Monday, October 6, 2008

Family Trip to Bedford for the Fall Foliage Festival

I have to hand it to my wife, Emel, she is a trooper, and she proved it again on our family flight to Bedford for their annual Fall Foliage Festival. We had a long day ahead of us when we woke up on Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect for flying so that concern was off the table. One of the great things about GA is you are on your own timetable for the most part so there was minimal concern about rushing to get the kids ready, things packed, etc. We arrived at the airport around 10AM and began jamming all of our gear: stroller, car seats, diaper bags, etc, into the 172. Emel was in charge of securing car seats and getting the kids ready while I did the walk around.

Once the kids we settled in in the back, Emel and I got in and I fired up the Lycoming and taxied to the beginning of 35. Luckily no problems with the runup and we were off and climbing to 5,500. I radioed Pittsburgh approach for flight following and received it no problem at all. We were soon passed off the Cleveland center and I started to notice that the GPS was just not getting a signal, or at least it was not displaying any information. This reaffirmed why I'm glad I carry all the maps and do a VFR plan with checkpoints, noted VORs, etc. We ended up using VOR navigation for the whole route and while I was not as precise at I would have liked to have been we were pretty much on course.

After a beautiful flight over several mountain ridges and right past Johnstown airport we descended over the last ridge to pattern altitude for Bedford County (HMZ). Emel spotted the airport about 10 miles out and I made the radio calls entering a 45 downwind for runway 32. The approach is an interesting one as it calls for flying over top of a ridge just past abeam the numbers then final is coming back up through a gap between two ridges. It was not particularly challenging, but I wouldn't particularly want to do it in limited visibility conditions. The landing was a bit hurried so we had a little bounce, but we were on the ground safely, all that matters. Bedford County was a really nice little airport. The lineman greeted us and we even had access to the courtesy car for the day!

We had a fantastic day in Bedford. First Emel suggested we decompress a bit and have a relaxing lunch at Bedford Springs resort. It was just two miles outside of town and an amazing site to see tucked away in a valley. After a long lunch we packed the kids back up in the car and headed back to town to see the festival. It was much more crowded than I had expected, easily several hundred people there. We passed by lots of craft booths and decended down the hill to Fort Bedford. There they had the typical country fair things to do like face-painting, pony rides, a play that involved the audience and more. We watched the play for about an hour and then around 4PM we decided to call it a day. Back at Bedford County, we settled our account for the fuel, repacked the plane and headed out over the hills back to Zeli.

The kids did really well on the trip, particular kudos to Charlie who was a champ on both flights. Virginia actually fell asleep in the front seat, which was amazing considering all of the radio chatter going on from Cleveland center. It had been a long day for her. We once again navigated by VOR on the way back mostly using a spotty signal from EWC. Clevenland passed us back to Pittsburgh approach, and the controller dealing with us was awesome declining my flight following cancellation saying there were multiple targets in my area. He stayed with us all the way to Zeli which was nice becuase there was a fair amount of afternoon haze limiting visibility.

Once on the ground we all breathed a bit better, it had been a long day, maybe a bit too much to pack into one, but it was an adventure. Emel was really great about being patient with the kids when I admittedly was not and she helped hold the whole day together to make it a fun outing. We're looking forward to many more, right hon?
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