Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Better late than never

Since my last post was May 6th, I am going to try and pick up from there, I just hope my memory is good enough.  I have been very busy since the last post.  The days are getting longer, so we have been flying longer each day.  7-8 hours on the hobbs is pretty common, so I don't get back to the hotel with much more time than it takes to get and cook dinner, talk to a few people on the phone, and go to sleep.  After my DC trip, I ferried the helicopter to Elizabeth City NC.  Elizabeth City is just south of Virginia Beach near the Currituck sound. On the ferry flight, I had to fly across the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel.  If you don't know, this is a partial bridge and partial tunnel, ducking under and rising out of the water as you go across.  From the air, this looks amazing.

If you look really close in the top left part of the picture, the bridge actually dips under the water:

Once I got past the bridge/tunnel, the military activity at Norfolk forced me down to 300' along the coast, which turned out to be quite a scenic little flyby of Virginia Beach

Taking pictures in Elizabeth City was great, the weather was nice and the area is beautiful.  One of the best things about being based in Elizabeth City was the service we received from a woman attendant at the FBO.  Having been to dozens of FBOs since this trip began, I have begun to really appreciate good service, and dread the places that refuse to help us.  She was so nice and helpful, I decided to call her manager and let him know just how good of a job she was doing.  The airport itself is a base of operations for the coast guard, and it is right off the water:

We got to see all kinds of Coast Guard helicopters, which was interesting but made the R22 look a bit small.

We spent a lot of time taking pictures up north in Virginia, at times near a navy practice airport called Fentress Naval Air Landing Field.  I have never seen anything like this place, it is not a controlled airspace, but there are navy jets, helicopters, and even a crazy looking spy plane called a Hawkeye doing patterns and practice landings there

There is no information on any chart letting you know of this activity, nor is there a frequency you should contact, however, my handy dandy Garmin let me know of a controlling frequency, and I am glad I contacted them.  We were going to get back on station after getting fuel, flying from west to east and we told the controlling agency that we were going to cross over the top of Fentress.  They assigned us an altitude, and as I continued toward Fentress I saw 3 Super Hornets doing the fastest patterns I have ever seen any plane do.  I figured the altitude they gave me must be high enough to cross over the top and not interfere with their pattern, but as we got within about a mile, the jets were getting a bit too close for comfort.  As we are just about to cross over the top, the controller came on frequency and frantically told us we were interfering with the pattern and we needed to turn east bound.  Since we were heading westbound, this would require us to turn around and cross over the top of the jets again.  I questioned the controller, and a different guy came on and told me to continue westbound.  I thought it was a bit silly, it seemed to me that the military and civilian controllers had a bit of mis-communication, no big deal, but I thought the photographer was going to pass out from an anxiety attack.  He had a mini freak-out, but it always pays to stay calm in the air.  At least we got to see a frighteningly close up look at a super hornet in the air!

Here are some more pictures from Elizabeth City and Norfolk/Virginia Beach

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