As some of you may have noticed, I am planning to run a triathlon in a couple of days. This of course requires me to get to where the triathlon is, which in this case happens to be Vermont— several hundred nautical miles away from where I live. Luckily I had a solution for that problem. I took off from Decatur, stopped briefly at Winchester to fuel up, and headed north. Why Winchester? Fuel there is about $1/gal cheaper than it is at Decatur, and that makes a big difference when you’re buying 50+ gallons. Plus the staff there are super friendly and their facility is nearly brand-new: great, well-marked runway with a nice building. I saw an AgCat there filling his spray tanks and met Zachary, who just bought a Piper Lance a couple of months ago. We had a nice visit while I waited for my starter to cool down; I am still getting the hang of hot-starting the engine in this plane. The best technique seems to be to prime it just a tiny bit, then open the throttle full, set mixture to idle, and crank. You just have to be aggressive about enriching the mixture and closing the throttle when it does catch.
My flight northwards could not have gone better. I set up the autopilot, climbed to 7500’, and spent an hour or so dodging built-up clouds before settling on a steady course. During that time, I learned that the floor air vents can be opened or closed; when you open them, they work great at cooling down the cabin. This was handy because it was super hot on the ground— hot enough to melt my stash of protein bars inside my flight bag. I brought a cooler along so I could enjoy diet Coke on demand, which was a wonderful bonus.
On the first leg, I spent some of my time in flight reading the manual for my ancient panel-mounted GPS, which was installed in 2001, and I was surprised to find how capable it actually is; it just isn’t very user-friendly, so I still have a lot to learn, but I did get the time zone set, figure out how the altitude alerting function works, and learn how to set up complex flight plans instead of just using the “direct to” button. Originally I’d planned to stop at Rostraver (just outside Monongahela; try saying “Rostraver Monongahela” five times fast) but I noticed in flight that they close before I would have gotten there, so I decided to divert to Allegheny County instead. Fuel is a little more expensive, but that was offset by the fact that the airport was still open when I arrived. I parked the plane, hopped across the street to the Holiday Inn, and enjoyed a delicious calzone delivery from Mama Pepino’s. Then I hit the sack, intending to leave early this morning. The weather was not great when I awoke, so I did a bit of work and headed to the airport about 0900.
706 on the ground at Allegheny County on Thursday morning
You can’t see it in the picture above, but the keys are on the dashboard, as shown below. This serves the extremely useful purpose of making it easy for everyone around to visually confirm that the keys aren’t in the ignition and that the airplane is therefore not startable. No one wants to tangle with an 84” propeller. This keychain has sentimental value, too; it came from Custer State Park on our 2005 trip to Sturgis. It was a Christmas present for Matt that year and he gave it back to me for the plane. The attached buffalo is named Pappy, after Pappy Boyington, not to mention Grandfather Buffalo, a family favorite book. Pappy is not quite as famous as The Lego Pilot but maybe he’ll get there someday.
Corporate Air had taken good care of the plane overnight, so after a thorough preflight I launched with the intent to go direct to Montpelier, with Rome as an intermediate stop if the weather further north was still iffy. Pittsburgh limited me to 3000’ until I got further to the east, then I got 5500’, which was comfortably above the tops of the scattered clouds in that area. I went up to 7500’ about 50nm to the northeast and even then ended up having to dodge some higher buildups, but the clouds were gorgeous and by the time I got to Ticonderoga (see below) they were widely scattered.
Overhead Ticonderoga, NY; that’s Lake George
My flight into Montpelier was completely uneventful (except that I got to talk to Boston Center, which was kinda cool). Julie and her boys were waiting for me, and I had a great time giving them a tour of the plane while we unloaded. Then it was back to her house for a nap, the Montpelier Mile, and the town’s fireworks.
Interestingly, I had a ton of different female air traffic controllers along my route. I’ve never had that happen before; I’m not sure why, but Nashville approach, Indianapolis Center, Pittsburgh Approach, and a couple of smaller approach control centers en route all had women working the tower cab.