Sunday, December 22, 2019


A Flight for Pancakes
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

'Twas three days before Christmas, when up in the air
Not a child was flying, not even The Bear.
The route to St Marys was planned in ForeFlight with care,
In hopes that the restaurant still would be there.
The winterization plates were fastened on tight,
To warm up the oil and make it just right.
And I in my Warrior and Tom in the Hawk,
Contacted Rochester and learned what to squawk.
When past my right wing zipped an object most curious,
Rochester called it as traffic, but it was just Brad in his Cirrus.
Chased by an Archer with Ed as its master,
I began to wish that my Warrior was faster.
The sun through the haze over new-fallen snow,
Made an atmospheric vista of the world down below.
It was a glorious sunrise for any pilot who wakes,
Early in the morning to fly for "pancakes".

Morning Haze

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
22 Dec 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - OYM (St Marys, PA) - SDC 2.8 2070.1

From the cockpits of the four Williamson Flying Club aircraft bound for St Marys, we saw an early morning winter sun accentuate haze pooled around higher terrain. Viewed from above, the low angle light spread an illusion of warmth through the mist floating above a frigid landscape.

Winter relented for the weekend, permitting an opportunity to depart the local area. This is the sort of early Christmas present that should never be ignored.

Substantial cracks in the ice covering Honeoye Lake

Rochester Approach called traffic passing me on both sides; Tom in the club's Hawk to the east and Brad in his Cirrus to the West. "Both in sight," I responded while thinking, I need a faster airplane. It was Tom's revenge for the night I passed him as he flew one of the club's Cherokee 140s while returning from St Marys.

"Headed for breakfast?" queried Cleveland Center.

Though the answer was yes, I was mostly absorbed by the incredible view below. Breakfast was a necessity, but flying above such scenery was sustenance.

On a left base for runway 28 at St Marys.

Beyond Pancakes

For aviators, pancakes and hamburgers are so commonly consumed at flying destinations that they have come to represent any meal at breakfast or lunch/dinner, respectively (much in the way that many southerners refer to any carbonated beverage as "Coke"). The spread enjoyed by our group at The West Wind that morning included biscuits and gravy, stuffed French toast, and a smattering of frittatas. Not a bad sampling of "pancakes" at all.

Me, Melodie, Brad, Paula, Tom, Alicia, and Ed

After breakfast, we caught the mandatory group photo before firing up the four aircraft for a return flight to Sodus.

I was grateful for such a nice day to fly in late December, the gusty wind awaiting us in Sodus notwithstanding. As I put Warrior 481 to bed, I wondered when the weather would permit the next excursion out of the area. One just never knows.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Reflection 2019: Antidote

Altitude Therapy

When I began to reflect on 2019, considerations of 2018 invariably came to mind. In many ways, I conducted my flights in 2019 as a reaction to what happened in the prior year. 2018 was personally difficult and those challenges were reflected in the nature of the flying I did. For example, I spent 67 hours of my total flight time in 2018 commuting between New York and Michigan, often alone, while managing both the technical demands of making those flights and the gravity of the reason underlying them. Though I logged a high number of hours in 2018, the flying did little to satisfy my love of visiting new places. I only explored three new airports in 2018.

I wanted 2019 to be the antidote to 2018. My goal was to visit new places and spend more time flying with others, either with passengers in my airplane or flying as one of several airplanes bound for a shared destination.

I think I succeeded in that goal.


I crossed a few milestones in 2019:
  • 50 hours in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)
  • 200 airports visited
  • 2000 flight hours flown, completing a second kilohour

The Numbers

166.1: Number of hours flown in 2019, my highest accumulated in a single year ever.

2070.1: Accumulated total number of flight hours since my first introductory flight out of Duncan Aviation in Kalamazoo, MI.

39: Number of different airports visited in 2019 for a cumulative total of 201.

14: Number of new airports visited in 2019:
33: Number of flights conducted with members of the Williamson Flying Club, mostly including excursions organized by the Activities Committee that I chair. This included about 26 flights for breakfast, lunch, or dinner plus 7 destination flights (we had some great destination flights this year including Manhattan, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, and the Lycoming engine factory).

12: Number of states visited in 2019. Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. To my disappointment, this did not include any new states or provinces. Delaware remains elusive.

42: Number of people who flew with me in 2019. Thanks to Kristy, The Bear, Tom C, Ed C (safety pilot), Tom M, Armelle and Madalenn F, Joe P, Bogdan U, Dave P (safety pilot), Scott L, Kim O, Jamie O, Tony A, Eric M, Mike M, Mike H, Pam B, Nate V, Fiona E, Terry B, Brad R, Natalie R, Dave H, Paula S, Dan A (CFI for flight review), and the sixteen people who flew with me in N9855W at the Williamson Apple Blossom Festival Pancake Breakfast (one of whom was Sadie E, a friend's daughter).

42.4: Number of mostly wonderful hours flown with The Bear and/or Kristy in Warrior 481. I say "mostly" because there was that moment when The Bear got cranky with me and there was much scowling and pummeling of my seat. Using the Warrior for family vacation trips accounted for 26.2% of my total flying time in 2019.

The Highlights
I think it is safe to say that it was a full year of flying and very much an antidote to 2018.

The Photographs

My favorite shots of 2019.

Sunset over the St Lawrence River.
("Frozen Heart")

Power house for Boldt Castle surrounded by the frozen St Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay, NY.
 ("Frozen Heart")

Williamson Sodus Airport trapped under clouds, photographed from the Widgeon.
("Welcome to 1946")

Lee's Piper Colt at Whitford's during a breakfast run.
("Field Trip")

I just like this photo of Warrior 481 outside of my hangar.
("An Awe-Ja-Magic Kind of Morning")

Sunset over the east end of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the St Lawrence River.
("Better Living Through Aerodynamics")

Mouth of the St Clair River in Lake St Clair near Detroit.
("The Chicago Bear: Outbound")

Warrior 481 with club planes Eight Five X-Ray and Six Echo Sierra lined up at the fuel farm after a fly-out.
("Social Flying Scrapbook")

A third sunset over the St Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands.
("Life: Unplugged")

WWI-era Curtiss Jenny in flight over Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.
("Jurassic Airpark")

Dodging an unusual cloud formation on departure from the Williamson Sodus Airport for New York City.
("These Vagabond Wings Are Longing To Stray")

Magnificent lower Manhattan. This is my favorite photo of the year.
("These Vagabond Wings Are Longing To Stray")

Twilight over Sodus Bay.
("Sunset over Sodus Bay")

Whiteface Mountain photographed on departure from Lake Placid, NY.
("Olympic Autumn")

The Jersey Halo.
("Jersey Halo")

Valley fog somewhere over southern New York.
("Autumn Aesthetic")

The town of Williamson under the fog.
("Lobstah in Bah Hahbah")

The Williamson Sodus Airport under the fog.
("Lobstah in Bah Hahbah")

Fog in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
("Lobstah in Bah Hahbah")

Morning fog at the Williamson Sodus Airport.
("Fog Delay")

Downtown Rochester, NY at night.
("Silent Night")

The Video

I do not normally take video, but I love this video of our landing at Alton Bay that Jamie recorded and I edited. The annual review would not have been complete without including it. Thanks, Jamie!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Social Flying Scrapbook


Flying with others is one of the best ways to put a pilot certificate to use. From bringing first time time flyers along to travelling in packs in search of that $100 hamburger, there is a rewarding fellowship in flight. As I have said before, as pilots we enjoy the freedom and challenges of aviation, but the human element always makes flying more meaningful.

While several of my flights with others in 2019 were already captured in posts of their own, many were not. I do not write up every trip aloft in this blog. Sometimes, there is no particular story to tell. In this season of reflection; however, this post is meant to highlight the previously overlooked social flights of 2019 because they were an important part of my aviation experience this year.

First Timer

On March 24, I took my colleague Dave for his first general aviation flight. Accompanied by Ed flying Four Four Papa and Tom in Eight Five X-Ray, we did our part to keep The West Wind restaurant on the field at St Mary's in business.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
24 March 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - OYM (St Marys, PA) - SDC 3.3 1930.6

Dave and me en route to St Marys.

Warrior 481 at Sodus. Photo by Dave.

Dave and me at St Marys. Photo by Dave.

Alicia, Tom, Ed, and me. Photo by Dave (not pictured).

The WFC fleet preparing to depart St Marys.

Dave showed that airplane who's really the boss.

A Little Drop of Rain

The EAA chapter at nearby Oswego County Airport holds excellent pancake breakfasts monthly during the flying season and we could not bring ourselves to miss the first one of 2019. So what if it was raining? It was still VFR...just a very, very wet sort of VFR. Parking was easy to find and every fly-in visitor received a complimentary airplane wash!

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
12 May 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.1 1946.1

Backside of Warrior 481 seen between another pair of sodden Pipers.

Mike giving me his best "hurry up and take the picture so I can get out of the rain" face.

Natalie, Brad, and me in the Warrior after surviving the rain.

Front Row Parking (For Some)

Eleven aircraft carried fifteen people to the Oswego County Airport for breakfast at the Tailwinds Diner. As an extra treat, my father-in-law Terry joined me for the flight.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
25 May 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.2 1953.6

Alan, Terry, Mike, Lee, Lee's brother, Melodie, Brad, Dave, Tom, Alicia, Denny, and Mick (not pictured - me).

Must be in the front row. Seemed like a gutsy move, but I guess it pays to be small and unique.

Busy Morning

It was a busy morning for the WFC on Saturday, June 8. Grounds volunteers worked diligently on mowing the grass, a group of eight aircraft carried ten members (including me in Warrior 481 with Tom and Jamie as passengers) to Whitfords for breakfast, I hosted two representatives from Rochester ATC who so effectively engaged with the WFC audience that our questions pushed the presentation run time to an hour longer than planned, and Chef Tony wowed with the salt potatoes he prepared to accompany the burgers at lunch. As always, Mike was instructing. On top of it all, it was a glorious day to fly. All in all, it was a good day to be a member of the Williamson Flying Club.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
08 Jun 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - B16 (Weedsport, NY) - SDC 1.1 1956.2

Mick, Lee, Brad, Tom, Mike, Don, Alan, me, and Jamie at Whitfords.

Ice Cream Social

Forget hamburgers and pancakes. On June 22, fourteen WFC members and their friends flew to Dansville (DSV) for ice cream. There are several varieties of Perry's ice cream "on tap" at Ice Cream Island located across the street from the Dansville Municipal Airport.

It was evidently a good day for ice cream and soaring, if the number of glider-tow operations we witnessed was any indication.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
22 Jun 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC 1.3 1973.3

At the KSDC fuel pump. Side note: there are four aircraft in this photo. I have flown all of them.

May the Fourth Be with You!

Penn Yan hosts a hugely popular fly-in breakfast every July 4th. After many years of meaning to go, I finally made it in 2019. Several WFC aircraft negotiated the hectic pattern, including me and Eric in Warrior 481.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
04 Jul 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - PEO (Penn Yan, NY) - SDC 1.1 1980.7

Eric and me.

Rochester Air Center's Cirrus SR-20.

Steve, Paula, me, Gary, Eric, Mike and son. Photo by ?

For anyone wondering where AOPA's 2008 sweepstakes Get Your Glass Archer II is, it's at the Penn Yan Flying Club.

We got to see the new Cirrus Vision Jet up close and personal.

When the Vision Jet's right wheel slipped off the taxiway and into the grass, the pilot put in some significant power to keep the aircraft moving. I was afraid that the jet blast was going to blow over some nearby Porta Potties, one of which had Eric inside, but everything turned out OK. This was good news for Eric.

Warrior 481 visible at the end of the line as a singular blue fin projecting above the other aircraft.

I felt like I was on M*A*S*H.

Chris and a friend with Chris' Bonanza.

Gary, Steve, and Paula.

Mike and son in One Delta Tango.

Eric and me. Photo by Paula.

From Across the Pond

In early July, my cousin Fiona and her mother Margaret visited from overseas. Fiona currently lives in Australia, but was born and raised in Scotland and I have not seen her since the mid 1990s. They both flew in from Scotland in early June and arrived in New York City before spending time with us in Rochester. They each got their first light aircraft flights with me and Ed when we picked them up in Poughkeepsie to fly them back to Rochester.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
07 Jul 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - POU (Poughkeepsie, NY) - SDC 3.6 1985.4

The Catskills

Fiona and me.

Margaret and Fiona in the hangar at Sodus.

Closing Time

One of our better club fly-outs this year was to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. As we all know, travel by general aviation does not always go as planned. The first time we tried to go, the weather was a bit dicey and we went to the Tailwinds Diner at Oswego County Airport instead. Though we did not realize it at the time, it was the last day the diner was open before closing permanently. Sadly, this limits the already small number of lunch options at nearby airports. If anyone wonders why we fly to Pennsylvania for breakfast so frequently, this is a contributing factor.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
04 Aug 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.5 2004.4

Mike, Eric, and me in Warrior 481.

Dick (right) and his friend with One Delta Tango.

Kristy Goes to Breakfast!!

The title says it all. She picked a beautiful, smooth, high definition kind of day to join in.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
10 Aug 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC 1.3 2005.7

Erie Canal - a predecessor to Victor airways from an earlier, simpler time.

Canandaigua Lake

Canandaigua Lake

Tom, me, Kristy, Jamie, and Ed. Photo by Tom.

Conesus Lake

Back to Fuzzy

The Williamson Flying Club turned out in force to support our neighbors from EAA 486 at the Oswego County Airport (FZY) during their pancake breakfast. I failed to round-up everyone for a group photo, but we counted at least nine airplanes and 17 people from KSDC that made the trip to Fuzzy for breakfast. Tony and I have worked together as founding members of the Activities Committee since I joined the club in 2013, but this was our first time flying together.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
11 Aug 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.2 2006.9

Mike had his Hummel Bird back in the air after a double crankshaft failure (meaning that it broke in two places) resulted in a forced landing to a cornfield earlier in the summer.

Jamie, Alicia, Tom, Mike's friend, Mike, Mike's son, and Dalia.

Eric and Dawn.

Tom, Alicia, Dalia, and Jamie.

Me and Tony. Photo by Jamie.

Tony and me in Warrior 481.

In the Spotlight

Our planned trip to Penn's Cave was not possible due to weather. Fortunately, we were able to get some airtime Saturday morning before the weather moved in. We had three aircraft, six people, and enough breakfast to satisfy beyond lunch.

Concerned about the coming weather, Rochester ATC asked how long we planned to be in Dansville while we were en route. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Rochester controllers.

Along the way, Rochester glowed under a break in the clouds as though a deliberate spotlight were cast upon our fair city. It was a remarkable sight.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
17 Aug 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC 1.4 2008.3

What's that bright spot way out there just ahead of the wingtip? 

The city of Rochester with a spotlight on it.

At Dansville: Natalie, me, Tom, Alicia, Melodie, and Brad.

Our three aircraft made it back to Sodus just before the rain moved in.


For the second time in as many months, our objective was Penn's Cave in central Pennsylvania, but the weather had other ideas. So we exercised the aviator's prerogative of a Plan B and departed gloomy Rochester to the northeast in search of sunshine. We found the sun and a great lunch at the ADK CAVU Cafe on the field at Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake, NY. Three aircraft and five people had a great trip on Sunday. Our only disappointment was that we had to return to the gloom.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
01 Sep 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - 3.1 2021.1

We were somewhat overwhelmed by the turbine aircraft on the ramp.

Tom with Eight Five X-Ray.

Tom, Alicia, Brad, me, and Brad's friend (because I'm terrible with names). Photo by Tom.

Tom, Alicia, me, Brad's friend, and Brad. Photo by Tom.

On the way home, Tom and Alicia were visible in Eight Five X-Ray as a tiny dot on the horizon about five miles off of my right wingtip.

"Hey, Eight Five X-Ray," Wheeler Sack Approach called out to Tom. "Do you still have your wingman (i.e., me) in sight?"

A cheesy quote from Top Gun suddenly comes to mind.

Volume Congestion at Finger Lakes Regional

At least eleven airplanes launched from the Williamson Sodus Airport for the fall pancake breakfast fly-in at Finger Lakes Regional airport. Dave flew with me in the Warrior. We were proud of ourselves for how well we planned our arrivals and spaced our aircraft out in the pattern, especially considering that the aircraft ranged from a Champ to a Cirrus. For some inscrutable reason, we managed to arrange our arrivals from slowest to fastest -- a 65 HP Champ, a Cessna 150, Warrior 481, an Archer I, an Archer II, a Cirrus SR-20 -- and yet we managed to sequence ourselves remarkably well.

I had a goal of doing some practice instrument approaches with Dave as safety pilot after breakfast, but the clouds rolled in unexpectedly. The weather was too crummy to practice approaches in VFR and too good to be worth practicing on an IFR flight plan.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
15 Sep 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - 0G7 (Seneca Falls, NY) - SDC 1.4 2028.4

Warrior 481, Mike's 150, and Ed's Archer II

Brad's Cirrus.

Alan, Mike, Dave, Alicia, Tom, Denny, Brad, Ed, Natalie, Lee, Linda, and Mick (not pictured: me).

A Tight Spot

This morning found WFC members scrambling to install their winterization plates before a quick hop to Whitfords for some of John's cooking. Ten aircraft from KSDC made the trip (assuming that helicopters count as aircraft). The grass was soft and ramp parking was limited, so we exercised some creativity and arranged the airplanes close together as though they were all in the maintenance hangar.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
11 Nov 2010 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - B16 (Weedsport, NY) - SDC 1.1 2028.2

Alan prepares to depart Whitfords.

Running up for departure at Whifords.

Ed prepares for departure in Four Four Papa.

Breakfast Rush

With ten airplanes and fifteen people, we filled up the ramp at Dansville Municipal Airport and the Country Pride restaurant. It was a great morning to fly!

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Nov 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - SDC 1.2 2065.2

Dave, Mike, Jamie, me, Ed, Alan, Denny, Dan, Eric, Jim, Don, Gary, Derek, and Alicia. Photo by Tom (not pictured).

A lot of traffic inbound to KSDC. This does not reflect the three non-transponder equipped Champs in the mix.

In Closing

Taken individually, many of these quick flights do not have much of a story to tell. However, when taken together, a true sense of what it was like to fly in 2019 emerges. If the people in these photographs look like they're having fun, it is because they are. That is a big factor in what makes aviation so worthwhile; come for the cool experiences and great views, stay for the camaraderie!