Vicki and I flew our airplane (well, the flying club’s, but it feels like ours) down to New Jersey to pick out the soapstone slabs that they’ll use to make our custom counters in our kitchen remodel in our beautiful 1922 Arts and Crafts house. How yuppie is that?
The flight down was almost entirely uneventful. The sky was so empty of planes I heard people calling for radio checks because they hadn’t heard anything else on the frequency for so long. On the other hand, the destination airport (KDCW – Caldwell Essex County) was hard to spot and when I was cleared to land on runway 4 I couldn’t see the first half of it behind some trees so I lined up wrong and ended up turning base to final about 200 feet from the threshold.
The flight home was a totally different ballgame. I filed the route that I thought would get me out of the New York airspace the quickest, and also was a pretty direct route home. Climb to 8000 feet Direct SAX (Sparta VOR), V126 LHY (Lake Henry VOR), V149 CFB (Binghampton VOR), V252 GEE (Geneseo VOR), and home. I also should mention that I started my engine before calling for my clearance because I have my doubts about the battery. The clearance I got was unbelievable. Climb to 2000 feet, left turn to 180 degrees, vectors to LANNA intersection, V30 ETX (East Texas), V154 FQM (Williamsport VOR), V31 ULW (Elmira VOR), V147 ROC (Rochester VOR), expect climb to 6000 feet “some time”. And then I had to wait. And wait. They let me taxi to the end of the runway, but I’m sorry they did because I ended up blocking the end of the runway for 25 minutes while they waited for my clearance. And there was a VFR Cessna behind me, and an IFR Cessna behind him preventing him from turning around and going back to a previous intersection to take off. But the end of the 25 minutes, all three of us were pretty annoyed. But at least I had time to enter the whole route into the GPS.
I swear, much as I hate taking IFR clearances in the air, next time I do this if it’s anywhere near VMC, I’m going to file from Lake Henry and fly VFR to there.
After I get into the air, I get told to turn to 190 instead of 180, and then a few minutes later he clears me to 4000 feet and tells me to fly to “Solberg”. Huh? Solberg? Where did that come from? He says it was on my route clearance, and I should expect these sorts of changes in New Jersey. I didn’t want to argue with him even though it wasn’t on my clearance. SBJ (Solberg VOR) actually defines the airway that leads to LANNA which proves that although I’d plugged LANNA into the GPS, I hadn’t found it on the en-route chart yet or I would have known that. So maybe my clearance was messed up or maybe he was messed up, because he switched me to the next controller who immediately told me to fly direct to LANNA. Good thing I’ve got a GPS, because otherwise I’d require vectors to LANNA. I get half way to LANNA when I get told to fly direct to ETX – which is a relief because the airway between LANNA and ETX has a job in it and I didn’t feel like reprogramming the GPS so I would have had to actually (shudder) fly the VORs.
Soon after switching to Allentown Approach I get told to fly 330 degrees and direct to FQM when able. I also got asked if I really wanted to go to 6000 feet. It was bumpy at 4000 so you’re darn right I wanted to climb. And I couldn’t have been more than half way there when he asks me if I have a GPS, and I reply that I have a VFR GPS only, and he says “good enough, fly direct to Rochester”. So most of the corners got cut off.
At one point there was traffic pointed out to me crossing in front of me with an unverified altitude that was bouncing between 5700 and 5900 feet. I couldn’t see him and the controller said it was definitely going to merge but he couldn’t suggest a vector, so I asked for a climb. He said I could go up to 7000 until I crossed the other traffic or until I saw it, and I got as high as 6500 when I saw it pass right below us. Good thing we climbed.