Monday, June 6, 2011

Flight to Melbourne

Once again another one of these "Once in a lifetime" flying adventures has presented itself to me.

This time it was an opportunity to assist Lauren Pitcairn, a Lambada owner in flying his motorglider from Hoge Farm 56PA in Pipersville, PA to Melbourne FL where it would be left with a dealer to be sold. He has a new Stemme on order and it is due to arrive soon.

While Laren is a capable pilot able to make the journey himself, it is always easier to have two heads and another set of hands in the cockpit. (And, it is more fun sharing the experience)

From Pennsylvania south, the weather was forecast to be near perfect for the two day trip beginning Sunday morning. However NY and PA had showers predicted for Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, fog and low clouds might prevent me from flying my Cessna down to meet him at his field. I decided it would be better to deal with showers than fog and headed out Saturday afternoon. This turned out the be a good decision as skies were mostly just partly cloudy, though my plane did get "power washed" briefly twice on the way down.

Hoge Farm (56PA)

Landing at Lauren's house we tucked the 150 behind a line of trees for the night until there would be space in the hangar the following morning. After a nice dinner with Laren and his wife, we planned the flight using Jeppesen charts and the AOPA Flight Planner.

Laren's Hangar

Sunday morning, as forecast, low clouds and poor visibility were upon us with better weather just to the south. We took our time getting ready for departure, allowing time for the clouds to lift a bit and visibility to improve. By the time we were fueled and loaded there were hopeful patches of blue.

In the air we found the clouds were indeed low. Not much over 1000 AGL and visibility was poor but acceptable. We pointed towards our first waypoint at COBUS intersection. This would bring us around the east side of Philadelphia's Class B and line us up for a straight shot to Cape May, NJ.

Cruising along at low altitude over the farmland of Central NY is fine. There we have so many fields, that with an engine failure you could almost establish a glide, close your eyes and likely roll out onto a field. Here, as we headed SE, the ground became more and more developed. Eventually it got to the point where even in a motor-glider our options were becoming scarce. Fortunately about that time the low cumulus clouds began to open up allowing an easy climb above.

Crossing the Delaware River

In the clear, cool air above this mostly scattered layer of CU we found smooth cruising and less headwind than was forecast. In a short time Delaware Bay came into view and flying SE along the bay we passed directly over Cape May and crossed into Delaware.

Approaching Cape May

Delaware and maryland passed and we were approaching lunchtime. We landed at Accomack Airport in Melfa, VA. Asking the airport operator about our options for restaurants he suggested the Island House Restaurant. He made a call and someone was coming to get us. This person turned out to be the owner of the Island House, who is also a pilot and enjoys coming to the airport to bring other aviators out for a meal overlooking the marsh. Both Laren and I chose the "Award Winning" crab cakes and were not disappointed. These were the best crab cakes I have ever had. A ride back to the airport from the manager and we were on our way.

Cruising along the Chesapeake

Within a short time we had come to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. With enough altitude for a motor-glider we crossed looking down at a couple dozen oceangoing ships waiting at the in the bay.

By late afternoon we were in North Carolina. Turning east toward the ocean visible on the horizon, we squeezed between two military operation areas and descended towards Beaufort, NC for the night. As we approached the coast we saw what must have been hundreds of boats returning from the sea and into the bay at the end of the day.

Approaching Beaufort

It was Sunday, the next day would be Memorial Day. Landing we found the airport packed with planes. There were no tied-owns available, with topped off tanks we had to leave the plane on the grass at the end of the line. Fair weather and calm winds we forecast for the night.

Sunset on the bay in Beaufort, NC

The following morning a cab ride brought us to a locked up airport. Neither of us thought to asks about access codes to the tarmac the night before. We might have had a long wait, but fortunately the airport operator showed up early and we gained access to the field after only a 30 minute wait.

In the air we headed west to clear airspace and climbed into the cool air before turning south to pick up and follow the coast again. Within an hour we were passing Myrtle Beach, SC. I made a couple unsuccessful attempts to contact my sister who was in Myrtle Beach with her family for my nephew's baseball tournament. Not that they would be able to see us at cruising along above the scattered clouds, but it would have been cool for the kids to know we were up there somewhere at that moment...

Passing Myrtle Beach

Cruising was easy and we were picking up about 7 kts of tailwind. Laren had a Garmin 496 for navigation and Jeppesen Charts. I've never used Jeppesen charts but found that I like the way they present the most used information. I have worked a little with a Garmin GPS before and after a quick refresher with the online manual before leaving home I felt comfortable entering our chosen course and changes during the flight.

Our view for much of the day

By lunchtime we were into GA and passing close to Saint Simmons Island, GA. Landing at McKinnon Airport we topped the tanks and thanks to the use of a courtesy car found our way to lunch at the marina.

Landing Saint Simmons Island

Lambada in good company...

Heading south along the tidal marshes, the fractal rivers and shoreline were absolutely amazing. What fun it would be to explore this area and its secluded beaches in my kayak!

Crossing into Florida in the distance we could see the clouds were beginning to grow. Further along moderate cumulus clouds were close to our route and moving to cross our path.

Looking down the Florida coast

Not a cloverleaf

As we neared Daytona showers were visible below these larger buildups. Fortunately there was enough room for us to squeeze by these clouds and restricted airspace to the west. We were now less than an hour from Melbourne. Ahead, more buildups. With no room to skirt these and tops higher than we wanted to climb we decided to descend under the clouds.

Laren with moderate cumulus

This gave us a nice view of the Kennedy Space Center as we passed. The Shuttle landing runway and launch complexes all visible in the distance.

Melbourne tower asked us to report in 10 miles out and immediately gave us clearance to land on 9L when we did.
Jim Lee was on the ramp waiting to guide us to the hanger.

Approaching Melbourne International

The following morning we rented a car for the drive to Orlando. Arriving long before our flight and checking for anything earlier we grabbed the last two seats on a direct flight to Philadelphia leaving two hours earlier than the one we had booked. This got us back to Laren's in time for me to hop in my 150 for a hazy, hot flight back to Marcellus that afternoon.

Approaching home in the haze. (Skaneateles and Otisco Lakes)

Thanks again Laren for sharing this adventure with me. I had a wonderful time!

1 comment:

Jack Jones said...

Beautiful shots, text and photos in harmony. A memorable trip