Monday, December 15, 2008

Friends, Food, & Flight...what more do you need?

During our training, we'd always hear about the immortalized 100$ Cheeseburger. This, of course, is referring to flying to some remote airport, and enjoying a tasty treat. The burger is a few bucks, but getting there...priceless! I'd been dying to do this very thing with my work mates since beginning my training. Last week we finally got the chance to do just that!

Our plan was fly to Beaufort, a nice little coastal town near Moorehead City. We heard the "Sandbar" was a good pick and close by. Originally set for Friday lunch, the weather simply didn't clear out in time. Sooo we postponed to Saturday and the weather was clear and perfect!

Up for the short hop & promising seafood were Emil & Ty.

Profile: Emil "I don't do crazy" Sanchez
-Emil's always up for a fun trip, as long as it doesn't envolve a gas station!
Duties - Eat food, have fun, take pictures, nuff said...

Favorite Manuever - The "rollercoaster"!

Profile: Ty "No touchscreen" Riser
-Ty's recently been biten by the flight bug!
- I have a funny feeling he wants a touchscreen phone from Santa (T-mobile letting him down).
Duties - Eat Food, have fun, help fly dis hear airplane, and test PIC's skills with (or rather without) flaps.
Favorite Manuever - No flaps landings

Weather was cool & fantastic, and we'd have a tailwind going down. It would be a quick 28min flight once airborne. The route (PGV-MRH) promised a nice view going over the huge Nuese River, along with overflying New Bern, Cherry point, and of course the NC coast at Beaufort. We soon found it didn't dissappoint!

Our vehicle of choice would be the Diamond DA-40 today. Ty flew in the DA-20 with friend Bob, and now he'd get to experience the big brother with a glass cockpit. The usual preflight succesfully completed, and the fuel was plentifull but not past the 35g for weight & balance limits. I headed back inside to find Emil & Ty ready to go. Inside, the engine roared to life of the things the DA-40 does far better than the 20 on a cold day. (They spent 10 min trying to get the 20 started during my preflight). Moments later we were departing RWY 02.

I've noticed this plane really wants to get off the ground...which is usually normal in the colder months, but for the 40 it's occuring too soon airspeed wise! I have to force her to stay on the ground, else if I let her come right up, the stall horn immediatly goes off, and I have to perform the 'ol soft field method of holding her in ground effect. (So now that's just what I do each time).Other than that she's flying just fine.

We have a bit of low level chop, that hangs around even at 3500'. I get flight following, and the sightseeing begins. The landscape is the typical shades of winter, but you won't find any white stuff here. We might see a white Christmas once in a 12 year span. Soon we find ourselves nearing the river, and close to New Bern. Ah, a much nicer view than the dreary landscape before. We can see plenty of people tooling around on their boats, enjoying the non-typical 53°F warmth.

We soon see a huge highway clover and bridge system. I don't even wanna think how much that cost the taxpayers. Still it looks quite nice from up here. By now most of the light turbulence subsided, and cherry point was kindly pointing out the occasional traffic.

10 NM from Beaufort, Cherry Point gave us clearance to decend through their airspace. Though we didn't get a pic going in, we have a nice one of Cherry Point going out. MRH airport reminds me allot of Manteo, in that it looms on the edge of land stretching out to the sea (or sound). It's never really intimidated me to see the edge of the runway so close to the water. (A good pic comes later).

An Aztec is on long final for 08, which wouldn't have been my first pick (winds varied from 340 to 020). Still winds are light, so I don't mind a slight crosswind. I'm blown closer to the runway in the downwind than I'd like, so I abandon the square base to final, and circle it around. I don't compensate enough for the wind, and I'm a bit right on final. No problem, as I get her back on track (I remeber not to correct to much and too quickly.) I had flaps to T/O and give Ty the word to "give me full flaps". Normally I'd handle that duty directly, but uh, Ty has long legs and it's between then on the panel! I feel the plane settle, which was strange...I didn't know if the wind had changed or what. I increased power to stabilize the decent. I notice my airspeed...100k! WHOA, WTH! At this bank, with those flaps, I shouldn't be PICKING UP SPEED! Yet I was. "Crud I'm way to fast" I announce over the comm. Near the threshold throtlle cut, I was still at 90k...15k too fast. I simply hold her off...slowly bleeding airspeed, and at half the runway I touchdown. Somewhat firm, but not bad. It's then I go to retract flaps, and notice the problem during approach...they were fully up! I had failed to visually check the flap position...normally I look right after I set them. In this case, my flow didn't happen, because I asked for it to be done. I cannot fault Ty for my lack of proper flap instructions, but he indeed cleaned up the flaps instead of switching to full. OMG I couldn't believe I just did a no flaps landing! Even with crosswind I at least have the first stage of flaps (T/O - 15°). It certainly explained the excessive speed!

Whilst I was getting over that, the FBO was ready for me and guided us to the parking. We'd pick up 10gal of fuel to avoid the 15$ landing fee. We get instructions on how to walk to the Sandbar Restaurant, and we quickly realize...this isn't the short walk he mentioned over the phone. It takes us 25min to walk there, most of which involves walking around the airport. A few stray dogs tagged along, hoping for a treat. After passing a lot of huge sailing vessels, the sign for the Sandbar looms.

They obviously have an artist in the family, as the sign, ceiling, bathroom doors, etc...were all painted in vivid colors. Almost with an aggressive brush, paintings of everything from the sea life, to tiki images loomed. This place certainly had character, but was the food as good as our buddy Dave said it would be? Ah indeed it was. Ty ordered a couple rounds of oysters as appetizers. I had to refrain, as my stomach & head remembered the last time I chugged down oysters. Ty & Emil were lovin' 'em though!

We had a very nice view of the harbour as sat. We all ordered some form of seafood platter, and the waiter, whom also looked like the owner, was very quick and friendly. The winds had changed and now the planes approach took them right over and beside the restaurant. Apart from the roar of planes to and fro, it was a very quiet scene. Our dishes arrived quickly, and the food...awesome! Dave didn't let us down! I could barely eat all my shrimp and scallops! Thumbs up from all the guys! Ty ended up being sneaky, and grabbin' the tab inside! Someone get this guy a touchscreen phone! He deserves it!

Alas, time to head out. After dismissing the long wait for a taxi, we walked back. On our way around the airport taxiways, one guy in a mooney was zooming around! He must have been in a major hurry...any faster, and he could have lifted off the taxiway!

I grabbed the fuel receipt, checked the fuel (which didn't seem like they added the 5gal to the right wing). I dismissed it, as we still had 28gal total. Soon after we were up in the wild blue again. Before turning home, I decided to climb and go out over the coast and check out the view. It was really a nice site. Emil, as always, snapped some nice pics!

<--(Up the Nuese River) (A nice view of Beaufort & the Airport)-->

Flying back at 4500' was far smoother. Ty has some helo flight experience, so after a quick breafing on the G1000, controls, and the trim was set, I handed over the controls. After a few minutes of getting the feel for her, he was flying pretty well. Altitude was maintained well, and if he was getting off the GPS track, he'd intercept nicely.

Soon we were near PGV and a few other Diamonds were buzzing around. I came in nicely, ensuring that the flaps were correct this time around. I was after a nice greaser, and ended up being about a foot off the runway when she began to stall. Dang, not what I was hoping for...a minor hop. Ah well. I put it out of my mind as I still make the first turn-off back to the FBO. I always mourn pulling up to the parking...the time was short 1.4 hour on the tach, 1.7 on the hobbs. As always, it's not a question of when do I WANT to fly again, but when do I have the FUNDS to fly again. In this case, much thanks go to Emil & Ty for helping pay their share of flight costs!!

Everyone seems to leave happy, as Ty talks of flyin' to Fayetteville. It's always nice to leave with smiles, and talks of them beginning their journey to become pilots themselves!

(Photos courtesy of Emil Sanchez! Thanks man!)

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