of me. The abrupt roll moment that I experienced when I rode through his wake was a learning experience and memorable encounter.

Coldwater - Branch County Memorial Airport (OEB) looking to the northeast, photographed 29 April 2006.

After landing, I followed the other three aircraft to the far northeast corner of the airport and then, to my surprise, off the pavement and along a grass taxiway that led to a restaurant hidden by a low hill.

Seven Zero Romeo parked at Coldwater, photographed 21 Sep 2003.

My first $100 hamburger run as PIC is one of my strongest early flying memories. Do I remember anything about the meal in Coldwater? Not at all. In fact, I have a vague recollection that the restaurant was adequate, but not particularly good. But, as already noted, that was not really the point.

Back To the Present

With the sun at our tail, much less squinting occurred on the way home.

Photo by Jamie.

Hey! Shouldn't somebody be looking straight ahead? Photo by Jamie.

Before long, we were cruising past Owasco Lake again, entering the home stretch of sky to the Williamson-Sodus Airport.

Back at home base, Ed was deservedly excited about his first $100 hamburger flight as Pilot in Command. Sure, breakfast was good, but the true excitement came from a brand new private pilot beginning to explore on his own.

I was glad to have been a part of it.