December 12, 2010
In my mind there is no better sightseeing than aerial sightseeing. Over the Thanksgiving weekend while visiting family, I met up with Mike Bennett from 110Knots.com to explore New Jersey and New York from the air. A few years ago I flew the Hudson Corridor route to get an amazing view of New York. On that flight we stayed below the Class B airspace. This type of flight was criticized last year when a helicopter and plane crashed in this congested and uncontrolled airspace. Mike offered to show me the other New York Flightseeing experience, the Class Bravo flight experience.
I met Mike at his home base airport, Morristown Municipal, and we pre-flighted his club's Cessna 182RG while he filled me in on his route of choice. He prefers to explore New York City from the Class B airspace. His plan was to request a frequency change to Newark Tower (just a few miles away) right after take-off, then request to fly into Class Bravo airspace over Newark up the Hudson to Central Park, cross the park and travel back down the East River then crossing back past Newark.
We were flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving, often considered the busiest travel day of the year. I was a bit worried that Air Traffic Control would be less than welcoming to our request on such a busy day. However, ATC could not have been more accommodating. As soon as we were airborne we called up Newark Tower who cleared us into the Class B and asked us to overfly runway 22 numbers at 2,500. As we approached Newark we had a fabulous view of Statue of Liberty with the city along our horizon. We received some traffic advisories but most of it was helicopter traffic below the Class B airspace.
As we flew up the Hudson and approached the northern part of Central Park, we were handed off to LaGuardia, who instructed us to ensure we stayed over the East River and did not fly any further east. From there we flew south back down towards the Statue of Liberty. We took in some amazing views of the buildings, parks and bridges.
I am used to the congested airspace of Chicago but was impressed with Mike's almost effortless ability to rapidly transition from Morristown to Newark to LaGuardia, back to Newark then on to New York Center. We talked about his instrument training and how that helped him to become a better pilot, as it does for most pilots. I was inspired after flying with him and further charged to pursue my Instrument Rating.
Once we were done sightseeing we flew back over Newark and headed west to Pittstown, NJ. We landed at Sky Manor (N40) which calls itself "The best little airport in the East." It lived up to it in my book. This is quaint little airport with a 50 foot wide by 3,000 foot long asphalt strip that has a restaurant located right off the runway. The restaurant offers great windows for grading landings. A perfect place to enjoy the company of fellow pilots and to do some real flying in addition to some hangar flying. I have moved it to the top of my list of Best $100 Hamburgers.
After brunch we did a short hop back to Morristown. It was a great flight in which we logged 1.3 hours, I had my first flight in a Cessna 182, added two new airports to my list of visited airports, took in some amazing sights and enjoyed some nice conversation. This day re-enforced my belief that there is no community better than the aviation community.