Monday, March 17, 2014

Hour 87 - Leesburg to Luray Caverns with Mari and Melch

As a pilot and ex-Virginian, I found myself in Virginia in the fall.  Which of course means - Shenandoah Valley color viewing!

Now Virginia is nowhere near as pilot-friendly as SoCal.  As we've discussed before, it's a free country, but some places are a bit less free than others.  I was staying in the no-fly zone and it was quite the drive to even get to the you-can-fly-but-it's-complicated zone.  So I needed more time free to go up - the time for driving there and back as well as the usual preflight and time for the actual trip.

Beyond that there are also weather issues.  Virginia gets more rain and is much colder in the fall and winter.  Leesburg, my chosen airport away from home, is also prone to high winds.  Those things all impact the safety and comfortability of flying.

So actually getting out to the Shenandoah Valley took a lot of time and effort and cancelations.  For hour 87, we finally made it.  Joining me were my trusty first officer Melch and her cousin, Mari.

The trip went smoothly with good weather and good visibility (a bit of haze notwithstanding).  We had a good time following the river, pointing out airports along the way, and setting up for the small rural runway at Luray.

I started my run-up a bit close to the main building at the airport on departure, prompting a cranky response from the airport personnel, but other than that the flight was well-executed.

I've included a few photos here, but I have a small album and a large one on Flickr if you're interested.

The Shenandoah River

Typical Virginia countryside

Near Luray

Totally fake-looking typical NOVA suburban sprawl

Mari enjoying the view

Not quite as big as SBA, but it'll do!

Cousins at Luray

Mari getting a chance to fly

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hour 86 - Leesburg to Manassas with my Family

It's an experience, taking your parents flying.  These guys knew you when you couldn't hold your head upright without assistance.  They've probably come to terms by now with the fact that you can walk without their help.  They probably, deep down, have yet to concede that you might be able to operate a car safely.

Operating an aircraft within congested and restricted airspace?  That's a bit of a leap.

Yet leap we did.  I've actually done it once before, with an instructor.

We had actually booked a 172 for a cross-country flight to Luray Caverns, but plane availability and scheduling with my sister and parents kept time a bit short.  So we opted to do a shorter flight - to and from Manassas.

I cannot fit both of my parents, my sister and nephew into a 172 and have enough fuel for pattern work much less a cross-country with reserve, so we opted to split the rides up.  I'd take my mother from Leesburg to Manassas and then we'd trade off for my father, sister and nephew.

This is a "free country," but some places are freer than others.  The area around Leesburg and Manassas is less free than most places.  As a result, the route wasn't exactly direct.  We departed Leesburg heading away from Manassas in order to exit the SFRA and get ourselves far enough for Dulles that the class B airspace was high enough that we could climb to a safe VFR altitude.

From there we skirted the SFRA for a while before activating a flight plan from one of the TSA-designated "gates" in to Manassas.  I'd activated SFRA flight plans for pattern work, but this was my first gate entry.  Everything went smoothly - I activated from the air, received a clearance into the SFRA and actually got cleared direct without too much trouble.

From there it was just a normal matter of finding and landing at a new airport, and then meeting up with my new passengers.

Heading in to HEF to pick up my new passengers

Once we'd made the switch we departed on the return leg to JYO.  The procedure was the same thing in reverse - flight plan from HEF to the gate, then 1200-VFR around the SFRA, below the Dulles Bravo and in to JYO.

On the way back I gave my father a chance to take the controls.  I figured he taught me how to drive so I might as well return the favor!

Good times were had by all and we made a nice sunset landing at Leesburg.  I wish we could have found the time and weather to go for a bit of a longer or more scenic trip, but it was a blessing to be able to take my family out at all.

Every flight is a gift!

Amy and Liam on Liam's first flight!

VA Sunset

My dad, sister and nephew at JYO