“The Places You’ll Go” is an occasional series of blog posts from Flight Training readers about the adventures they experience with a new pilot certificate. We hope these posts will inspire you to press on to the finish line of your own certificate. If you would like to submit a post, email Jill Tallman.—Ed.
On final to Alton Bay, New Hampshire
When we first get the itch to become an aviator, there could be a number of reasons why. Some folks become pilots to make a living flying. Some just for fun. Then there are the ones who do it to test their skills, explore, and enjoy the many destinations that are out there.
Recently my flying partner and best friend Frank Grossman and I fulfilled one of our “bucket list” flying destinations…Alton Bay, New Hampshire. B18 is located at the southern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee and is the only registered ice landing airport in the continental United States. (Ed. note: It’s a seaplane base in the summer.) For a very short period in January and February, the lake freezes over enough to allow general aviation aircraft to land. Frank owns a beautiful 1965 Cherokee 260 Six, which we take all over the place when the opportunity arises.
The day of our trip starting out at Greater Rochester International Airport, we were blessed with clear skies and a nice tailwind to boot. Thirty miles from the bay we encountered clouds and winds, which only got more intense as we got closer. The approach from the south using Runway 1 requires you to make a short-field landing over the hill and trees with swirling winds for us that day were 23 gusting to 31 straight down our nose. The runway was marked by cones since there was not a hint of snow, making it slick glare ice, so braking was pretty much nil! The outside air temp was around 20 degrees but the winds were strong, giving us concern for the Six to get pushed around; chocks were useless unless they had nails driven into the bottoms.
After enjoying a tasty burger and fries while meeting some of the friendly locals, we received our certificate for skillfully landing on the ice. Frank and I loaded up the Six, pointed back into the 30-knot headwind, and were airborne in about 500 feet. The local folks had asked if we could do a return for approach from the north so they could get some photos. Of course we could, it was our pleasure. The winds are very tricky in that end of the lake, which cuased a couple moments of “let’s think this through” before we proceeded. Once clear of the lake, we pointed the nose skyward for the journey back home to KROC, still enjoying some gusty winds. We reached our cruise altitude of 8,500 feet and began to enjoy some much calmer air that only got smoother as the sun started to settle.
Some folks might ask why someone would even consider taking a flight like this knowing that you could run into unfavorable conditions and not be able to get to your primary destination. We as pilots train, train, and train some more so that we have all of the variables in place regarding each and every situation. Safety is first and foremost; it is the number one item at the top of the list with no substitutes. We plan, lay out our options, and go if everything looks right–no second guesses. So why did Frank and I make this trip to such a beautiful destination? To enjoy the rewards of experiencing just such a flight that tested our skills, to explore a place that we had only heard of, and to be able to pass on to others…because we are pilots. Now if you will excuse me, I need to finish up planning our next trip. Blue skies, tailwinds, and most of all, let’s be safe out there. —Pat Collins