Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Living the Life...

Sunday turned out to be a lot cloudier than anticipated, but our adventures more than made up for that.

Husband invited a colleague from work, J, to join us for our flight. J is also a pilot-- and has been one for 25-30 years. J has done some really cool flying things-- he's flown a P-51, attended a top gun school, and flown all sorts of planes. He has the perfect personality for flying, too-- friendly, laid back, and intelligent. Husband and J spent Friday together at a work function, and cooked up a plan to fly to Nemacolin Woodlands for lunch. I was happy to be invited along!

Nemacolin Woodlands, for those who don't know, is an amazing resort about 90 minutes from Pittsburgh (very near Seven Springs, for those who know Western Pennsylvania). When we lived in Pittsburgh, Husband's company used to do a lot of staff retreats and planning meetings there-- and I was always jealous. The resort is huge, and has just about every activity you can imagine. There's championship golf, horses and ponies, a driving academy (picture big 4x4s and a lot of mud), mini golf, huge swimming pools, tennis, shooting, a spa, and even 10 ski runs. To top it off, Nemacolin has its own private airstrip-- right next to the main lodge. For months, we have talked about flying to Nemacolin and playing a round of golf. Well, we seem to have missed the golf season, but there's still plenty of fun to be had!

We were set to meet at 10am on Sunday at JYO. We had the plane reserved-- and figured we'd be a little late getting off as there was another lesson on the schedule for the plane before ours (7-10am). Sure enough, we get to JYO right at 10am, and there's no plane. No problem, we're easy, we'll just enjoy the atmosphere and wait. We had a great time talking to a few friends we made at the open house a few months back, and hearing about J's great flying adventures. Still no plane. Not wanting to be complainers, we wait some more. And some more. Finally, we start getting antsy and trying harder to figure out what's going on. Turns out the previous flight was late leaving, had massive headwinds, and was really late. We were giving up and leaving the airport when we found out they were 5 miles out. At this point it was almost 1pm. So, 3 hours late, we depart JYO.

The good news about our late departure was that the weather had actually improved a little! Still pretty cloudy, but a little sun peaking through. We had a nice flight over. It was the first time we couldn't just enter the airport name in the G1000 and follow the pink line, though. (We couldn't find the airport listed in the system... and couldn't figure out how to enter the GPS coordinates. I guess we have a little homework to do!) I was sitting right seat, so had the task of figuring out how to get us there. I finally realized that the airport was almost exactly halfway between two other airports-- so I entered those as our waypoints. As a backup, I dialed up the VOR DME info so that we could track it that way. (I know, I know, I sound incredibly spoiled-- but I was happy to know that I could figure out how to get there in several different ways!)

In the end, we didn't really need the VOR DME info-- we had no trouble spotting the resort (how many golf courses are in the mountains?!), and then it was reasonably easy to pinpoint the airport from there. Though, at first, I wasn't sure if we had correctly identified the field because the runway was so narrow, it looked like a road! We had called the day before to secure permission to fly in, so we followed the directions they had given and made the appropriate calls. They didn't say anything about announcing our position in the pattern, so I made those calls as well. I think they weren't used to that, because the person at the resort kept responding to each of my position calls. Does anyone know what the etiquette is for communicating during an approach to a private airport?

Later, we learned that they only have about 5-7 planes land there each week... so I guess there's not much traffic to worry about! As we landed, I was a little grateful that Husband was flying because the runway was sooo narrow! And it dropped off about halfway down-- so you could see what lay beyond and weren't sure if you were out of runway or not! We followed the signs to "aircraft parking"-- where we found a shuttle bus waiting for us! Is that service or what?! They helped us get the plane tied down and then we all loaded in the bus for the short (5 minute) drive to the main lodge.

Because we were so late, we missed brunch, so we ate at The Tavern. It was great. Good food, good atmosphere, good conversation. Like I said, the resort itself was amazing. I took a few pictures to show how cool it was. Definitely different than our usual $100 hamburger stop!

There was an ice cream parlor!

This huge aquarium was in the middle of the space where our table was. Not the same as watching planes taking off and land-- but very cool!

Husband and J in the hotel lobby... again, a little different than the normal airport stop.

After lunch and a brief stroll around, we walked back over to the airstrip. We did a quick preflight, checked the windsock, and took off for JYO with me in the left seat. On the way back, we flew right over Savage River Lodge-- where Husband and I occasionally go for a weekend away (I blogged about it a few months back). Turns out that J has also been to Savage River... so maybe we'll all go for a weekend sometime. After a circle over the lodge, we headed on back to JYO. We got back to the area just as the sun was starting to set. The winds had calmed while we were out, and planes were using 17. So we came in over the white water tower, then turned over the blue water tower for the quarries. As we flew over the quarry and turned for the 45, we got a great view of the sunset on the horizon. A nice squeaker (no greaser, but definitely a few chirps!), and we were back on the ground. What a great day!

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