Saturday, February 23, 2019

Breakfast Gaggle

Or: Why ADS-B Traffic is Kind of Awesome

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
23 Feb 2019 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - DSV (Dansville, NY) - DSV 1.5 1921.5

Rochester Approach: "Seven aircraft departed Sodus for Dansville the same time you did. Are you going down there because of the wind storm that's coming?"

Denny: "Just going there for breakfast." Nope. We want our airplanes in their respective hangars for that wind storm, thank you very much.

As for breakfast, any excuse in February to exercise the airplanes and circulate some oil is a good one.

I launched behind Alan in the Champ and Lee in the Colt.

Queued up behind me were Ed in an Archer, Brad in a Cirrus SR-20, and Mick in his souped-up Cessna 152 II. There were so many airplanes waiting to launch that KSDC felt more like KATL (or, frankly, Alton Bay last weekend).

Though Rochester Approach misconstrued the reason for our flight that day, he certainly hit on a key issue: the gaggle of airplanes that all left Sodus within a few minutes of each other. From these scenarios, I have developed a keen appreciation for traffic information delivered by ADS-B. It helped me keep better track of my friends in their airplanes, particularly those behind me and outside of my field of view (except, of course, for Alan's Champ, which is not transponder-equipped). Visually, I had Lee in sight as I passed his Colt and I could verify Ed off my left shoulder 800 feet above and slowly overtaking me.

Rather than fly the magenta line direct to Dansville, I chose to fly a more southerly heading to Canandaigua Lake, then follow the valleys for a southeasterly approach to the Dansville Airport. There were several advantages to this route. It was more scenic, it lengthened the flight time to help outgas moisture from the oil, it ensured that the faster airplanes got to the airport before I did (the Comanche and the Cirrus, both of whom departed Sodus after I did), and it evened up the flight time versus the slower airplanes (the Champ and the Colt).

It was a calm, smooth morning to fly. With 70 mph wind gusts anticipated the next day (the aforementioned wind storm), Saturday morning was clearly the right time to fly.

As I flew over Canandaigua Lake and among the hills, I activated ForeFlight's synthetic vision for the first time. Not only was the surrounding terrain well-depicted, but Ed's airplane, which had just flown 500 feet above me, was clearly plotted. Meanwhile, I could see that Denny's Comanche and Brad's Cirrus were rapidly closing in on our destination.

I caught Ed in the act of overtaking my Warrior from 500 feet above.

Having Denny and his Comanche along always lends a touch of class to any group fly-out activity.

Me, Ed, Lee, and Mike. Photo by Denny

What happened to the Dansville sign?!

Once everyone was gathered on the Dansville ramp, we set off on foot for the truck stop diner that offers the best local culinary option to itinerant pilots. There were a lot of flying stories shared over breakfast and I may have passed my phone around the table with the video of our landing at Alton Bay the week prior.

When we returned to the ramp, I was struck by the diversity of our fleet that morning. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Alan, Lee, Mick, Mike, me, Alicia, Ed, Denny, Brad, Tom. Photo by "Tom".

We pretended that there was not a cold wind blowing directly in our faces while posing for this group photo.

Mick running up his 152.

On the return flight, I was struck once again by the utility of the traffic display when flying with a group. I was able to watch Denny's Comanche (48P) come from behind, draw even with me (at which point I had him visually), and reach the airport just ahead of me. Our eyes can only see so much and, while the traffic display cannot replace them (nor should it - look out the windows, people!), it is a wonderful supporting tool.


  1. Excellent turn out! Great pics, as always. The ADSB tracking the gaggle of planes, just priceless. Seemed like a nice hop to get the oil pumping and have good eats. Now if all that white stuff on the ground would melt away. ;)


    1. It's been warm...most of that white stuff is already gone!