Tuesday May 12 – Washout
We’d planned to fly the New York Skyline route the following day, and had been watching the weather forecast which varied with every update. We made a late start and had a very enjoyable breakfast at Gilchrist’s on the old harbour front before checking out and heading off to the airport.
We prepared to go, planning and preflighting, calling the phone briefer and packing everything up. The FAA offers a free briefing service to pilots where you can talk directly to an expert on their 1-800-WXBRIEF number. There’s also an easy to use online service DUATS, again open to all pilots free of charge. [DUATS was discontinued in 2018]
The winds (18 gusting 28) really weren’t suitable for this type of flight and our limited experience in the Cessnas. We hung around the airport for a few hours hoping the weather would abate and lunching in the main passenger terminal. At one point we almost went, but decided to play it safe and stay a further night – this time nearer the airport and make an early start the next day. We had expected to lose at least one day to bad weather, and this was to be it. There wasn’t much nearby our hotel but we could walk to a restaurant on foot which turned out to be a very good one. Shore Diner (sadly nowhere near the beach).
Wed May 13 – New York Skyline Route, Ploughkeepsie, Orange, Augusta, Bar Harbor
We more than made up for being grounded the day before. We were up at 6am, left the hotel at 7 and airborne by 7:50. It was still quite windy but the front had washed through and given us very good visibility. Our planning from the previous day was still valid, and just needed a quick call to a briefer for the latest update.
I flew the New York Skyline Route up the Hudson River at 1500 feet, below the level of some of the skyscrapers and giving excellent views on all sides. This is inside Class Bravo airspace, but apart from ensuring we had clearance and following the well defined route was remarkably straightforward. You don’t see quite as much when you’re piloting, having to focus on maintaining height, direction and radio – those who had flown it before were more than happy to be passengers this time around. You can fly between 1000 and 1300 feet, self announcing and uncontrolled, but we preferred to be under the beady eye of ATC. It surprised me how little other sightseeing traffic there was – perhaps it was just too windy or too early in the day for others.
We didn’t have to report at any of the visible landmarks, being handed off between New York Approach, Newark Tower, La Guardia Tower and then back to New York. This part of the route may be worth a separate more detailed post of its own.
You can watch a 3 minute video of the key parts of the flight (including ATC R/T) below (direct link also here)
I landed at Dutchess County airport in Poughkeepsie (KPOU) for refuelling and crew change. Like many local airports, we saw continuing investment with a lot of work in progress on the runways. The FBO operator was very efficient and friendly, driving the bowser out to refuel immediately on request. He explained that the area had become more of a commuter town for New York, pushing up house prices and making it difficult for the locals to buy. IBM used to be a major employer in the region, but had suffered heavy layoffs in the last decade.
Paul then flew us on to Orange County (KORE), deftly handling a very difficult and gusting crosswind in what is quite an exposed airfield. This one was untowered, with a single airfield manager dealing with refuelling and operational issues. He pointed us towards a very traditional diner across the road for lunch which was excellent.
Deb flew the next leg up to Augusta (KAUG), the state capital of Maine, another non-towered/self-announced facility. The highlight was being asked to divert from our direct route to avoid a Blue Angel (The US version of the UK Red Arrows), which we were happy to do (we were on Flight Following). Unfortunately we didn’t see the plane itself.
At Augusta as at many other destinations, there is an automatic weather station (ASOS) which constantly broadcasts the weather conditions (wind, temperature, pressure etc.) on a defined radio frequency. Pilots have to determine from that which runway to use, and with a strong westerly wind the choice was clear. The FBO (Maine Instrument Flight) specialises in training for IFR ratings and included a small pilot shop.
I flew our final leg of the day to Bar Harbor (KBHB), a very scenic area with many islands. We flew near Bristol Airport (not the original). Our earlier forecast had indicated the winds should die down by late afternoon, but we were still in light turbulence with strong gusting winds of 7G20. Self-announcing, we co-ordinated with the one aircraft already in the circuit and joined for the same runway. I was side swiped by a gust just a few feet off the ground and opted for the safe choice of a go-around. On closer examination, the windsock favoured the other runway and we both reverted to that for a much less eventful touchdown.
The taxi into town takes about 20 minutes. It’s not obvious from the road that Bar Harbor is on an island – the bridge is quite short. It’s an idyllic seaside resort, very stylish architecture with many personalised hotels and restaurants. We stayed at the Bar Manor Hotel which the owners have run for 26 years, but my room felt brand new and very well appointed. There are about 60 restaurants within three blocks – it’s a popular stop for Cruise Ships – but was quiet at this early start of the season.
Seafood was outstanding and we enjoyed an excellent meal at Galyns, another long established restaurant in the town.
It was sure a pretty packed day!
The charts below help set the context of how far and where we flew. (Planned not actual logs).
…Part 4 took us back to our Mansfield base via Portsmouth and Hyannis/Barnstaple on the Cape Cod peninsula.
Yes, it’s great fun and very rewarding (if hard work to learn and pass the tests). I wish you luck on your journey…