Monday, August 18, 2008

Last Call For Flying W

There are a number of steps in the road to becoming a pilot. Some of them are mandatory "non shall pass X (unless you pass Y)" steps imposed by the FAA. Others are more natural milestones, like carrying passengers for the first time after getting your license.

Several months ago, Rich and I were perusing the reading materials in Clearview's FBO and came across an advertisement for a funky little airport called "The Flying W" in New Jersey. We decided it would be a fun weekend destination, and invited several friends to join us. As the numbers of attendees slowly crept upward, Rich warned me, "You better have your pilot's license before then 'cause I ain't gonna be yo' chauffeur no mo'."

With nine days to spare, I decided to comply.

My friend, Shivi, was quick to volunteer for a spot in my plane, despite my Rookie status. (It's a Canadian thing.)

Rich's friend, Jason, also found himself to be one of my lucky passengers. Although it was Jason's first time in a small plane, and he was aware (more or less) of my Rookie status, he was kind enough to not scream like a girl on take-off.

We had a beautiful day for our trip. Jason showed a genuine interest in learning to fly, so we worked on his pilotage skills along the way. It was fun for me to get to bestow knowledge while in flight for a change.

Rich got a Bravo clearance and crossed over Baltimore and Alex went out through the corridor, while my passengers got the scenic flight around Baltimore and Philadelphia restricted air spaces. The views were incredible, though, so I didn't hear any complaints.

Jason got a really nice shot of downtown Philadelphia. Skirting the edge of Bravo, it was the closest I'd been to the City from the air, and an awesome view.

My route of flight required me to descend quickly after crossing over a Class D airspace to land at Flying W. Although there are two airports with 5 miles of each other, the Flying W is easily recognizable from the air by its unique airplane-shaped swimming pool (despite the fact that it's hard to see in the photo).

I wasn't thrilled with the feel of the plane I was flying (my favorite C-172, Romeo, was not out of her annual in time to make the trip so I had had to rent a C-172 from another Club), but, other than being slightly left of center, it was a soft landing.

Our plane was the last of the three to arrive (although it's not much of a competition between a C-172, a Piper and a Mooney!), but Shivi, Jason and I quickly made up for lost time.

The Flying W is the kind of place you really need to experience for yourself. With the airport a stones throw from the pool, playground, bar, restaurant, FBO, second bar and hotel, it kind of feels like Disneyland for Pilots.

We spent most of the afternoon lounging by the pool. The unexpected appearance of Lilo and Stitch was an added bonus.

Eventually, we made our way to the restaurant for dinner. The food was mediocre, and after waiting 45 minutes for our bill, we decided to leave the waitress a sign that we had gone to the adjoining bar to listen to the band.

It's usually the band you've never heard of that ends up rocking your night away. So it was with Sloppy & The Joes. Shivi and I, never ones to shy from the dance floor, enjoyed some good boot-stomping fun with the locals.

Luckily, despite a series of shenanigans that continued late into the night, we managed to avoid being tossed in the Flying W Jail House.

The next morning did bring an unpleasant surprise, however, with a flat nose tire on my C-172. Being a Sunday, the FBO was initially somewhat ambivalent about my chances of finding someone to fix it. Two white knight mechanics in my flying club offered to make the trek over from Gaithersburg; however, their kind offer was not necessary in the end, as a mechanic from the nearby airport came over and replaced the tire's inner tube.

After arriving back at Gaithersburg, a number of us lingered in the parking lot, delaying the inevitable end to a great weekend for as long as possible. I will be the first to admit that I had scoffed initially when Rich spoke of wanting Alex, himself and myself to land our planes in quick succession (formation?) at The Flying W, but there is something almost magical about flying trips with multiple planes and multiple friends along for the ride.

Eventually, Jason, John, Shivi, myself, Rich, and Alex posed for one last football shot (ball not featured in photograph) before parting ways.

Not before making tentative plans for our next weekend trip to The Flying W, however.


At August 29, 2008 at 6:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now this is why we fly.


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