I recently had a chance to go for another flight in the Cessna 180. The weather around here has been very cold lately so there were some concerns that the plane would not be willing to come to life. Dave, the pilot and owner, brought with him a pre-heater for the plane though so after ten or fifteen minutes of warming when we pulled it out of the hanger it started up almost immediately.
Once we got things moving we began taxiing out to the runway at Hampton Airfield (7B3). The whole place is a sheet of ice from the hanger to the runway. In the best of times the runway is grass so in the winter they plow one side and leave the other snow, for people with skis. You can imagine the difficulty in doing a run up when your plane slides forward on the ice no matter what you do to the brakes!
Once we took off and cleared the pattern Dave handed the controls over to me, in the right seat. The air was pretty choppy and it really has an effect on the small plane. We started off heading out toward DAW, Skyhaven Airport in Rochester NH. As I was trying to convince the plane to go where I wanted, I found myself flying in a direction different then where the front of the plane was pointing. While this is very common in flight it was the first time I experienced it while at the controls. It was interesting to try and sort out how far I needed to compensate to make up for the wind.
I finally worked the plane over to the airport and handed the controls back to Dave so he could get us into the pattern and land. As were were coming in I could hear some traffic talking on the radio and we were able to find the aircraft in question. One plane we did not hear from though was flying almost directly underneath us by about 750 feet. I was just looking around and happened to see it below us. No radio communication at all. It was flying very low to the ground, practically skimming the tree tops and then came in for a landing. In the end it appeared to have flown the pattern but all the while staying very very close to the runway, both vertically and horizontally. I was unsure for a minute or two if they were in trouble…
Once they touched down and taxi’d off the runway we made our approach and landed as well. After a short taxi for some fuel we were up in the air again.
Once flying, Dave had me over fly another local airport, Sanford Regional (KSFM) I believe. We were trying to get a look at their wind sock. Once over, we headed east for the coastline.
As we approached the coast Dave got onto the radio and spoke with the tower at Pease International Tradeport (PSM). He mentioned that we would be flying through their airspace along Route 95. The tower came back and said to stay east of the highway and to hold altitude. In the time it took for that exchange to happen I had lost 100 feet and we were down to 1900 feet. I was doing my absolute best holding the airplane steading in the crazy turbulence. From then on was pretty successful at holding it within about 100′ of 1900. I must have been making a ‘concentration’ face though because Dave kept telling me I was doing just fine.
As we were approaching Pease I started to pick airplanes out that were flying around and were able to confirm them as the tower began giving us traffic advisories. Flying at 1500 feet and just east of us was a KC-135 that was having some kind of small issue with a light. They were orbiting around while trying to sort it out. Was crazy to be flying basically over top of it.
Then, out in the distance over the water I spotted a twin engine airliner style jet. Pease was at one time, not that long ago, a military base and has a single 150′ x 11,000’+ runway. According to the Pease website no airlines currently fly into there regularly but I know at least Pan-Am has flown into there recently. The plane I saw coming in must have been a cargo jet of some kind. It was mostly white but because of the angle I saw it at, I was not able to see any markings. As we are flying along ATC mentions the jet to us and we could hear they were coming in to land. The first contact with them that we heard was them over the ocean descending through 6000 feet. They were a good distance away and 4000 feet above us. As the plane approached they continued their decent for a straight in landing on the runway. We crossed over top of them maybe 1000′ short of the runway just as they were crossing the threshold. I can guarantee that not many people have watching a large jet land from 2000′ above them!
Shortly there after Dave took the controls back and got us into the pattern for a landing back at Hampton airfield. The approach is pretty standard but the landing is.. unique. It has pretty tall trees not all that far from the end of the runway and since it’s almost perpendicular to the ocean their is almost always a cross wind. As you come in for a landing you have to counter the crosswind and then as you cross the tree line you basically drop the noise and kill power pretty fast. This allows you to get below the wind and make a quick landing. I’d have to see that landing again to fully understand everything that happened. Once you hit the tree line it all happens pretty quick. Dave nailed the landing though and he touched all three wheels gently down on the ice and snow.
It was a great flight and not one I’ll soon forget! I was too excited to get any pictures though…