Friday, October 8, 2010

Sunrise Flight to Miami

While I am not a huge fan of night flying, I do love departing in the dark and being airborne for sunrise.  The ride is usually smooth, clear and best of all, so "empty" that ATC will usually grant any "crazy" routing I come up with.

Today was no exception.  After an uneventful pre-flight (in the dark with a flashlight), I departed my home base @ Tampa Executive Airport (KVDF) and flew mostly direct to Opa-Locka Executive Airport (KOPF).  (Yeah I know it is a funny name for an airport... But this airport is just 8 miles away from Miami International and MUCH easier to get in and out for a little plane like mine.)

When flying alone, I typically fly most flights IFR @ 16k or 17k.  But today just felt like a VFR,  "no oxygen" day.  So after reaching my cruising altitude of 9,500, I witnessed an amazing sunrise! Unfortunately, I don't have a good enough camera to capture it.  (Or maybe I am not a good enough photographer to capture it)... But here is my attempt: 

The picture doesn't do it justice!  I tried a dozen times to get a good picture without much success.

Between the view and the music on the sat radio, I really didn't want the flight to end.  But before I knew it, I was getting close and had to begin my descent.  By that time (~ 7AM), the Miami airspace is starting to get busy and I had to really concentrate on the rapid fire heading/altitude changes from ATC.  I was so proud of myself for two reasons.  First, I "nailed" every instruction just right.  Second (and more satisfying), I was the only "little GA" airplane on the frequency.  Every other aircraft on the frequency was some airline or another. 

So after a simple, visual landing, I followed the line guy to a parking spot and "went to work".  After a full day of back to back meetings, it was time to go home.  I decided to take a slightly scenic route and flew up the east coast of FL to Ft Peirce, then Vero Beach before turning west.  The weather was beautiful and the sights were downright artistic.  Here are couple of shots along the way home:

Ft Peirce (along the East coast of FL just north of Miami)

Aside from the view, one of the great things about flying on the east coast of FL is that the air traffic controllers are "world class".  After Vero Beach I was planning to dodge and weave around the military airspace in the middle of the state, when a VERY friendly ATC controller helped me out.  Here is the scenario:

The photo above was my planned route of flight.  The Blue lines represent the edge of Orlando Class B airspace.  The thin red lines are a military restricted airspace and the thin yellow lines are a military operations area (MOA).  

Then a Miami Center controller noticed what I was doing and offered a direct clearance through a restricted area.  I quickly thanked him and accepted the clearance.  Here is what my amended route looked like:
While the amended route only shaved a couple of minutes off of my trip, I was more impressed than appreciative.  This controller was already handling 6 planes (that I heard on the frequency), THEN anticipated what I was doing, and THEN proactively tried to help.  That type of behavior just reinforces my belief in how well trained and professional these ATC controllers are!
Last picture I wanted to share from this trip was near Lakeland:
Now you can see why it is called Lakeland, FL

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