Thursday, July 26, 2012

Out and about in North Carolina

I was on vacation in North Carolina last month, spending some quality time on the beach, doing a spot of fishing, a little kayaking, eating tons of seafood and generally having a relaxing time. As I am wont to do whenever I'm in a new area, I spent one evening surfing the Internet for local flying opportunities. Google maps' satellite view is pretty darn good for getting an aerial view of the beach you were just laying on, or the fishing spot you just discovered, but there's nothing like a real aerial tour to get a full appreciation of an area.

So, at 9 am one Thursday morning I drove out to KSUT - the most excellently named Cape Fear Regional Jetport/Howie Franklin Field Airport - with my girlfriend, her parents and her 7-year old nephew, for a pleasure flight up the coast to Wrightsville Beach, east of Wilmington. The tour route would take us over the house in which we were staying, at the southern end of Carolina Beach.

A portion of the Charlotte sectional chart, showing KSUT near the bottom and Wrightsville Beach to the northeast. (Click image to enlarge.)

Now, unusually for me, on this trip I didn't have my license, medical certificate and logbook with me, eliminating even the option of some left seat time. (Yeah, I'm one of "those" kind of travelers...) But no matter, because this day I wanted my girlfriend to get some right seat time in a Cessna, because she's flown in the front of a Great Lakes with me but never in a Cessna, and I would point things out to her nephew who would ride in the back with me; his first flight in a light aircraft.

We checked in with the front desk at Brunswick Air and introduced ourselves to Dennis Faver, our tour pilot for the day. We'd be in good hands. Dennis is a CFII, and a CAP squadron commander and check airman. Good enough for me!

Dennis asked what we had in mind and I told him about our experiences to date; me as a private pilot, my girlfriend as a flight attendant, and my girlfriend's nephew, Zach, as a total newbie. With that, Dennis led me back to his office to complete the paperwork. There I got my second surprise of the morning, as I perused the sectional chart hanging on his wall: a TRSA around Wilmington that I'd failed to recognize until Dennis mentioned it. Okay, so it's not quite as notable as spotting one of the Beatles (especially as there are only two of them left) but I'd never encountered a TRSA before. Still, I wasn't the pilot today so it was little more than a curiosity as Dennis explained where we could go and what we might see.

With the paperwork done we headed out to the tarmac where Zach got his first close-up look at a GA plane, a C172N. Brunswick Air's website and Dennis both told us that the plane was vintage 1978. Damn. It's holding up a lot better than I am, that's all I can say. Darn thing was immaculate.

Zach provides a 7 year-old scale to what's claimed is a 34 year-old Cessna, while Dennis Faver prepares the interior.
Role reversal: Zach's wearing the GB t-shirt, I'm wearing a Wrightsville Beach t-shirt. Jeez, tourists.