Category Archives: Flights with Matt

Atlantic City (KACY) flight with Matt

Note: I’ve moved my blog!  You can find this post here.

If you’re a regular reader you know my friend Matt already has his pilot’s license.  He’s in the Paramus Flying Club and had to do a “club checkride” per their bylaws so that he can fly the club planes by himself.  

This past Sunday (May 18) he completed his club checkride and afterwards we had a flight planned to Atlantic City International Airport (KACY) as a celebration!

This is a rough plot of the course that we flew from Linden to Atlantic City. Source: SkyVector

We left from Linden Airport (KLDJ) at around 4pm.  The weather was still great from the day before, with only some scattered clouds around 7000 or so.  We left Linden to the southwest and flew around the 1500 ft shelf jut-out of the New York Bravo and then headed for the NJ coastline.  We flew south along the coast, diligently looking for traffic while enjoying the sights.  Before long we had Atlantic City in sight, and when we looked inland we saw a huge open field–the airport!  It’s hard to see the actual runways from 10 or so miles away, but the airport is unmistakable.

We contacted Atlantic City Approach about 19 miles out, but they said our radio communications were breaking up and could only hear us clearly around 14 miles out.  We continued inbound, reported when we “had the airport” (meaning that we had the airport in sight), and then did a 45 into the left downwind for runway 13.

Atlantic City services commercial traffic, and as a result Runway 13 is tremendous–10,000 ft long and 150 ft wide.  After landing we had to taxi quite a bit on the runway just to get taxiway Alpha.  From there we took Bravo-Papa-November to Landmark Aviation and they helped us park and secure the plane.

Part of the airport diagram for KACY.

We hung out in the FBO for a bit while they refueled our plane.  It was a great FBO with great service.  Matt asked for some ice to make iced coffee and the girl brought out an entire bag of ice!  After our plane was topped off with fuel Matt called the briefer (1-800-WX-BRIEF) to get a standard briefing for our flight back to Linden.

Matt talking to the briefer at Landmark Aviation (the FBO at KACY).

Matt talking to the briefer at Landmark Aviation (the FBO at KACY).

After doing a quick pre-flight again and starting the engine, we called up Atlantic City Ground.  It turns out that at Charlie and Bravo airports you’re supposed to call Clearance Delivery to get your squawk code and departure instructions before calling the ground controller for taxiing.  However, it was a slow day and the ground controller was nice and got that clearance and departure instructions for us.

The wind had shifted and we left from runway 31, being cautious after hearing earlier pilot reports of tailwinds between 200 and 1000 ft from the ground controller.  We took off, and as I said earlier, Runway 13-31 is tremendous.  I had never taken off in a Cessna on a runway that long!

The entire time we were in the air I was helping Matt look for traffic, but shortly after taking off I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos.

Aerial view of Atlantic City.

Aerial view of Atlantic City.

Long beach island from the air.

Long Beach Island from the air.

My friend Matt.

Matt, this voyage’s pilot-in-command.  He finally had a chance to use his iPad with Foreflight as an alternate GPS.

We flew the reverse of the route we flew down to Atlantic City to get back to Linden, and we clocked 57 minutes from the time we got takeoff clearance to touchdown.

This was an easy flight to fly via pilotage and would be a great flight to do when I get to the point in my training where I fly my cross-country!

Flight 0: Inspiration to learn

Note: I’ve moved my blog!  You can find this post here.

I remember I had a toy plane when I was young.  It wasn’t remote controlled and it wasn’t fancy; it was a Fisher-Price-style toy where you could put little people inside it.  But those are the best for the imagination.  Flying was pretty darn cool!  You could go wherever you wanted and didn’t need railroad tracks or roads to get somewhere.  You could fly over land or water.  Flying was more limitless than any other mode of transportation.

When I was 9, back in 1996, the Nintendo 64 console was released.  My brother and I raked leaves around the block, did chores, and saved birthday money to buy the console and some games.  One of the games we bought was Pilotwings 64.  In the game you could fly a gyrocopter, a hang glider, or a dude with a jetpack.  There was a free-for-all mode in the game where you could fly around a somewhat accurate rendition of the United States.  There were so many landmarks built in, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the Space Shuttle taking off from Cape Canaveral.  Some of my best memories of the game were flying around the “United States” in the gyrocopter and exploring ghost towns, forests, mountains, cities, and coastlines.  You had limited fuel, but there were a few hidden “fuel stations” where you could land and fill up, making it possible to fly around and explore for hours.  I learned a lot about both flying and US geography and landmarks from that game–they don’t seem to make games like they used to.

Maybe a year later we got the game SimCopter for PC.  The goal of the game is to fly around in your helicopter and break up traffic, put out fires, rescue people on sinking ships, shine your spotlight on fleeing criminals, and medivac patients to the hospital.  You collect money for each mission and upgrade your helicopter to be faster and to have more seating and fuel capacity.  The best part of the game was the radio in your helicopter.  Your missions would come in over the radio from “dispatch,” and the game had different radio stations (I liked the rock and classical) and advertisements for fake products which came on between songs (I remember an ad for cat food).

In (I’m guessing) 2000, I saw Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 in the store with a special promotion.  The software was $20, but it came with a $20 mail-in rebate.  I thought “so, this is free!”  I bought it and spent a lot of time at the controls of different planes.  I loved flying the Concorde because it was designed to fly at supersonic speeds.  I think the recommended rating was cruising at around Mach 1.3, but the speed demon in me pushed the plane full throttle and got it to Mach 2.2 before the plan started vigorously shaking!  I tried to fly the helicopters as well, but couldn’t figure it out and would usually crash after about 30 seconds…

There were other games and adventures like Starfox 64 and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron that continued my fascination with aviation.  I got to virtually fly planes, helicopters, passenger jets, experimental aircraft, and even spaceships.  Flying was cool!

Fast-forward to February 2013.  I have a coworker named Matt who studied and trained for his private pilot certification about a year prior.  He has a very interesting personality: we call him “wildcard” because you never know what he’ll do in a given situation.  He would always ask others about going flying with him, and the usual response was “You’re the last person I’d fly with” in a humorous light.  I think a lot of people feel that small aircraft are scary or somewhat unsafe.  When he asked me if I’d want to fly with him, my response was “OK!  This Saturday?”  We planned several times, but the winter of 2012-2013 was unforgiving and each time we had to cancel.

In October 2013, we made plans again to go flying together.  It was a perfectly clear albeit windy day.  We drove out to Linden Airport (KLDJ) and, after a thorough pre-flight check of the aircraft, I got into N6338F (a Cessna 172) with Matt and his buddy Jordan.

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Me, MacGyver-style in front of the airplane

Matt and Jordan in the front seats

Matt and Jordan in the front seats

There were strong crosswinds that day and Matt took that opportunity to do some pattern work and crosswind landings.  

The area around KLDJ

The area around KLDJ

His last of 3 landings was silky smooth and we decided to take off again for a sightseeing flight.  Jordan helped him with radioing to Newark and we entered the Bravo airspace and headed towards the Verazzano.  

Flying North past the Verazzano Bridge

Flying North past the Verazzano Bridge

From there we were handed off to LaGuardia and proceeded to head towards the south end of Manhattan.

Flying past the World Trade Center.  Who would have thought you can just hop in a plane and do a tour like this?

Flying past the World Trade Center. Who would have thought you can just hop in a plane and do a tour like this?

We flew up the east river, over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges.  When we hit around 70th St, LaGuardia instructed us to turn left across Manhattan.

Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan

Central Park

Central Park

From there we made another left, and flew south over the Hudson river.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

The airspace over the Hudson is very crowded.  There were  helicopter tours operating only 500 feet below us.  And you thought sidewalks in the city were crowded–it’s amazing how busy even the airspace in New York is!

We took one more look at the sights before heading back to KLDJ for a nice landing.

WTC again.

World Trade Center from the west side

Another pic of Matt taking in the sights

Another pic of Matt taking in the sights

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

After landing and stepping out of the airplane, I thought “why haven’t I learned to fly an airplane yet?”

The flight was amazing and completely different from any commercial flight.  You got to hear radio communications and see the pilot in action.  When there are only 3 people in an airplane, you’re always aware of what is going on and even feel involved.  You can witness firsthand how sturdy an aircraft is, while at the same time how fragile it is.   You can appreciate the engineering involved to build an aircraft, as well as the rigorous testing, standards, and maintenance an aircraft goes through in order to be deemed safe to fly.  Not to mention the regulations around aircraft and air safety, and how a pilot in command of an aircraft has to know, understand, and be able to utilize all of this knowledge.  Driving a car is peanuts in comparison.

The amazing thing about that flight was that it was peaceful.  There was the noise of the propeller, but there weren’t crying babies, flight attendants telling me to buckle my seatbelt and ask me if I want Coke or water, or overweight passengers spilling into your seat and asking for a seatbelt extension (I never knew there was such a thing).  

I had a near 360-degree view of my surroundings in this plane.  Now when I think about commercial airliners, I can see how limited your vision and awareness is as a passenger.  Your window is nothing more than a peephole on commercial flights.  Being in a small plane, you are able to have an astoundingly greater sense of spatial perception.  Seeing the way that clouds cast shadows on the earth or how quickly or slowly different objects appear to move at different altitudes is an unmatched educational experience.  There were some moments I would have thought I was in space.

Matt told me he spent about $10-13K total to get his private pilot license.  For some reason I had always thought that it would take over $100K to learn to fly planes.  While it’s by no means cheap, it isn’t unattainable and it’s certainly possible with a lifestyle of careful spending and frugal living.  

This flight finally confirmed everything I’ve always felt in my gut but until then never knew for certain about flying–that it was fascinating, freeing, and fun.