With beautiful warm high pressure building into the area and the low overcast that kept things ugly yesterday vanquished today was a perfect day for some long solo hours in the airplane. I decided to take a XC to two different airports in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. I haven’t landed in either of these states yet and doing a XC trip to some different airports widened my experience nicely.
My original plan was to try and make it to Reading, PA for lunch at the restaurant there. Ultimately this didn’t end up happening. The airport was forecast to be under the low coastal stratus deck until 13:00 with “low confidence on the timing”. I would still try for Reading, but I ate ahead of time instead and brought some snacks if I had to divert.
It was completely clear in Nashua but over Connecticut you could see the edge of the stratus deck slowly receding towards the coast. I was well above any of it at 8500 feet. As it turns out starting somewhere over southern NY I was able to receive the ATIS from Reading. Visibility 7, 1200 Overcast. OK, I could still try for it but from the appearance of the stratus deck it didn’t look likely. To the north it was completely clear, a few puffy cumulus to the west. I checked the ATIS for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (AVP) and while visibility was slightly restricted by the humid air the sky was clear and visibility was 8. I was receiving flight following with NY Approach at the time that I would be diverting the Wilkes-Barre and starting my descent.
I was handed off to Wilkes-Barre approach for advisories. The airport is behind a ridgeline if you are coming in from the west and I mucked up the descent planning a bit which made it more difficult to spot than it would otherwise be. Just before crossing the ridgeline I had the airport in sight and approach handed me over to tower with a left base entry for runway 22. I ended up flying basically level a good bit above pattern altitude for a while to clear the ridgeline then dropped flaps 10, gear and descended to pattern altitude steeper than I’d like.
By the time I turned final I was ready for flaps 20. There was a bit of crosswind from the right. The approach was good although my crosswind correction was a bit sloppy once I got into the flare. Still getting used to it. Runway 22 is nice and wide at 150 feet (and 7500 long) so it was no problem that I landed towards the left half of the runway! The only issue was I had the taxi of shame past the airline terminal.
The FBO there is nice enough to charge no fees for “training” flights so I stopped there for a few minutes to hit the bathroom and grab a soda. The weather direct to Danbury, CT (DXR) was good, skirting the low overcast stratus deck well to the north. Why Danbury? The airport is in a bit of a bowl making for a challenging steep approach and they was relatively inexpensive full serve fuel at .
I ended up waiting a bit to depart Wilkes-Barre due to an airliner which had received an IFR clearance they were unable to handle (“Uhhh… we need to run the numbers to find out if we have to get more fuel”) and a departing Eclipse jet in front of me. The climb out was as bumpy as the approach with a thin cumulus layer I needed to weave through around 6000 feet. Above that things smoothed out.
For Danbury the tower instruction was to enter a right downwind for runway 26. As I said, the airport is nestled amongst hills and you definitely turn base and final for runway 26 before the downhill begins. It reminds me a bit of the approach into runway 18 at Parlin Field (2B3). Because of this steep approach I used flaps 30. The winds were light and variable and the landing was good.
Reliant Air is situated at the approach end of runway 26 so while the plane was being fueled I had a good view of approaching and departing aircraft. It was very cool to see the steep approach into runway 26 in action. Reliant also did a great job of getting me refueled and back on my way – it only took around 15 minutes.
On the journey home I spotted a few neat sights. Near Hartford, CT flying over the Connecticut River I could see a spot where a darker lower flow river joined the very silty Connecticut river. You can see the darker flow mixing in with the waters of the Connecticut. You can click on the picture to zoom it.
This route also gave a very cool view of the Quabbin Reservoir. This is the water supply for the city of Boston and was created by flooding the Swift River in 1938. In the picture you can see the two dams that created the reservoir with the expanse of the reservoir behind.
Finally while descending into Nashua I passed the Mt. Wachusett Ski Area. I can see the back side of this mountain from work on a clear day. I just grabbed a quick shot since I was getting ready for the approach into Nashua. I couldn’t tell if anyone was skiing when I was looking out the right window but upon closer inspection of the picture there are many cars in the parking lot. So maybe the skiing is still good!
After landing at Nashua the total comes to 4.1 hours. So that accomplishes the bulk of hours required for insurance. I am good and consistent with the gear, complex airplane operation, and descent and approach. Landings need some more practice before they are consistent enough that I am really happy with them and I think the remaining of my solo hours will likely be in the pattern at Nashua. With the sun setting later now I may even be able to do this after work during the week.
Putting these flights into my logbook also brings me to another milestone. As of the end of today I have 101.9 hours total time. I passed through 100 hours somewhere around Pennsylvania. Next stop 200!