Monday, October 09, 2006

2004 Summer Vacation, Day 5

August 14, 2004

Westerly, RI to Laconia, NH

Aaah, CAVU. Are there any more heart-warming acronyms in the GA glossary? Ceiling and visibility unlimited. After two days stuck on the ground, we're off to do some flying.

As part of my pre-vacation flight planning, I posted a message to rec.aviation.piloting, asking for recommended airports to visit in New England. One of the responses suggested Laconia, New Hampshire, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.

If you're not familiar with the Lake - and I wasn't until I read that response - it's an incredible natural wonder. Comprising more than 72 square miles of surface area, the Lake has 182 miles of shoreline and significantly more than 200 islands.

The weather's just perfect, but I file IFR anyway. I figure the practice will be good, especially as I negotiate through the Boston Class Bravo airspace. Providence Approach clears me to Laconia on a route that's pretty much direct.

We pass just west of Boston Logan Airport, and it's truly a gorgeous sight. We're up at 8,000 feet and the perspective is just awesome. Soon thereafter, we cross directly over the top of Manchester, New Hampshire. After an all-too short flight, we're cleared for the VFR arrival into Laconia. Because of the terrain - Laconia has some high terrain to the west (at least "high" for someone whose based in a pretty flat part of the country!) - I enter on an upwind for Runway 26, fly a normal approach, and land on the 5,286-foot Runway 26.

I think this was over Manchester, New Hampshire

Whereas Nantucket's ramp was dominated by biz jets, a few of which can be seen here too, here it's mostly light piston aircraft on the ramp. We don't fail to notice two different Lake amphibs, obviously a useful aircraft to have in this land of lakes.

Laconia has two different FBO's - Emerson Aviation and Sky Bright, Inc. We didn't need any fuel, having filled the tanks in Westerly, though I noted that the prices are roughly comparable, which you'd expect when there's on-field competition. Both were charging nearly $3 a gallon - substantially more than the $2.20 we pay at my home base.

We grab a cab and head down to Weirs Beach for a bite to eat. There's a beautiful pier on the lake, with a restaurant, arcade and the obligatory T-shirt shop. The Lake naturally draws its fair share of boaters, and you can rent a boat or jet ski if the spirit so moves you.

After lunch, we opt for the hour-long train ride aboard the Winnipesaukee & Pemigewasset Valley Railroad. We get beautiful views of the lakeshore and the homes (and campsites) that dot it. Truly, a magnificent way to see this natural wonder.

Eventually, we head back to the airport. Again, I file IFR for Westerly, as some cloud cover has moved in and visibilities are decreasing. There's a slight risk of thunderstorms beginning after 5pm. That's just about the time we'll be nearing Westerly, so I'm anxious to take off on time and get home.

I'm unable to get my clearance on the ground, so I opt for getting it after takeoff. We have to hold short for landing traffic - a 172 on floats. It always amazes me that even with all that stuff hanging down below the fuselage, an aircraft will still fly and look graceful doing so. When it comes time for that BFR next year, I might just have to go get myself a seaplane rating!

Part of my clearance back to Westerly puzzles me. It goes something like this: "Present position, direct Gardner, Victor 14, Norwich, Trumbull, direct Westerly." I read it back and then go about punching everything into the 430. Once again, though, I can't find part of the route: "Trumbull." I leave it for now, and we enjoy a nice flight through New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Finally, when I get switched to Bradley approach, I inquire about the whereabouts of "Trumbull." That's when a hear the strangest response: "There's no such fix, you got a faulty clearance. Be advised your route is Norwich, Groton, direct Westerly." Hmm, what's that all about? Then it hits me. Although the identified for Groton airport is KGON, the identifier for the Groton VOR is TMU (named for nearby the nearby town of Trumbull). In the long run, though, it's all for naught, because as soon as Bradley switches me over to Providence approach, I ask for and receive direct to Westerly. ATIS is reporting VFR conditions, so I get the visual and we land without incident. Just an awesome, awesome day!

More sights for your viewing pleasure:

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