I don’t often get to travel to both coasts in one week, but this August was different. Transporting my daughter Emily to Long Island for a wedding, and then attending a Citation Jet Pilot’s event in Napa one week later, had me pulling out lots of charts in advance. The airways and fixes all looked Greek to me. My first decision was to utilize the services of an experienced traveler, Andre Grosvenor, owner of Aviation Dynamix, for an extra set of eyes on the east coast trip. Andre flew with me and friends to London and knows more about procedures and professionalism than I ever will. It had been over 20 years since I landed near the Big Apple and I just did not feel comfortable going into a dense traffic area totally unfamiliar with the airspace.
Andre joined me and Patty at Addison and we blasted off for a fuel stop in Chattanooga, TN (KCHA). The folks at Wilson Air are outstanding and there is a reason they routinely win the “Best Independent FBO” awards. We were met at the airplane by five line service folks, forced to eat ice cream treats on the ramp, fueled in 15 minutes, and made to feel like kings. And we certainly weren’t the most important plane on the ramp. Rumor was that Vice President Biden would be in the next morning. As we taxied out, a huge C-17 landed and rolled out all the way to the end of runway 2.
It was Biden’s advance team. About a dozen cars with flashing lights followed it down the runway and taxiway in a single line, each spaced evenly from the next. It was quite a sight. It almost made me proud to pay taxes. Turning the behemoth around, however, became a challenge requiring the quick removal of a small stop sign just slightly inside the turning radius of the beast.
As we headed up the east coast, I asked Andre his feelings about flying single-pilot in the northeast. “It’s normally not a problem, but lose an AHARS and the autopilot, in weather, and the workload increases dramatically.” About five seconds later, we got a total re-route. “N1865 Charlie is now cleared direct Hotel Charlie Mike, SAWED intersection, Sierra Whiskey Lima, Sierra India Echo, J-121 Sardi, Charlie Charlie Charlie, direct Islip.” What did he say? I was glad I had someone copying the clearance.
Andre mentioned that it is standard practice to monitor 121.5 in the northeast, just in case you traverse a restricted area without a clearance, so that Center has another way to get in touch. Sure enough, we heard Washington Center looking for two VFR pilots who wandered somewhere they shouldn’t and almost had F-16’s scrambled for one of them. They both had some s’plainin’ to do…
All in all, the trip to the “right coast” was easy. It was especially nice to have someone button up the plane, pre-flight, copy clearances, handle the radios, etc. It made my job of herding passengers, finding the freeway, and loading bags all the more bearable.
And I learned a few things along the way from my mentor.
Oh, and the trip to Napa was a breeze. All the support I needed was my trusty co-pilot Patty.