Saturday, August 16, 2008

Condor Annual Picnic 2008

I took my two year old son Charlie up to Zeli to check out our club's annual corn roast/picnic shindig. I wasn't sure what to expect since I had taken him to the airport for a "warm up" about a month ago so he could just look at the airplanes, maybe sit in one, he ended up not even wanting to come within 30 feet of an airplane. So, this being his second trip to the airport, I was just hoping for the best.

I has also invited a good friend, Chris, who I'm hoping will get the aviation bug to come up the picnic and see what Condor had to offer. The picnic was in full swing when Charlie and I arrived with spot landing and flour drops galore. Charlie was immediately noticing all of the airplanes buzzing around and he was very excited about it. It could have been because they were taxing, flying low, and generally very visible.

I saw my AOPA mentor, Todd, and chatted with him about the trials of airplane ownership and then got a chance to talk for a bit with my fellow formed "classmate" Rod with his family (congrats on the new private pilot ticket Rod!). Also, a shout out to Ben, great to meet you in person today!

Chris showed up about 45 minutes later and he got a chance to take a look at some of the club's airplane, talk with Todd and Rod, as well as Mike. He also got the wonderful opportunity to help me chase Charlie, who at this point was running pretty much unchecked around the tarmac. I wanted to get Chris up in the air, and with the generous help of Rod et al to watch Charlie for 20 minutes (OK, 1/2 hour) I was able to take Chris up for a short flight over the lake in 549.

After landing, when I pulled up 549 to the fuel pumps, I could see Charlie charging across the grass, calling "Daddy", and pushing Rod's two year old in his stroller... The highlight of the day for me was when I was just putting the fuel hose back and Charlie said to me "I ride apane". I couldn't believe he actually wanted to get into the airplane, but Chris and I got back in, I put Charlie on my lap and fired it up. Amazingly, he was totally fine and "drove" us back to the hanger with a huge smile on his face. Simply awesome.

Friday, August 1, 2008

"Fly" Fishing

For my father's 61st birthday, I have him for his gift a flight to some of the best flyfishing in PA: Fisherman's Paradise on Spring Creek near State College. Of course, I was excited about getting a chance to fly to State College anyhow, so it was a two for one as far as presents go, one for him and one for me. We decided to give it a shot August 1st, a Friday morning. I had been fervently checking the weather the previous days and it looked like it was a go, however they were calling for isolated thunderstorms for the evening flight back.

I woke up around 6AM, looked outside and my heart sank as there was thick fog as far as the eye could see, or well, could not see. My Dad showed up in the truck, on time as usual, at 7AM and upon discussing the fog we decided to drive close to Zeli, and if the fog did not let up, we would fish somewhere close by. We were lucky however as we drove on the Turkpike and climbed up out of the Allegheny River valley, the fog began to dissapate. I had called WX-BRIEF on the drive and the briefer said correctly that most of the fog was around Pittsburgh and up north the AWOSes we saying there was none to be concerned with.

Arriving at PJC, we loaded the fishing gear into 573, preflighted, and departed runway 35. I recieved flight following from PIT approach, and they flipped me over to Cleveland Center after about 10 minutes. Looking to the south as we headed east we could see much of the ground and the city of Pittsburgh blanketed in fog (which was really cool to look at), and for much of the flight we were right on the edge of the fog bank. I was just hoping that the fog had burned off at University Park airport (UNV). The TAF has forecasted any mist at UNV to be dissapated by 9AM which was pretty close to our estimated arrival time. Luckily, as we crossed over the last mountain ridge and had UNV in sight, we could see there was nothing to worry about.

After a rather hard landing (not used to landing on runway's that wide), we taxied up to the beautiful UNV GA terminal. UNV is interesting in that there are four major airlines that have regular service there, however there is no control tower (the lineman said they are getting a tower next year, so I'm assuming UNV will be a class D airport in a year or so). There is a seperate GA terminal however and it is incredibly nice. In addition, the rental car agency over at the commercial terminal brought our car over so it was right outside the door in the parking lot. Great service.

After not even a 3 mile drive, we were on the water at Fisherman's Paradise. What would be about a 3 1/2 hour drive turned into a 40 minute drive and 50 minute flight to be in the water, fly rods in hand. Pretty cool.

We fished all day, but my eyes were on the sky, scanning for those projected t-storm clouds, of which I began to see some scary looking ones around 11AM. I knew we would be getting new TAFs at 2PM though, I figured I would wait for those and make a decision. After fishing in the morning we ran into Bellefonte and had a awesome lunch at the High Street Pub. After lunch we went back to the stream and I pulled up the new TAFs on my cellphone. As luck would have it the forecasted weather at Zeli greatly improved and they were now calling for the T-storms to hit around 10PM. With that relief I started to really enjoy the fishing more.

We called it a day around 6PM and headed back to the airport. The lineman did a great job topping of 573 and we basically just loaded up the plane again and headed west. After flying about 10 minutes to get back in the Cleveland Center's sector (look for the delinations on your IFR Low Level charts), I called up Center and received flight following for the trip back. It was incredibly hazy and I could see how one could lose a horizon even in what is technically VFR. No problems on the return however and I was able to impress my Dad with a greaser landing at Zeli. The day turned out perfect and it was fantastic to see how useful and fun GA can be.
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