Monday, October 15, 2012

Flight to Lake Placid, NY

For the past couple weeks I've been waiting for a opportunity to visit with a Canadian soaring clubs' Wave Camp in Lake Placid. Jeff in VA, Phil in Hamilton, NY and I were all trying to coordinate trips so we could spend some time together there.

After a dry and hot summer, this fall has been cool and moist. As weekends approached weather would move in late in the week making it difficult for Jeff to fly up and also giving doubt to the soaring conditions during the weekend.

This weekend with showers Friday morning and forecast again by late Saturday, Phil asked if I would be interested in riding up with him. Phil has a beautiful and meticulously maintained Cessna 140 with 100 hp. It climbs about 2-1/2 times as fast as my '65 Cessna 150 and cruises much faster than my Challenger II, and well suited to flight in the High Peaks.

I could drive over to Hamilton. It is about 1:10 from my home in Camillus. Or I could fly fly over. Driving to the airport, getting the plane ready and the flight over at ~65 would only take an hour and thirty total. So flying is the obvious choice!

Leaving work the night before early with a couple hours of vacation allowed me to get about 5 hours sleep and wake at 8:30. However, half asleep as I climbed into bed I set my alarm for 8:30 PM rather than AM. Luckily, I woke just before 9, grabbed my stuff and headed out. I discovered that Saturday morning at 9:10 is not the time to want coffee from Duncan Dounuts. Passing it, there was a double line of cars backed up to the road. Fortunately, just across the street there is a MickeyD. I really need my caffeine fix in the morning. Trying to call Phil I realized his cell number wasn't in my phone.

The Challenger was checked and readied the day before so within a short time I was climbing in the 30 degree air heading southeast to round the Syracuse airspace before turning east.

Looking SW across Otisco and Skaneateles Lakes

Skies were blue and the air crystal clear with visibility at least 100 miles. Winds aloft were out of the south and I needed a noticeable correction with my 62 mph cruising speed at 3,500'.

At 37 miles this was going to be my longest flight yet in my new Challenger. Previous flights had all been within about 10 miles as I sorted through a few minor issues with this 'new to me' plane. In level flight through smooth air I was finally able to relax and simply enjoy the great view out the challengers' huge clear doors.

So many interesting things to see along the way!

Approaching Hamilton (VGC) I kept my eyes scanning the sky. Not only was it the weekend and a beautiful day but it was also "Homecoming" weekend at Colgate University and that means jets and turboprops at an otherwise quiet airport. The only aircraft other than a couple Cessnas in the pattern was a Aircoupe that overtook and passed me a few miles out like I was standing still.

At Hamilton, Phil had offered me use of his hangar to keep the Challenger safe while we were gone. After some help squeezing its big, fat and not too high wings over his car, we loaded up and headed northeast over Utica towards the hills.

Once you leave the Mohawk Valley the land rises up and becomes almost solid forest and lakes for the next 90 miles. There are very few options for landing, unless you have floats. For this reason I decided that if I were to fly the Challenger to Placid, and I will someday, the best route would be a longer route around the Adirondack Park. From Syracuse I would fly north to Watertown, then turn northeast to Gouverneur and Potsdam before turning southeast at high altitude. Something like that would add about 50 minutes to the flight but would keep me over mostly farmland for all but 40 miles.

Blue Mountain with the High Peaks ahead on the left.

Blue Mountain is a nice day hike. It does get a little steep towards the top but the reward is a fire tower on the summit that gives a great view for many miles around. It isn't a long hike and can easily be done in an afternoon. Blue Mountain trail map

Looking northeast along the route towards the High Peaks. Whiteface Mountain is in the distance center left. 

From a distance it appeared that the peaks had cap clouds. As we approached we could see it was snow! Only four weeks before I was camping and hiking here in pleasant Fall weather.

Algonquin is about a quarter of the way in from the left. Giant in the center back. Marcy, the highest point in NY on the extreme right side.

Crossing the mountains and descending into Lake Placid with Whiteface in the background.

Olympic ski jumps from final

On final. Note the displaced threshold. This is needed as the approach to runway 32 is right over  significantly higher terrain. After what seemed like skimming the treetops on base leg, we looked high on final. However Phil was right on the money, touching down shortly after the threshold.

Once on the ground Phil topped off the tanks and after a quick visit to the FBO office we walked along the taxiway, then next to the runway to the approach end of the runway where the glider operation was based.

We visited with our neighbors to the north for a while and shared a few stories. 

Cessna Bird Dog towplane

Duo Discus on take off roll

After watching a few landings and departures it was time to head back to the 140 for the flight home.

We did find some lift approaching the hills...

 Phil, one of the best pilots around.

Early in the day it seemed there was so much time. As we departed there was already cirrus moving in from the west ahead of an approaching warm front. Thickening as we headed southwest into alto-cumulus the cloudcover made for a beautiful sky and also softened the sun in our eyes.

Back in the lowlands. Griffiss Airport, the Barge Canal and Oneida Lake. We thought the reduced visibility below the clouds in the distance was haze. As I discovered returning to Marcellus, it was drizzle.

Phil's Cessna 140 and my Challenger II

Flying home I ran into a some drizzle. Not enough to wash the plane, but enough to realize that rain comes in the hinge on the windshield. Some gap seal tape should take care of that.

Back home and tucked away in the hangar. 
Ready for the warm sunny weather forecast later in the week.

Thanks Phil for inviting me along to share this with you!

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