Wednesday, September 9, 2015

(A Little More) Freedom to Fly

A little over a month ago, my husband and I relocated our family to Fort Mill, South Carolina so I could pursue a new job opportunity.  I had hoped to get my BFR done before I left KGAI, but time was not on my side.  Fortunately, my former flight instructor is a good friend, so when he arranged to fly down with his family to visit us over Labor Day Weekend, I was all out of excuses.

It was incredibly refreshing after all my years based at an airport within the SFRA surrounding Washington, D.C. to not have to file an out-bound and in-bound flight plan or be squawking a discrete code before departing the Rock Hill airport (KUZA) and heading Southeast in the Cessna 182 Rich had rented from the Congressional Flying Club (awesome flight club based at KGAI).  

Our first destination was a developing gold mine, which looked very impressive from ~1100 feet.  

It was a beautiful day to fly.  Not too hot, and just enough white, puffy clouds in the sky to look pretty.  Although it was my first time in a Cessna 182, in flight it felt fairly similar to the 172, and we worked through various in flight maneuvers and procedures.  

Of course, at the end of my check ride,  I had to snap one "who's flying this plane anyhow?" photograph, just for old times sake.

On our way back to Rock Hill, Rich spotted the next house he is going to buy, complete with private air strip and hangar.

We arrived back ten minutes ahead of when we had told our spouses to expect us, and had just enough time to buy a couple of bottles of water before a small, but very enthusiastic flight crew descended upon the FBO.  

Can you tell that they are just a little bit excited to be going flying?

Just sitting in the plane would have been enough for them, but with no flight plans to file, it was easy to pop up for a quick flight or two.

These two have been BFFs since the moment they met, and both share a love of flying already.

Although not his first time in a GA plane, this is the first flight that Taven may actually remember.  He certainly remembered it the next day (and the day after that) as he has repeatedly been asking me "how many sleeps" until he can going flying again with Mummy.  I never considered the possibility that although I have flown less the past five years because of my children, they may also be the ones who ultimately encourage (or badger) me into flying regularly again!

Once back at KUZA, we taxied to the self-serve fueling station.  Taven took advantage of the opportunity to climb into the front seat and try the yoke out for himself.  He looked pretty grown up sitting in there (sniff, sniff).

Looking at the eldest members of our little squadron sitting in the shade of the wing while we re-fueled the plane, it was clear that they are well on their way to being the next generation of airport bums!

And, as every GA pilot knows, one of the best things about hanging out at a small airport is that you never know who is going to show up behind you.  Or, in the case of this plane, just ahead of you.   

It was a memorable day of flying, to be sure!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Third Times' A Charm

My pregnancy with the twins prevented almost all thoughts of flying.  For the first twenty weeks, I was too sick to even think about it.  For the remaining fourteen weeks, I was too, uh, bulky, to feel confident piloting a plane.  However, when Fenati suggested he fly us all up to the WWII airshow in Reading, PA, I decided that I could squeeze myself behind the yoke one last time.  (And it was a squeeze, believe me!)  

Taven and Isabelle were a little uncertain as we started our taxi down the runway, but quickly grew fascinated by the disappearing landscape beneath us as we climbed higher in the sky.

Wearing their matching "Yes, Girls Can Fly" t-shirts, the girls enjoyed their time in the way, way back together (and only fought occasionally!)

This was my third time at the Reading, PA airshow.  I came once as a student pilot in another pilot's plane, once flying myself as PIC, and now as a passenger in Rich's twin Beechcraft Baron.  The airshow, as always, was quite impressive and kept the kids' attention well.  We even managed to find an army tent canopy to watch the airshow from, which helped with the heat and sun (both of which were quite intense).

Taven liked the planes, and army vehicles, displays, and period actors.

Here's the whole fam-damily.  I remember being pleased as I got dressed for the airshow that I had bought Rich a flying shirt a few years earlier, as there was no way I was fitting into any of mine at that point in the pregnancy!

Smoke-trailing stunt planes...  I could watch them all day.

I'll admit that it's no Osh Kosh, but it's still a great airshow to get your flying fix in when you can't get all the way out to Wisconsin in a given summer.

We bugged out a little earlier than we would have sans kids, but we had more than enough time to enjoy the fun, food, and flight options offered at the Reading PA air show.  Until next time, Reading!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Taven's First Flight!!

As a pilot, it was important to me to be able to tell my children that I had been the first person to take them on a GA flight.  I wanted the memory, and I wanted the story.  But, like most things worth wanting, it's not always easy to turn the dream into a reality.  

So, after more than two years of not flying with any sort of regularity, I made a push to get up a few times with my former flight instructor and shake the dust off.  We were working towards the goal of returning with our families to the Flying W airport resort (N14) - a little gem of an airport we had discovered in New Jersey several years early.  Poor weather preempted a combined family trip on the only weekend both were available, but I took advantage of decent weather and an available club airplane another weekend to fly Rich, Isabelle and Taven (on his first GA flight) to the Flying W.

The kids (and Rich) found ways to amuse themselves, while Mummy did her pre-flight on the Cessna 172 (Bravo Alpha) belonging to my Congressional Flying Club at KGAI.

Good thing Isabelle was practicing her roars into the headset BEFORE it was plugged into the plane's avionics system!

The visibility to the Flying W wasn't great, but the flight path from Gaithersburg crosses over a lot of water bodies, which always make for pretty pictures.

The kids were excited about the flight, but even more excited by the amenities at the Flying W.  In addition to a large pool, they have riding toys, grass and sand for romping in, etc.  Unfortunately, they also have a stone pathway that Taven took a digger in on our second day, but the cuts and bruises just made him look all the more a Maverick on his return flight home.

Here we are just arriving, with Isabelle practicing her photography skills.  I say she did quite well for a not quite three year old!

We also lucked out in that the Flying W granted me "pilot's privileges" and gave us a room that became available at the on-site hotel at the last minute.  Due to a band playing the Flying W all rooms were booked up when we arrived.  The logistics with kids of going to another hotel was no easy task, so I was very relieved when they offered us the cancellation spot.

It didn't seem long before we were heading for home, and the weather on the flight back was less hazy and allowed Rich to take some good photographs. 

Mines and quarries always make for neat shots, as the water turns such amazing colors due to the sediment in the pits.

Here we are coming up on the Susquehanna River. 

Taven fell asleep quickly, but Isabelle needed some help staying amused, so Rich gave her the camera.  She took some fun shots from a perspective I had never seen (at least of myself flying) before!

It's surprisingly hard to get all four people in a picture in a Cessna 172 when the two in the back seat are much smaller than the two in the front seats, we discovered.

This is my strongest memory of the flight.  Taven snoozing away peacefully and Isabelle playing with her barbies.  A friend looked at this picture after the flight and asked me if everyone flew naked on GA flights.  No, but not a bad idea, eh?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

4th of July Family Flying Fun

There was a time when I used to blog about my flights almost as soon as I was done tying down the airplane.  Those of you out there with small children will understand that, well, things change once you have them!  And while it is mostly for the better, there are days when I find myself gazing skyward and wishing that I had a few more hours of recent TOLs under my belt so that I could pile the family into a Cessna 172 and we could ... just ... go ... fly ... somewhere. 
As it is, I now have to find creative ways to go flying on a whim.  Fortunately, with one of my best friends also being my former flight instructor, I usually have a ready co-pilot at almost a moment's notice.  And when he's off at officer's training camp for four months, I'm fortunate to be a member of an amazing flying club (the Congressional Flying Club at KGAI) that has several other CFIIs who are also usually game to go flying on a moment's notice. 
So it was in July, when my husband's inlaws were visiting from Michigan, and it suddenly occurred to us that neither Dick, Nikki or Holly had been flying in a small plane.  With Fenati acting as co-pilot, I decided to change all that. 

Of course, before we could go flying, we had to pose for some pictures.
It was getting hot on the tarmac by the time I got the plane prepped, and it was even hotter in the plane.  I also knew from my weather briefing that the visibility over Harper's Ferry wasn't going to be great, but sometimes it's not about how great the views are, it's about how great the sensation of flight is.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't take a picture of Dick and Holly from inside the plane.  (Something about trying to fly the airplane?!)  Fortunately, Rich was manning the camera (and our two children, with a little help from Grams) on the ground and snapped the above as we rolled past.  You can see Holly peeking out of the back with her headset on.  Never one to miss a Top Gun reenactment moment, you can see my Thumbs-UP as we rolled past too.
Although there was a little extra sweat running down my face from the exhilaration of being back behind the yoke, for the most part it felt like coming home.  My club had sold my former favorite 172 while I had been on my second baby flying hiatus, but I've learned to love Bravo Alpha, almost as much as her sister, Romeo, in whom I soloed over KDMW four+ years earlier.  It's a quick 45 minute run out over Harper's Ferry and back.  Perfect for new passengers.  Although Holly began to feel a little queasy on the ride back to KGAI, she and Dick were all smiles as they piled out of the plane. 

Next up were Grams and Isabelle.

This was Isabelle's third flight in a small plane and her Grams' first.  Whether it was the relatively new experience or the fact that Isabelle was approaching nap time, I'm not sure, but she started to cry as I did my run-up.  With Grams' headset and Mummy's voice in her ears, however, she soon quieted down.  The thumb always seems to help too! 

Soon we were on our way for one more scenic flight over Harper's Ferry.

 I know Grams took several pictures of the views on her camera.  Perhaps I will try and find those before I publish this Blog, or perhaps you'll just have to refer back to the enumerable other "first flights" I've done during which I've flown over Harper's Ferry.  This flight, and indeed this Blog, are not so much about the destination, but the pleasure (and pride) in being able to introduce new people, not to mention family members (and two of them women!) to the joys of GA. 
It's on my bucket list to fly us all out to Michigan one of these summers.  That, of course, will require me being more proficient than I am currently.  However, once our weekends no longer revolve around nap schedules, I should be able to manage a few more hours of TOL.  Here's hoping, anyhow! 
Next on the bucket list, however, is taking Taven up for his first flight. 
Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Luray for my Birthday

We were supposed to go to Luray Caverns last Saturday (on my actual birthday), but the afternoon winds were forecast to be at 14 knots, gusting to 23. So, we decided to go hike the Great Falls instead. Yesterday morning when I checked the winds, they were forecast to be at 12 knots, gusting to 20. I went down to breakfast more than a little disappointed. Sensing this, Rich was quick to suggest alternate options. As the plane wasn't booked until Sunday at noon, we decided to turn our day trip into an overnight adventure. It was just too pretty a day not to fly.

We took off runway 14 and hit immediate turbulence. I'd gotten a standard weather briefing a half hour before take-off and and no turbulence had been mentioned, so it was a bit of a surprise. I assured Rich that although it felt pretty rough, it was actually only moderate turbulence, and nothing the plane couldn't handle.

We followed my favorite flight route Northwest from Gaithersburg - out past the cement factory, along the Potomac River, and over Harper's ferry.

As we crossed through the cut in the mountains, the turbulence eased up and I snapped a quick pic of my backseat passengers. Although the turbulence was minimal, we decided to leave Isabelle buckled into her car seat out of an abundance of caution, as you never know when the next good jolt of turbulence may strike.

Rich, Isabelle and I had been to Harper's Ferry for a weekend earlier in October, so it was fun to see it from the air and try to identify where we had been on foot. The railroad tracks with the foot traffic bridge running parallel to it we the easiest landmarks to recognize. I did not see Jefferson Rock or the old church on the hill, but I think Rich might have. (A good pilot always gives her passengers the best view?)

The Potomac does a wonderful meander down through this part of Virginia, so we hugged the water for the stunning views as we made our way Southwards towards Luray.

Rich took pictures from the backseat and I took pictures from the front seat. We laughed on the car ride home as we realized that we both had purposefully included small snippets of the plane in most of our shots. It must be something about being in a small plane while taking photographs. Unless everyone knows you are in a small plane taking the picture, it wouldn't be as cool. Or something!

Once we landed at Luray, we were greeted by Doug, who kindly offered to drive us over to our hotel, The Mimslyn Inn. I had been expecting a "country quaint inn." Instead we were greeted by a three story colonial mansion built in 1914 with Jefferson style pillars out front. Although Doug kindly offered to come back and drive us to the caverns once we'd had lunch and gotten settled, we decided to set out on foot after partaking in the wonderful lunch buffet served at the Mimslyn. The caverns were every bit as cool as I'd remembered.

I had last been to the caverns with Tamlyn when she was visiting a few summers ago. We also had a great flight over, with Tamlyn practicing her hand at flying, and doing a great job, as I recall.

Rich had been to limestone caverns in Wisconsin, but was impressed with the size of the caverns at Luray. The stalactites, stalagmites, columns and fans were amazing. Although a 23$ entrance fee feels a little steep, the sting is eased by the impressiveness of the rock formations.

National Geographic apparently photographed the very same fans picture above, declaring them to be the most impressive in the world (at least according to our tour guide, anyhow).

Rich did a great job pushing Isabelle up and down some rather steep pathways, and she seemed to like both the sensation of having things hanging from the ceiling as well as watching (and flirting with) the various other children on our tour.

The last time I was at Luray, I don't think I'd quite figured out how to capture the caverns with my camera, so I apologize for the abundance of caverns photographs in a flying blog. It really is quite a sight to behold, though.

The above was the last pillar to have fallen in the caves. A soft landing on mud and water (at the time) kept it from breaking into small pieces. As it is, it looks like a tree that has fallen and pulled up all the surrounding dirt with the magnitude of its roots.

The color variation among the rocks is also fascinating. I particularly liked the white ones, made so by the presence of calcite.

One of the last stops on the tour is at the wishing well, which begs comparison to the wishing well discovered in the movie "The Goonies." I couldn't help but recite a few lines from the scene (as Rich groaned) and Isabelle marvelled at all the people tossing coins into the well.

After the caverns, we made our way over to the antique carriage and car museum that is nearby. Although Rich took almost as many pictures of cars as I took of the caverns, this is my blog, so I'm only putting in one token car photo.

Isabelle crashed out in her stroller on our walk back to the hotel and proceeded to sleep from about 4 until 6. When she woke up, we made our way down to a different restaurant in the Mimslyn and enjoyed a nice dinner before heading back to our rooms and calling it an early night. Early to bed, early to rise, so we were packed and waiting for our courtesy van back to the airport by 8AM.

Although there was a weather advisory in effect for moderate turbulence, our ride home was smooth. We decided to let Isabelle get out of her car seat for a better view, and also so she could see what Mum was doing up front.

The last time she'd worn a headset, she was four months old on a helicopter ride in Hawaii, and she hated it. This time, however, with her Mummy chattering away to her, she listened intently. As you'll see in the below video, she seemed to understand that the microphone was supposed to be near your mouth. Of course, she also licked it, but she licks everything.

I eventually had to ask Rich to take the headset back off her, however, as I needed to call Potomac approach for my SFRA clearance and didn't want to risk Isabelle letting loose with some loud baby chatter at an inopportune moment.

With my discrete code squawking, we continued to make our way Northwards towards Harper's ferry. I rarely miss an opportunity to fly over it, as most people who have flown with me know.

We passed the island from the opposite side this time, and Rich caught another nice picture of the train and foot bridges.

Isabelle checked out the passing scenery until we were about eight minutes out from Gaithersburg, at which point I asked Rich to get her buckled back in. She was not a happy camper at first, but was eventually distracted with a rattle and settled down. We were on the ground shortly after 10AM, and had the plane tied down and unpacked and the car re-packed by 10:30. Without a doubt, it was a very successful weekend (birthday) adventure!