High School Reunion

No IFR training this weekend. Instead, Abby and I flew down to Long Island for my 10 year High School reunion. I grew up in Port Jefferson which is on the north shore of Long Island. The trip home is pretty lengthy: It’s a four hour trip including a ferry trip that costs $70 each way for a car with driver and passenger. So this sort of trip is perfect for replacing with a flight. With no winds the flight is just a bit over an hour and this is is around $60 in avgas each way. Since my mom and her husband could meet us at the airport in Islip, NY it was perfect.

I was initially worried about the weather but updated my mom on Friday indicating we would likely be flying. The forecast was for some weather overnight on Friday night, clearing on Saturday, and a cold front moving through Saturday night leaving perfect weather for the return on Sunday. With the weather predicted to be ideal for a return on Sunday and high forecaster confidence on that transition most of my weather anxiety was alleviated. I planned an early departure around 11:30 from Nashua to avoid any signs of the approaching cold front.

However, once we woke up on Saturday morning the Friday night weather was lingering with a low stratus layer leaving IFR ceilings across most of New England. The forecaster discussions pointed to a high confidence on eventual clearing with the stratus layer lingering longer than originally anticipated. The cold front was predicted to hold off until much later in the evening so it would be no worry. Abby and I headed up to Nashua but entered a “holding pattern” at Bagel Alley to kill some time.

When we left Bagel Alley the skies were still a solid overcast. The satellite weather data showed completely clear skies just a bit to the west and even from the appearance you could tell the stratus layer was very thin. I called my mother to report that we might be delayed a bit but not to be concerned. We still had several hours before we had to make a solid call and drive instead. We headed up to the airport.

By the time we got to the airport the sky was completely clear! Nashua’s ATIS still reported 1200 overcast but the layer had broken up completely to “few” within a span of around ten or fifteen minutes. Satellite showed clear skies and KISP reported good VFR weather with scattered clouds predicted to improve. We headed straight for the ramp so I could preflight and get some fuel from Infinity aviation. I requested five gallons per side to give me a safe margin and still leave some room for a sizable top off at Islip. I’d inquired about staying overnight at the Hawthorne FBO at Islips and they reported no fees for the Cardinal if I took on fuel. Especially since their price was reasonable I decided to leave some room for fuel and support their business.

The flight down was smooth and mostly free of clouds beneath me. There were a few low clouds and I was well above them cruising at 6500. Abby fell asleep on the journey down which I suppose I should take as a compliment! My routing to Islip is to fly from Nashua to the Bridgeport VOR then turn direct towards Islip. This shortens the over water distance crossing the Long Island Sound to be within gliding range of shore at my typical altitudes.

About 20 miles from the Bridgeport VOR I found the scattered cloud deck beneath me was turning to broken/overcast. I decided to turn direct to Islip at this point. This left me passing over New Haven and still within gliding range over the sound. I began my descent planning to go through the cloud deck around Rocky Point, NY then once over the island turn direct Islip. This required a steeper descent than usual (around 1100 feet per minute versus a typical 250 to 500 feet per minute) and I warned Abby but she was fine. Ears reliably popped we were beneath the cloud deck level at around 1500 feet and I was instructed to make an extended left base for runway 15 Right. This might actually have been my first time landing on a “Right/Left” runway although I have taken off on them before! The last time I came into Islip I landed on runway 24.

After calling the tower I was told I would receive my landing clearance shortly and continued my left base for 15 right. Winds were to the right of the runway with reasonably strong gusts. I called the tower announcing I was a three mile left base and they cleared me to land. Flaps and gear out, slowing down, I made a slow turn to final. I could have made it crisper but it was fine. Concentrating on the crosswind I made a nice smooth landing just a bit to the left of the centerline.

The Hawthorne FBO is at the approach end of runway 15R so my taxi instructions were to exit to the right and follow the parallel taxiway Bravo back to the ramp. Upon arriving I was met by a nice lineman who marshaled us in to a spot right in front of the hangar. I was very pleased with the service! Mom and Richard came out on the ramp to help us with the small amount of luggage we had and admired the Cardinal.

The reunion itself was a lot of fun. Facebook has changed the nature of High School reunions for sure and many people immediately asked me about flying since they have seen all of my photos and status updates. Still, it was great to catch up with folks. I had a blast.

Thanks to the late night and hard partying our departure was later in the afternoon. We got back to the airport around four with our luggage and a nicely wrapped slice of pie. The FBO had all of the fueling paperwork all set when I arrived at the airport and I all had to do was sign the slip while the line guy pulled the chocks and cones marking the wings off. Have I mentioned that this was an excellent and very reasonably priced FBO? I will be back!

With the cold front rolling through overnight the winds had shifted from the south to the northwest and this meant takeoff on runway 33 Left, the opposite direction from my landing. Mom and Richard had ducked back instead due to the windy chilly weather but as I took off looking out the left window I saw that they had come outside to watch my takeoff! This FBO also offers a good view of departures from runway 33L!

After departure I was instructed to turn 30 degrees right (likely for a departing regional airline turboprop behind me) and then proceed on course. I advised New York approach of my intention to proceed to the Bridgeport VOR then direct to Nashua. My cruising altitude was 7500 which kept us a safe distance above the occasional clouds.

Unlike Saturday’s journey the air was clear and visibility was excellent with no haze. After departure we could see all the way to New York City’s skyline almost 70 miles away. Eventually we could see Boston and Providence too from quite a distance. Over southern CT we were called out as traffic to a JetBlue flight into Bradley airport and eventually we could see the JetBlue aircraft pass behind us and turn to the right, a very cool sight!

The clouds were widely scattered and I had no trouble descending straight on course to avoid them. I moved left of the direct course slightly to avoid the Pepperell airport where skydiving activity is ongoing and reported Nashua in sight, ended flight following, and contacted Nashua Tower. Some traffic was pointed out and a helicopter in the pattern was assigned to follow us. After a left pattern I made a nice landing. ATIS indicated winds a bit gusty but mostly down the runway and I didn’t think it was too bad. The landing was quite smooth.

The loggable time ended up being 1.5 on the way down and 1.4 on the way back (a nontrivial part of that is taxi and run-up). There was definitely more of a headwind on the way down although the cold front’s passage meant that there was a headwind in both directions. Next weekend I will be back to the Instrument training but for this weekend I am proud of 2.9 logged doing practical (and maybe even cost effective) aviation transport!