It also features relatively flat, open terrain, making it a perfect place to fly a new engine during break-in. Wanting to combine a pleasure flight with accumulating more engine time, I made two solo flights to the northernmost reaches of New York state within a span of three days.
|Date||Aircraft||Route of Flight||Time (hrs)||Total (hrs)|
|04 Jul 2020||N21481||SDC (Sodus, NY) - OGS (Ogdensburg, NY) - SDC||2.5||2102.0|
I planned to launch for Plattsburgh International, a former Air Force base on the western shore of Lake Champlain in the far northeast corner of New York state. The reasons were simple: I had never been there before and the journey would put significant time on the new engine.
But I got a late start and had an early afternoon commitment. My goal is to avoid rushing aviation activities because, aside from the obvious safety aspects, being pressed for time takes all the fun out of flying. The last time I rushed during preflight, I earned a severely sprained wrist as a painful lesson about taking my time. So I decided to cut the route short by flying the hour to Ogdensburg, refueling there, and returning to Sodus.
While I sat in the Williamson Flying Club clubhouse updating the GNS-430W data card for the first time since late February, I saw Scott's yellow Cessna 150 launch on runway 10. I was not the only one with the itch to fly that morning.
The air was cool, clear, and calm. A heat wave that would dominate the coming week had not yet taken hold.
The flight was incredibly relaxing and I enjoyed the view while aerial photographs again.
Eventually, I made my way to Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River, home to the magnificent Boldt Castle and the place where Thousand Island dressing was invented.
I was flying the same performance profile from the engine’s first flight, operating at 2600 rpm at 3,000 feet with an indicated airspeed of 120 knots. When adjusted for true airspeed and converted to miles per hour, I calculated that I whizzed past Boldt Castle at roughly 150 mph. Considering the Warrior’s velocity, I was surprised by the crispness of the photos.
Speaking of the Thousand Islands, here are a few more of them where they lie strewn along the US-Canada border.
Small World at a Small International Airport
As I monitored the frequency for Ogdensburg, it became clear that I was just a few minutes behind an inbound Cessna. I found myself silently critiquing the Cessna pilot's radio calls; they were unnecessarily wordy and borderline confusing. Maybe the pilot was new to the area or relatively experienced. But at least I could understand him. In the north country, much of the UNICOM chatter is in French.
Ogdensburg International is a 6400 foot long slab of asphalt in the middle of nowhere near the Canadian border. Lacking a tower, the field nonetheless supports Allegiant as a commercial carrier. The airport is frequently used by Canadians seeking an easy flight to Florida. I once followed an Airbus A319 to a landing on runway 27, echoing the same traffic pattern calls on UNICOM made by the airline pilot. My pattern might have been a little tighter than the Airbus', though.
As I taxied onto the FBO ramp, I was surprised to recognize Scott’s yellow Cessna 150 from Sodus and felt guilty for my critique of the no longer anonymous Cessna pilot. Despite having departed 45 minutes behind Scott, I had nearly caught up to him.
"Hey, you got your airplane back!" exclaimed Scott. Word of how a defective impulse coupling trashed my engine had obviously spread around the airport because I had not talked to Scott in well over a year.
"We had another pilot in here a couple of days ago from your airport," the lineman told us. I learned a few days later that it was probably Matt in N1185X. Evidently, Ogdensburg is the place to go even if you're not just looking to escape the Canadian winter with a budget flight to Florida.
I took on fuel and chatted with Scott, his passenger, and the line crew at Ogdensburg before departing for home. Though I had landed on runway 27, the wind was calm and because I did not want to taxi over a mile to the other end of the runway (low power ground runs are to be minimized during break-in), I simply departed from runway 9.
The return home was just as scenic as the outbound flight. Over the course of the journey, the cylinder head temperatures continued to decrease as the engine wore-in.
I took a vacation day on Tuesday, July 7 to put more time on the new engine. Without any time constraints, I decided to make the trek to Plattsburgh (airport #202), estimating a round trip flight time of just over four hours. On return to Sodus, I would have just over 10 hours on the engine and it would be time for the first oil change.
|Date||Aircraft||Route of Flight||Time (hrs)||Total (hrs)|
|07 Jul 2020||N21481||SDC (Sodus, NY) - PBG (Plattsburgh, NY) - SDC||4.4||2106.4|
|Ground track from ForeFlight between Sodus and Plattsburgh.|
The first half of the flight was a retread of the same route used to get to Ogdensburg, flying north around the east end of Lake Ontario and skirting the complex of Military Operations Areas dominating northern New York. From there, I bypassed the northernmost peaks of the Adirondacks, then proceeded south from LATTS intersection (near Plattsburgh, get it?) to the former Air Force base.
|Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands.|
I passed many familiar sights in the first half of the trip, but once I flew east of Potsdam, I entered unfamiliar territory. That was a novel experience for me in New York State.
When I was a few miles north of Plattsburg, a flight of four Cessnas announced inbound for "the initial", meaning that they intended to do a military style overhead break pattern entry. At first, I wondered if I misheard “RV” as "Cessna". I offered to stay high over the airport while they landed because their pattern calls were mostly nonsensical to me and I was not interested in guessing about where they were.
"Hey, Cherokee, thanks for the help," called the lead ship as the four Cessnas rolled out in a line on the runway, little aluminum ducks all in a row.
Just north of Plattsburgh International was the old municipal airport. The runways with their large yellow Xs at each end still looked serviceable from 3,000 feet up. Although the FBO staff referred to it as the "little airport", there was nothing objectively little about it. It was just smaller than the former Air Force Base that had supplanted the old civil airport.
Scanning the backside of the Adirondacks as I maneuvered into the pattern, I recognized the distinctive profile of Whiteface Mountain and was amused by the notion that I was viewing it from the "wrong" side of the range.
Like other former military bases, Plattsburgh boasts a lot of runway (11,759' x 200'). While not the longest I have ever landed on (Griffiss International in Rome, NY is just slightly longer at 11,821' x 200'), it is always interesting to land on a runway that is as wide as a parking lot. As I pondered the acres of mostly empty concrete ramp parallel to the runway, it occurred to me that I could probably land Warrior 481 width-wise on that ramp.
A commercial terminal occupies the north end of the seemingly endless concrete ramp area. The FBO, Eagle Aviation, is located at the base of the old military tower near the southern terminus of the ramp. The FBO staff members were extremely friendly and only charged me the self-serve rate after they fueled Warrior 481 from the truck.
I met a student pilot who recently bought a Cherokee in Spokane, WA. While flying it home with her airline pilot husband, they had engine issues near Cleveland and temporarily abandoned it there. After the previous four months, I could relate with her plight. While I was preparing the Warrior for flight, the husband wandered over from a T-hangar where he was working on his RV-7 and introduced himself.
As we chatted, I noticed that the wind had come up significantly since my arrival. The airline pilot chuckled. "Yeah, you're gonna feel that when you leave." It was blowing out of the southeast at 14 knots gusting to 22.
With about eight hours of total time in service, the engine’s oil level was down just below 6 quarts. I added another quart for the two hour flight home, deciding that it was inexpensive insurance.
As I climbed back into Warrior 481, I realized how much I'd missed visiting new airports and meeting interesting people over the past few months.
I chose to do a midfield departure to minimize ground run time. I still had 6,000 feet of runway available, which is absolutely ridiculous and entirely cool.
On take off, I spied the Valcour Lighthouse on Valcour Island in Lake Champlain.
As I flew back past Plattsburgh International, I was again struck by the size of the facility. Along with Griffiss, Plattsburgh was designated an East Coast Abort Landing (ECAL) site for the space shuttle. While not quite matching the 15,000' x 300' of the Nasa Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida (KTTS), it was not hard to imagine that the shuttle could have made a "short field" landing into Plattsburgh.
In the heat of the day, the flight home was rough, particularly downwind of the Adirondacks. But the flight served its purpose. I added a new airport to my map, explored a new area, enjoyed some time away from work, met some nice people, and made progress breaking-in the engine. By the time I returned to Sodus, front cylinder CHTs had come down into the mid 370°F range, #3 was showing 410°F, and #4 was running at 398°F (from 390°F, 425°F, and 415°F on the two front cylinders, #3, and #4 respectively on the night of the first flight).
I did the first oil change which was a bit challenged by the fact that the engine no longer had a quick drain, but a simple plug. As a result, the process was messier than usual, especially when I dropped the plug into the bucket full of hot oil. Ray came by to reinstall my old quick drain to simplify future oil changes.
So far, so good.