Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Reason We Fly (Repost from 2010)

A few weeks ago, we headed to Waynesburg Airport (KWAY) to watch John's son participate in a Cyclocross race conveniently located alongside the approach end of Runway 27.

The weather was perfect for the flight and produced ideal conditions for a Cyclocross race. Though, I have to qualify this because the racers, as in the past, have expected rainy weather. After all, one of the bicycle race circuits this time of year is called "Month of Mud".

We embarked on the 20-minute flight from Latrobe. The visibility was a million miles, accompanied by smooth morning air; one couldn't ask for better flight conditions. We landed, parked on the tarmac and walked to the biking venue. During the race, a number of airplanes landed. I heard a comment from a couple of cyclists who thought it was pretty cool to attend a bike race and be able to watch airplanes taking off and landing. Yes, I agree.

Between races, we sauntered over to the restaurant located on the field. John ordered a homemade burger that was nearly impossible to finish due to its size. Almost as entertaining was the group of pilots and friends, at a table near us, discussing flying and politics. Who needs Fox News when we have these guys?

After the race, we headed to the plane, did a preflight, and took off. As we climbed out we wagged the wings to say "nice racing guys and ladies".

A week later, I had to deliver some paperwork to a friend out in Harrisburg. Instead of putting the papers in the mail, we decided it would be a great little adventure to fly instead. The weather gods were with us, once again, and we launched from KLBE and proceeded to the "far east". We had a nice tail wind which turned the normally 55-minute trip into a 36-minute jaunt. (I know we're going to pay on the return trip).
It was pretty cool flying a wide left downwind to left base over the river, passing Three-Mile Island to our right and watching a small gaggle of geese pass below us. They were probably practicing for their journey south; presumably on a different frequency than we were. The air was smooth and the landing was equally grand.

Our friend and wife picked us up at Harrisburg International and took us to Hummelstown for a great lunch. We visited a while and then headed back to the airport. During the visit, I had checked the weather earlier on my Blackberry. There was a small rain cell hovering over Altoona. The weather briefing from Flight Service gave us a promising VFR trip. The cell had disappeared. We climbed into the plane, taxied out to Runway 31 and were cleared for takeoff. Climbing out, we were told to contact Departure. We climbed to 6,500. As we approached the mountains, we noticed some cloud activity ahead of us due to a stationary front in that area. Apparently, Departure thought we wanted to stay on flight following so they had us contact New York center as we proceeded west. The flight was uneventful except for the headwinds that slowed us to a healthy 81-knot ground speed. It took us 1.7 hours for the return trip but the flight was awesome.

As we passed over the terrain, we noted that the spectacular leaf colors would soon give way to snow. This is why we fly; to experience the wonders of nature and the camaraderie of great friends, from a different perspective.

We hear a lot about the negative aspects of flying every time a plane crashes in the nation; it makes the news. Hopefully, this will provide a positive side of aviation.

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