Tuesday, May 15, 2007


No, this isn't some on-line confession to a horrible VD. As if I were some drunken sailor. Puh-lease.

As previously reported, Mother Nature conspired to abort the original plan for early May: To hop down to NOLA and take in what was appropriate described as the best Jazzfest lineup in years. Even if we could have circumnavigated the horrible thunderstorms that were predicted to be blowing through the area, who wants to spend the better part of two or three days on the infield of the Fairgrounds -- surely to be a mudpit by then??? So, we scrubbed the trip.

But Mike Hotel was mine, and so it was time for the proverbial "Plan B." Hmm, where to go. Hey, I know, let's go have some crab cakes for lunch. My original travel companion, S, was game, and so we her friend, W. So, we jumped into the plane, filed (almost) direct to KMTN, and off we went.

S had flown with the IFR Pilot once before, back when he was a newly minted private pilot. And even though W had never been in a light aircraft before, she confessed that she was looking forward to it.

Travel time was just a couple of hours from KBKL, and we had CAVU weather for 95% of it. Here's a couple of obligatory in-flight shots of the flight crew and pax:

Inbound to KMTN, a Falcon was hot on our tail. Just as we turned final, the tower instructed us to remain west of the final approach course, make a right 360 for spacing, and cleared us to land #2 behind the Falcon. Jeez, those jet guys get all the first class treatment... :-)

Anyhow, we landed without incident, and other than having to wait inordinately long for clearance to back-taxi, we made it to the FBO. Whereupon, we experienced our only real hiccup of the day - the IFR Pilot forgot to make advance arrangements for a rental car. And they had none available on the field. OK, we'll just cab it down to the Inner Harbor. We have a lovely preview of downtown Baltimore as we sped down the interstate highway:

When prompted, the driver gave us a primo recommendation for a luncheon spot: Legal Sea Foods. Given that S and the IFR Pilot both share this occupation, we thought it a good omen for a great lunch. Especially when we realized they had outdoor seating that was just PERFECT for a spring day. See for yourself:

We promptly occupied the one remaining outside table, and proceeded to order more food than you can shake a stick at. This included three different soups (I was especially fond of the Clam Chili that S ordered), and perhaps that most delicious crab cake I have ever had. Loads upon loads of delish lump crab, and very little bread crumbs. In addition, some "adult beverages" were also procured for the non-crew members. S particularly enjoyed her sangria. I've got the evidence to prove my case, ladies and gentlemen of the jury:

Dining outside is always a favorite activity, as it allows vast amounts of people watching. It's an amusing spectator sport. You get to sights like this:

Hey dude, nice hat.

Anyway, after eating way too much, we took a walk around the Inner Harbor. More obligatory pictures:

After traipsing around the Harbor, we found our way into Little Italy. On the advice of the man behind the counter at Velleggia's Casa di Pasta (from which the IFR Pilot purchased the most delicious Lobster Ravioli, which he cooked up for dinner the next night), we found our way to the nearby Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop. Whereupon, even more calories were consumed:

For the gourmand challenged, that's 3 mini cannoli in the foreground, with a bowl of Amaretto gelato on the back right and some mini creme puffs on the back left.

To work off some -- but certainly nowhere near all of the calories that we wolfed down -- we hiked over to Camden Yards. Ladies, strike a pose please!

With that, we cabbed it back to MTN. Hilarity ensued when the IFR Pilot tried to fuel up and the ground cable detached itself from the reel. Great, just my luck. With a bit of assistance from the line crew, we straightened out that snafu and launched into the Wild Blue Yonder.

Initially, our routing to the west was pointing us right into a mass of developing storms. But, an opportunely-requested "any chance direct destination" met with a favorable reply, and a turn to the northwest kept us well clear. Not even a drop of rain on Mike Hotel. A couple hours later, after a spectacular overflight of downtown Pittsburgh, we were home, safe and sound.

Truly, a great way to spend 5.1 hours in the air!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the Just (Plane) Weird

I'm a day week late, and a dollar short on joining the Blogging Pilot World for the first group theme post. But, now that I'm back from frolicking networking with these folks (NO, I can NOT get you a discount on your renewal premiums), I thought I'd chime in.

The Good. There have been a panoply of "goods," including many of which I've shared here. The first flight (November 15, 2000, N94589, C-152, .5 hours at BKL). There's the obligatory first solo story. There was the sightseeing flight in Las Vegas during AIA 2004. And, of course, the Great Alaska Adventure (tm) with the Dadster. I'd be remiss if I didn't also include the acquisition of Mike Hotel and the flight home over Memorial Day 2006 (posts here, here, and here.

The Bad. Topping the list would be the crash in Lethbridge. No, not the IFR Pilot's crash, but the crash of the gentlemen in the Long-Eze while I was preparing to test fly 78S after our encounter with a rough running engine. Believe you me, you don't ever want to fly over the smoking wreckage of an airplane crash. Oh, and the Pink Slip on my instrument checkride wasn't a particularly high point in my aviation career, either.

The Just (Plane) Weird. So here's a story that I haven't shared with you, my loyal and faithful readers. It was May of 2005, and the IFR Pilot was out for his first Angel Flight. It involved a flight from Carrol County, Ohio to Eagle Creek Airpark in Indianapolis. My passenger was en route home from New York, where she had been receiving treatment for Lyme Disease.

I rendezvoused with the linking pilot on time. The passenger seemed like a nice lady as I help her into 78S. She was not unattractive, perhaps 5'5" or 5'6", thin and lithe, with longish hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Dressed casually, as you'd expect for someone about to be crammed into a light airplane for the better part of several hours.

Walking was obviously painful for her, and she maintained balance with the use of dual walking sticks. I invited her to take the right front seat, explaining that she would be free to have PIC responsibilities for the satellite radio, but she demurred in favor of the rear seat, saying she'd probably zonk out for the flight. OK, no problem by me.

So, after getting her strapped in and her luggage on board, we blasted off for Eagle Creek. Twasn't a long flight, maybe 2.5 hours or so, and she said nary a word to me, having eschewed the headset in favor of ear plugs. I peeked back occasionally to make sure she was OK, and each time she appeared to be fast asleep.

I politely roused her when we were about 15 minutes from touchdown. She donned her headset and we chatted briefly about her condition, how she contracted it (hiking in the Mountain West), and the various ways in which she fought to reclaim some semblance of normalcy in her day-to-day activities. I tried not to ask too many questions, but rather to let her talk about whatever was on her mind. Just because I'm flying people doesn't mean that I have the right to ask about their personal details. But, I'm a good listener and I think she liked sharing.

We landed without incident, and retired to the FBO. She was to wait for her ride and I was waiting for a top off of 100LL. We talked some more and then her ride arrived. I bid her adieu, and she said she'd be traveling for more follow-up treatment, perhaps I could volunteer to fly her again. I was flattered, after all, this was my first Angel Flight and I really wasn't quite sure how it would turn out. So, I guessed that it went well.

So, I wasn't all that surprised when a few days later, an envelope arrived with a return address in the Indy area. I assumed it was a thank you card, which it was.

What I wasn't prepared for was the letter inside. After expressing her personal thanks for the flight, she then went on to say something like this:
I can't believe I'm writing this, as I know nothing about your personal life. Perhaps you are in a relationship, perhaps not. But I thought you were very handsome and kind. There's quite some distance between us, obviously, yet I wonder if you might be interested in dating me.
Gulp. Am I seriously reading this? Have I just been asked out -- by letter -- from a woman living hundreds of miles from me that I have only talked to for maybe an hour? It reminded me of a letter I got from a stalker ex-girlfriend when I was in middle school (but that's a story for another day). Sure, I was flattered, but I was also weirded out.

So, I did the most mature thing I could do: I just ignored the offer and didn't respond.

Don't hate. Maybe you would have done something different, but I didn't. Clearly, I couldn't date her. First, I was already involved. Second, dating a passenger has to violate some sort of Angel Flight ethical code. Third, even if those didn't apply, maybe this was nothing more than a manifestation of some Florence Nightingale syndrome. Thanks, but no thanks, I'd rather not have any part of that.

There you have it, my best Just Plane Weird story. Now, what's the topic for the next group theme post, y'all?

Weather Blues

Mother Nature has once again, literally, rained on the IFR Pilot's parade. Plans to steal down to New Orleans and take in the best Jazzfest lineup in 20 years have been scrubbed due to predicted thunderstorms all weekend. Not good to fly in. Even worse to stand in during on outdoor, day-long series of concerts. Guess we'll have to try again next year.