New York Flying from the Front Seat

I’ve got a soft-spot for aviation stories told well and I found a goldmine this week.

“La Guardia Airport, information Charley. Clear, wind 220 at 10, temperature 65, dew point 42, altimeter 30.27. Landing and departing runway 22. Advise on initial contact that you have information Charley.”

I was still about fifty miles away from the Big Apple, level at eleven thousand on an IFR flight from a small Pennsylvania town where I had spent the previous night.

This is the beginning of Conga Lines, Skylines and the Lady with a Torch, one of the many great essays on the Stoenworks Aviation website.

It had all of the makings of another beautiful day as VFR conditions extended up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Although we were in sunshine, the valleys down below were still in shadows with the cities and towns showing their twinkling lights as we passed eleven thousand feet overhead. This was one of my favorite times as a corporate pilot. Just me and the airplane, early in the morning. It was like you _owned_ the sky.

I have no time/money for flying this month and the weather’s not great for it even if I could get away. But reading Hal Stoen’s stories almost makes me feel like I’m there. He’s been a flight instructor, a charter pilot, worked for mail and commuter airlines and after all that spent eighteen years as a corporate pilot.

“Good morning Approach, Cessna 1557 Golf is with you, five thousand, Charley.”
“Good morning 57 Golf, turn right heading 090, intercept the runway 22 localizer and track it inbound. Descend to and maintain 2,500.”
“Zero nine zero, localizer inbound, out of five for two point five, 57 Golf.”
“Cessna 57 Golf I have traffic behind you, a Boeing 727. Keep your airspeed up as much as practical.”
“Ah, roger (Chuck Yeager homage), I can give you about 175 knots up to the Marker, then I’ll have to slow down.”
“Understand 57 Golf, give me what you can.”

I bring the power up a few more inches to raise the airspeed to 175 knots indicated. The expensive real estate of Manhattan Island begins to fill the right side of the windshield as I see higher traffic most likely descending into Kennedy, about 15 miles ahead and to our left.

Even better, Hal Stoen takes me places that I’ve never been. He lets me join him on flights that I will never fly. He’s in the Cessna 421B, a pressurised 8-passenger aircraft. It’s a beauty.

My head is down for a moment as I verify and then switch the auxiliary main fuel pumps from “on” to “standby”. When I look up again I see that we are aimed directly at the Empire State Building. Not a few degrees left of it, nor a few to the right. We’re headed right at the darn thing. This is not faulting the guys at La Guardia, we’re VFR- see and avoid. Wow, what a perspective. 57 Golf had a large front windshield, and the 102 story structure was occupying a fair portion of it.

“Cessna 57 Golf, squawk 1200. Good morning.”
“Ah, roger 57 Golf…..shouldn’t we call somebody?”
“Well Sir, you can give Newark Departure a try if you like, they’re on 126.45. So long!”

It just amazed me. Here we were, over one of the largest cities in the world, and it was “..if you like.” I watched for traffic, and the skyscraper, as I tuned Comm. 2 to 126.45.

“Good morning Newark, Cessna 1557 Golf with you, over downtown Manhattan, squawking 1200. Advisories if you have the time.”
“Cessna 57 Golf, Newark. Stand-by.”

As we were “standing-by” we whisked past the Empire State Building. I could see people out on the observation deck, even at this time of the day. I couldn’t help myself- I waved at them. The temptation to circle around the lovely structure was almost overpowering.

When I mailed him to tell him how much I loved this story, he told me that he thinks he will always regret not making a turn around the Empire State Building. But man, what a view he must have had.

You can read this full story and many more on the website. I swear, if Airman Lost doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you might not be human.

I’m warning you though, be sure you have an hour or two free before you visit the website. His stories include life lessons (“Never take your first flight with your new boss without the keys to the airplane”) and practical advice (“How to find a good restaurant when at high altitude”) and pilot training (including “a basic primer for the flight simulator neophyte”) and not-so-practical advice (“Achieving weightlessness in a Cessna 150”).

His entire collection is available for sale – 900 pages devoted to aviation stories and flight instruction help – for $12.50 on CD or as a Kindle eBook series on Amazon. Based on what I’ve read on his website, it’s a bargain.

But you should go look for yourself: Stoenworks.

Category: Fun Stuff,

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