I woke up this morning to another infamous Upstate, NY day; clouds, rain, and gusty winds dominated the current METAR and TAF. With this information in mind, I figured this trip would be a no go. Not long after however, my phone is buzzing and before I know it I am walking into the FBO to meet Brian R for today's flight. The weather has cleared up to a scattered layer of clouds at about 070 with isolated, ever so very isolated showers. However, the winds were still gusting to just under 20 knots, certainly a flyable condition.
This is the first time I will fly in a high performance aircraft. This aircraft, in fact, is a Cessna 182 skylane. It is truly a beautiful airplane. As Brian does the pre-flight, I am walking around it admiring its beauty. It feels nice to be back in a high-wing airplane - I haven't flown in one since, 2 years? 3 years? I can't remember.
Pre-flight is complete and we are taxiing to, that's right, runway 33! Winds are favoring this often disregarded runway today at the home airport. As Brian completes the runup, I think about what 210 horses at full power will feel like on takeoff. As Brian applies full throttle, I can feel myself being pushed back into the seat - this feels nice. What felt like a half of a second later we are climbing through 2,000 feet, this baby climbs fast! I think we were doing over 1,000fpm if I can recall, with full tanks of the most expensive liquid on the planet.
As we approach the cloud layer, we find a nice hole and begin ascending towards it. This will be my first time VFR over-the-top, and so far it's looking great. There's something about climbing over the clouds, truly an amazing feeling. As we reach 9,500 ft, our initial planned cruising altitude, we are still looking like we are going to skim the tops of some clouds. I stupidly recommend climbing to 10,500, an incorrect VFR cruising altitude for our heading. Oops! Soon enough however, we are at 11,500 enjoying the view.
Climbing above the clouds for VFR over the top
Cruising at 11,500 feet
A strong tailwind can do wonders for you. Let me put it this way: our trip TO Nashua, NH was about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Our trip FROM Nashua, NH was about 2 hours and 3 minutes. So, as expected, with about a 180 knot groundspeed, we reached Nashua in no time.
The dog we are picking up today is named "Missy," a very cute and small 6 pound Yorkie. As we secure here safely in her back seat crate, we begin taxiing to the runway to begin our second leg of the trip: Nashua, NH to Watertown, NY. It is about, if I can recall, 5pm for a departure time. Winds are gusty and are beginning to calm in time for sunset. The clouds are quickly burning off however they are still around. We will have a stiff headwind, but it should be another great VFR over the top flight. Full power and another 10 seconds later the airport is disappearing to our 6. 210 horses feels great!
As we climb through about 5,000 feet, Brian offers me the controls! With no hesitation, of course, I accept the offer and I begin logging time in a high performance aircraft. I need to get my high performance endorsement; this airplane is awesome!
We reach our cruising altitude of 8,500ft, and again are in danger of skimming the tops of clouds. We begin climbing to 10,500 feet and are satisfied. The sun is beginning to set under the clouds. We should be in Watertown by 7:30.
"Missy" enjoying the flight at 10,500 feet
Cruising at 10,500 enroute Watertown as the sun begins to set
As we cruise of the central part of the Adirondacks, ATC informs of an approaching C-130, at our 12 o'clock. This is gonna be good.... I can already see the smoke trail of the C-130 far ahead, he is coming right at us at about 11,000 feet! As he continues to approach, I try to snap a picture but the camera on my iPhone only wants to focus on the bugs stuck to the windshield. Oh well, I guess I'll just get the next C-130 that happens to fly 500 feet above.
Cruising at 10,500 enroute Watertown.
As we approach Watertown, it is hard to distinguish between the airport beacons of Fort Drum AFB and Watertown airport. We finally find the airport and Brian establishes a downwind leg for runway 10. 10 feet over the runway he puts the throttle to idle and rotates for a smooth touchdown. Now the hard part: taxiing to the ramp. After one or two 180s mixture is to idle and we are shaking hands with Missy's new caretakers.
30 minutes later, we are back at the home airport safe and sound. What an awesome day.