It seemed like a nice day, and I need to step up my game a bit in anticipation of a possible long-distance cross-country flight later this year, so I went up for another hop today, taxiing out past the assorted ramp ornaments and hangar queens over on the G side of the field.
Once aloft, I headed east, over towards the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah River, this time singing "Free Bird" loud and off-key.
I did my usual tour about the neighborhood, looking down on all the mere mortals below and wishing that I had something worth dropping on them. This little red-roofed house looks like a great target from here...and me without even one bag of flour!
Heading back north along the Shenandoah, I get to Harpers Ferry, the place where I usually bank left and follow the Potomac River back towards the west. But not today! Today it's off into new territory as I head through the pass and up north to the airport at Frederick, MD.
And there it is, just past the big quarry and Interstate 70--the Frederick airport, otherwise known as FDK. I've never been here before, because the old Washington DC ADIZ used to be in the way. But now that they've shrunk it, I can fly direct without worrying about accidentally busting it.
There's no control tower here, so it's basically every plane for himself. Each pilot in the area announces his position and intentions and in a perfect world, everyone gets along nicely. Today is not perfect, though. There are several aircraft trying to use this field and a couple of jokers doing ILS landings are messing things up for the rest of us, calling in nonsense like "9 miles out on final approach to runway 23" when I'm already on a downwind pattern leg VFR for the same runway. A nine-mile straight-in final with closer aircraft already in the landing pattern? What kind of silly shit is that? But me being nice--and also because I could not see this other aircraft that I knew was coming in, I turned out of the pattern and went around again for "noise abatement reasons". (Two aircraft hitting each other in mid-air makes a lot of noise.) Once the other traffic had landed, I came around again and executed a flawless touch-and-go, then skated on out of the pattern to the west, running back along I-70 towards Hagerstown, and another airport (HGR)that I'd never been to before.
Switching over to Hagerstown Tower (they actually have one there), the first thing I heard was another pilot coming in from the north calling up to ask the condition of reservation P-40, which is the airspace around Camp David. This is an important thing to know, because while the airspace directly over Camp David is always restricted, on those occasions when the president is out there, the restricted zone expands and even an inadvertent violation of this larger restricted zone will result in you seeing fighter jets up close and personal, and typically meeting with Secret Service and the FAA upon landing.
So this pilot calls in and asks the status of the P-40 airspace, and the tower replies with: "P-40 airspace is as published."
In other words, you should have checked your NOTAMS, and if you had, you'd know.
The other pilot replied with: "Uh, P-40 as published. Roger." But he was undoubtedly thinking the same thing that I was thinking, that the Hagerstown controller is a dick of the first order. Yeah, the other pilot should have checked, but still--he was asking for help and the information is important in this area.
A few minutes later, I called Hagerstown to let them know that I was five miles out and request clearance for another touch-and-go. They just told me to call back when I was turning base (the last leg of the landing pattern before final approach) and went back to whatever it was that was more important than paying attention to the Cessna pilot who has never been here before. Well, ok then. I can do that. I set up for a left pattern on runway 27 and headed on in.
They cleared me before I started my base turn so I went on in and put the rear wheels smack on the numbers for a perfect landing--the kind that I can only ever seem to make when I have no passengers or other witnesses.
Once all wheels were down, I pushed the carb heat off, smacked the flaps up, and jammed the throttle to the firewall to take back off again--Oh, look! A DC-3. I love those things!
OK, ADHD on take-off...probably not good. But I got off the ground without a problem, climbed out over I-81, banked left, and headed south for my home field again.
All was good at this time. I got back to my airport, called at five miles, and they set me up for a right base pattern. Uh, surely there must be some mistake, as left patterns are the norm at this field. I called back for a repeat of the instructions, and they confirmed that I was to call back when I was downwind for a right-base pattern. Darn it, guys! All of my landmarks are on the other side of the field. Not only that, a nearby industrial plant is putting up a ton of smoke, and you're making me fly right through it. Thanks for that! But it's their airport, so I fly a right-base, meaning that I fly a clockwise pattern, making all right turns. Once more, I come in and make a nice, no-bounce touchdown on the numbers, and this time I go full-stop and turn off onto the second taxiway, right back to the FBO. Elapsed fight time: 1.8 hours. Much fun!