So today I took my first flight of 2011! I got to mix a little bit of business with pleasure as well, plotting a flight that was completely VFR while also checking out one of my airports and that of an associate for whom I am beta testing. To get an idea of just how VFR this VFR flight was, have a look at the Flight Log I constructed for it. No navaids, no headings - nothing! In the past, I've navigated VFR either by plotting the track on SkyVector and using the headings it gives for each leg, or following a huge visual aid, like the coastline of NJ or Long Island - kind of hard to go wrong there.
If you don't recall, I last left off with my computer crashing as I was on short final to the last airport of my very long trip. So we're just going to pretend I actually made the landing and taxied to one of the hangars for parking, because that's where this flight starts off.
There was little to no wind today, so after I taxied out of the hangar I headed straight for the closest runway at Central Jersey Regional (47N) which was Runway 25. After departure, since it was in the opposite direction I wanted to head, I made a gradual turn north as I climbed. I leveled off at 2500' in order to stay beneath the 3000' Class B floor in this area and picked up my first visual aid - the Raritan River winding off into the northeast. I trimmed out the craft and cruised abeam the river as it traversed the landscape towards Raritan Bay. As I approached the mouth of the river I hung off to the south because there the Class B floor drops way down to 1500'. Hugging the shore, I continued east and started to descend gradually to 1300' because I was going to have to duck under the 1500' floor eventually when I reached the outer edge of Sandy Hook.
Around this point visibility began to close in and dropped from >20mi down to around 20mi. I double-checked my forecast and was reassured it wasn't going to close in all the way along my route. I banked north upon reaching Sandy Hook and having dropped down to 1300' - now it was time to go even lower as I headed north across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Verrazano Bridge because there begins the Hudson River VFR Corridor (I like to call it a corridor, it's really dubbed a "Special Exclusion Zone"). This corridor is walled in by the banks of the river extending up to the 1300' Class B airspace floor. So I dropped to 1000' by the time I crossed over the bridge and stuck to the right bank of the river like driving on a road. While I'm out of Class B and therefore have no need to contact ATC, in real life (or online) I would tune to a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency and announce my location every so often since this VFR corridor is a highly-trafficked area by both planes and helicopters.
After passing the Verrazano visibility closed down to 10 miles and I began to wonder if my weather reports were wrong and I would need to turn around and seek an alternate route (I hadn't pre-planned one) but visibility did not worsen as I continued onwards past Manhattan and towards the George Washington Bridge. A few minutes after passing the GWB visibility cleared all the way out again and I was able to spot my next landmark - the Tappan Zee Bridge that carries Route 287/87 over the Hudson. Here I began to climb back up to 2500' since the Class B floor had been raised back up to 3000' and there were mountains coming up soon. I also began to turn left to follow the road and almost made a classic VFR mistake - I can't follow a ground feature like a road by flying over it, I need to fly alongside it so I can see it. So I passed north of the bridge and then turned west to follow Route 87 out my left window towards the junction of Rt 287.
Around this time I started to hear the engine stutter, and my pulse quickened. Had I turned on the Carburetor Heat? I thought I did back before I even took off. Was there carb ice in my engine? There's no switch I can find on the default C172 panel that toggles carb heat, so I just hit the button on my throttle quadrant that is set to toggle it and hoped that it was now on. As it continued to happen the remainder of the flight I began to wonder if it wasn't just my sound itself stuttering in and out!
After passing over the road junction I had to use the lake features to help pick out the airport as well as simply continuing due west. Soon I saw one, but it was a closely-neighboring private strip. I recognized this well-out so I was able to turn and find the actual airport, Greenwood Lake (4N1) without overflying the first one. Again, with no wind I had my choice of runway. After listening to the CTAF and hearing no other traffic, I decided to go for Runway 6, which was a right pattern approach. Then I made the one mistake of the day - I overflew the airport and began the right pattern when I really should have entered downwind before reaching the airport - so I was actually turning upwind! I didn't realize this until I turned final and noticed my compass was pointing to heading 240! Yea, facepalm. So I just swung off the approach (I really could have just landed) and just continued the pattern around to Runway 6, which has a very steep approach of 5.75°! I had to cut the engine well off the threshold to maintain my approach speed at 10° flaps, and came down light as a feather just left of center line. Also the low-vis haze came back on approach but it wasn't less than 15 miles or so.
After taxiing to parking I restarted the sim to clear up the sound issue (which I determined by now it had to be) and then loaded up the Jet Ranger, as this airport supports heli services. Departing straight to the south, I came across the airport I had originally spotted before locating 4N1. This field is currently being built by an associate and has some pretty cool features to it. I hovered around and took some pictures to send back to him so he could see how things are looking for me, then continued on southward towards the Rt 23 roadway, which actually turns into the Route 23 helicopter route. Since I was eventually going to be passing straight over Newark Aiport, I tuned in to New York Approach and requested Class B transition when it was appropriate.
Cleared through the Bravo airspace, I continued to follow roadways - now Rt 46, which makes up Routes Great Notch and Whiskey. Upon reaching the Meadowlands sports complex, I turned south along Route Linden, which takes you directly over a huge and very visible cemetery and then west of KEWR's Runway 11. Once past the runway I turned back northeast to cross over the airport and make for the Turnpike Bridge and from there south of The Lady, which is an intersection that lets me transition over to the Hudson River route. I took the Hudson north and cut across Central Park to head back south down the East River to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (KJRB). Visibility was much improved on this return trip to the Big Apple.
I noobed the approach to KJRB, coming in over the water on the island side for the pier and spending a few minutes hovering this way and that while I tried not to land in the water. Eventually I decided to just set her down wherever I could and then I hover taxiied into a proper parking location. Well, to be honest I kind of cheated a little - you can increase collective to make the chopper light enough to "slide" along the ground without actually lifting off. In real life you would no doubt destroy your landing skids and the surface of the helipad, but fortunately this isn't real life.
For my next flight, I'm thinking of choppering around Manhattan for some landing practice, then hauling down to southern Jersey to Flying W (N14) and then doing a friend the favor of transporting his plane up to Greenwood Lake so I can get mine back as well.
See you then!
Originall posted to my personal blog