On Saturday I attended the Wings FlyBQ at Wings field in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania which is near Philadelphia. This event was a “fly in” gathering of pilots mostly associated with the online forum Pilots of America (“The Blue Board”). The event benefits Angel Flight East, an organization which connects pilots donating transportation to medical patients who lack the means to travel to treatment centers.
My wife was busy with an Ultimate frisbee tournament so I asked my friend Steve if he would like to come along. The weather was forecast to be near perfect with high pressure settled over the New York metro area. I picked Steve up from the Alewife MBTA (Boston mass transit) station and we headed up to Nashua. I explained what the flight would be like on the drive up and gave my best explanation of what the fly in was all about. Unless otherwise noted, the photos in this post were taken by Steve.
For the trip down I elected to cruise at 8500. The plane loves to fly in this altitude range. The air is smooth and true airspeeds are highest here. On the way down a light tailwind of around 10 knots was expected. Flying at 8500 would also eliminate the need to obtain a Class Bravo clearance through some of the busiest NYC airspace around Newark airport since the Bravo ceiling is 7000.
As is typical for a long XC like this I did not file a VFR flight plan but did request VFR advisories from Nashua ground during my taxi. They will put your information into the computer and you will generally be handed off like an IFR aircraft including Center handoffs. In my experience this also increases the likelihood of the trip track showing up on Flightaware.
I advised New York approach of my intention to begin descent a bit before Morristown, NJ and requested a Class Bravo clearance for my descent in case I needed it. I was cleared into the class Bravo at or above 4500 and shortly afterwards given a vector of 180 for my descent. This only took us a few miles out of our way as the controller soon allowed us to proceed on course.
When I was around 15 miles out the New York Approach controller asked if I wanted to be handed off to Philly or just switch to the Wings CTAF (self announce traffic advisory frequency). I was happy to go over to the CTAF early with lots of fly-in traffic in the area so I squawked 1200 and went over to CTAF. Sadly as usual here in the northeast the CTAF frequency is a mess of many airports sharing the same frequency and many stepped on transmissions.
The Wings field automated weather indicated calms winds and there is no designated calm wind runway in the remarks section of the airport info. In this case the correct runway (or rather correct direction as Wings has one runway) is whichever one is currently in use if other people are in the area! I caught a radio call for another airplane maneuvering to land on runway 24 so that is how I planned. My direction of flight took me almost aligned on a final course for runway 24 but with lots of other VFR traffic at a pilot controlled field I wanted to fly a full traffic pattern. I ended up flying an upwind past the runway, crosswind a good distance out due to noise abatement requirements at the airport, and turned onto the downwind behind a Grumman Tiger. I was third in line so people were definitely starting to arrive for the FlyBQ (it was around 11:15).
My landing was uneventful. By now the windsock was showing a very slight tailwind. Still, no issues getting off at the midfield turnoff. Line service folk from the Wings FBO marshaled me in next to the Tiger and I told them I was there for the FlyBQ and that I’d like to top off the fuel tanks.
The actual event was on an area of grass near the parallel taxiway. Some folks from the PoA forums had flown in the night prior and some had driven or flown in commercially to Philadelphia international the night before so there were plenty of people there already. I soon met AdamZ who was running the FlyBQ and I began to circulate and talk to people many of whom knew me as “Dan with the Cardinal blog”. Of course, I spent some time showing off the Cardinal to other forum members and also sitting in a Diamond DA40 and generally wandering around to check out various aircraft.
At some point someone showed up in a Bell JetRanger (a very fancy turbine helicopter!) and landed right on the grass next to the fly-in gathering. It was quite impressive and costs a LOT to operate. There was considerable activity on the airport and when the JetRanger was getting ready to takeoff one of the locally based Penn Star Emergency Medical helicopters returned and there was a lot of BIG helicopter action. And, of course, between the fly in and the beautiful weather there were a lot of fixed wing aircraft landing and departing all day.
It was great to put names to faces. I met a pilot who flew down from Lawrence, MA which is near here. Some of the people that were at the FlyBQ have commented on this blog. It was also nice to see lots of families and young kids (the youngest of which was quite young, husband wife and nearly newborn flew down from Buffalo).
When it came time to depart runway 6 was definitely the choice. Winds were not serious and if I recall correctly were 040 at 6 or 7 knots. Since Wings field is under the Philadelphia class Bravo outer ring after takeoff I limited my climb to below 3800 feet while I contacted Philly Approach. By the time I’d given her my info I’d reached my altitude limit but I was very close to leaving the Bravo airspace so I kept climb power in and pushed to level off briefly. Once clear of the Bravo I traded that extra airspeed in a zoom climb at quite a rate for a short while.
In this direction we flew at 7500 feet. With the time of day the sun had heated the ground significantly and even at our cruising altitude there were occasional bumps. On climb out there was light-moderate turbulence. I was already at cruising altitude by the time I reached the New York Bravo so I didn’t need any clearance at 7500 feet. We could see airliners below us and excellent views of Manhattan.
There was some interesting storm damage near Springfield. This is damage from the rare tornado that moved through this area last summer. I’ve flown a similar route before and didn’t notice the damage but I think it was more visible now because the trees left standing have gotten there leaves on.
Just like before I was number three in line to land at Nashua. My approach was a right base to runway 14. There was a little bit of right crosswind and I was right on the center line and the flare was decent.
The flight down was 1.9 of logged time and the flight back was 2.2 for a total of 4.1 hours. That’s a nice good bit of flying for a beautiful Saturday, and puts me over 30 Cardinal hours too. Next up: I need to do an oil change.