Somehow the Wilkes-Barre controllers,
and New York Center controllers,
understand that it’s not possible to fly a
low altitude airway directly over
Cleveland-Hopkins, but that information
hasn’t filtered down to Westchester
clearance. But that’s how you do things in
New York. Figure out how to survive the
system because you can’t change it. Just
accept the routing you know that you
won’t fly and then work it out later.
THE WORST FLYING WEATHER IN THE COUNTRY
There was nothing any controller could
do about the reality of flying the breadth
of Pennsylvania one more time. In all of
those years, the majority of my trips began
and ended by traversing the width of
Pennsylvania because the heart of the
general aviation business lies to the west
of that big state.
Please, if you live in Pennsylvania,
don’t take this the wrong way, but that
state is home to some of the most consistently terrible flying conditions in the
country. The terrain is lumpy, even mountainous in some areas, so minimum en
route altitudes are fairly high. The hills
seem to be like glue that grab and hold
haze, low clouds, and lots of precipitation.
Turbulence is a given over Pennsylvania,
with the only question being, “Is that a
‘moderate’ bump?” or “Do I need to have
the airplane inspected after landing?” In
the summer, the near constant murk hides
thunderstorms almost every afternoon.
These are not the 45,000-foot whoppers
of Kansas and Oklahoma, which you can
see for miles. Over the Alleghenies, a
thunderstorm is just a slightly darker spot
in the already dark sky, but they are big
enough to break the wings off.
I came across a story in an old issue of
Flying about a study of flying conditions
done by the U.S. Weather Bureau in the
1940s. The bureau examined many years’
worth of reports looking at ceiling, visibility, wind, and precipitation and
determined that the consistently worst
flying weather in the country was at
Bradford in northwestern Pennsylvania. I
remembered that story as I flew over
Bradford. I didn’t see the town or airport—as usual I was in the clouds.
BACK HOME AGAIN
My new home base is back at Muskegon
where I kept my airplane for several years in
the 1980s. I can get to Oshkosh before I left,
thanks to flying from the Eastern to Central
time zone. Wichita is an easy trip instead of
the 1,200-nm marathon that I flew so many
The experience made
me a better instrument
pilot for sure, and fast-talking controllers
and constant routing
changes don’t faze me.
times from New York. Texas is closer by
almost 40 percent, and it’s virtually the
same distance to south Florida from
Muskegon as it is from New York. And the
clearances are “cleared as filed” at the altitude I asked for. It is wonderful to be back.
Am I happy I did the New York decades?
Yes. The experience made me a better
instrument pilot for sure, and fast-talking
controllers and constant routing changes
don’t faze me. We made many friends living
there and had the opportunities only a huge
city and cultural center can offer.
But New York is about as far away
from the heart and soul of general aviation—not to mention the center of its
manufacturing—as a pilot can be. People
who own and fly airplanes around the big
city have to work harder and spend more
to do it, and I admire each and every one
of them. And they live and fly there
because that’s home, or for many that’s
where the job is. But for us, going to EAA
and Michigan is going back to a flying
lifestyle that we cherish and are so lucky
to have. Give our best to Broadway; we
are back where we belong.
J. Mac McClellan, EAA 747337, has been a pilot for
more than 40 years, holds an ATP certificate, and owns a