Planned Route: KLEE ORL V531 TBIRD F45
Actual Route: Whatever ATC felt like issuing us at the moment
ETE: 54 minutes
Distance: 149 nm each way
Fuel Burned: 26 gallons r/t
Normally I hate Mondays. Luckily for me, rather than work yesterday, I had an opportunity to fly an Angel Flight mission; a Korean War Veteran to West Palm Beach and the VA Blind Rehab Center. What a great way to start the workweek. Because of job priorities and life in general, I don’t get the opportunity to fly as many Angel Flight missions as I would like.
The departure weather was severe clear, about 65 degrees F, and not a bump to be found. Perfect conditions for flying and a morning out of the office.
I met Brian, my AFSE co-pilot, and our passenger Richard, along with his wife, Lois and a family friend, Bill in the FBO lounge. Shortly after getting all the necessary releases signed and mailed, we drove over to my hangar to load up for our trip southbound.
Richard served in the Army during the Korean Conflict. He has been through many surgeries designed to save his eyesight, unfortunately without success.
As we taxied out, Leesburg Ground cleared our flight planned route “as filed”: IFR with an initial climb to 2000 feet and a final of 5000. Our proposed routing was radar vectors over Orlando, to BAIRN intersection, then Victor 531 to TBIRD intersection, direct North Palm Beach County Airport (F45).
After our run-up, we rolled on RW03. Once airborne and handed off by the tower, Orlando Approach had other ideas as to our final route. We received a vector of 090 from ATC, an obtuse angle to our desired direction. This new routing clearly was not the most direct, but the air was clear and cool, and there is nothing more scenic than flying down the east coast of Florida on a day like today.
Our flight took us past Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. The Shuttles’ 15,000 foot landing strip was clearly visible, as was the ginormous Vehicle Assembly Building. Then we overflew Melbourne International, and past Vero Beach.
About that time, due to busy jet arrivals into Palm Beach International (KPBI), Miami Center issued us vectors to the Pahokee VOR, (PHK), then direct to our destination airport. This route would result in an acute turn and add an additional 20 miles to our route. After a bit of negotiation with ATC on our part, Center was able to work out a short-cut to our routing with Palm Beach Approach. I seriously doubt they scattered any airliners bound for PBI on our behalf, but we did finally get cleared direct to the airport.
North Palm Beach County Airport, a non-towered GA reliever for PBI, was busy with several aircraft in the pattern for RW31 and a Cessna 172 practicing the GPS/RNAV RW08 approach. To keep things interesting, there was also a couple of 2-seat Robinson R-22 helicopters flitting about the field like dragonflies. It reminded me of organized chaos.
Palm Beach Approach Control cleared us for the visual approach and released us to advisory freq. We responded by cancelling our IFR and entered a left downwind for RW31. Once we landed and taxied in, a social worker from the VA Blind Rehab Center in West Palm met us at Landmark Aviation FBO. Within minutes, Richard was in the facility’s van and on his way.
Richard was a pleasure to fly with, and he really seemed to enjoy the short flight. He has a very positive attitude despite his disability. Even without eyesight, Richard was able to develop a clear mental picture of where we were, and what we were doing, simply by listening in on our communications with ATC through his David Clark headset. I wish him the best of luck with his rehab.
Brian, who is a recent private pilot working on his instrument and multi ratings, was an excellent co-pilot. He flew a good portion of the trip down and back, and did a fine job in holding heading and altitude in the Bonanza, a new aircraft to him.
Yesterday was a good day.