Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What a Sunrise!

That's right! This morning Mother Nature was captured in full glory with a gorgeous sunrise, what better way to start the day! I decided not to try and catch a few more winks while waiting and instead camped out on the deck with cam-corder in hand.

It's 8am and I am adding the wx component to my flight plan and looking ahead for our 11am departure. We made a quick stop on the way to the airport for breakfast and to top off the rental car fuel. I had to ask James for a funnel since I left mine in the truck at home (KILG). I added a quart of oil which completed my pre-flight.

Grand Strand offers traffic advisories (Flight Following) on their ATIS. With that in mind I made my call; Grand strand ground, Archer 28679er at Ramp 66 with information Victor, ready to taxi, VFR departure to JGG at 5500, requesting advisory. I was cleared to taxi and the controller was working on my squawk code. I confirm the squawk and switch to advise the tower we were ready to go.

Once climbing out I was instructed to contact Myrtle Beach Approach. The handoff's along the way were; Wilmington Approach, Washington Center, Norfolk Approach twice then cut loose with a visual on JGG. I entered the right downwind for runway 13 and Mary got a few shots of Williamsburg Winery. I set 679er down very nice followed with a taxi in to the terminal. Unicom came online and directed me to park out front, I acknowledged with wow, VIP parking today. I also requested the tanks to be topped off as we shut down. 679er took on 20 gallons and Mary and I took on a light lunch.

Mary and I split a BLT and we each had a cup of soup. Food was fantastic, as always and the service can't be beat. It was nice to chat with Jean, the owner. She asked how long we were in town since we have become regulars there. We let her know we were passing through on our way home from Grand Strand but had to stop for a good lunch, and some fuel. She flashed that smile and welcomed us in.

Tummy's full and tank's topped we departed on 13 and contacted Norfolk approach. Approach offered us a short cut up the bay but we declined and requested the scenic route up the peninsula. KJGG(Williamsburg)-CCV(Cape Charles)-SBY(Salisbury)-KILG(Wilmington).

Multiple hand-off's to approach along the way; Norfolk, Patuxent and Dover each kept us company. Just north of Dover I requested to descend from 5500 to 3000. I was given the descend to 3000 approved maintain VFR. I acknowledged and clicked altitude off at 500 feet a minute. At around 4700 Dover advises me I have traffic 4500 at my 2 o' clock heading north west. I stop my descent and actually expedite a climb back to 5000, informing Dover of my intentions. I get the ok and search for traffic. Here is a Cessna not on with FF but at a good altitude passing below me about 500' from my 2 to 7 o' clock. Once I have traffic and it's clear I am cleared to continue down to 3000'. I was cut loose to squawk VFR a few minutes later and I passed along a thank you for the extra eyes and that it was appreciated.

Contacting Wilmington tower I am instructed to enter a left downwind for 27. I acknowledge and scan for two helicopters and a falcon jet in and around the pattern/airport. I announce midfield left downwind 27 and i get a cleared to land. I admit it was my worse landing for the week, I flared a bit high, had to add power so I didn't drop like a rock and then got 'some' stall horn followed by a short skip and finally down. ....well 679er will live to fly another day and we are home. 4.4 in the air today and I am thirsty and tired. I'm glad to be home sleeping in our own bed!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Myrtle Beach Time

It was a fun Monday once Mary and I got our days squared away. I got up early trying to catch the sunrise. I made the mistake of crawling back into bed for just a few more winks, I missed it. Oh well, we headed out for breakfast at the Spring House Restaurant and then made a stop at the local Rite Aid for a six pack of water and a few snacks for the Tuesday flight home.

We continued to explore this morning and we eventually found the Palace Theater and tonight's dinner location. Mary spotted a Phillips Seafood Restaurant and we noted the cross street and it's close proximity to the theater. Mary just reminded me that it is NOT walking distance from the Dunes,like the person who took our reservation stated.

We headed back and got ready for the beach, Mary packed a bag (snacks,water,sun screen and towels) I walked to the life guard tower and rented two chairs and an umbrella for $30 a day, what a country. Mary cooked herself in the sun to a delightful crispy bronze while I enjoyed the sights...insert smirk. Two funnies from the beach, one child obviously a future plumber walked around showing everyone his baby plumbers butt crack and the other child about a year old learning to walk. This little tyke was throwing those feet out, high stepping, then in one motion would keel over and hit the ground crawling on all fours. I told Mary it looked like the lady was walking a little dog.

I headed back to the room around 1:30 and tracked down a friend that I grew up with from my neighborhood. Yes, there was a time when people knew their neighbors and all got along as one big family. Mary wandered in as I was talking to my friends parents, it was so great just to hear their voices. Anne's Mother was always a sweetheart, the best sense of humor and her Dad with a voice of authority,not loud but always well spoken and respected. We chatted for a bit about family and quickly tried to catch up the years on both sides. We exchanged phone numbers and I left Anne a message to contact me on her cell phone. Mary and I headed to the airport to pay our fuel bill and check on 679er sitting at the ramp. Mary said I (meaning me) can't wait to fly home. I explained that flying for me was like her love for the beach and she understood.

As we walked into Phillips for dinner I was working on the mental menu. Knowing I would be flying in the am I indulged on my favorite southern treasure,Sweet tea. Mary enjoyed white wine with her dinner. Appetizers consisted of steamed clams and shrimp cocktail,both delicious. We both ordered Lobster, Mary had red potato's mashed with garlic and I had red beans and rice.

We met with Anne from the old neighborhood prior to entering the Palace Theater. Anne and I hugged, it was so special to see her again. At least she validated the stories I told Mary about me and my sister Denise (the perfect child) My sister NEVER got in trouble while I was the one getting a butt whoppin' for something (usually deserved). We took a few pictures and vowed to catch up when we return in November for our anniversary. Many good memories shared and reminders of when times were different,in a good way.

After my walk down memory lane Mary and I entered the theater to watch the show Le Grand Cirque. What a performance, displays of strength,skill and balance along with fantastic showmanship. The show lasted maybe two hours with a brief twenty minute intermission. We headed back to our hotel and talked about watching more shows at home at the local theater/playhouse.

After finally getting settled in, I began to plot our course home, deciding on a stop at KJGG, Williamsburg-Jamestown for lunch. JGG will be a two hour hop from Myrtle Beach and that will leave the last leg for one hour and a half.

Grand Strand Bound...

Sunday September 23rd

We got to sleep in a bit this morning since I planned for a 11am departure from Newport News - Williamsburg(KPHF). We were showered and packed ready to meet Susan for breakfast. The ladies asked where I wanted to eat and my response was that I was making no decisions except for Pilot In Command (PIC) decisions today. They got a chuckle and said Cracker Barrel it is, which was fine with me. CB was packed, all the church folks must have hit the early mass because 'everyone' was in line. I guess we waited about 30 minutes and that was ok for us, some of the other folks didn't handle the wait as well. I'm not sure how people can get up in the morning and be so darn miserable and treat the folks around them so nasty.

I made a call to FSS for and updated briefing and the Grand Strand (KCRE) wx was clearing. We said our goodbye's to Susan and promised to be back to visit and catch a show in December, it didn't make it any easier for my Bride. As much as I enjoy flying here for us to visit it pains me to see the sad face Mary has when we have to leave.

Rick Aviation provided good service and had 679er fueled and ready for us to go. We will be back again and be sure to use Rick's. Pre-flight completed and engine fired up we made our call to the Newport News Tower. After the initial contact I announced our intentions; Good morning Newport News Ground, Archer 28679er at the North Ramp ready to taxi with information X-ray, VFR to Grand Strand. Tower approved our taxi to runway 7. Mary and I were off in no time as we climbed out on the downwind for 4500'. Once cleared to to switch to Norfolk Approach I advised 3000' climbing 4500. Approved by approach we were on our way tracking the CVI, ISO then CRE VOR's. Very hazy this morning and a cloud layer about 4800-5000' best described as few.

(<- Lake Waccamaw)

From Norfolk Approach we were handed off to Washington Center, Wilmington Approach and finally Myrtle Beach Approach. Good company, extra eyes with only three traffic calls. Mary, the sleeping princess managed to wake up when she heard the words "looking for traffic,679er". It was funny she would pop up ask position and scan the sky. She actually made one contact before I saw it. The call to the Grand Strand tower went smooth, despite all the bad write ups about the grouchy guy that works there, maybe it wasn't him. I had all my ducks in a row as they say, TPA was dead on 800', my calls were short, correct and clear noting current ATIS information and my intentions. I reported midfield left downwind as instructed followed by a clear to land(ATC didn't say r/w 7) I responded clear to land runway 7 for 679er. We taxied to Ramp 66 and followed the "follow me" golf cart. James got us parked and helped with baggage and hooked us up with the ladies inside for a rental. While we were finishing up the paper work James brought the car up and loaded the baggage, great service. The ladies at the desk were really nice to deal with and made us feel like regulars.
With our Ford fusion now ready to go we headed for the Dunes Village resort. Hmmm...no map but I can find this place, I know typical man. Honest it was easy, follow the coast and read the hotels, we needed to get to 52nd street. Once checked in we changed and headed to the beach. We spent a good amount of time in the ocean, more then I have since a youngster. I headed back to our room to shower and catch some football while Mary caught some Z's and sun poolside. Good timing as I got dressed Mary walked in and we quickly got ready for dinner.

We took advantage of the rental and went exploring. We were actually searching for the Palace Theatre but I could not find it, yes, I know,why would a man ask for directions. I didn't ask because the main objective was to find a place to eat which we did at the Liberty Tap Room. Good food but the bar was really noisy which took away from our hopes of a quiet dinner.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Busch Gardens!

Saturday September 22nd

We made a stop for breakfast at the Silver Diner then proceeded east on Rt.64 to the Park. We sat in traffic as we made our way past an accident 4 miles later. We had great parking right next to the tram car station which made for a good start. We endured the 90* heat ducking into shows to catch the a/c for a bit of relief. The park was decorated for 'howl-o-scream" and the many shows carried the theme. We passed on the rides, or should I say I did, not wanting to stand in the heat, packed in like cattle weaving through the chutes waiting to board. We returned after a full day soaked with sweat looking forward to cool showers and a nap. After showers and a cool down time we decided to head out for dinner.

Ajacent to our comfort suites is an Olive Garden and Red Lobster, two ok choices. Mary and I decided on the Olive Garden but the wait was 45 minutes. We took the pager that was offered and headed across the street to Red Lobster. Upon check in we were told wait time was 25 minutes, that works! We accepted a second pager and headed to the bar. Mary enjoyed an Apple Martini and since I was flying in the morning I enjoyed a tall cold sweet tea. Our pager went off and we were seated for dinner. After placing our order Shrimp linguini Alfredo for me and Lobster tail for Mary, the Olive Garden pager went off. The vibrating portion was ok to deal with but then it decided to beep. People started to look around so we decided to put it in Mary's purse and tuck it away under the table, it worked. Dinner was good and the service fast and friendly even though it was a busy place.

We called it a night and Mary hit the hay while I finished getting my flight plan together. A call to FSS in the morning will fill in the remaining info on my wx sheet and we will be ready to go.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Newport News

KPHF, scattered,smothered & covered

METAR KPHF 211654Z 08007KT 10SM -RA FEW017 SCT027 BKN090 25/21 A3014

Mary and I saddled up for Newport news early this morning but had to wait out the weather en route and at our destination. We decided to make a stop for breakfast at Lucky's Coffee Shop, formerly The Ranch House. Nice place with good service and good food.
I made a call to FSS (1-800-wx-brief) and was connected to St. Petersburg, FL. The Morning briefer was really good, very in depth, a pilot and had knowledge about the area. My route had some problems with showers, low cloud layers and thunderstorm possibilities. The route was KILG-SBY-CCV-KPHF. I decided our 10am (1400z) planned departure would be put on hold. After breakfast at Lucky's I made a second call to FSS. This briefer was more of what I expected. Cut and dry, reading exactly what I read on the internet, no insight, no details. I made the decision that at 11am it was a "go" for launch.

Wilmington seemed quiet this morning except for the strange sound of something different flying overhead. As we finished with uncovering and my pre-flight we were treated to some new helicopter hovering over 27 and making it's way to the ramp. Strange looking bird with stub wings and big box fan set up for a tail rotor.

Our taxi clearance was quick to taxiway mike at 27 and our departure smooth. The initial plan was to climb to 4500 and clear the scattered layer which we did. As we headed south past KDOV we could see the NASCAR event parking areas packing in the campers. We continued on towards SBY watching the cloud layers over top around 7000 and the low scattered layer about 2000. This held steady past SBY. I skirted the Bay to maintain VFR watching the land mass across the Bay remain clear. To our 9 o'clock the scattered layer was getting thick and closing up escape holes. Patuxent Approach seemed fairly quiet today as we road along. I requested to go off frequency to update wx with Flight Watch. This my first experience with FW, it was easy and provided an extra look at the numbers to confirm what I was looking at up ahead.

Patuxent handed us off to Norfolk and we continued south. About 15 out of PHF we get handed off to another Norfolk Approach. I request to descend to 3000 since the scattered cloud layer looks to be about 1500' over our destination. I get the ok to descend and bring comm 2 online again to listen to the PHF ATIS. Information Oscar is current and I note the info as I ready for entering the pattern once turned loose to the PHF tower. At this point things get a little crazy, the ATIS is now bleeding through Norfolk Approach, I double check my comm settings, they are correct. I dialed in the ground frequency just to eliminate the ATIS, no luck. It sounds like a stuck mic and Approach is now non-existent. I need to descend to TPA (1000') but approach last has me at 3000', I'm to close to busy airspace to change with out notifying. I try Norfolk approach twice, no luck, then switch to the PHF tower. I announce my position and altitude and that I lost comm with Approach. The tower gives me a second frequency to try and I confirm. I dial in and contact Norfolk Approach and follow with a request to descend to maintain VFR. I was cleared to descend at my discretion and then turned loose to contact the tower once reported in sight. I was forced to circle in order to loose enough altitude prior to entering the the pattern to avoid a cloud layer. Contacting Newport News (PHF) tower I was directed to enter left downwind followed by cleared to land runway 7. I acknowledged and after watching a Hawker Jet depart I turned final over the Patrick Henry Mall and eased in for a nice smooth landing. We made our way to Rick Aviation and were met by two men to help with our baggage and secure the plane.

I was happy with the flight even if it was a bit crazy at the end. Mary said I was so calm, it just goes back to our training to fly the plane, make good decisions, keep people who need to know informed and as the PIC take charge of the situation. Kudo's to Newport News Tower folks who were very understanding when I needed to circle over the bay and they worked me right in. Clear concise communications of who what and where get you great service!

We met Susan at Rick's as we walked through the doors, great timing. Lunch was in order and something cold to drink. We made a stop at the "Red Robin", great burgers and very good service. If you ever stop at one of the Red Robin's you must try the pot roast burger. Sliced or pulled pot roast on a fresh bun with sauteed onions and cheddar cheese, oh and excellent fries. After lunch we checked in at the comfort suites and agreed to meet at 5:15 for dinner prior to going to the show at the Ferguson Center. Mary took a nap (full tummy puppy syndrome) and I set up the computer and my flight planning 'stuff'. We showered and headed out the door making our way to the lobby at 5:10. Susan was here right on time so we headed out to Keagans for dinner. I had a pound of steamed shrimp and my Bride had Oysters Rockefeller. Since there would be no flying until Sunday morning and no driving for me, I decided to make Friday happy hour and enjoy a double captain and coke. Mary had a few glasses of white wine and dinner was a blast.

We headed out to the show and arrived around 7:45. We found our box seats and settled in. The show was Hairspray and it was a riot. I guess it's really a musical not just a show as I was instructed, but whatever you call it it was fast paced, funny and the singing and dancing was terrific. We called it a night and made our way back to the room for the night.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Flight Plan Taking Shape

Leg 1, KILG-SBY-CCV-KPHF. It looks like the weather is going to be a partner for this trip. Mary and I have been watching the wx since last week. Ok Mary is bored with the wx but she humors me very nicely knowing how important the forecast is for our flight. I've been following patterns and checking the forecast starting at least 10 days out.

Our first time into Newport News/Williamsburg International. We will tie down at Rick's Aviation and hop a shuttle to our hotel adjacent to the airport. Two days in Newport News then we're off on Leg 2 - KPHF-ECG-RBX KFFA-W95. A fly by First Flight for some photos then follow the outter Banks to Ocracoke (W95) . Mary and I will spend some time enjoying lunch and walking the beach. We will saddle up for Leg 3- W95 around the R5306A area to VPGIO-KAOJ-CRE. If the Restricted area is cold that will turn us south west towards the New Bern VOR (EWN) then to Grand Strand KCRE, saving time and fuel. Once 679er is secure with Ramp 66 we'll get checked into the Dunes. We can't wait to kick back and relax for a few days. We plan on a late afternoon departure for our last leg home KPHF-KILG.

Once home we will make the rounds to gather the zoo until everyone is reunited and settled in. I will be checking on the transponder tomorrow and ordering fuel for 679er. Is it Friday yet???

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Transponder needing a fix...

679er is waiting on a fix for our Bendex/King KT78A Transponder. Recently on my short hop to visit Cape May, NJ (KWWD) Wilmington Tower asked me to recycle my transponder since they could not "see" me. I checked the breaker and it was fine, then followed up by turning the unit off and on again. Still nothing, so I hit the "Ident" and got a call that I was once again visible on radar. Red Eagle Aviation thinks it's the transponder box and not the mode C box. They mentioned that by hitting the Ident button it forces the unit to send a signal back to the ground interrogator, this in turn gets the two boxes talking sometimes. Hey, if it works I'm happy. I will know more this week. Vacation is a week away and I need 679er to be ready.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mary has a birthday

Today is Mary's birthday !!! Mary's folks wanted to take her out to dinner with the family so off we went to a well known local place called Harry's Savoy Grill. Great food! This is also the place we were married and held our reception.

I was torn between a few gifts, the things us men really do listen to and a few other ideas that I had. Well, Friday afternoon I decided it was going to be diamonds so I purchased 3/4 carat 'H' color grade diamond stud earrings. She loved them and I got an "atta boy"!

We are still planning on our trip to Williamsburg, VA and Myrtle Beach, SC in the next few weeks so that has taken up some of our time. I am trying to tie up loose ends at work and get ready for the Bridge Deck repairs while Mary is settling in to her new job. We both need the vacation time, heck everyone needs vacation time!

I guess everyone is wondering what magic number she turns today......let me just say that she will always be 29 and holding for me. Happy Birthday Mary!!