Home > Lessons, Uncategorized > Lancaster Tower, I’m Baaaaack

Lancaster Tower, I’m Baaaaack

Had a really fun cross country trip to Lancaster (KLNS) today, with a quick stop in Clearview (2W2) to try out my short field landing skills.

We started out the day waiting for the mechanics to fix an issue they had with the magnetos on the plane that turned out to be a bad or misfiring spark plug. It’s very amusing seeing people trying to fix something and then the pro takes a look at the problem and declares it’s a spark plug. The crew replaces the spark plug, gives the old one to the head mechanic who spots some built up metal. It reminded me a lot of computer debugging I’ve seen and how you can always tell the guy who really knows what he’s talking about by the sure fire declaratives of the problem ūüėČ

Anyway we take off and head to Clearview which is a teeny tiny airfield only 1840 ft long and 30 ft wide. I totally greased it and stopped with no problem at all, fun fun! Takeoff was no problem even with the relatively full gas tanks. Of course there was no wind to muck up the landing or takeoff so we’ll have to take the success with a grain of salt.

Off we go to Lancaster ¬†primarily using the VORs for navigation. We dial in Westminster frequency and head to it (close to Clearview) then after a while we dial in Lancaster’s VOR and head direct to it. It’s kinda fun trying to “center the bar” with the VORs but is just annoying after a while. I’m so used to digital toys and GPS in general the issue of readjusting the heading and drifting needles is so 1960s.

The weather was very overcast but we didn’t hit any rain on the way up and saw a cool clear line of rain to our west and avoided that since we weren’t going that way anyway…but was a cool view. About 15 miles out from KLNS we start to listen to their weather and get the “Golf” information. (That’s not golf the game it’s golf for the letter G.) At about 10 miles out I flub my way through the contact with Lancaster Tower and kind of get the info …my instructor unfortunately had to help more then I liked, I’m not quite ready for soloing cross country….but soon!

We wound up landing on runway 8 at KLNS which is a freaking HUGE monster sized runway measuring 6934 x 150ft (twice as wide as Gaithersburg what I’m used to). It was also quite a contrast having just landed a short while earlier on a 30ft wide runway…the center stripe at KLNS is almost as wide as the whole runway at Clearview!

We spend a short time at the nice pilot shop there in Lancaster where they manage to sell me a very tasty box of local¬†chocolates…from an outfit called “Wilbur’s”.¬†Apparently¬†it’s the “Wilber Bud” chocolate factory in Lititz PA (hmmm maybe they can sponsor this blog!). So we top off the tanks and head off for the return trip which was a little bit more eventful as the weather was not so nice. We didn’t hit really bad weather but it was a good opportunity for my instructor to teach me about “flight following”. You talk to Potomac Control (in this case) and ask for flight following which makes sure they they are¬†keeping¬†an eye on you and for them to alert you to any nearby traffic. Good thing to learn. They also gave us a new squawk number so it was a bonus not having to ask for that later in the flight.

Navigation on the way back was totally via GPS which is fairly simple except I’ve never really had the chance to play with the Garmin GPS unit (I think it’s a Garmin 530) and let me tell you it is a classic example of a device built by hardware geeks that know nothing about user interfaces. The device has a gazzilion modes and incomprehensible control methods, sometimes you dial in a frequency, sometimes you push the dial, sometimes you push a button. It’s devices like these that make the iPad such a success in aviation. I’m sure that after I spend some acutal time learning the Garmin I will wind up liking (or at least tolerating it) ¬†but it’s not a particularly novice friendly device. Of course given that I’ve had no time to learn it other then talking in the plane…take my interface comments for what they are worth.

We start to get close to Gaithersburg (KGAI) and tell Potomac Control we have Gaithersburg in sight to which they respond by releasing us. We start in no problems except someone keeps talking about traffic in the area which we never see. We land just peachy doing my usual non- flair bumping in (not too bad). We taxi back to the sight of two, army or national guard or some three letter agency, helicopters taking off and in a most unusual action they actually informed us to their actions! Usually military copters don’t say anything and just ignore everyone else. All in all, a very fun trip!

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Categories: Lessons, Uncategorized
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