Flight 5: Niagara Falls, NY – Boston, MA
Without having the instrument rating, we would have been stuck in Niagara Falls for 2 or 3 days. A low pressure system was stagnant over New York and Massachusetts. Niagara Falls had ceilings of 500 feet, and Boston had clouds down to 1000 feet above ground. Making the trip IFR was actually pretty easy. We were in smooth air and enjoyed flying through the clouds. There were enough breaks in the clouds to let us enjoy some of the scenery in western New York.
On every IFR flight thus far we had been “cleared as filed” which are three words every instrument pilot loves to hear. That means you are approved to fly along the path you previously planned. ATC does not always clear you along the same route you filed, and when that happens you must plot the new route on your charts and revise your flight plan on the fly (pun intended). When we called for our clearance from Niagara Falls to Norwood, MA (near Boston) we heard the three magic words: cleared as filed. I congratulated myself for looking up the ATC preferred route from Niagara to Boston and putting that in my flight plan. Our filed route was: EHMAN V252 Geneseo V14 Gardner (shown in magenta on the map above). Shortly after takeoff we were given a slight shortcut when ATC cleared us direct to the Geneseo VOR.
About 100 NM into the trip, ATC called to give us a new routing, “Cleared to the Norwood airport via direct Utica V490 Cambridge direct Keen direct Gardner V431 LOBBY”. I recalled my instrument training to just write down the clearance without trying to understand it immediately (and I stopped being smug about being “cleared as filed”). After reading the clearance back for confirmation, Nancy and I started working on flying our new routing. The first step was to go direct to the Utica VOR (UCA), so we dialed that into our Garmin GNS 430 GPS and started flying towards Utica. After that we started to plot the new routing on our charts and made sure we understood it. It wasn’t a very big change in routing, and didn’t even add any significant time to our flight. The GPS track of our actual flight path is in blue on the map above.
Given our frequent flights during the last several days, I had a chance to get more comfortable with the GNS 430. I changed our flight plan in the GPS, and had Phil double-check me. After flying this trip, I can now understand the enthusiasm of Phil and his partners when they were anticipating the new GPS installation last year. I’ve appreciated the clear and colorful display since our first flight with the new gadget. Now I can also appreciate the way it simplifies many complex functions. It’s very helpful while on an IFR flight plan and rerouting occurs.
As we got closer to Albany, NY the controller was calling out instructions at a rapid pace. She was working several aircraft, and we could tell she was very busy. The new routing we got took us a bit north of Albany, possibly to help ease the burden on the controllers there. Albany is a much smaller city than Boston, so we wondered what would be in store for us as we reached the Boston airspace.
We actually landed at Norwood, MA rather than Boston Logan. Norwood is closer to where we needed to go, plus we didn’t want to deal with the delays and higher costs of Logan. When we were switched over to Boston Approach Control we were both surprised by how quiet the frequency was. Every big approach facility is divided into several sectors, and as far as we could tell there were only 3 planes flying in the same sector as us. The controller cleared us to fly the GPS 35 approach into Norwood. Whoever designed the GPS 35 approach must have been a Three Stooges fan. The intermediate fix is called CURLI and the final approach fix is STOGE. Aviation fix names must be 5 letters and pronounceable. We noticed several fix names with local flavor around Boston: BOSOX, CELTS and DRUNK (the latter is probably a jab at Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick accident — DRUNK is even on the ATC preferred routing from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard).
We taxied to Eastern Air Center and immediately got great service from Paul. In a wonderful Boston accent he asked, “How long will ya be pahhking with us?” Paul tied down the plane for us, and pointed us towards the rental car pickup. Our Avis rental car was ready for us to pull right up to the airplane.
I was surprised and excited that we made it to our goal destination on schedule without any changes or weather delays. After flying on four out of the last six days, it was hard to imagine parking the Mooney for a whole week. At this point it the trip, I was also surprised that I wasn’t really ready for a break from flying. Good thing we still had the flight home.
Visiting Family and Friends
We had a great time catching up with family who had all come into town to help celebrate my eldest brother’s 50th birthday. Nancy and I also had a chance to visit some friends from Boise who moved to Massachusetts a few years ago (Hi Ted, Peg, Nathan and Aimee!)
Not Flying to Martha’s Vineyard
We were hoping to make a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard sometime during our stay in Boston. Unfortunately the weather was not conducive to making that trip, so we had to skip it this time. We actually could have flown there IFR (see the IFR chart of the route above) just to say we did it, but we would have missed out on the scenery we were hoping to see there. I think we made the right decision not to go.
After spending a relaxing and fun week with friends and family, it was time to head back for home. The weather had been pretty rainy all week, but there was a nice break in the clouds on the day of our return trip to Boise.