Sunday, February 06, 2005

Manhattan Fly-By

Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
Fielding Airlines took to the unseasonably warm and friendly skies over Manhattan today by request from its favourite frequent flier.

Yeah, that's me!

I'd write about it now, but the blood required by the brain to compose a blog entry has been rerouted to the digestive tract after dinner with David and his mother at Cooper's, a restaurant famous in the area for its seafood. We had so much food I think we took home more than we consumed there. So.... sleepy....

For a photo preview, check out the Flickr photos:
Manhattan aerial pics

All in all, a great weekend. Need another day to recover from the weekend.


David's corresponding journal entry in Multiply:
Gail and Dave Take Manhattan (Again) (From the Air)

Since David was flying and I was taking the photos, all of the aerial shots in his Flickr album are in mine, too. But, he did upload some photos of the Lockheed Constellation ("Connie") we encountered at Greenwood Lake airport after our Manhattan fly-by.


I've been meaning to write this all day, but I've been distracted by the new Flickr UI... *ahem*... where was I? Oh yes, flying over Manhattan.

David summed up the day best, as he's the knowledgeable one with the technical jargon and the most qualified to explain what a VFR Corridor is and what flying through this narrow airspace entails. However, if you've already read his rendition of the day, allow me to add a few passenger notes:

On flying...
One thing to expect on a beautiful day is that everyone else with a plane is thinking the same thing: fly! Somewhere! The skies were filled with aircraft of all sizes, and David kept pointing to other aircraft at 11 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 12 o'clock... I couldn't help it -- my fertile imagination involuntarily produced images of our little plane colliding with one of them. Thankfully, these thoughts were fleeting. Intuitively, I know there is a ton of equipment dedicated to preventing this, but I'm not familiar with it all. However, when David is flying on GPS, instructions from control towers, charts, and peering in the sky to spot air traffic, this is not the time for me to ask technical questions about how we manage to avoid in-air collisions. I do remember the transponder, and how the codes give our information to ATC (Air Traffic Control). Mental note: ask David, once we're on the ground, about how we avoid collisions.

On flying with David...
I've been in plenty of aircraft, but mostly jumbo jets. Very few were props, and David's Tri-Pacer is easily the smallest plane I've ever been in. I know of many people who find small planes nerve-wracking and are of the impression there's safety in size, i.e., the bigger, the better. Personally, I don't believe that, since pilots of any size aircraft have a safety checklist and a host of FAA regulatory hoops to jump through just to get that machine in the sky. I've been flying with David enough times now to see he doesn't hurry through his checklist so he can fly sooner, he doesn't take shortcuts, and even his 73-year old mother loves flying with him. (Hi Mona!) I might sound biased, but there are people in my own family I won't drive with.

On flying the VFR corridor by Manhattan...
David hasn't flown by Manhattan since before 9/11. I knew he would have to rely on his GPS and ATC navigating through the New York terminal area. Did this worry me? No. But once I saw how much traffic there was in the sky, how much he had to monitor all at once (GPS, radio instructions, etc.), and the skyscrapers of Manhattan rising up in front of the nosegear, I sat up and paid attention. Until that point I'd been looking out the side window at the dull suburbs of New Jersey, David's camera at the ready with its 12x zoom, listening to my iPod on low with the flying headset over my earbuds. I wasn't in "student mode" at all. Once New York Harbor came into view, I knew I had to snap quickly, because we only get one chance at the fly-by; David already mentioned that before 9/11, airplanes could circle Manhattan, but those days are long gone. We were flying from south to north, and whatever I couldn't capture flying at 100mph would have to wait for another day.

Manhattan Bridge
Originally uploaded by gailontheweb.
It was amazing to shoot SO CLOSE to the tops of the buildings. The 12x zoom was like a telescope -- I could practically see Trump going about his business in his tower. The city from above is a perspective you only see on commercial shoots and tourist placemats and postcards. It's tough to get a focus lock on a building at full zoom length, though, especially since the Tri-Pacer is a bit of a bumpy ride, but I got some decent shots. It was fairly hazy -- there's definitely an overhang of smog attendant with population density -- but maybe I can get a polarising filter for the Panasonic for next time. That would really improve the photos, especially since we're shooting from the sky more often than not.

Seeing Manhattan from above is a perspective that makes the island seem much smaller and less... imposing than it does if you'd just visited it by car. In the shadow of tall buildings and criss-crossing it by subway, you don't really have a sense of where things are. Subway maps show the order of stations and the line networks, they're never to scale, so it's conceivable that people who travel this way and in a small area of the island never really get a sense of Manhattan's topography. I took a circle cruise on December 31, 2002, which I would recommend to others, but you only see the buildings on the periphery. I can see why helicopter tours would be a great idea, but this is even BETTER :)

On our impromptu stop at Greenwood Lake Airport...
David was being genteel, saying that "Gail's coffee was making itself felt", but I'll just state it here: I had to pee. Before we reached New York Harbor, even. As David was gearing up to enter VFR corridor airspace:

Me: "You're never going to believe this."

He looked at me quizzically.

Me: "I have to pee... I'll remember next time not to drink that second cup of coffee. At least, not for HOURS before flying. I will dehydrate myself." I was feeling most sheepish, like a little kid.

David: "It's going to be a while before we can make a bathroom stop. Can you hold it?"

Oh MAN. We're going to have to equip this plane with an emergency container. A pickle jar, David says. Fielding Airlines is no-frills.

Grounded "Connie"
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
I managed to hold on until we reached the closest airport where we could land, but I made David give me a minute:second countdown. I kept squawking, "It's PAINFUL now!" The silver lining to this debacle was that Greenwood Lake Airport had the distinction of having a Lockheed Constellation, David's favourite airliner, on its property. It also doubled as a flight school! David was happy about the stop, in the end.

On future flights...
We'd like to fly by Manhattan again, in the evening. We've been told it's gorgeous at night, but I won't be able to get any photos since the light is insufficient for regular photographs, but a videoclip would definitely work.

Other future flights include:
- Long Island Sound
- Nantucket Island
- Martha's Vineyard
- Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
- Lock Haven