Pioneer Valley Sightseeing

My original plan for labor day was to go flying with my dad (for the first time) on Sunday then fly again on Labor Day Monday. As it turns out I had a pretty serious cold and congestion on Sunday which is a bad combination with flying due to the pressure changes. I postponed my plans to meet up with Dad and rested up. Thankfully by Monday I was feeling well enough to fly, especially since with the runway construction finally completed at Nashua I also needed to ferry the airplane back there from Fitchburg.

A grand plan was hatched: Since my dad was staying in Deerfield, MA Abby and I would fly west from Fitchburg and meet him at the small airport in Turner’s Falls (0B5). From there we could fly around for a bit in the Pioneer Valley. After dropping my dad back at Turner’s Falls Abby and I could fly back to Fitchburg and leave her to drive to Nashua and meet me there to complete the ferry trip.

With plenty of time to spare Abby and I got lunch at the airport restaurant in Fitchburg. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the airport in Fitchburg provided free tie downs for the month to displaced Nashua aircraft and eating at the airport diner is one of several ways I’ve paid that back in kind. Thanks again.

Just after starting up at Fitchburg something didn’t sound right. Abby spotted some foreign object on the ramp and I shut down the engine to check it out. It turns out some plastic packing material had blown across the ramp and some of it caught on the tip of the prop. As soon as the prop stopped it fell to the ground. I took some time to carefully inspect the prop, intake, and peeked in the cowling for any remnants before convincing myself I had all of the material. After restarting the engine everything ran smoothly.

The trip to Turner’s Falls was not very far. I carefully skirted north of Orange airport and tuned in their CTAF to confirm that there was no skydiving activity. Much to my surprise on such a beautiful clear day there didn’t seem to be any. Soon I spotted Turner’s Falls and entered the downwind for runway 16. Winds were from the west at a near direct crosswind but relatively light. My landing was a bit left of centerline but otherwise fine and my worst mistake was forgetting that the parallel taxiway doesn’t go all the way down at Turner’s. A sheepish back taxi later and I was chocked in the deserted parking area and waiting for dad to arrive.

Abby and me at Turner’s Falls (picture by John Noé)

Soon dad arrived and I gave the usual passenger briefing before starting up and taxiing out to do a run-up and depart runway 16 at Turner’s Falls. The straight out departure goes towards some higher terrain and while I would have cleared it without issue I turned to the right after takeoff to follow the lower terrain towards the river. We circled for a bit after reaching Sunderland to orient ourselves with the river, Mt. Toby (with a prominent fire tower), and Mt. Sugarloaf to spot the approximate location of my sister’s house.

Starting a fuel injected airplane always involves a juggle of both hands – especially when it is hot! (picture by John Noé)

My dad had been nervous about turbulence and bumpy conditions (and came already equipped with wrist bands and ginger gum!). But despite the occasional thermal turbulence due to solar heating he had no issues. He was certainly having fun spotting things from the air, including the hotel he stayed in the previous night (“the red roof in really does have a red roof!”). I think the Cardinal’s good visibility outside helps passengers feel comfortable in the bumps.

Soon we were over Northampton and I suggested we head for Westfield-Barnes to get the experience of landing at a bigger airport (and to grab some relatively cheap fuel). Of course Barnes isn’t a super big airport but it does give passengers a perspective compared to an untowered small airport like Turner’s Falls. I already had Barnes in sight and called up the ATIS. Runway 20 was in use which put me a few miles to the left of a long 10 mile final. As expected the Tower controller instructed me to make a straight in approach and call 3 mile final.

Landing gear finishing its transit in the mirror. (picture by John Noé)

During my month off while the landing gear was repair I clearly got sloppy about being right on the centerline because once again I was lining up to the left of center. I didn’t land side loading and the landing was otherwise reasonably smooth but definitely left of center. Looking at the photos my dad took is a good reminder that I can be better about getting on the centerline early! Always fly the airplane, be assertive, don’t be a passenger!

The runway at Westfield-Barnes is long and wide. Beyond the thousand foot markers you can see an arresting wire rig. The sombrero shaped thingy is a VOR transmitter. (picture by John Noé)

As I taxied towards the Airflyte FBO there was a big business jet leaving. It is always fun to take the parking spot of a Dassault Falcon 50 three engine jet! My dad was previously around when I refueled self serve at Northampton so he was surprised to realize that they drive the truck right up to the airplane to refuel. We wandered inside the FBO and “terminal building”. The normally busy airport restaurant was closed presumably due to the labor day holiday.

Next to me on the ramp: A Beechcraft King Air 200. Clearly the Cardinal is bringing down the neighborhood values! (picture by John Noé)

Soon the airplane was fully fueled and I did my usual post fueling preflight ritual of sumping the tanks and gascolator into the GATS jar and then dumping the jar into the tanks, checking the level and caps along the way. It’s always important to be careful before takeoff.

Our departure from was from Runway 20 intersection Alpha which leaves more than the length of Turner’s Falls runway remaining. With a Cirrus departing straight out behind me I turned right on departure as instructed to head north out of Westfield Tower’s airspace and back up the Connecticut River valley. My dad was keen to spot an oxbow lake formed in the river near Holyoke which you can see from I-91 and he soon did.

Oxbow Lake. (picture by John Noé)

I followed the highway (Interstate 91) out my left window with the river out the right window at 3500 feet towards Brattleboro, VT. The air was a bit bumpier now and I checked in a few times but dad was fine with the motion. Brattleboro was reached in a short while and after finding the spot where a smaller river reaches the CT I turned around and we headed back for Turner’s Falls.

Foreflight does take away some of the fun of paper charts, like having a passenger find where we are. Cruising slower plus some headwind makes for better sightseeing. (picture by John Noé)

I navigated back to Turner’s Falls with river following pilotage and entered a downwind for runway 16. This time the approach was pretty nice. I did fly more of a dogleg than I like but the slow roll out onto final put me onto the runway centerline and the landing had good crosswind correction and good speeds with the stall horn beeping at the end and a smooth touchdown. This time I remembered I shouldn’t taxi down to the far end and taxied back just past the taxiway.

Rolling out on final. At this point on the left side of the runway extended center line but I am still slowly rolling out the turn. (picture by John Noé)

After saying goodbye to dad all that remained was to fly back to Fitchburg then Nashua! After takeoff I turned to the left, cleaned up and trimmed the airplane, confirmed that we were good to clear all terrain, and asked Abby if she wanted to fly. She took the airplane for a bit and flew towards Fitchburg including the descent and only handed it back to me when it was clear there were other aircraft in the pattern at Fitchburg.

My approach to runway 14 was high when I rolled out onto final and after going to full flaps with power out Abby asked if I was going to go around. I told her I would try a slip first and demonstrated the slip to add drag. This steepens the approach angle without adding airspeed and while I did use more runway I still landed within the first third. I should practice more slips as this is an excellent trick to have in the bag.

The engine was only shut down for about two minutes before I started back up again and headed off to Nashua with Abby racing me in the car. Unsurprisingly she lost that race. Total time to Nashua was 23 minutes, engine start to stop. And I spend some time waiting to take off.

The new runway at Nashua is wide, black, smooth and long. With the winds today I landed on 14. It was nice to hear a familiar controller’s voice and I managed to avoid being confused by the changed taxiway layout too much. Fortunately enough other airplanes have been moved back already that I did not have any trouble finding my row of tie downs either! It’s good to be back. Total time ended up being 2.8 which was an excellent day’s flying.

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