I’ve wanted to do a rescue flight for Pilots N Paws for a while now. Earlier this week I saw a listing for a 6 pound toy poodle coming from Columbus, OH to Norwood, MA and figured that a leg of that journey with such a small dog would be an excellent introduction to doing the animal rescue flights. For this particular journey three pilots were participating with a leg from Ohio State University airport in Columbus to Johnstown, PA followed by a leg which we met in Bridgeport.
With my on the journey was my wife Abby and my father in law Bill. Bill has done some flying in the past and many years ago his father flew a Bonanza. I haven’t been flying with him yet but this was a good opportunity. With just one 6 pound dog (and about 50 pounds of accompanying dog stuff) there weren’t any serious W&B issues with three adults in the plane so on the Bridgeport to Norwood leg Abby could be in the back with the dog and Bill could sit up front.
Since Abby prefers to follow along on paper charts instead of Foreflight I spent some time last night marking up our course lines on the New York Sectional chart and the Boston Terminal Area Chart. She sat up front. The weather was hazy like yesterday but not quite as bad. I elected to cruise at 6500 which meant I had to descend a bit at times to stay legal below a few thin cumulus clouds. The hazy scud layer obviously terminated just above my cruising altitude and if this was a longer journey I would certainly have been up at 8500 in the cooler, smoother, clearer air.
Our arrival at Bridgeport was a bit later than expected due to a headwind and leaving Nashua a bit later than anticipated. This turned out to be OK since the arriving flight had to pick its way around some isolated thunderstorms west of New York City. I was prepared for the possibility that we’d need to do some similar diversions around convective activity but it was not a factor.
Bridgeport was busy and I picked up traffic to follow. The tower controller sounded a bit overwhelmed with the amount of traffic and I don’t think there was a separate controller working the ground frequency. After arriving he gave me taxi instructions to the Atlantic FBO where we would be meeting the pilot of the previous leg and Doodle, the 6 pound rescue poodle. As it turns out Doodle was relaxing in the posh pilot lounge with the clerk at Atlantic while the pilot gathered up the bundle of extra stuff traveling with the dog – a heavy bag and soft sided crate.
With everything loaded I redid the weight and balance calculations with the heavy bag in the back. A 6 pound dog is not much of a factor but the cargo could be, and I’d told Atlantic to go ahead and top off the plane to waive the ramp fees! Fortunately everything was confirmed to be within the proper weight and balance envelope.
The Cardinal performed well on the takeoff despite being near gross weight on a relatively hot day. We had plenty of runway, a safe altitude crossing the departure end of the runway, and a good rate of climb once the gear and flaps were up. The RG definitely isn’t as good as I understand the 182 to be in hot/heavy/high situations but with the 200HP injection engine it has a good bit more power than the fixed gear Cardinal.
Bill followed along with the charts, input frequencies into the radio and transponder codes as we talked to Approach, and retrieved and wrote down the ATIS for me. I do usually fly VFR cross countries with the destination “Direct To” in the 430 but I love verifying my position using the chart and pilotage. I also have a Garmin GMA340 audio panel with the excellent Split 1/2 comm feature which means the copilot position headset can get the ATIS while the pilot position continues listening to Approach. On a busy frequency it can sometimes be quite difficult to hear the ATIS and flying solo it can often take a few repeats before I’ve gotten all of it. In this case I had a knowledgeable non-pilot passenger write it down perfectly organized!
We were below the shelf of the Boston class Bravo by the time we reached it and Boston Approach terminated radar services 10 miles out. Upon contacting Norwood Tower some traffic ahead of us was pointed out to follow. We are number three with the first plane on short final. It was pretty close to straight in and initially I was following the traffic with the airport barely visible in the haze. I think the final approach course was about 20 degrees right from the heading I was on following the other airplane.
Norwood ground asked if I was familiar with the airport and then gave very good progressive taxi instructions to the FBO. It turns out in the hubbub of loading the extra bag I’d forgotten to give our ETA to the recipient of dog who was meeting us in Norwood and she called me just after we shut down. Fortunately she was nearby so we didn’t have to wait long. The FBO was kind enough to waive any fees since we were flying for Pilots N Paws.
There was a nice grassy area with some families watching planes come and go just outside the ground side of the FBO. It was the perfect place to wait for Sue from Toy Poodle Rescue and let the dog stretch its legs on something nicer than an airport ramp (though that Atlantic FBO lounge was pretty nice too!). It didn’t take long for Sue to show up
Departing Norwood I asked Ground to enter our information into the System for flight following and a Bravo clearance, Nashua, 4500 feet. They’ll give you a transponder code on the ground just like an IFR flight and after departure on initial call up with Boston approach I get “Cleared to climb into the Boston Class Bravo 4500 direct Nashua” before I even have to slow my climb. I do love working with Boston Approach – he also gave me “altitude your discretion” just before I wanted to start descending!
The total flying ended up being 2.9 hours. Flying for Pilots N Paws was rewarding and it went off without any major hitches. I also think that today was a valuable experience booster in that I explored the weight and balance envelope of the Cardinal, experienced a near gross weight takeoff on a hot day, flew in weather that while legal VFR was often hazy enough to make the horizon hard to discern at altitude, and made my first flight with a non human passenger!