Monday, August 26, 2019

My Patronus Is an Airplane: Stearman at the Ridge

Escape from New York

Monday morning, while workday commuters shuffled off to their jobs, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at a Hell's Kitchen diner. My phone actively buzzed in my pocket as my colleagues filtered into work, but I ignored it because I could.

We ordered an Uber for the ride back to Caldwell and, by chance, we got Roy who happened to be parked ten feet away from where we were standing. Good for us and good for Roy. The app warned that there would be extra charges owing to workday congestion. I was surprised to see that the fare amount was actually double of what we paid on Saturday morning. This will be something to pay attention to in the future.

Hurry Up and Wait

At Caldwell, we waited third of five in line at the end of runway 4 for departure. We idled on the taxiway for 15-20 minutes waiting for an opening and a take-off clearance. Some of the traffic was from a flight school on the field. A pilot practicing touch and go landings was obviously struggling with the brisk northwesterly wind and swerved each time his wheels contacted the runway. I was glad that I had not tried to file IFR out of Caldwell. We might have sat there waiting all day for release.

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
26 Aug 2019 N21481 CDW (Caldwell, NJ) - N30 (Honesdale, PA) - SDC (Sodus, NY) 2.4 2014.2

On departure, Caldwell Tower helpfully provided several traffic advisories. As we crossed out of the Delta airspace to the northwest, I was surprised when Caldwell called me with a brief, "Frequency change approved." By regulation, this is a given and I was surprised that, despite how busy Caldwell was, the controller chose to issue a non critical advisory.

Oh yeah?! Well, same to you, buddy!

Big Kid Burger

We set a course to Cherry Ridge (N30) in Pennsylvania for lunch. I worried about the brisk wind out of the west that we experienced departing Caldwell because of Cherry Ridge's somewhat narrow north-south runway. Naturally, there is no weather reporting out of Cherry Ridge and the nearest reporting station at Wilkes Barre sits on the other side of terrain such that the winds there might not be representative of what was happening in Honesdale.

Lake Wallenpaupack south of Cherry Ridge

A Stearman joined the pattern for runway 18 and successfully landed.

"Well, if he can do it, so can we," I noted to Kristy. As it turned out, the wind was a bit unpredictable and the landing was less pretty than I would have preferred; safe, but it lacked finesse.

The Monday lunch crowd at Cherry Ridge

A well-maintained Stearman from Aeroflex-Andover

I greeted the Stearman pilot, complimented him on his airplane, and recounted my "if the Stearman can make it, we can too" story.

"Thanks," he said, grimacing. "My landing was not very good."

I laughed. "Neither was mine," I confessed. When the pilot mentioned that he was out of Aeroflex Andover, I realized that I recognized the plane from my time doing tailwheel training there with Damian. The Stearman pilot explained that he lived in Singapore and had been away for a while, so he needed a refresher flight with a CFI before soloing that day. And I used to complain about my 45 minute commute to Le Roy, I thought.

"Well, you're based at the right place for it!" I encouraged, thinking of the acclaimed tailwheel instructor.

"Yes, when I come back into town, I fly with Damian."

Kristy and I were a bit aghast by the size of The Bear's half pound hamburger. Even with the big breakfast that morning, she devoured most it. Clearly, we have a growing Bear on our hands. She is routinely starting to out-eat me and that has changed our mealtime dynamic. Regardless, Cherry Ridge makes a good burger and everyone left satisfied.

A Quiet Conclusion to the Magic

I am unsurprised that The Bear slept the rest of the way home. Harry Potter and his friends are a bad influence and kept her out way past bedtime the night before.

In the end, flying our airplane to Caldwell for access to New York City had to be the quickest way to Broadway this side of floo powder (and was definitely a much more dignified mode of travel). I look forward to doing it again.

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