This was, perhaps the most thoroughly planned trip ever made in an airplane, aside from Lindberg’s and the flight of the Voyager (non-stop around the world) since the weather cancelled it three times before. But yesterday dawned severe clear with only moderate winds, and it was a definite go. To quote the Flight Service Specialist, “You couldn’t have picked a nicer day to go flying”.
I departed from Kupper (47N – Manville, NJ) just after 10 AM turned west toward Harrisburg, PA and climbed to 4,500. With the cold temperatures (-8C at altitude), the old C-150 was climbing like the space shuttle (well at least compared to how it climbs on those hot, humid summer days). The trip from Kupper to Capital City (CXY – Harrisburg, PA) was actually pretty boring. I used Allentown (ABE), Philadelphia (PHL) and Reading (RDG) for flight following, and all were really quiet (Philadelphia was landing from the other side of the class B). The winds at altitude were a little stronger than predicted, so the trip took about 10 minutes more than I had planned.
After Harrisburg, the next stop was to be Cape May County (WWD), at the southern tip of NJ. After refueling, emptying the morning’s coffee and loading up on some more, I departed CXY on runway 26 with instructions to fly the runway heading and remain at or below 2,000 until advised otherwise. Then somebody got a stuck mike on the frequency, and nobody could communicate with the tower. My training hadn’t covered exactly what to do in this situation. I tried switching to the departure frequency I had been assigned, but nobody answered me there, and I ended up flying about 10 miles in the wrong direction before the problem was solved, and they gave me instructions to turn to course and climb to 5,500.
This leg of the trip took me south of Philadelphia, across the northeastern corner of Maryland, Wilmington Delaware, then across the Delaware river from where I just followed the shoreline to Cape May. Since I’m originally from Maryland, and have spent more hours sailing the Chesapeake and Delaware bays than I’ve spent flying, there was something spiritual about flying over this area. It was exciting to spot places I had been on sailboats from the air, and it dawned on me that I could have done this leg without ever looking at a chart (other than to avoid various airspaces and to get radio frequencies). Every pilot should have at least one experience as soul satisfying as this one was for me. It just made all the training and frustration pay off all at once.
The winds that had slowed me down going out to Harrisburg were now dead on the tail, and if it hadn’t been for the 20 extra miles coming out of CXY, I would have been right on time on this leg. The air was so smooth, I could take my hands and feet off the controls and the plane would just fly along as if it were on autopilot. The only flying excitement on this leg occurred near Wilmington, when Philadelphia warned me of oncoming traffic at my 12 o’clock position. I reported not seeing the traffic and was told to immediately descend or climb. I chose to descend (C-150 does that much better than climbing!). The controller then told me the other plane was also descending and was now at 1,800 feet. I explained to the controller I was now down to 5,000. He responded “Oops – sorry”. Well, better a false alarm than a mid-air!
Another suprise greeted me at Cape May. While waiting for the plane to be fueled I wandered through the hanger at Classic Air Services (only path to the place to unload the used coffee from Harrisburg). In the hanger were two perfectly restored P-51’s and a couple of other WWII planes which I didn’t recognize. I wish I hadn’t been so far behind schedule (especially with sunset at 4:25), as I was invited to look around to my heart’s content. Next time!
Cape May is a little exposed to the weather since it sticks out into water on three sides. It was a little turbulent until I got up to about 2,000 feet. I used runway 01, even though there was a reasonable amount of cross wind, since that put me dead on my course home. Things were a little busier on this leg of the trip. There’s a lot of activity out of Dover and McGuire AFBs right not due to the situation in Europe, but again the folks in the appproach control positions at Atlantic City and McGuire were most helpful.
Just north of the Cedar Lake VOR (VCN), I heard ACY warning a military craft (Snake-14) of the Cessna traffic ahead at 5,500 (which I figured was me). I had already been passed by a Navy P-3 Orion and a C-141, so I figured this was just another transport. ACY then warned me that the overtaking traffic at my 6 o’clock position was an F-16. No, of course I didn’t have my camera with me. He passed about a half mile to my left side.
When I got back home, all the instructors and other students wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me on the trip. Again, this just really made me feel like I had really accomplished something. Of course all this just made me forget to close the flight plan, which I remembered while driving home from the field. I called from the cell phone, and got chastized (mildly), ’cause they had already started looking for me. I really try to remember to do this, honest I do.
John M Price