EntireFlight- Jan 01 2020

Best Walk To Beach Airports In The Northeast, Ocean City NJ 26N.
With An Amazing Flight Getting There.

From Tarmac To Beach in A Ten Minute Walk


   In the world of aviation, every journey is a tale of exploration and discovery, filled with exhilarating experiences and moments of self-reflection. This holds especially true for our recent flying trip that marked an essential milestone in our journey as pilots to earn our commercial pilots license. Here's a recollection of our memorable voyage from Rochester, New York (KROC), to Ocean City, New Jersey (26N) in our beloved Diamond DA40.

  We started planning this adventure on a balmy Saturday afternoon, July 22nd, with the requirements for the commercial license staring at us. One condition was clear - we needed to fly a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles. Also including three points of landing.

  As we deliberated over charts and weather forecasts, we felt a familiar sense of anticipation - that strange blend of excitement, impatience, and a hint of trepidation that always marks the eve of a significant flight.The weather gods were looking down on us favorably, with high pressure dominating the area and a forecast that was as clear as our ambition. The only hiccup could be a small, unpredictable pop-up thunderstorm. But we were optimistic; the overall forecast was excellent.We punched our flight details into ForeFlight, calculated our weight and balance, and estimated our journey's logistics. It was to be a 2 hour and 15-minute flight, guzzling about 25 gallons of gas. We planned to meet at the airport bright and early, aiming for wheels up by 7:30 AM. The plan was set.



  Sunday morning arrived, and the pre-flight alarm buzzed a melodious tune. There's just something about waking up on flight day. It's a cocktail of adrenaline and anticipation that defies the grumble of the early morning alarm, especially when the forecast promises clear skies.I remember feeling a flicker of unease as I checked the morning weather. The fog was thick, causing IFR conditions, and my heart dipped. But with the promise of an imminent sunrise, I knew the fog would lift.

  Sure enough, as we arrived at the airport, the fog lifted, revealing a beautiful day that was perfect for our adventure. The early morning hustle of the airport has a unique charm. It’s quiet, with exception for the occasional hum of an aircraft, and the smell of fresh-roasted coffee beans wafting from the FBO’s kitchen is invigorating. There's just something special about early morning flights; it's as if the day, still new and untouched, is ripe for the adventure that awaits.


  As we stepped out onto the ramp, the invigorating, distinct aroma of Jet A fuel permeated the air, further stoking our excitement for the journey ahead. The folks at the FBO had already fueled up our bird and taken her out of the hangar, primed for our impending departure. Our Diamond DA40 sat gleaming under the early morning sun, inviting us into her cockpit for the journey of a lifetime.

  One of the most critical aspects of flying is the pre-flight inspection, and it was time for us to perform ours. Akin to a ritual, we meticulously inspected our airplane from nose to tail, sumping the fuel, checking the oil, examining the flight controls, and myriad other tasks essential to ensuring a safe flight. Everything checked out perfectly, and our aircraft was all set for the skies.With palpable anticipation, Sean and I climbed into the plane.

  The interior of the DA40 was familiar and comforting, with every knob and lever ready to spring into action at our command. Methodically, we carried out the pre-start checklists – seat belts secured, doors closed and locked, fuel selector on, battery and avionics switched on. The checklist provided us with a sense of order and calm amidst our rising excitement.

  Next, it was time to bring our aircraft to life. We turned on the fuel pump, letting it prime the engine for three seconds. We called out, "Clear prop!" to warn anyone nearby, and then the moment we had been waiting for - we started the engine. The DA40's engine roared to life, the sound echoing around the ramp and making our hearts pound in sync. As we watched the instrument panel, all the gauges bounced into the green, signaling that everything was functioning as it should.

  With the after-start checklists completed and the engine purring like a well-tuned machine, it was time to tune into the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) to get the latest airport information. We then contacted Rochester Air traffic control so we could get our clearance for take off and taxi.


  Once cleared to taxi we approached the active runway 25, the low hum of our Diamond DA40's engine created a comforting backdrop for our final pre-takeoff procedures. Conducting the runup, a critical step to ensure that our engine was performing optimally, was like a well-choreographed dance we had practiced countless times.

  We carefully adjusted the mixture for peak performance, ran the engine up to 2000 RPM, and checked the readings on our instrument panel.With a sense of satisfaction, we noted all the engine instruments were firmly in the green. Next, we checked the magneto. The process involves running the engine on each magneto independently, which ensures the ignition system is functioning correctly. Both the left and right magneto checks were flawless, signaling all was good with our spark plugs and ignition system.Subsequently, we tested the variable-pitch propeller - a critical component of our DA40 - to ensure its smooth operation. All our engine tests were successful, bringing smiles to our faces. We then idled the engine, and to our relief, it didn't stall out.

  In the final stretch of our pre-flight preparations, we executed the remaining items on our before-take-off checklist. We took a moment to review our emergency procedures, especially the critical steps if the engine were to fail on takeoff. It's a scenario no pilot wants to face, but thorough preparation is key in aviation.With all the checks completed and a sense of confidence, we were ready for the real deal. We contacted the tower, informing them, "Rochester Tower, Diamond 268DS ready for departure at Runway 25." And so, with clearance granted, we were poised at the threshold of Runway 25, ready to leap into the skies, and continue our quest to Ocean City.

  As we rolled onto the runway, we made a point to begin from the earliest part of the runway. It's an essential practice that provides maximum runway length for takeoff, offering a safety buffer in case of an emergency.The world outside our cockpit was a blur of motion as we positioned ourselves on the runway's centerline, ready for the adventure that awaited us. With our brakes firmly applied, we brought the engine up to 2000 RPM, all the while keenly observing our engine instruments, which remained steadfast in the green.Heart pounding with anticipation, we pushed the throttle lever forward to its limit, the engine responding with a gratifying roar. As our DA40 began to gather speed, we released the brakes, and the exhilaration was palpable as we began our sprint down the runway.

  With the wind whipping around us and the engine humming smoothly, we made our call-out checks. "Power set," we announced, confirming that the engine was at full power and performing optimally. "Engine instruments in the green," we reported, an assurance that everything was working as it should. "Airspeed alive and cross-check" were the next words to ring out in the cockpit, a final affirmation that our aircraft was ready to defy gravity.As our airspeed indicator swiftly climbed to 60 knots, it was time for that magical moment - rotation.

  With a gentle pull on the control stick, we felt the DA40's nose lift off the ground, the earth falling away beneath us. We climbed steadily, maintaining a safe climb speed, as the Rochester landscape transformed into a patchwork of farmland and residential areas. We were flying! The exhilaration that accompanies this moment, the point where careful planning, rigorous checks, and anticipation culminate in the joy of takeoff, is truly unmatched. We were airborne, embarking on the next exciting leg of our journey.


  Once we were airborne, the Rochester departure frequency gave us the green light to turn on course to Ocean City. There's always something thrilling about being officially en route to your destination. The trip south took us over the scenic Finger Lakes, where lingering fog shrouded the valleys, creating a picturesque landscape.

  Arguably the most eye-catching of the lakes was Keuka, its distinct Y-shape snaking through the land like a glassy conduit. The point where the lake's two branches converge, forming the southern peninsula, was a sight to behold from the air. It felt as though we were looking at an artist's rendering rather than a real place, the natural beauty so resplendent it verged on surreal.

  In the distance, emerging from the morning haze like a mirage, was Seneca Lake, shimmering under the soft glow of the rising sun. Its vast expanse, coupled with its tranquil serenity, was a reminder of the immense beauty this part of New York has to offer, a beauty heightened when viewed from the sky. Our trip was as much a visual feast as it was a flight, each lake appearing to sparkle a greeting as we sailed overhead.

Flying Over The Finger Lakes

  We reveled in the clarity of the skies above, our Diamond DA40 smoothly cutting through the crisp morning air. As we crossed into Pennsylvania, the terrain changed dramatically. The beautiful Finger Lakes gave way to rolling mountains that painted a spectacular picture beneath us. Despite the stunning view, we couldn't help but notice that potential emergency landing locations became scarce. Yet, the plane was performing flawlessly, so we remained optimistic. The route southwards brought us closer to one of the flight's significant challenges - the Class Bravo airspace transition into Philadelphia.

  Class Bravo airspace is the most strictly regulated type of airspace in the United States, encompassing most of the country's busiest airports. You can't just fly into it; you need explicit clearance from Air Traffic Control (ATC).The transition is never a sure thing. It's not unusual for ATC to deny a request to transit Class Bravo airspace if it's too congested. In such cases, we would have to fly around it or above it. Plus, given the high traffic volume, you need to be on top of your game.

  A quick response when they call your tail number is crucial.To our relief, our transition through the Philadelphia Class Bravo airspace was smooth and swift. The ATC controller quickly granted us clearance, and we breathed a sigh of relief. The entire transition required only a minor 10-degree adjustment to our heading, demonstrating the precision and efficiency of ATC operations..

Philadelphia Class Bravo & Transition 


  Flying over the bustling city of Philadelphia was truly a spectacle. Skyscrapers towered, piercing the sky, and the prominent sight of the Eagles NFL stadium added a special touch to our aerial tour. But as fascinating as the cityscape was, the tantalizing glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon signaled that it was time to start planning our descent.
  Once we were through Philadelphia's bustling airspace, Atlantic City Approach took over our communications. The handoff from one control sector to another is always seamless, a testament to the expertise and coordination of air traffic controllers. But our time with Atlantic City Approach was brief because, before long, Ocean City airport came into view and were cleared to change to the airports frequency. We first obtained the weather from the field then reported our position to Ocean City via the airport's unicom frequency.

  What happened next truly added to the adventure of our journey. Five aircraft, including ours, were converging on Ocean City at roughly the same time, each eager to touch down at this charming coastal airport.


  The situation was complicated by the presence of several banner planes flying down the beach, advertising various goods and services to the vacationers below. The airport was buzzing with activity, and the ADS-B, a surveillance technology that provides aircraft location information, became an essential tool for maintaining situational awareness. The hustle and bustle left us little time to soak in the beauty of our approach to this beach town airport.

  Our first step was to overfly the field about 500-750 feet above pattern altitude. This allowed us to confirm that the runway was clear and also provided a buffer between us and the other aircraft converging on the airport. Once we had navigated ourselves into a safe position in the pattern, we finally had a moment to breathe and take in the breathtaking scenery. With the sparkling ocean on one side and the quaint, beach-side town on the other, the approach into Ocean City's runway 06 was genuinely captivating.

  In the final stages of our approach, with Ocean City’s runway stretching out invitingly ahead of us, we diligently made our radio calls. We reported our position at 5 miles, then 3 miles, and finally a one-mile final, ensuring that all other aircraft in the vicinity had a precise understanding of our location and intentions.

  Clear communication is an essential component of safe aviation, and we were committed to playing our part. As we descended, we confirmed that the runway was clear and continued our approach, our sights firmly set on the runway ahead. We faced a mild crosswind, but this presented little challenge, as our training and experience had prepared us for such conditions. As the wheels of our Diamond DA40 gently kissed the runway, a sense of accomplishment washed over us.

  The landing was smooth, almost poetic, but we had little time to relish the moment. The traffic behind us was eager to land, and we promptly vacated the runway, radioing that we were clear of the active to inform the other pilots. Once off the runway, we looked around and saw an array of aircraft neatly parked, reflecting the airport’s popularity among aviators. Yet, there was still ample space for us. We selected a parking spot and methodically ran through our engine shutdown checklist, silencing the engine's steady hum.

  The moment we opened the canopy, the distinctive smell of ocean air wafted in, and we took a deep breath, savoring the sweet, salty aroma. It was a beautiful reward after an exhilarating flight. We had arrived in Ocean City, New Jersey, a vibrant coastal town that promised a world of adventure and relaxation.


  We packed up our gear and secured the plane and turned our attention to exploring both the airport and the charming beach town beyond. Walking towards the FBO (Fixed-Base Operator) entrance, we marveled at how our flight had turned a potential 6-hour car ride into a swift 2.5-hour plane ride. It was a tangible testament to the efficiency and convenience of general aviation.

  As we strolled around the airport, we noticed a microcosm of the general aviation community. Other pilots, just like us, were enjoying the advantages this type of travel offers. We saw some reassembling bikes they'd packed into their planes, all set for a leisurely ride along the beach. Some carried beach bags, ready for a day of sun and surf, while others hauled small suitcases, hinting at overnight stays in local Airbnbs.

  This was the essence of general aviation: the freedom and flexibility it affords are incomparable. This method of travel enables you to bypass the traditional airport hustle. You can skip the long lines at check-in counters, avoid the sometimes invasive TSA security procedures, and ignore the crowded terminals. With general aviation, you can arrive at a private airport, and within minutes, be on your way to your destination.

  The FBO added another layer of convenience to our day. It had shower facilities for pilots to use after spending a day at the beach. This just reinforced how well thought out and accommodating general aviation airports can be. Upon entering the FBO, we were greeted warmly by a gentleman who asked if we needed fuel. We requested a top-up and were pleasantly surprised by the parking fee - a mere $12 for the day. What a bargain! This friendly airport employee also shared insider tips on where to grab a good meal and let us know that the beach was a leisurely 10 to 15-minute walk away.

  With the FBO's security gate buzzing behind us, we headed out to explore the town. To our delight, a food truck was stationed just outside the airport, serving breakfast and lunch all day. Its menu was an enticing array of options, and we didn’t hesitate to dig in. After enjoying a satisfying meal, we set out on foot to discover the sights of Ocean City.

  Walking through the side streets was an experience in itself. Each home we passed was meticulously maintained, their welcoming exteriors adding to the charm of this quaint beach town. As we ambled along, it dawned on us that this wouldn’t be our last visit to Ocean City.

  Finally, the sparkling ocean came into view. As we stepped onto the sandy beach, a sense of accomplishment washed over us. We had done it. We had piloted a plane over a long-distance, handled airspace transitions, and made it to this beautiful town, all in the spirit of adventure and fulfilling our commercial license requirement.


As time passed the realization set in that our idyllic day was drawing to a close. As the afternoon sun began its descent, we started making our way back to the airport for the journey home. This trip was not just an ordinary flight; it was an adventure that highlighted the real charm of general aviation – the freedom, flexibility, and the boundless opportunities to explore new places. This adventure is now etched in our memories, a story to recount to fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts. And as we powered down the DA40 back at our home base in Rochester, we knew there would be many more such stories to come.

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