Monday, June 23, 2008

Good Dog's a Show Dog! (and a Bravo Dog!)

I recently posted about our trip down to Suffolk for the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight, but didn't blog about the Festival itself.

When we arrived on the field that morning, we noticed that our plane was still parked right we had left it-- on the line with the show planes! (We hadn't known where to park it, and were worried about finding someone to help us get our car, so we just left it in an open spot in front of the FBO). We asked inside the FBO if we should move the plane somewhere else given that we're not exactly a show plane (that's putting it mildly since the dog hasn't had a bath in a while!). They told us we could leave it there without a problem. It made us laugh a lot to see our plane sitting alongside all the showplanes-- and to see people walk up to it, obviously curious why a dirty 172 was sitting there with them!

This fly-in was much more casual than the AOPA one. We saw a lot of the same vendors that we had seen the previous weekend, but in a more relaxed atmosphere. We spent about 20 minutes talking to the ultralight guy that Husband met the weekend before. It was intriguing to think about being able to buy one of those little aircraft for as little as $32,000. And it sounds like maintenance is much cheaper. Of course, where we would fly it is another question. We daydreamed about keeping it at the airport we fly to when we go see my parents. That way, we could fly down to the airport there in our regular plane, land and switch planes, fly over to the valley where my parents live in the ultralight, and land on a pasture right there. Seems like it should be a time saver-- and then we could take little joyride flights around while we were there. Great idea, right? Makes me want to keep my Honda with 90,000+ miles just a little longer!

We bought a few things as we went-- though nothing so useful as the new flight bag; did I mention I like it?! We picked up another cool aviation-themed Hawaiian shirt. Well-actually, they're mailing it to us. Of course, I had to have one of the event shirts- it has all kinds of different planes on the back. And I found a pair of little stud earrings in the shape of an airplane.

After perusing the exhibits, and finding something with caffeine in it to keep Husband awake, we headed over to the seminar tents to catch the decision-making seminar that counted for a stamp in our Aviation Ambassador quest. The seminar consisted of the projecting of a dvd about decision making off of a laptop. The speaker was not working on the projector, so they just set the hand-held microphone next to the computer speaker. Aside from the annoying squeal when one of the narrators said anything with an "s" in it-- and some technical difficulties at the end, it was actually a somewhat interesting video. We never got to the second half of the seminar which was supposed to be on preventative maintenance that you could perform yourself. I'm not sure why no one had realized that you couldn't fit an introduction, 65 minute video, and a presentation on preventative maintenance into 1:15 time slot... but I won't complain. Especially because the one thing the expert did say about preventative maintenance was that airplanes were too complicated now, and you shouldn't do your own maintenance!

After that lively seminar, we followed about half of the seminar attendees over to the Virginia Aviation booth to get that elusive third stamp in our books. Then it was time to head out as we had plans in Philly that night. We had already taken care of getting fueled (they had a $.15/gal discount off of the self serve prices that weekend in honor of the show-- so gas was only a little over $4/gal! What a bargain!). After some discussion with the line guys on how to best get to the runway, we started up and headed to the active. For the weekend, the second runway was closed and being used as a taxiway... but there was no run-up area set aside. I had a little trouble deciding where to park for the run-up, but finally settled on a spot. Hopefully I didn't cause too much of a traffic jam.

And then we were off. Because of the fire, the TFR was now only 2 short miles off the end of the runway. I got a little confused about where I should be going, and where the TFR was. At one point, I thought I had accidentally clipped it, but I hadn't. Whew. Husband helped me get oriented and turned in the right direction. I was thankful to have him along. It was still verrrrry hazy, so we climbed as high as we could to get 1) over the Norfolk airspace, and 2) out of the haze. We finally got above it and sailed along at 7,500 feet over the coastline. We flew up the Delmarva peninsula, and had it been clear, it would have been beautiful (I have no doubt!). As it was, it was a nice flight. Husband even napped for a few minutes (first time that's happened while flying!). He woke up, though, when ATC helpfully alerted me to an oncoming plane at our altitude. We decided to descend early- and that turned out to be a good decision as the plane came quite close to us and we could not see it until the last minute. ATC even commented to us that we had made a good decision.

After that, we were handed off to Philly approach- only there was some confusion and they sent us to the wrong controller. We were glad to switch to someone else as the guy sounded like a jerk. Unfortunately, within 5 minutes, we were handed back to him. Oh well. Twice, he told us to turn in directions that seemed to have us heading straight for another plane. It made us very uncomfortable. Especially as we were then scolded for not maintaining the heading he gave us. He was right that we should have minimally told him we were turning for traffic- but there was not much open time on the frequency.

We ended up approaching Philly Int'l (PHL) straight in for Runway 35. The controller told us to watch for a Southwest jet approaching the runway crossing 35. We kept looking for it- and the controller kept asking for it. Finally, at the last second (while I'm trying to get the plane to go slower and slower), we saw the plane streak across in front of us. Because we hadn't been cleared to descend, I then had to do a forward slip to get us down in time. Husband thinks that because the controller wouldn't let us change frequencies to Tower until we had the jet in sight that we also couldn't be cleared to descend below a certain altitude. Does anyone know if that's a typical practice-- that you have to be with Tower before you can go below a certain altitude (in this case, 2500)?

After all of the excitement, we made it over to the FBO without any further excitement. Our first Bravo-class airport in our own plane! They didn't quite know what to make of our 172, but were very nice to us anyway. Because we purchased 15 gallons of fuel, the overnight fee ($49) was waived, and we only had to pay a $10 landing fee. The FBO was filled with charter pilots waiting for their flights. It was kinda funny to see so many pilots-- all dressed alike-- standing around staring out the windows or checking their email and voicemail. We must have looked ridiculous- after a full morning in the hot sun, and then a long hot flight, we were looking a bit scruffy!

We had a great time with our friends- E & S-- who had driven down from New Jersey to meet us. We had a great Cuban dinner at Alma de Cuba, went to see the new Cirque du Soleil show, and wrapped up with drinks and dessert at a fun upscale diner/martini bar called the Continental. Sunday morning, we all had breakfast and then went out to stroll around the city, see the Reading Terminal Market, take a duck tour, and have some really good cheese steaks. Then it was back to PHL for the trip home. We realized when we got in the cab, that we weren't really sure how to tell him how to get to the GA terminal- and he only knew where the main terminal was! Once we got that sorted out, we were on our way. Our only hiccup getting home was again knowing what altitude we had been cleared for. If they don't tell you, and you're taking off VFR from a class Bravo airport, should you assume you're cleared to fly in Bravo airspace? Something to ponder.

1 comment:

Matt said...

He may have had to have you stay at 2,500 because of two reasons 1) a minimum vectoring altitude if he was vectoring you 2) to ensure separation with the southwest since you didn't have visual.

And as for the class B... I have nooo idea. I'll never land at JFK or LGA and my one landing at TEB was technically departing a class D and flying under the bravo... The Bravo in the NE is one giant pain in the you know what...