Island Hopping – in N8475Y

Great Harbour Cay’s beautiful crescent beach – note the runway clearly visible next to the beach.

50 years ago, Flight Instructor Bob flew to beautiful Great Harbour Cay (Berry Islands), Bahamas in a single-engine Piper Arrow. It was so beautiful, he always thought of returning. This year, we did it (March 2023) in our Piper Twin Comanche, N8475Y.

The weather finally presented us with a good window in which to make the roundtrip flight – from our home in northern Virginia (home airport Manassas/KHEF) to the Bahamas.

First leg: we flew south before weather forced us to stop overnight in Georgia – just west of Savannah. The next day, it cleared up enough in the late morning that we could continue on – to Pompano Beach, FL (KPMP). Our hotel was on the Intracoastal Waterway – it was fun to enjoy a cold beverage and watch the boats go by.

Showing our route on ForeFlight – Pompano Beach, FL to Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, Bahamas.

After leaving Pompano Beach, we took off and made a beeline for Great Harbour Cay (MYBG) – a beautiful unspoiled island, part of the Berry Islands group. The flight took about an hour, all over beautiful turquoise water. We were wearing required life jackets and had extra fuel in our tip tanks. We landed on the exact island and runway where Bob landed 50 years ago! He was delighted to see that the island and beach are just as beautiful as he remembered them. Just as Bob had done 50 years ago, we walked across the road from the airport (there’s a terminal now) to the pristine beach; this time, there is a charming beach bar/cafe, where we enjoyed lunch.

On Great Harbour Cay, we spent two nights at 5 Bays of Pirates, in a delightful AirBnB casita with a stunning view of the lagoon. Our conch dinner at Hammerhead’s Restaurant (walking distance from our casita) was probably the best conch we’ve ever eaten.

Stunning unspoiled beach on Eleutheria, across the road from Daddy Joe’s

Next, we flew to Eleuthera (MYEH), a 30-minute flight from Great Harbour Cay. Eleuthera is a much busier (more developed) island, with lots of airplanes flying in — all pilots announcing their intentions and positions, as this is an uncontrolled airport. Here, we spent two nights at Daddy Joe’s, a friendly place with a great restaurant, across the road from a gorgeous beach. We were also able to walk a short distance to visit and soak in the Queens’ Bath, a series of spectacular pools, formed by wave action over the millennia.

All aircraft entering the U.S. must clear Customs & Immigration at a Port of Entry airport. N8475Y at the Boca Raton (FL) facility.

International flights: Since both flights (to and from Bahamas) were international flights, Bob had to do quite a bit of special planning, including filing international flight plans and ensuring proper emergency gear. Both countries have specific requirements for all aircraft entering their airspace; we learned a lot! For the return flight to Florida, Bob had to request and receive permission to fly into U.S. airspace, including receiving special codes from both U.S. Customs and from Miami Center (FAA). We flew into Boca Raton (FL – KBCT), one of the required U.S. Port of Entry airports and pulled up to the separate U.S. Customs & Border Protection Facility, where 75Y was inspected and we were cleared to enter the country.

Lunch at the beautiful Costa d’Este resort, right on the beach (Vero Beach).

From Boca Raton, we flew a short distance to Vero Beach (KVRB) – we had booked a visit to the Piper factory, which had recently re-opened after a long COVID-related closure. The factory tour was fascinating, and we were impressed with the high-quality operations. Our time in Vero Beach enabled us to visit the lovely Round Island Park, learn about the many Spanish galleon shipwrecks in the area, and eat lunch at the beach. After a couple of days at Vero Beach, we were ready to come home after a great trip. Our flight home was uneventful, with a short stop in Georgia for fuel.

Watch Bob’s short video here.

Here are a few of our favorite photos; click any pic for a slideshow:

Thanks for looking! See more 75Y adventures, follow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Tangier Island

We have flown to Tangier Island several times. It’s a special place, located right in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, and part of Virginia. It’s a lovely town, very laid-back. Visiting there is like stepping back in time.

It takes about 35-40 minutes to fly from our home airport of Manassas, Virginia (KHEF) to Tangier (KTGI). Tangier is only accessible by boat or aircraft; you can visit by ferry boat. After landing on the short-ish runway (2,426′), we just walk to town! The island has a rich “watermen” history and culture — some call this the nation’s “soft-shell crab capital”. Alas, with rising seas, Tangier’s future is uncertain; since 1850, the island’s landmass has been reduced by 67%. 

View Bob’s short video below:

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Kitty Hawk & First Flight

In April 2017, we made a special pilgrimage to Kitty Hawk — where the Wright Brothers first accomplished heavier-than-air flight. With our friends Tom & June, we flew into the historic First Flight airstrip, which is part of the national monument park.

Flying into First Flight was so meaningful for Pilot Bob. And for Tom, who is a retired Navy navigator. June and I had both read David McCullough’s excellent book, “The Wright Brothers,” and it was wonderful to experience the book come to life.

Bob’s short video is below, showing our experience of flying in to this historic site. Thanks for looking! — Diana

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Summiting Old Rag Mountain

This was an accomplishment for us! Here in Virginia, we are fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty — close to the ocean and the mountains. We recently drove the short distance to Shenandoah National Park to make the daylong round-trip hike up Old Rag Mountain with our friend Richard. Climbing up to an elevation of 3,284′ includes getting ourselves up and through a challenging — and lengthy! — “rock scramble” portion. Most of the hike is shaded and the entire experience is just beautiful.

Bob’s short video gives a good sense of what it was like. Not bad for two seniors!

Below are some of our favorite snapshots — click on any photo to start a slideshow. Thanks for looking!

Check out some of our other adventures.

Oh, Shenandoah!

A few days of beautiful weather in June 2021 gave us an opportunity to hop into N8475Y and fly from our home airport of Manassas, VA (KHEF) to Asheville, NC (KAVL). We flew south along the Blue Ridge Mountains — at marshmallow-cloud level. Interesting how the clouds hugged the mountain range all the way down.

We had been to Asheville before, and this time we really enjoyed staying in — and walking around — the heart of the historic downtown district. A highlight of our visit was a whitewater rafting trip down the French Broad River — a fun and splashy ride (Class I-IV) down a beautiful river. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, we also enjoyed making the short hike through Craggy Gardens and up to Craggy Pinnacle for a gorgeous 360-degree view at 5,817′.

Air Traffic Control approved our request to make several aerial circles above the Biltmore estate at just 1,000′ above — we had visited there a number of years ago, and enjoyed seeing it from above. Come along with us on this fun trip by watching Bob’s short video below. Some of our favorite snapshots are also below; click on any of them to start a slideshow.

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Flight to Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls at bottom; American Falls in center. Canada on left; US on right.

We made a spur-of-the-moment trip up to see this beautiful natural wonder in May 2021 with dear friends Tom & June. Finally the weather was clear on both ends of the trip for the ~2-hour flight from our home airport of Manassas, VA (KHEF) in N8475Y, our Piper Twin Comanche.

Watch Bob’s short video on our Niagara adventure — and scroll down for a few more photos and story.

Visiting the Falls had been on my (Diana’s) list for quite some time; Bob had visited many years ago, as had Tom & June. And all four of us had visited Victoria Falls (southern Africa), so it was also interesting to contrast and compare.

Arriving in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, we entered the very specific flight pattern for fixed-wing aircraft: maximum speed 130 knots, clockwise circuit, above 3,500′, staying below Rainbow Bridge and above the dam. A tight circuit! We made two clockwise circuits before landing at nearby Niagara Falls International Airport (KIAG). It was great to get this aerial perspective before spending some time up-close-and-personal with the Falls.

Our hotel (Sheraton) was in a great location, and we walked everywhere. We were blessed with excellent weather and NO crowds. Alas, the Canadian border was closed due to the pandemic, as I think it would have been interesting to see the Falls from that perspective — it looks like they have better views, to be honest.

As you can see from Bob’s video, three of us took the Maid of the Mist boat ride … into what is basically completely different weather down at the foot of the Falls! Very windy and rainy — like buckets! We saw thousands of seagulls; I didn’t realize they could be so far inland.

How does Niagara compare with Victoria? I would say that Victoria Falls are much larger — wider and more volume of water. But it’s a very different experience between the two, because Victoria Falls descend into a narrow slot — no boat ride, no visiting it at river level. They are both very dramatic and stunning, just different. You can view photos & video of our 2018 trip to Victoria Falls. We also made a 2003 trip to Victoria Falls.

The morning of departure, we again flew two clockwise circuits over the Falls — just beautiful. We learned the Falls are 12,500 years old … they are slowly eroding and won’t be here in 10,000 years. So be sure to go before then!

(Click any photo to start a slideshow.)

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Escape to Charleston

COVID-bound. Serious cabin fever. 17 degrees (F) at home. With a few sunny days in the forecast, we flew down to warmer weather in Charleston, S.C. As neither of us had ever visited there, it had long been on our list.

When we departed our home airport of Manassas, VA (KHEF) in March 2021, it was just 17 degrees! As we flew south, the air temperature at altitude started off about 14 degrees, and slooooooowly climbed. We cheered when the temp hit 22! (No worries, N8475Y has a heater.)

Like everyone else, we found Charleston charming. We loved the historic buildings and learning more of the city’s history. We stayed at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, right in the heart of the historic area, within walking distance or many wonderful places. I ate my weight in delicious shrimp & grits and fried oysters.

We visited historic Boone Hall Planation and Gardens, where we learned a lot about plantation life; they did a good job of explaining the important role of enslaved people. It’s one of the oldest continuously working plantations in the country. We learned about Gullah culture — I learned that “Kumbaya” came from the Gullah culture!

We had a delightful visit. We felt COVID-safe; everywhere we went had good COVID precautions in place. And although the city was lively, it did not feel crowded at all. The aerial view of Charleston is beautiful, which you can see in Bob’s short video. Watch the video to take a quick trip to Charleston with us!

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Westward Ho!

During these strange pandemic times, many people are packing up the car or the RV and heading out to see this great nation of ours. In that spirit, we packed up our 1967 Piper Twin Comanche (N8475Y) and headed out West (Sept. 2020).

You can view Pilot Bob’s short video here, and scroll down to read more about our great western adventure.

Our route; we started at Manassas, VA (KHEF).
Over western Ohio

Pilot Bob is a meticulous planner and he found a big good-weather window — we enjoyed excellent weather the entire two-week trip.

We started out from our home airport (Manassas KHEF) in Virginia, crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains, and soon experienced very different terrain — looking like an enormous quilt. We made two refueling stops along the way, in Indiana and Iowa. Avgas, by the way, was quite inexpensive here, compared to what we pay at home.

Aerial view of Mount Rushmore from 75Y
Mt. Rushmore from 75Y

That first day, we reached our first destination of Custer, SD … and iconic Mount Rushmore. Custer is a charming historic town. We not only got to see the Mt. Rushmore monument by air, but we also saw it up-close-and-personal.

Self-service refueling at Leadville, CO

From Custer, we flew southwest to the Rocky Mountains. We flew by many ski resorts where we have skied, including Telluride, Breckenridge, Copper, Winter Park, Vail. In the Rockies, we landed at Leadville/Lake County, CO (KLXV) — the highest airport in North America, at 9,934′! We are told that military pilots come to Leadville for high-altitude training. Landing at Leadville was on Bob’s bucket list, and we were excited to arrive there. Because we flew as high as 13,372′, we carried small cans of supplemental oxygen and took regular breaths from them. For the most part — even at altitude — it was a smooth flight with little turbulence. At higher altitudes, many trees have already changed their colors.

Temple Butte and Lake Powell — Page, AZ

Onward! We overflew Bryce, UT and Escalante, AZ, which were both, alas, closed for renovations. Still, the aerial views are amazing. We landed at Page, AZ, a gorgeous area with much natural beauty. In the Page area, we visited the Instagram-ready Horseshoe Bend — just stunning. We walked across Navajo Bridge (built 1929) over the Colorado River and viewed Marble Canyon — this is where the Grand Canyon begins. Departing from Page Airport, we enjoyed spectacular views of Lake Powell and dramatic Temple Butte, just off the runway.

Flying over Grand Canyon – 2 billion years of history

Flying down the Colorado River, following the canyon, was thrilling. We had a wonderful aerial view watching the canyon open up and get more and more dramatic until it finally explodes into the exhilarating Grand Canyon. (Strict flight rules over Grand Canyon, as you can imagine.) Photos cannot do justice to Grand Canyon; at 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep, it is simply more enormous than human eyes can process. Grand Canyon Airport is located very close to the canyon; we did experience some strong gusty crosswinds on landing, but nothing that Pilot Bob and 75Y couldn’t handle! We stayed in the park, at the historic El Tovar Hotel, perched high on the South Rim. A personal triumph for me was hiking the Rim Trail — 8.2 miles at about 7,000′ altitude. Gorgeous, dramatic views at every turn!

Sedona – Broken Arrow

Our final western stop was beautiful Sedona, AZ. Approaching the airport, the scenery is quite dramatic — and the airport is located atop a large mesa! We stayed at Sky Ranch Lodge, located on the mesa and very close to the airport with gorgeous, dramatic views of Sedona and surrounding Red Rocks. We took a fun “Broken Arrow” Pink Jeep tour — named for the movie filmed there — among and atop breathtaking rock formations.

Montezuma Castle

Another highlight of our Sedona stay was visiting Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well. (Neither has anything to do with Montezuma!) Native Sinagua farmers built the 5-level, 20-room “castle” around 1100 and it is in remarkably good condition. The “well” is fed by underground springs and is a lush surprise in the desert, with remnants of more residences here, both at the rim and at lake level.

Meteor Crater – Arizona

Flying homeward, we had a delightful surprise — we saw an enormous circular depression in the midst of the Arizona desert. ForeFlight (aviation navigational aid) identified it as “meteor crater.” A quick look on Wikipedia confirmed it — the “best preserved meteorite crater on Earth,” about 3/4 mile across and 560′ deep. No wonder it’s so easily visible from the air.

Continuing east, we stopped for fuel and a night’s rest in Pocahontas, TX, in the panhandle. The next day, we flew eastward, stopping in northeast Arkansas for refueling, and arrived back at our home airport later that day.

At Horseshoe Bend, AZ

Throughout our trip, we found good pandemic safety practices just about everywhere. Restaurants, hotels, stores, etc. for the most part kept very good protocols and we felt comfortable. The actual flying parts, including refueling, are naturally socially-distanced. And no TSA lines! We felt fortunate to be able to hop into 75Y for a fun adventure and she performed beautifully. All totaled, we landed in 8 states and overflew 17; flew 26.5 hours over 4,520 miles (3,937 nautical miles). We saw some incredibly diverse — and spectacular — terrain, landscapes, and formations. America the Beautiful!

See more 75Y adventures, follow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram: #N8475Y.

A Crabby Visit

St. Michaels, Tilghman Island, Easton

When it’s hot in the city … time to go to the shore! We hopped aboard N8475Y — only about a 40-min. flight — and flew over to the lovely Eastern Shore of Maryland. Though we’ve been over there many times, it was our first real visit to St. Michaels. Though getting around during these COVID-19 times is odd at best, we had a very enjoyable visit. Our hotel employed excellent safety practices, as did all of the places we visited; we felt very safe. (See Bob’s short video, above.)

We also enjoyed visiting Tilghman Island — we had last been there sometime in the late 1980s. I particularly liked our lunch spot, just below the Knapps-Narrows Drawbridge that connects Tilghman to the mainland and St. Michaels. Loved seeing not only the pleasure boats, but also the many working watermen boats.

This area is famous for blue crab, so of course we had to sample as much as possible! I don’t think it gets much fresher than this … how could it?! We enjoyed seeing so many historic homes and buildings throughout the area, including Easton. We are so fortunate to live so close to the Chesapeake Bay.

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.

Escaping the Heat

July 19, 2020 — Whew! Much of the U.S. is in a mad heat wave, including Arlington, VA, where we live — temps in the mid-to-high-90’s … and often with brutal humidity. Last week, Bob flew N8475Y, our Piper Twin Comanche, to Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland, about a 40-min. flight from our home airport of Manassas, VA (KHEF).

Early morning fog lifting at Deep Creek Lake – view from our room

On the way, we saw an interesting wind farm on a mountain ridge in West Virginia.

Temperatures there were fantastic — 60’s and 70’s! The lake is in the mountains; the Garrett County Airport (2G4) is at about 3,000′ altitude. On final approach, we flew right by the Wisp Ski Resort.

Our lodge was right on the lake, on a quiet “finger”; we enjoyed watching all the activity on the water. Years ago, Diana was at Deep Creek Lake with friends and learned to water-ski here.

Swallow Falls — Maryland’s highest free-falling waterfall

It was easy to get around and we enjoyed walking the trails in the Swallow Falls State Park — home to three lovely waterfalls.

Of course, these are strange COVID-19 times. Overall, we were very impressed with the policies, practices and behaviors of the hotel, the restaurants, and people we came across. We felt quite safe.

A great quick getaway from the heat! View Bob’s short video here … and see the the still shots below. (Click any photo to view a slideshow. Don’t you feel cooler just looking at these photos?!)

See more 75Y adventuresfollow us on Flight Aware and check us out on Instagram — we post with the hashtag: #N8475Y.