It is almost two weeks ago now, but Super Bowl Sunday might best be remembered as one of the year's most perfect days for flying. A particularly tall high pressure area sat right over us, providing a day of bright sun, calm wind, and smooth air. In a fortunate coincidence, the snow cover was light enough that even the grass strips were flyable. As I flew lessons through the day, I noted many tire tracks at Dundee, as well as some of the private landing strips. Flying over the strip in Tyrone, I saw the unmistakable sign that said "gone flyin'!". The only trace of activity on the airstrip was a single set of three- wheeled tracks leaving the hangar and then disappearing from the snow a few hundred feet down the runway.
The day started for me at eight o'clock when a renter pilot arrived for a flight, and asked if I had a suggestion for a good place to fly to. He had planned to fly to Syracuse to meet a friend, but that had been called off at the last minute. With the plane reserved and his time already allocated, he came to the airport in search of a destination. It was too nice a day to pass up.
I suggested Sky Haven Airport, a small airport with a paved runway in Tunkhannock PA, about 75 miles to the southeast. From Elmira, you easily cut cross-lots to Towanda and then follow the Susquehanna River. The town and the airport is at a bend in the river, and it can't be missed. Adjoining the airport is a restaurant that serves an old fashioned platter of pancakes, sausage, and eggs, or whatever else lights your fire on a winter morning. It is a meal that is special enough to justify the trip.
As he walked out to the plane I once again realized that Elmira is a great destination, and started to wish that it was a hundred miles away, so that I could fly there. There is an excellent restaurant in the terminal, and a special gasoline price on Saturdays, and on Sunday mornings, the EAA chapter has an informal breakfast for club members and occasional stray airplane lovers. In this respect, Elmira is not too unusual, but the special attraction of Elmira is the Warplane Museum.
Pilots have started to realize that Elmira is worth the trip, even from greater than the usual distance for a Saturday jaunt. One day last fall I admired the fun that three couples were having on their visit. They arrived from the lower Hudson Valley in three small planes, flying for an hour and a half in a loose formation along route 17, through the Catskills and along the southern tier. They spent several hours at the museum, and had lunch in the snack bar that overlooks the flight line.
They were just normal folks, six friends who liked to fly low and slow over the countryside. When they returned from the museum, they had their planes gassed, and fussed them before the trip home, and visited with some of us. Before departing, they took pictures of each other in front of their airplanes and the museum. They were having a good time, and wanted to remember the day.
The summertime is supposed to be the flying season, and everyone looks forward to attending fly- in breakfasts, and making a longer trip or two. Let's acknowledge that winter conditions, both in the sky and on the ground, interfere with flying. Those people who can escape the winter pass-time of sitting home between the TV and the woodstove can still find many opportunities to fly. There are still sunrises and sunsets to see, and nature's ever changing and ever interesting panorama of sky and earth is still out there. We just have to be more patient.
I will assemble and make available a current list of fun places to fly, both on and off the beaten track, but I need some help. Please let me know of any airports that have restaurants or other interesting attractions within walking distance.
To contact Bob Tilden, send an e-mail.