Friday 15 May – New Bedford, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Plymouth
For our last day of flying, we were down to four pilots because Paul had booked to return a day earlier than us. I shared an aircraft with Phil and we packed in three flights each, visiting the islands but starting with New Bedford (KEWB) where he knew the assistant manager. This can be a very busy airfield with many training flights from the aviation academy onsite alongside 24,000 commercial passengers visiting the islands. Today it was unusually quiet because the students were taking their theory exams which made it very easy for us.
We were shown around including a tower tour. The city employs five staff who manage and maintain the facility while the FAA outsource ATC in the tower which is staffed by six controllers. I was shown how a Flight Following squawk code is allocated and a flight strip automatically printed. The area had the worst winter on record with over 100 inches of snow and the airport had done well to clear the runways and remain open.
I flew on to Nantucket, where the ATIS advised runways 24 and 30 were in use for arrivals with 24 for departures. Arriving from the north west, the tower instructed me to overfly the field and join downwind for 30 while commercial aircraft were using 24. We saw several other aircraft and helicopters during the short flight, with a small commercial air taxi service busy ferrying passengers to and from the mainland.
My circuit pattern was a bit high and tight, but we got down OK and parked up on the ramp. A taxi took us into town where we admired the wooden boarded houses – some strict planning regulations are in place to ensure consistency.
Phil’s short hop across to Martha’s Vineyard was very straight forward, with a golf cart buggy lift to the airport office. We took the scheduled bus into Oak’s Bluff for a walk around. The island is much bigger than Nantucket with more to see.
Block Island was the last we visited in the day, another popular place but more difficult to reach by ferry. I flew this leg and found another untowered airport with ASOS weather reporting and no staff on the ground. Only the commercial airline desk was manned. We visited the terminal but otherwise just made a quick crew change.
With a little time to spare before dusk, Phil flew us to Plymouth where he was very taken with Plane Jane’s Café there. It stays open until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays and has a balcony overlooking the airfield.
It seems that many US pilots have flyouts that are focussed on meeting up somewhere for breakfast. They must start out pretty early, perhaps enjoying some calmer weather. Perhaps that explains why that café opens at 6am every day of the week.
I flew the last leg back to Mansfield by which time the wind had picked up. Intending to make a downwind join for the hard runway 14, I could see from the windsock there was a strong 90 degree crosswind so made a circle round for the grass 22. A greaser of a landing made for the perfect end to the flying week
Saturday 16 May 2015 – Boston by foot
We spent the day sightseeing in Boston, including walking the Freedom trail and harbour boat tour (strongly recommended) before making our way back to the airport for the journey home. Kelley had kindly printed out a tour guide and highlighted the most important attractions.
We’d all had a really great holiday. The weather had been reasonably good and we’d lost only one day’s flying, although some of the light turbulence encountered would not have suited everybody. This was all strictly VFR and we managed to fit in a good mix of large and small airfields.
The group all got on really well with each other and I don’t recall any disagreements or disputes.
We flew about 50 hours in total across both aircraft. I logged 9:40 and added 16 different airports to my logbook (of 18 visited) during the six days flying. The highlight for me was undoubtedly the New York Skyline run, but Bar Harbor and the Islands were both a close second. I’d say our R/T was reasonably professional and we didn’t have any significant misunderstandings. Flying the aircraft is the same everywhere, so take-offs and landings are no different. We had learnt the rules about 45 degree joins and Flight Following beforehand.
The only thing I’d do differently if I went again would be to find a better way to log the location of pictures taken (my camera GPS is quite dated) and to remember to sync the timezone and time between camera and phone. So apologies if I’ve mis-named any of the airfields in the photos above.
The most useless piece of luggage I carted around was the yellow fluorescent jacket I keep in my flight bag. Not once was it suggested that I use it – you are escorted in the few places where security is a concern.
Big thanks to Kelley and her team at Mansfield, plus many other unnamed staff and crew at the many places we visited. If we can do this, there’s no reason any reasonably competent and enthusiastic VFR pilots couldn’t follow in our footsteps.
Flying Days: 6
Non-Flying Days: 2 (One unplanned in Atlantic City due weather, one sightseeing in Boston)
New airfields in the logbook: 16 (out of 18 visited)
PIC time: 9:40 (all VFR, part of ~25 hours in 6 flying days including as passenger)
Total PIC: 292:45
Total Time: 425:40