Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Some National Security Thing"

Apropos of nothing that this post will talk about, let me start with the pretty bird at left - a Globe Swift that seems to act as the mascot for Volo Aviation at KBDR. It nests there among the Gulfstreams and the Challengers and makes it a pleasure to walk past the open hangar door.

I snapped the Swift's picture on my way to N631S Friday afternoon. My flight plan called for a 2030Z departure toward KVKX and I was already anticipating a long-ish trip due to forecast headwinds in the range of 35 to 40 knots. FltPlan.com was telling me to expect 2:31 en route.

I pre-flighted N631S, picked up my clearance, started the engine and was cleared to taxi to Runway 24. By 2033Z I was at the hold short line and transmitted, "Bridgeport Tower, Skylane 631S ready for Runway 24 at Hotel." There was no immediate response.

Then, for something completely different, the tower controller said, "ATC has just informed us that it will be at least 20 minutes before they can issue any IFR releases. N631S, say intentions."

"N631S would like to make a 180 and return to parking to wait it out." No point in continuing to burn avgas. That was approved as requested and I went back and shut down.

For most of the week there'd been a TFR covering the maximum lateral area of the New York Class "B" airspace, from the surface to 18,000 feet, due to the United Nations General Assembly meeting. Now, that was ending and I inferred that assorted Presidents, Potentates and Supreme Leaders were getting out of town - which overloaded both ATC and the security apparatus.

I kept the hand-held radio tuned to KBDR's ground control frequency and after about 15 minutes heard, "631 Sierra, are you up?" I responded with, "31 Sierra is up," and got back, "31 Sierra, go ahead and start your engine. I believe we can get you out of here."

So N631S and I were back at the hold-short line at 2051Z and this time got an immediate release. But that doesn't mean the fun was over.

After takeoff from Runway 24, I contacted New York Approach and got the customary vector to the north. A couple miles later, I received a non-customary "Skylane 31 Sierra, turn right to a heading of 060, vector for spacing to Carmel - eventually. We'll try to get you headed back west in ten miles or so."

The green track shown above (courtesy of the useful folks at FlightAware.com) shows my peripatetic departure. During this tour, I heard a helicopter inbound from the north calling New York Approach:

[345AB]: "New York, Helicopter 345AB. We had a flight plan filed for pickup to get into the Bravo, but Bradley just dumped us."

[Approach]: "Helicopter 345AB, say destination."

[345AB]: "5AB is headed to Newark."

[Approach]: "Helicopter 5AB, yeah, they've got some national security thing down there. We've been advised absolutely no more helicopters into the airspace. Say intentions." (I'm starting to think that "Say intentions" may be one of the most unwelcome phrases in the language.)

[345AB]: "OK, I guess 5AB will land at White Plains."

After that, Approach issued them an appropriate vector and frequency change. And, they finally got N631S headed west, slowly. I was getting ground speeds of 95 to 100 knots which implies a headwind component of about 40 knots. Considering the delays so far, it was becoming clear that I'd get to enter the first time of this season in the Night column of my log.

Plodding along near Carmel (CMK), this exchange got a smile from me:

[804L]: "Approach, Baron 804L, request."

[Approach]: "Zero four Lima, say request."

[804L]: "They've got us way up here by Barrington, way out of our way...any chance of direct BREZY from here?"

[Approach]: (without any hesitation) "No!"

[804L]: "Okaaayyy..."

After entering Allentown's airspace I requested and got a descent from 8,000 to 6,000 feet that got me about 5 more knots of groundspeed. Also, the wind out of the southwest eased a bit (to a mere 30 knots or so) so by the time Baltimore was coming into view the Garmin 530W was telling me I was up to 112 knots or so. And the sun had set.

The first night landing of the season was uneventful. I picked up the airport beacon about 10 miles from the field, reported the field in sight and got, "Skylane 31 Sierra, cleared for the visual approach, proceed directly to VKX, frequency change is approved." I cancelled IFR, made my traffic calls, and entered the right downwind for 24. The runway was right where it was supposed to be, and I had wheels on pavement at 2346Z. 2 hours + 55 minutes airport-to-airport, 3.2 tach hours with all of the thrashing around. It was nice to have that one in the can.

Here's the track for the whole trip:


Anonymous said...

Someone at your FBO appears to value the existential elegance of a Swift. Bizjets have their place, but someone, somewhere will be pampering the Swift long after those jets have been written off.

Not unlike the Staggerwing behind Ms. Cochran as shown in your gallery...

Frank Van Haste said...


Indeed! And as it happens, I was at the National Air & Space Museum, on the Mall, yesterday afternoon. Our purpose was to take in the new 3-D IMAX film depicting the last repair mission to Hubble and some of the latest imagery.

Waiting for showtime, I wandered into the "Golden Age" gallery and spent 5 minutes or so engrossed in the beauty of the yellow D-17 Staggerwing that they have suspended from the ceiling there. Such a gorgeous creation!

The prize for Most Beautiful Prop-driven Single has always, for me, been a tossup between Walter Beech's Staggerwing and Reg Mitchell's Spitfire. (But maybe, someday, I could hope for an hour in a Staggerwing.)

And of course, the Swift is admirable in it's own right - in close competition with the Spartan Executive for Honorable Mention.

Thanks for reading...



PS: Volo isn't "my" FBO...they are a Big Iron shop. The folks at Three Wing take care of N631S for me, but I walk past Volo's hangar on the way to my tie-down.

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