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IFR flight to Niagara Falls 2011

Flight log 9/11/2011
Yet another great flight that I am just getting around to logging; I am starting to feel like I need a staff writer. 🙂

So why Niagara Falls again? My normal co-pilot Stephen T asked if I wanted to join the “summerset airport crew” for a flight to the falls, at first I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of flying on 9/11 not to mention the 10th anniversary.

I was two blocks north (on the West Side Highway) when the second plane hit the south tower and saw the first plane just prior to impact with the north tower. My life changed on that day and I will never forget it.

It just so happens that the organizer of this trip is also the chairman of the NYC branch of the USO. He is (among other things) a retired Army Captain and in my opinion, a real patriot. He sent out an email requesting donations and attendees for the first annual USO 9/11 remembrance walk in NYC to be held on 9/10. I signed up and also invited my mother along. We attended and enjoyed it so much that we plan on attending next year as well.

This was my second trip to the falls and as mentioned in my previous post I really wanted to take my son along, but this time Steven had a birthday party to attend to so yet again he was going to miss this flight. Ya never know, third time may be the trick!

Unlike the last trip our 182rg wasn’t available so we booked the 172sp. The 172sp isn’t as fast and takes longer to climb, but it has better avionics and a good two axes autopilot. Then the bad news came; the day before we were notified that the GPS was out of commission due to database problems. Normally, this wouldn’t cancel a trip but with potential IFR conditions for the return flight and the fact that the ILS was out of service (we also need the GPS to identify the missed approach hold at Chatham NDB) it didn’t look good. Our only hope was that some of our fellow club members would feel for our situation and give up their time slots. Stephen and I took turns calling the other members and one by one they agreed to cancel. What a great group! The final call was made the night before… Now that was a close one!

The plan:
We would be flying a total of three airplanes and would land at Buffalo instead of our normal destination KIAG Niagara Falls. This was due to a scheduled Air Show at KIAG. The planned meet-up time was 10:30 am sharp (this group doesn’t mess around). We would rent cars and drive to the falls. We got a good rate on the cars so in the end it worked out pretty well and cost us about the same as flying into KIAG.

Preflight / WX background:
As is always the case I had been keeping an eye on the weather patterns and it was starting to look like I might need that IFR rating for this one. Sure enough, on the morning of the flight there was a 1600 foot ceiling just over Morristown with clear conditions to the east and IFR conditions to the west. Stephen T arranged to borrow his friends XM equipped GPS so we could keep an eye on any cells en-route. The forecast was calling for deteriorating conditions throughout the day with a chance of thunderstorms developing along the route. I decided to bring my work laptop and some clothes just incase. I would fly the first leg and let Stephen fly us home that way I could work with ATC if we needed to get around the weather.

Flight leg 1 KMMU -> KBUF
We met at the airport and were wheels up at 08:00. The flight out was amazing and is captured in the video. The only change to the filed route was the cruse altitude (from 8000 to 10000 so I could avoid any buildups). I flew the ILS into KBUF and arrived early! Mission 1 accomplished!

Niagara Falls:
As planned, we picked up our cars and followed the other members to the falls. What I didn’t know was that they had planned on parking on the US side; at first I wasn’t crazy about it but in the end it turned out to be pretty cool. We parked and made our way down to the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour (US side). It was a different experience and in some ways it was even better since you are next to the American falls and the lookout tower is pretty cool. After the boat tour we walked across Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side. We ate lunch at this nice restaurant overlooking the falls and walked around for a bit. During our visit the weather started to look as if it might rain so we decided to start heading back to the airport. During the drive Stephen checked up on the weather. As predicted, the thunderstorms were popping up all along our route and it started to look like we might be in Buffalo a bit longer.

Time to put our heads together and make some decisions:
Lance and Steve being the more experienced members of our group led the discussion and came to the same conclusion that I had. We would either delay our departure until about 19:00 and leave or stay the night. In the end we decided to use the crew cars and go into town for dinner while the weather died down.


Leg 2 KBUF -> KMMU
By the time 19:00 rolled around it looked like we could make it with some tactical planning. We departed KBUF and headed south to clear some weather to the east. Once clear we headed east passing two slow moving lines of thunderstorms over central PA. I kept an eye on the XM and confirmed that we stayed at least 30 miles away from the bad stuff. We did see a fair amount of actual IMC conditions but were also treated with a smooth ride and some awesome views over the top of the overcast layer in the moonlight.

The approach:
At about 30 miles out from Morristown we checked the ATIS and confirmed that the GPS Z Runway 23 approach was in use, the wind was calm, ceiling 1200 feet and 4 miles in mist. I assisted Stephen with the GPS setup knowing that he was not as comfortable with the KLN89B as I was. We were soon lined up on the approach and looking good. We broke out a few miles off the approach end of runway 23 at 1200 feet with the runway in site. After a good landing we completed this latest mission.

Click to view Photos

Flight description: Morristown NJ – Buffalo NY (Niagara Falls)
Aircraft: Cessna 182RG N4757T
Pilot: Mike B KMMU -> KBUF Stephen T KBUF -> KMMU
Flight rules: IFR
Weather conditions: IMC / VMC. 
Ceiling: MMU departure 1600. Landing MMU 1200 
Flight time: 1:45 KMMU to KBUF /1:47 KBUF to KMMU.
HD Video:

Until next time; happy safe flying everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to read about our latest adventure. Please feel free to add your comments below.

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  • Gmascelli


    Thanks for sharing the write up.  Mary and I want to get back to Niagara Falls and this time we will be flying!

  • Good to hear Garry. Also glad to hear that Mary is doing better now. I follow all of your posts 🙂
    Let me know if you want to arrange a group fly-in.

  • TJ

    Sounds like a gr8 adventure! Nice write-up… Worth the wait 😉

  • Thank you TJ.. Have more coming just need to finish them up. Let me know when you are in my neighborhood again. 🙂

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Amanda Michelle (Younkin) Franklin 3/14/1986 – 5/27/2011 Click for information on Amanda