Monday, November 10, 2008

Don't Go Back to Morgantown

My brother came to visit a few weeks ago. My work schedule and his new baby have made visits all too rare, and time together has become one of the most valuable commodities in life. He's three years younger, but we went to the same schools and overlapped a year or two in college. It seems we had unlimited time to hang out. I think back wistfully on the nights we'd take my pickup to a nearby lake and back it down the ramp into the water, then climb in back and hang out on the tailgate, skipping bottlecaps on the black water and talking. Time was abundant.

But no longer. So it was a treat for him to come visit for a weekend. Jodie had to work one of the days he was here, and David had never seen our Tiger, so we decided to go flying. But the Tiger was at an airport in Hagerstown, Maryland, having some work done on the avionics. Amy, a friend and fellow pilot, volunteered to go with us to Hagerstown so we could get the Tiger. I flew up in good old Three Five Romeo, with David in the back seat.

It was a beautiful day, but windy and gusty, and the fully-loaded Cessna made for interesting flying during the final approach into Hagerstown. To further complicate things, President Bush was at Camp David, so that protected airspace extended to within a mile or two of the Hagerstown airport.

We landed and taxied to where the Tiger was parked, then Amy took off for home in the Cessna while I showed David around the Tiger. We had no plans, so the next question was, "Where do you want to go?" David is applying for residency programs, and mentioned that he was considering a program in Morgantown, West Virginia, about 100 nautical miles west of Hagerstown. Eager to show him the versatility of general aviation, I said, "Let's go," and started programming the GPS.

It was a beautiful flight to Morgantown. We landed, then asked about a crew car or other means of transportation so we could see the "downtown." There was no transportation available at the airport, but we could call a taxi. After a 30 minute wait, a smelly cab arrived to drive us downtown. We walked around, got an ice cream, then took the PRT, Personal Rapid Transportation, Morgantown's pride and joy, up to the hospital. We called for a cab again, waited another 30 minutes, then headed back to the airport with the taste of coal dust on our tongues.

The flight home was the best part. The air was smooth, and the setting sun made for beautiful views. The foliage was red and orange in the mountains (though still green back in the Washington area), and we raced the sunset to Gaithersburg. It was 130 nautical miles from Morgantown to Gaithersburg, but we had a tailwind and saw speeds up to 166 knots across the ground.

The sun set as we descended over Martinsburg, West Virginia, and ducked under the Class B airspace around Dulles International Airport.

I clicked on the runway lights at Gaithersburg. With calm winds and no airplanes in the traffic pattern, we did a long, straight-in approach to Runway 14 and touched down smoothly. It was a great day of flying and, although Morgantown may no longer be on David's list of possible places to go for residency, I'll have fond memories of that trip for a long time.

And, when David gets through residency, gets a good job, and is well paid, perhaps he'll remember this ride, I mean flight, with me. Here's a video to help us both remember....


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