Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day 1: Massachusetts to Pennsylvania


And so the flying adventure has begun. Initially conceived years ago, the expedition has finally taken off. Postponed for years because of this annoying thing called “college,” I finally thought I would get my chance. But then a chance came up to sail in the Mediterranean with outward bound. Flying mission scrubbed. Another chance the following year. Enter the crazy horse voyage…flying trip scrubbed again. Was I forever going to be stuck doing circles around the traffic pattern of my local airport?

But alas, a word I love using, on this day, after much planning, packing and dreaming, we have left. Yes, I use the possessive we to describe us: myself and my plane, just as Charles Lindbergh did when he crossed the Atlantic. Does this other have a name? Well, yes, officially his name is N7202G – G phonetically is GOLF, which naturally led itself to the name Freddy in honor of my favorite golfer, Fred Couples – also the favorite golfer of my friend Geoff Young and my brother in law Dan Cignarella, two fine golfers in their own right. Coincidence, I think not. I digress.
Mom and dad drove me to the airport this morning after loading the car and doing my customary trampoline front flip and swish on the basketball net (if the ball hits you after the swish you have to do it over.) A wonderful tour of Norwood’s airport’s control tower followed the drive and I was then ready to load the plane now that I’d seen the face of the voice I’ve heard for many years over the radio.

The plane was loaded, I said goodbye to ma and pa, the flight was planned with the latest weather info, specifically the winds aloft, and then the cockpit was organized: GPS plugging in and programmed, checklist under right thigh, kneeboard strapped onto the left thigh, chart, aircraft manual, airport directory and circular slide rule in pocket by left leg, voice recorder wires plugged in and navigation planning sheet within easy reach. It was time to “light this candle” as Alan Shepard said before he became the first American in space. And so I went through the steps:


Breaks: hold
Fuel: on both tanks
Fuel/air mixture: full rich
Carburetor heat: off
Circuit breakers: in
Primer: primed and locked
Throttle: set
Master and alternator switches: on
Flashing beacon: on


I then called “CLEAR” out the window, turned the key and lit the candle. Got my taxi clearance from the controller then proceeded to go all of two feet forward to the edge of the taxiway which the main wheels would not roll over from their parking location on grass abutment. Canceled my taxi clearance and shut down the engine.

Switches: off
Mixture: lean
Ignition: off
Master and alternator switches: off

Got out, waved down the fuel guy and together I pulled and he pushed Freddy’s main wheels onto the taxiway. Take 2. Light candle, candle lit. Taxi clearance obtained, taxied to runway 35 (which points to 350 on the compass) did my run-up engine check, then saying goodbye to my nervous-antsy feeling as we gathered speed down the runway, the nose wheel lifted off and Freddy decided it was at last time to get the show on the road.

Climbed at full power circling to the right to fly over the airport, heading at last: WEST! The clouds looked near scattered as they were, to my cruising altitude of 4,500 feet but as I nudged upwards finally out of Boston’s airspace, I stayed just below them.

And so it went. Beneath the scattered clouds, above the trees, the lakes, the houses, the people oblivious to our passage thousands of feet above them. From one checkpoint to another I went until landing at Sullivan county airport, New York. Fantastic runway – long, wide and no other airplane traffic.


Took a much needed bathroom break, called home as I do after each leg, fueled up ($80 worth of fuel at 4.25 a gallon. ) then planned the next leg, and away we went! Over hills, over a row of large wind mills churning away on a ridge line. Absolutely beautiful. Video taped the sun setting in the direction I was flying then my approach and landing between the hills into a Pennsylvanian valley. Beautiful.

Got fuel, got dinner in town at a Chinese restaurant and am now here in the back of Freddy ready to bed down for the evening. I told the fuel guys that I was supposed to meet a friend. Eventually I asked if I could sleep in the plane saying I wasn’t able to contact my friend and that I didn’t want to pay for a hotel. They laughed, bewildered. No one had ever asked them that before, he said. He called his manager. There were no policies against it because no one does it. I got the go ahead from the friendly guys.

I have taken out the three other seats to the plane, making it now a single-seater. In the back I now have my sleeping bag, a bivi sack, my sister's bike, a back pack of clothes, another pack of miscellaneous things - tools and such, a bag of operational flying equipment, manuals, charts, airport directories and navigation planning sheets, a few quarts of oil, and a bag of food. Bike is now outside, and all my other gear is organized on the starboard side, while I sleep on the port side, feet under the copilot controls and head in the back looking up through the rear window. Just like winter camping tonight.

So wonderful to be exploring again. Biking through town made me feel like I was back on the crazy horse adventure. New ports are so interesting, so fascinating. A new part of the world. My days are once again invigorating, pages in the journal written now instead of only a sentence or two for a day. It is wonderful and now I must do my exercises and stretches and call it a day, a wonderful day.

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