So I'm on vacation visiting my wife's family out in New York, so I thought, why not take a ride out to the East Hampton airport and see what's going on. Having visited here for over 25 years, I've always wanted to get up in the sky above Long Island and well, now that I have a means, I think I'll take advantage of it. I went inside and sure enough, right in front of me is the sign for Sound Aviation and a brochure for their Flight School. The weather being what it is out here, unpredictable, I signed up for the first lesson I could get, tomorrow morning at 9am.
It rained all afternoon and into the evening last night making me wonder if I was going to get to go up today at all. When I woke up at 5:30 this morning I was greeted with fog and low cloud cover, but by 7am I could see patches of blue breaking through. By 8:30 most of the clouds had cleared out where we were, but a few minutes later, just as I was ready to head out the door, my cell phone rang. It was the flight school calling, but not to reschedule due to the over cast, rather, they wanted to push the lesson back an hour since my instructor was already up in the air with a local photographer who was shooting the area. At 10am I met my new instructor, Lou, at the airport. We sat and talked for 30 minutes or so about my training to date and his background as an Air Force pilot, now retired. I explained about learning and soloing in a tail dragger and having recently transitioned to the Cessna. I figure it's never a good idea to exaggerate your experience when it comes to flying, after all, the last thing you want to do is put yourself or others in an uncomfortable or even dangerous position in a plane. He asked me what I wanted out of the lesson, which I had given some thought to before arriving, and I explained that I was comfortable in the air, but would like to get more experience with take offs and landings in the Cessna, additionally, I wanted to see what the traffic was like in the area, the local weather conditions and practice some maneuvers.
When I was leaving Sonoma last week and considering taking a lesson on the east coast, I questioned whether I wanted to get into a plane with yet another instructor, and wondered if it would affect my training in any way adversely. The more I thought about it during the week, the more I wanted to experience it, and flying with multiple pilots and experiencing different training techniques and planes has to be a good thing as each one has something different to offer.
Even before I met with Lou, I had checked the local weather and read through the METARS for the area. I was proud of myself for actually being able to decipher the cryptic code of the METARS but looking out the window at the windsock, I could see that there was a steady 15+ knot wind blowing straight down runway 28. Of course, all in all, that was good news, had this wind been blowing across the runway, even on this now beautiful day, I doubt that we would have gone up. We headed out to the Cessna 172, an older version of the same plane I had flown a couple of times last week. Lou handed me the pre flight check list and asked me if I needed some help. Since you eventually have to figure this out on your own, I felt comfortable about at least trying to get through it on my own. Once completed, I asked Lou a few questions and he walked me through his preflight procedure and described some of the differences with the older Cessna's. For one thing, they're carburated...ahh...my old friend carb heat. There were a few other differences, no GPS, slightly different gauges, but it was basically the same plane I had flown back in Sonoma.
Remembering that the controls in the Cessna were a lot more sensitive than the Citabria, when I started up the plane I told Lou that I could use a little taxiing practice as well. We taxied out for our run up and he gave me a lot of helpful pointers along the way. The run up went smooth and we headed around to the end of 28 for the takeoff. East Hampton is a busy airport with a lot of traffic coming in from NY city and Connecticut, with a significant amount of helicopter traffic and larger commuter planes than we see out in Sonoma. Lou walked me very quickly through the take off...as in very quickly and instructed me to make my radio call and get the plane off the ground, so I did. I could tell he was used to short field take offs because he had me hold the brakes and throttle up the engine before letting off the brakes and rolling out into that 16 knot headwind, I was in the air before I knew it.
Lou instructed me to call for a crosswind departure to the south, to start my turn at 500 feet and continue my climb out to the ocean. The wind was much more manageable over 1400 feet and smoothed out completely over 2000 feet. We headed up the coast and climbed to 2500. The view was incredible. Long Island is an amazing place with some of the most beautiful beaches and shore line in the world. The water is a stunning blue and there are islands, inlets and bays in every direction. Lou ran me through maneuvers, a couple of power off and power on stalls, some steep bank 45 degree turns in both directions, some slow flight and throughout it all gave me some excellent insights and pointers that could only come from years of experience.
Since he lives in the area, I also got a thorough tour of the area, names of bays, islands, beach heads, marinas then we headed out to the far end over the Montauk lighthouse the Montauk airport, Montauk Bay and Montauk Harbor, then a few more maneuvers, then down along the beaches of the Hamptons and back to the airport for some crosswind landing practice. Simply fantastic, I can't wait to go back up!