To me, the best part of being a private pilot is flying myself to fun destinations. Just recently, my boyfriend (also a pilot), my Australian Shepherd, Sophie, and I flew to Penn Yan, NY to spend the weekend on Keuka Lake. It was wonderful; what has taken us 5.5 hours to drive from Frederick, MD took us only 2.5 hours to fly!
It was Sophie’s first time in an airplane and she did great. Sophie is a 50 pound dog and typically likes to spread out on long drives, so to make it comfortable in the Cessna 172, we decided to take the back seat out. I also purchased Mutt Muffs to help cut down the loud engine noise inflight. I was worried about how Sophie would react to the noise and to the Mutt Muffs, but she only shook her head once, and when they didn’t come of her ears, she just let them be. The lady who sold them to me said that some dogs will knock them off, but once (or maybe after a few times) you put them back on the dog, they realize that they would rather have a little discomfort from the head piece versus the loud discomfort of a long flight. Sophie stood up during the takeoff to look out the window and to figure out what was going on, but after that, she laid down and slept for the entire flight, until she stood up again at touch down. I am glad that for Sophie’s first flight, I had another pilot on board. My boyfriend flew the first part of the flight, so that I could face backwards and pay attention to Sophie and make the decision whether or not we needed to land, if she freaked out. Thankfully, that didn’t happen though and I am now convinced that Sophie loves being in an airplane almost as much as I do.
Penn Yan is one of my favorite general aviation airports. What I love most is that even though it is a fully fenced and secure airport with the fixed based operator (FBO) closed on the weekends, they still provide all of the convenience you’d need. There is self-serve AvGas and self-serve jet fuel. There are tie-down ropes available to secure your airplane. And as long as you know how to “squawk VFR,” something you learn early as a student pilot, you’ll know the key code that lets you into the FBO office to use the bathroom, get a weather briefing, and relax in air conditioning and a comfy chair. The key code will also let you in and out of the walk through gate where we met our friend who was picking us up. As a big proponent of AOPA’s “Airport Watch” program, encouraging smart and reasonable security measures at the airport, Penn Yann is a great example of how to do security “right”, without all of the crazy, heavy-handed TSA proposed regulations.
As I said, the best part of being a pilot is being able to fly yourself to fun destinations. Pen Yan and Keuka Lake don’t disappoint. If you’re staying overnight, I highly recommend visiting a winery or two. The Finger Lakes region is famous for its wineries. My favorite is Dr. Frank’s, they have great wines and are willing to ship your wine home if weight and balance is a concern. I also love eating on the deck at the Waterfront Restaurant. The Waterfront has great food and fun music during the summer and is often a great spot to watch for seaplanes landing in the lake. Unless you’re a dog, in which case it’s a great place to lay on the deck in the sun and sleep. Just like you do in airplanes.