Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A long flight but a neat one.

It was a late take-off on Tuesday due to fog over my departure airport that didn't burn off until about noon, but while I waited I used some of the time to replace one of the new landing lights that had already burned out. ($30.00 for a bulb that lasted about 4 minutes total use. Good return on investment there.) But I got up eventually and soon I was heading east.

Here's Frederick, MD airport just to my south. I didn't stop there this time.
I flew east for about an hour, then dropped in to a small airport in Fallston, MD to use their bathroom, since Cessna 172s did not come factory-equipped with relief tubes. Taking off again, I decided to land at the Martin State airport just south of there. I had a little trouble getting through to their tower because some heckiflopter that was coming in was unclear on the directions that he was being given for his approach and he kept asking for clarifications and explanations. (Yo! Helicopter! How about if you just hover somewhere out of the way for a while and figure it out. Cessna inbound here needs Delta clearance.) Finally I got my clearance and came in, and what did I see on the ground there?
They got A-10 Warthogs at Martin!!!
This I did not know.

They also have a Grumman Albatross flying boat there in MD Air Guard colors. Apology for the crappy shot here--my camera's really starting to jake out on me.

My approach to the Martin State runway, coming in from out over Chesapeake Bay.
I shot my landing and took off again, and the tower directed me back out over the bay until I cleared his airspace. Not really where I wanted to go, but hey, look--a sailboat!
Port of Baltimore off my starboard side.
And a tug/barge combo heading into that port.
Then it was over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Built in 1952, it was then the world's longer over-water steel structure at 4.3 miles long. (But then in 1957, Michigan's Mackinac Bridge came along at 5 miles long and eclipsed it. Go Michigan!)
I came around here and dropped into the Bay Bridge airport on the eastern side of it.
This place was busy and they don't like touch-and-gos so I made it a full-stop and taxied back around. And look what I found there on the groud:

A vintage Piper Cub.
And a T-34 Mentor.
Lifting back out, I followed their noise-abatement instructions and flew out over the bay until I reached altitude, then I turned left and headed for another airport just to the south--the Kentmorr Airpark.
Yeah, it's that section of grass that leads up to the water where there are no trees between the grass and the bay. Just to the left is a line of houses, each of which has a large hangar built into the house like most houses would have a car garage. I landed there, just because I like the feel of grass under the wheels.

Look! Another Cub.
I taxied back and took off again, out over the water.

Hey, who put this car-hauler in my departure path?
Hmmmm...if he'd clear that deck and give me a headwind...

My next planned touch-and-go airport was Easton, MD, but as I was pulling back off the deck, I looked to me left and...Holy Hell!
"Easton Tower, I need to come back around again, full-stop and taxi to the FBO this time!"

As luck would have it, the Collings Foundation is in the middle of their Wings of Freedom tour where they travel around with their B-17, B-24 and TP-51C offering tours and rides. So I taxied up and tied down just across from them.
I spent the next hour or so hanging around, taking pictures and talking to people. I got some good pictures, which will follow in a subsequent post. Then when they all took off again with their loads of passengers, I joined them. It was worth the trip just to hear the control tower calling my N-number out and telling me: "you are number two for departure following that Consolidated B-24. Be advised that you have a Boeing B-17 right behind you."

But then weather came along. The B-24 told the tower that they were going to land and shut down due to some heavy rain that was coming in fast from the south and east. The tower replied back that they didn't show any precipitation on their radar, yet when I climbed to altitude and started flying south towards Cambridge, there it was:
Aw, hell. Cambridge is out. Time to bank back west and head for St. Marys, VA across the bay.
The bay topography is pretty though.
I flew southwest towards my next intended destination, the airport at St. Marys, but the weather got there first and visibility dropped pretty much to my prop arc. I aborted St. Marys, too, and rode the edge of the squall, staying in the clear air just to the north. I could see forever that way, but unfortunately, what was that way was the restricted flight area over the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center and Washington DC's SFRA, known locally as the best place to see an F-16 up close and personal if you breach it.

The next twenty minutes or so were a bit busy as I worked to stay out of the weather AND thread my way between several patches of restricted airspace belonging to Dahlgren and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, but I made it through and soon I was back in the clear, winging my way to Shannon Airport. I hit Shannon quick, as daylight was fading, then Stafford Regional, where I tried and failed to get a picture of a DC-3 on their ramp. I hit Culpeper Regional at dusk and shared the pattern with this cool Waco biplane.
Late or not, I had to land long enough to get a picture of these T-6 Texans on the ground at Culpeper. (I'm so going back there to look around.)
Then it was up through Warrenton/Fauquier airport, where I muffed a couple photo shots of a B-25 Mitchell sitting on the ramp, half covered by a tarp. But there's no disguising that Mitchell tail, though!

Here's the private airport at Upperville, VA. Paved, 5100 feet long, and no planes on the field or even and hangars. Kinda odd. And they've got the word "Restricted" painted all over that runway.
I didn't shoot a landing there this time, but it was tempting. Note to self: When getting the airplane repainted next year, SMALL N-numbers this time.

By now, I'd been flying almost four hours cross-country. I'd hit nine new airports, saw lots of cool stuff, and I was ready for some dinner and a beer or three. I crossed the Blue Ridge and my flight path took me over Mount Weather, the Secret Squirrel FEMA center. (So secret that it has a Wikipedia page) This is where all the "important" politicians and bureaucrats will go hide when bad times come.

A little more flying, and finally--home.
4.6 hours flown, 11 landings. Many pics of the Collings aircraft to follow.


  1. That was a cool bunch of airplanes. I love old Grumann flying boats. :-)

  2. What Bob said. Those old bombers caught my eye right away - and for those alone, I thank you!

  3. Is it just me or where you a bit high on final coming home?

  4. We need to meet in meatspace. I SO want to share your adventures. Use my e-mail addy.

  5. @ Juvat: A little. I spent a bit too much time trying to get the picture. But I still settled in on the numbers and made the first turn-off without using my brakes. That's a big runway there at 8,600ft.

  6. @ The Old Man: Maybe I'm inept, but I can't find an e-mail address on your pages. Hit me with a follow-up comment with it and I won't post it. I get through Cleveland a fair bit and there's some other nice people there as well.

  7. Sure looks like an F-104 parked to the side of the B-24. Story?

  8. Dude - there's an F-104 behind that B-24 in the ramp shot.