Monday, May 26, 2008

Aviation Mecca

This holiday weekend has been filled with flying. Friday's trip to Ocean City Maryland, Saturday's return flight home, Sunday's three hour instrument lesson and the icing on the cake, today's trip to the aviation mecca, First Flight in Kill Devil Hills North Carolina with Jeff Frey.

The plan was kicked around by myself and Jeff from 33N. We swapped emails and phone calls trying to get our plans squared away. The original version was for Jeff and his family to fly down in their aircraft once Mary and I meet them at Delaware Airpark, 33N in the Archer. OK, sounded good, we will meet at 8am. After a telephone conversation we moved to plan B.

Jeff was going to join Mary and I in 679er since his children and bride were feeling under the wx. Ok, plan B it is, we will meet you around 8am at 33N and yes, I will finally get to land at this airport ( another story for another time). I tried to get some sleep but I had thoughts of this cross country on my mind. I finally passed out and Mary reminded me this morning that SHE turned off the tv. As I was getting ready Mary said she had a wicked sinus headache and didn't feel up to going but I should go have fun and make the pilgrimage to First Flight. I was still excited about going but with Mary not coming it took something out of it. We really have fun traveling by air and getting to meet people and see new things. I'm in a fix about taking the plane all day so I decide to send Jeff an email, to explain the new plan C.

Mary is out. She woke up with a sinus headache and said 4 hours of flying will not be good. However, she said go play boys day out. So, if you don't mind flying I was going to drive to 33N, only if you let me split the costs today. I'm up, give me a call on my cell, 302-xxx-xxxx. I'll be heading down around 6:30 to meet you at 8am.

I'm on the road heading south around 6:40 and have yet to get a call. About 7:30 my phone rings and Jeff said he will meet up at 8am. I asked if he wanted breakfast but he said he wanted to keep it light and that he would see me there. I made a stop at wawa for an orange juice then made the short run to 33N. I looked over Sunday's newspaper sitting on the counter at the terminal building when Jeff called and said he was at the plane. I headed out so that I could get in the way, I mean assist in the pre-flight. We saddled up and Jeff went through the pre-start checks and 26Juliet came to life. Jeff asked if I wanted to handle the comm and nav radios and I agreed. Our flight plan was pretty basic, 6500' 33N-SWL-NTU-KFFA. Jeff contacted Dover approach and picked up flight advisories for the trip. We were handed off to patuxent, norfolk and washington center with good ATC work along the way. I made a call to flight watch on 122.0 to get an update on the wx at our destination since we had to climb to maintain VFR over the Chesapeake Bay. we provided a PIREP noting the top of the haze layer with the clouds tagging along.

METAR KFFA 261400Z AUTO 22005KT 10SM CLR 23/12 A3018

With FFA in sight Jeff canceled flight following and got us set up to enter the right downwind for runway two zero. I was taking pictures and keeping a watch for traffic since we were alerted to multiple target by center prior to canceling advisories. The winds had picked up and it was a bit gusty as we dipped below the tree line and continued in on short final. Jeff did a real nice job setting 26J down and we taxied out to the parking area at the 020 approach end. The video I shot was taken with a Kodak Easyshare Z730 which does NOT have the stabilizer feature.

We have arrived! Jeff found a spot between the ramp and runway alongside several other aircraft, the place was filling up fast. We both grabbed a cold bottle of water and started the journey to where it all began. Well, we were on our way but we saw the building that was donated by the members of the AOPA. This building, adjacent to the ramp but tucked behind the trees had bathrooms and a pilot briefing room complete with computers and telephones. There was some artwork on the wall, one in particular caught my attention. Can you see what is the focal point of the picture? I had to look twice since i was so caught up snapping pictures at every new discovery.

Jeff headed back out to the plane to get his cell and asked if I wanted mine. I was so excited about getting out and taking pictures I forgot to call Mary and let her know we arrived. You know the drill, boys and their toys and everything else comes second. Thank God my Bride is so understanding about the kid in me. Jeff and I made our way to the walking path around the monument. We decided to check out a sculpture on the south side and the make the attack on the "hill". While going back and forth to the aircraft for our phones Jeff (pictured left) helped some lady out who was having a hard time with the gate. She was taking photos and shared a small piece of why she was there. Her father used to work at one of the local bases and would fly into FFA when it was a dirt strip. In order to get a ride to the house he would buzz the house and the family would know it was time to go pick him up at the airstrip. This very kind lady offered us a ride around to the east side of the monument but we declined and instead continued our walk.

It was a gorgeous day out, breezy with plenty of sunshine and the park was busy. We made our way to the sculpture and we each took a few shots. I took my shot from over the shoulder of the bronzed cameraman behind the action. I thought it would be a neat shot. Our next stop was the monument, atop the "hill". Jeff asked if i was ok, and I told him I would stop and take a breather and give the metal parts a chance to rest. Of course I forgot to take any Advil before leaving the house. Not to worry, I just took two when I started the write up and Mary and I will hit the hot tub before retiring for the night.
Back to the park. I could continue typing away but I decided to just post some shots to let everyone soak it all in. Enjoy!

It was time to take our last few shots and load up for home. Jeff preflighted and then we climbed in. I held the door open to get some cool air once the fan was turning. At First Flight you have to back taxi to the runways. Based on the gusting winds the captain decided on runway two zero. Final checks and run up complete a notch of flaps is added. One would normally think short runway and higher density altitude (DA) and those were both correct but we may consider lunch adding to the W&B, ok, kidding about the last reason.

In short order two six juliet was climbing out, seemingly proud to strut her stuff at First Flight. We turned out due to traffic and the inbound pilot and Jeff communicated very well to establish positions. The nose was pointed to Elizabeth City Coast Guard Air Station, KECG just across the Albemarle Sound and up the left bank of the Pasquotank River. We were directed to enter a left base for two eight report 3 mile. Jeff acknowledged and started our descent. Another great landing in gusting cross wind conditions. As we rolled out the ALZ in pavement lights stuck out a bit, which was odd, so we thumped along until Jeff moved left of center to keep clear. Maybe the Coast Guard C-130's don't feel them but our bugsmashers do.

Jeff got a real laugh when we pulled up for fuel, it was self-serve and I had to confess I have only self fueled once in the two years flying. I had to read the instructions before we got a drop. Hey, I'm still fairly new at this and at the home airport Scott brings his little truck out and tops me off. Yes, I've gotten to know the fuel guys on a first name basis with all the flying I have been doing. It's really bad when you call and say I'm at Red Eagle and need fuel and they say no problem Gary I'll be right over. I always say that's for tail number 28679er and they yep, we know.

Jeff sumps the fuel and we add a quart of oil before departing Elizabeth City,ECG. We are directed to taxi to runway two eight and complete the checks and run up. No sooner Jeff announced ready to go at two eight we were cleared "without delay" with a C-130 on a four mile final. We were off in short order climbing and turning out early to clear the area. The next waypoint was Norfolk, ORF as we climbed out to 6,500. Jeff noted the temps at 6500 to be 55* it was warm outside. Flight following handed us off along the way while I was taking pictures and getting a good look at the Bay Bridge Tunnel. I usually am the one flying so I don't get to see as much of the view as Mary normally would. The haze is still present and there are a few clouds at our altitude so we climbed to 7500 and motored along. We had ground speeds of 124-129 knts (150mph) northbound as we crossed the Chesapeake Bay for Cape Charles and continued towards Accomack, KMFV.

Dover Approach called out one aircraft headed south passing to our 9:00 and Jeff acknowledged having the traffic. The winds had picked up at 33N with reports 230* at 16 gusting in the 20's. Once 33N - Delaware Airpark was in sight the captain canceled flight following and called for airport advisories. I dropped the ball since I was working comm and nav and didn't get it flipped. Dover let us know we were still with them, sorry Jeff, my bad. I was looking at the Monster Mile and taking mental notes to locate the airport, the typical passenger.

We entered on a 45* for the left down wind runway two seven and set up for landing. With his checklists completed Jeff extended the down wind a bit to allow for a good set up on final and to work the cross winds. We had one good bump that brought us both up out of our seats that we each acknowledged. On short final Jeff set up left of centerline and we came in left wing low just drifting towards center and between gust he set two six juliet down. A sweet landing in gusty winds that got a 10 rating over the radio from Mr. Experience, Harvey working in the terminal. Harvey knows winds at 33N flying his RV in and out of there. We taxied in to the self serve and topped off the fuel. It was a short taxi to the tie down and we quickly pushed back and buttoned up. Two six Juliet provided a great ride and Jeff did a great job piloting us back and forth from First Flight. What a FUN day and a trip I will always remember. I made it to aviations promised land and it was worth the wait. Truley a great place that every pilot should visit.

Thanks Jeff for a great day of flying!


Jeff said...

As always, great writeup! It was a great day to go flying. Next time I'll sit right seat and you can take me somewhere!

Gary said...