So today I decided not to wait for good weather to fly and just go out in whatever conditions presented. Turned out that things were a bit crummy around where I was flying, but not horribly so. I began at Martha's Vinyard (KMVY), where I last flew this past weekend. Such a beautiful place - will definitely be back someday. I always meant for KMVY to be a stop-over in the flight to Boston, so I decided to continue on to Logan International (KBOS). Ultimately, I wanted to fly a Jet Ranger around the city. Upon researching though, I found here are no helicopter operations out of KBOS, so I then hunted down a regional airport in the area and found Norwood Memorial (KOWD), which is about 13nm south west of Boston.
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I filed an IFR flight plan with Providence Departure so I wouldn't have to worry about conditions when I got there. Departure instructed me to climb out at runway heading and make for 4,000 feet. According to the weather report I was reading from the airport weather station, that would put me right in the clouds. Sweet! I've always been under the puffy whiteness, and now I get to go through it. Getting clearance from Vinyard tower, I took off on Runway 24 and Departure guided me out then handed me over to Providence Approach, which then handed me to Cape Approach which then handed me to Boston Approach. Along the way I was up and through the clouds, relying more on instruments than I have so far, but I never neglected my instrument study while flying VFR all this time so I had no troubles staying on course. Descending through the clouds to approach Norwood the ride got bumpy, and I came out under the clouds to rainy overcast, but things managed to clear up several miles later when I hit the airport and I was able to make a visual approach to Runway 10.
I immediately hopped into the Bell Jet Ranger after I had parked and secured the Cessna, marveling at the wonderful view I had from the cockpit. Seriously, the floor viewports made a huge difference even when taking off. After flying the nimble Robinson around, the heavier Jet Ranger felt relatively slow, but it was still a very responsive craft. I could twitch the joystick and see it lean or dip. Also, it required more of a hand on the stick to maintain forward flight. With the Robinson I could tilt it over to start moving forward, and then centering the stick it would stay like that - with the Jet Ranger though centering the stick immediately causes the nose to come back up - and even over if you're not careful. Everything else about flying the Jet Ranger was the same as the Robinson though, so it didn't take me long to get into stable flight maintaining an altitude.
Looking at the Boston Heli Chart, I decided to loop around Boston using Route Quarry (QUARE) and then returning along Route Fenway (FENWA). Traveling up Quarry was no trouble at all, as Interstate 93 was a prominent road feature on the ground. Approaching the city I buzzed downtown and then turned west to look for Fenway, which was a rail road line heading south. I found what I thought was the railroad and banked over hard left to follow... and didn't realize something very important - I can't fly this craft exactly like a Robinson. The key difference between the two is that the Robinson's engine is located low and to the rear of the craft, whereas the Jet Ranger has a huge turbine engine high up amidship. The top-heavyness means if you bank too far you can flip the chopper easily. And that's what I did - right into the Charles River.
I restarted the flight back at Norwood and this time completed the loop as I originally planned, following the railroad tracks after passing Fenway Park to get back to the airport. Landing, I put her down on the first try. Seriously, I love the floor windows soooo much. I hopped right back into the Cessna and after checking conditions along the route home decided to stay VFR, although I plotted my course VOR to VOR so I would be navigating by instruments. As I was completing my pre flight and setting all my radios, I heard an engine noise. Since my engine was still off I figured a plane was taxiing by. Turning to look, I see a Piper Cub come trundling past... right into the tail of my plane. *sigh* So I had to reset and tune my radios all over again, then when I moved to taxi out I realized I had forgotten to ask for clearance from Ground. So I stopped, radioed Ground to get taxi clearance, but when I started up again I crashed into another plane that the AI traffic had injected into my vacant parking spot! ARRRGH!!
I finally made it in the air on the third try, although I set the sim to Slew mode while I prepped so that any aircraft passing by me would also pass through me and thus leave me in peace. To mix things up a bit I decided to climb to 10,000 feet to be above the clouds again. It took about an hour for me to reach 10,000 feet, mainly because I had to zig and zag a bit to avoid the clouds and climb through the clear patches. I finally leveled off at 10,000 feet (brrrrr it was like 27 degrees Fahrenheit up there!!) and realized I was at full throttle going about 80 knots. #####? Then I realized I needed to alter the pitch of my propeller blades to bite more air because it was thinner up here. So I reached for the prop pitch control and... wait... where is it?
I didn't have one
So, with a fixed propeller it was pretty useless cruising at an altitude that kept me at 80 knots, so I descended down, going all the way to 2,500 to stay under some scattered clouds at 3,000 feet. There I was able to cruise around 115 knots. Much better! Besides getting knocked around a bit by some pretty hefty wind gusts along the way from Massachusetts to New Jersey, the trip was largely uneventful, although it was good practice for my radio navigation skills, which I hadn't used in a while. The weather stayed great all the way into KBLM, where I landed on Runway 32 and taxied to the ramp to shut down for the day.
I must say flying the Cessna 172 has been fun, but I'm ready for something new. Not too new or too fast, I still like poking along slow so I can have extra time to do things - until I get used to procedures a lot more I will continue to fly things that don't go very fast. So to upgrade I'm sticking with the Cessna but going with a newer model - a C182 Skylane II RG. Unless something better comes along between now and tomorrow.