The last few months have been a mix of work travel, ugly weather and a head cold. As a result, most of my flying has been simple solo hops, wandering down the CT shoreline or doing some landing practice, especially with some crosswind.
I did start the year right, doing some instrument approach practice with Len on January 1st, first in his airplane and then in mine. It gave each of us the opportunity to practice in the plane in which we normally would be flying actual instrument approaches. For my flight, we did the run up to Chester, CT (KSNC) and did two approaches up there (GPS35 with procedure turn and GPS17 with procedure turn) before returning to Bridgeport to shoot the GPS29 there. I did the two approaches at Chester as coupled approaches, meaning I flew them with the autopilot engaged, which is the way I would normally fly in actual instrument conditions. (Flying a coupled approach means George (the autopilot) flies the plane very steadily and I watch George to ensure that he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing during the approach.) On the approach back into Bridgeport, however, I hand-flew the approach.
At the end of January, I flew up to Barnes/Westfield MA (KBAF) to meet up with Dan and Gloria and the kids. It was my first stop on the New England Flying Gourmet Challenge, a little contest organized to get pilots out to 8 different restaurants located on airports throughout New England. If you hit all 8 (and get little stickers for the ID card and post to Facebook) before May 15, you can get a t-shirt. I hadn’t been back up to Barnes since this new restaurant opened so it was also good to scope out a food place!
Much more importantly, it was a great opportunity to catch up with Dan and his family in the New Year. The kids were excited to tell me about classes they’d been taking.
In mid February, I took my parents flying up to Keene, NH (KEEN) for my 2nd restaurant on the NE Flying Gourmet Challenge. We had a nice day for the flight, smooth air and chilly, but not too cold, temperatures. Mom and Dad were both pretty good at spotting landmarks as we flew north. It was my first time flying to Keene but the airport was easy to spot and our course from the south brought us perfectly into an extended downwind for runway 20. The landing was a greaser. (I took video and can prove it!) We had to taxi off through some slush but soon were parking at the terminal building.
The Flight Deck Restaurant did not disappoint, with a great selection of food. I’ll have to remember for the summer months, they have a large ice cream/make your own sundae shop with a huge selection of goodies to pile on top! The waitstaff were friendly and attentive. Our waitress walked out with me to the plane to take their requisite Gourmet Challenge photo for their wall and she even helped me get a very rare picture of my mother, smiling!
The flight home was equally uneventful, with a great view of Bradley International and we flew past some snow showers building west of us. I made another greaser of a landing (what can I say, the parents bring good luck!) back at Bridgeport.
After a few solo hops on weekends just to fly, as well as one afternoon of just practicing a bunch of crosswind landings at Bridgeport,
I had another chance to go up with Len to do some more instrument practice. We also planned to stop in at New Bedford, MA for stop #3 on the Gourmet Challenge. On our way northeast, I flew two approaches at Chester (KSNC), handflying the GPS35 with procedure turn and shooting the GPS17 with procedure turn as a coupled approach. Then we headed up towards New Bedford, picking up flight following from Providence Approach.
We requested the ILS05 at New Bedford as a practice approach while we were about 30 miles out. Providence approved and a few minutes later asked us if we could move from 2,500’ up to 3,000’ but maintain our Visual Flight Rules (eg stay legally below the clouds). As the clouds were just 500’ above us, I told the controller negative on maintaining VFR but that we were IFR capable and could accept an IFR clearance. The controller quickly cleared us to New Bedford with a climb up to 3,000’. So I actually got some actual instrument time as we popped in and out of clouds and it allowed the controller to work some traffic below us at 2,500’. I could have flown a tighter ILS approach—I was right of course most of the time, but on the glide path, as I wasn’t correcting for wind from the north properly until we got closer in to the runway.
After shutting down, we found out that the restaurant didn’t open until 11:30a on Sundays (it was only about 10:20a). So we quickly figured out an alternative and decided to head back and Len would do an approach into Groton, where a new restaurant recently re-opened at the airport. We were soon back in the air and Len shot the GPS33 into Groton. The winds were a bit brisk over the course of the morning and once we had parked, I grabbed the tie-down straps I carry with me and we made sure the plane was snug.
Mid-morning breakfast at Café 511 (a Mystic bagel shop/restaurant that recently relocated out to the airport) was fantastic! A good mix of locals and pilots stopping in. Our waitress was very friendly and had coffee to us very quickly! We had a great breakfast and nice chat with the owner’s wife. They’re took info on the New England Flying Gourmet Challenge and are going to try to get in on it next year.
Len shot two approaches at Chester before we headed back to Bridgeport. Because we were coming in from the northeast and we were given a long straight-in to Runway 24, I was able to squeeze in another approach for the GPS24, with good practice of actually landing this time!
This weekend, since I’ve got a flight review coming up later in the month, I went out to do some maneuvering practice. Out over Long Island Sound (a lot of traffic stays hugging the shoreline), I did a couple of clearing turns to ensure I was away from any other planes and then practiced some steep turns and power-on stalls. I also had some fun and did some turns on a point around a lighthouse.
I’ve got some fun coming up with the flight review and then one, possibly two trips to IL, in May. I’m VERY much looking forward to the long cross country flights as I’ve been itching for a while!