Flight Training Adventure Trip: New York City

by HPA · April 12, 2012

Destination: Westchester County Airport (KHPN)

Westchester County Airport, White Plains, NY

KHPN, Westchester County Airport


Total Flight Time: 8 hours

Souls on board: 3 (That does include a canine. He counts as a soul right?)

Portuguese Water Dog

Airplane: 2010 Cessna Corvallis TT

Sore and tired people: All (and a very rested dog, since he napped the whole time)

The Mighty Mississippi River

From personal experience, New York City is a loooooong way from Houston, even in a Cessna Corvallis TT. Albeit, we did have a headwind the ENTIRE time, but, even without the headwind, the trip is a stretch for one day. Upon landing in White Plains, New York, we all decided that a two day trip instead of a one day trip would be preferred for next time.

We had several route changes in our initial planning. The original route was SGR-HSV-BKW-HPN. We decided to change our second fuel stop to ROA because it wasn’t in the mountains as much, just playing it safe. Then, once we got airborne, we saw how strong the headwind actually was (consistently 20-25 knots, occasionally up to 30 knots) and realized it would take us nearly four hours to get to Huntsville. We decided instead to land at KGTR, Golden Triangle Regional in Columbus, Mississippi. Our bladders and our stomachs thanked us.

After a bathroom break for both us and Beauregard (the Portuguese Water Dog who did not shed a single hair), we grabbed some sandwiches at the truck stop across the street (which were surprisingly good), and blasted off to Roanoke, Virginia. We soon discovered how vastly behind schedule we were. Upon that realization, we quickly decided we needed to stop a little earlier than KROA so the owner could call his ride and tell them we would be there at 1030pm, not 630pm. That would be a really long wait.

Bristol Motor Speedway

So, diversion number 2 was to KTRI, Tri-Cities Regional Airport in beautiful Bristol, Tennessee. Tri-City Aviation, the FBO there, is really slick. Everyone was kind and helpful and one of the line guys had actually had Blue Bell ice cream before. Made a Texas man feel welcome. After some dinner for Beau and another bathroom break, we again were off, this time with our final destination as our, well, final destination.

This is where things got a little complicated, but equally beautiful in two different respects. We started crossing the Appalachian Mountains before we stopped in Bristol and were still over them at sunset. The view was spectacular. Unfortunately, my iPhone doesn’t quite do it justice. We initially were cleared direct from KTRI to KHPN. About 100 miles south of DC, we got our first re-route (which I figured would come, being New York, but I was hoping it wouldn’t). We went from going direct to this: ESL-HGR-HAR-LRP-ETX-FJC-STW-SAX-V39-BREZY-KHPN. I’m glad I grabbed my pen before I said I was ready to copy.

We eventually were given direct FJC (Allentown, PA), but here came re-route number 2: FJC-V162-HUO-IGN-V157-HAARP-KHPN. The first one wasn’t too bad because it just kept us west of the city and brought us in from the west. This one was a pain, taking us north and bringing us in that way, which added another 20 minutes to our already late night.

Then, I was struck with a stroke of genius. Looking outside, there were no clouds, not one to be seen. The moon was actually quite bright and suddenly, I had an epiphany. I queried Allentown approach as to the possibility of going direct if we canceled our IFR and went VFR. He had no problem with that and we loved the idea (especially Beau), so off we went, VFR and direct.

Even though it was late at night, the New York airspace was still busy, though not as crazy as some of the stories I’ve heard (I have heard one time where a controller was so busy, he commanded all pilots to stop their read backs). The city was pretty at night, though it would have been much cooler to see during the day. My return flight was out of La Guardia, so I took an hour long car ride on a half empty stomach to my hotel. I finally was able to crawl into bed at about 1am before having to get up at 5:45 to catch the airport shuttle.

All in all, it was a very good trip. A piece of advice, though for anyone who wants to attempt Houston to New York: make it a two day trip. It would have been much more pleasant splitting the flight into two four hour days with a stop for lunch and a stop for the night. That would be my recommendation.

For more information about our Flight Training Adventure Trips, click here.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

2022.06.09 11.19 Flyhpa 62a27fea7716a


The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

More about Randy here: https://www.flyhpa.com/team/randy-delong/


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