From the perspective of a private pilot who has been flying for over 45 years, things are much easier than they were formerly. This should be no surprise to many of you, but it was enlightening to me.
The plan was to fly from my base at White Plains Airport (KHPN) to a grandson’s wedding in Delray Beach. I consider myself an amateur when it comes to using the apps that are available now and I have been a heavy user of paper charts when it comes to a trip of any length. However, I decided to take the plunge and eliminate the paper charts and rely on the iPad and apps for this trip. The first leg was a Westchester 3 Departure with a JFK waypoint. It’s always been a thrill for me to look down at KJFK from a high perch within Class B airspace with no fear of traffic, but a few experiences have taught me that above-Class B traffic encounters are frequent and require constant attention.
The trip down to Boca Raton (KBCT) was easily accomplished in ideal weather with a stop overnight in Charleston (KCHS). Never having spent much time in Charleston, South Carolina, my wife and I elected to sample some of the sights and to enjoy a good meal. The folks at Landmark Aviation were most accommodating, and one of the lineman, Ron, gave us a ride into town because I reminded him of his grandfather. We stayed at one of the Marriotts on the harbor and enjoyed a great meal at the Peninsula Grill. This establishment was named by Food and Wine as one of the Top 50 US Hotel Restaurants. We dined in the courtyard illuminated by gas carriage lanterns and soft candlelight, quite a romantic setting.
The next morning, having gassed-up, we were ready to continue to KBCT. Shortly after landing, we were elated when we received a message from our young daughter in England who informed us that she had landed a well-paying job as an assistant professor in the French Department of a Canadian university. The number of job openings in her particular field is quite small, so this was very good news indeed.
We were met by my oldest daughter, the mother of the groom, and were ferried to the Seagate Hotel in Delray, an establishment with many amenities, some of which we enjoyed during our stay.
There was an opportunity for some sightseeing before the wedding. Two of the sightseeing events are worth mentioning. The drive along the coastal road up to Palm Beach affords a view of the magnificent estates built along the ocean and along the inland waterway…and secondly a spectacular Japanese Garden named for the immigrant, Morikami, who built a thriving business back in the last century enabling him to donate the land and buildings for the enjoyment of all who might chose to come that way.
The wedding itself was held on the beach, attended by close members of the families, a small but lavish event, and an opportunity to make new friends and to delight in the company of members of my own family.
The trip home was a bit of a challenge as a stationary front was interposed between our gas stop in KCHS and our home base at Westchester. Again we chose to overnight in Charleston. That gave us a chance to sample another Charleston restaurant, Husk, recommended by my granddaughter. Husk is another of Charleston’s great restaurants, priding itself on his menu of local dishes. My wife enjoyed a dish of catfish on a bed of succotash with beans and bacon bits, an outstanding choice.
After lunch, we took a tour of the peninsula, and there is much worth seeing in Charleston of both of historical interest and of expensive and beautiful real estate.
The next morning we faced a forbidding weather outlook for that day as well as for the ensuing three days. With some luck it looked doable if we could get through the frontal system as the weather at Westchester was low IFR but was forecast to be easy IFR after 11 a.m.
Our luck held. ATC was able to vector us around the worst of the precip and the bumps were few. There is something about flying in the clouds that I enjoy immensely as long as the turbulence is manageable. Our Stormscope did not show any activity so the worst we encountered was rain.
By the time we reached the Norfolk area, we were flying above a deck of clouds that extended all the way through New Jersey into Westchester. As usual, coming from the south, we were routed around the Class B airspace in New York to the west. But that worked, for delaying the arrival allowed the KHPN weather to improve to easy IFR (with the Garmin 530W), a 600-foot ceiling and two to three miles visibility, a piece of cake as they say. A call to Flight Watch an hour before ETA was reassuring.
All in all this was a great trip. The adventure was certainly not on a par with the tales of James Salter whose marvelous stories I have been reading recently. Nor was the excitement level equal to that I have read in Mort Mason’s bush pilot adventures. However, for this old geezer it was a chance to experience in a comfortable way the wonders of modern aviation.