Jill Tallman

Guppy in a shark tank

June 21, 2010 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

The Fun to Fly Remos is fifth in line for departure at IAD. That's a Luftansa Airbus getting ready to take off.

Ever see the animated Pixar film Finding Nemo? A tiny clownfish ventures out of his relatively small corner of the ocean to find his son. There are a lot of much bigger fish out there, and he has to keep out of their way while pursuing his quest. That’s pretty much how I felt Saturday morning when I flew the Fun to Fly Remos GX to Washington Dulles International (IAD) to show off the airplane at Family Be a Pilot Day at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Annex.

It was my first time at a Class Bravo airport as pilot in command. I dragged along Senior Editor Dave Hirschman, who had flown our 2009 Let’s Go Flying Cirrus SR22 to this same event last year. Dave handled the radio and helped me pick out our runway in the extremely hazy Saturday morning sunshine. The controllers were ready for us, since we were one of about 50 general aviation airplanes expected to fly in for the event. We were cleared to land on 19C, which is a whopping 11,501 feet long by 150 feet wide.

“Keep your speed up,” Dave urged me. “Be a good neighbor. There are other airplanes coming in behind us.” So my approach speed went from the normal 70 knots to 110. “Land long,” Dave continued, ” so we won’t have so far to taxi to the first turnoff.” No problem, I thought; landing long is one of my specialities. Of course I didn’t land quite long enough, so we still had a bit of a ways to get to the first turnoff. “Taxi as fast as you can,” Hirschman said. The only problem with that suggestion is that if you taxi too fast, the Remos thinks you want to take off again. Talk about pressure!

Once off the active runway, we were given progressive taxi instructions (without having to ask) by no fewer than three different ground controllers, all of whom were pleasant and professional. Still, I think the taxi to the ramp leading to Udvar-Hazy took longer than the 30-nm flight from KFDK.

When the aircraft were released at 3 p.m., things got a bit more interesting. We joined a conga line of airplanes and waited for a break in the clearance delivery chatter to put in our request for departure. “Saturday afternoons are busy at Dulles,” our briefing materials had warned, and boy, they weren’t kidding. Then began a long, hot taxi to our 10,500-foot departure runway, 30. Here we saw many more commuter and widebody jets as well as a passenger terminal shuttle, which had to stop to let us go by.

In the lineup for departure, I laughed at the incongruity of being fifth for takeoff behind a Lufthanza Airbus, two commuter jets, and a Cirrus. But we had managed to avoid the sharks and barracudas; we hadn’t ticked off any controllers; and we’d had a great day introducing the Fun to Fly Remos to the throngs at Family Be A Pilot Day. And I now have a Class B airport entry in my logbook.

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