On my flight to South Florida a few days ago, I filed IFR and was cleared radar vectors, direct Pahokee VOR, then BCT, direct. ATC assigned an altitude of 6,000, and as it turned out, that put me in a scattered to broken layer of clouds. Orlando Departure vectored me around some departures from Orlando International, and then handed me off to Miami Center. Miami then cleared me direct to Pahokee. The cloud layer was smooth and I was able to log 30 minutes of IMC.
Breaking out on the decent over the Loxahatchee Preserve, Palm Beach Approach Control assigned the visual approach to RW5 at Boca Raton. They handed me off to the Tower with a request for best forward speed to the airport boundary, for separation purposes. A Falcon 50 was 4 miles in-trail for the same runway. The Boca Airport is easy to spot as it sits adjacent to the Florida Atlantic University campus, just off I-95.
You can always tell when it’s “The Season” in SoFlo. The GA ramp at KBCT was busy with corporate jets and high-end turbo-props. One was an unusual design, a Piaggio. The Piaggio is a canard-wing, pusher turbo-prop.
Ahead of me on the arrival was a Piper Malibu, and just behind the Falcon Jet. Many of these flights originated from the Northeast, from places like Teterboro, as the affluent escaped the winter snow storms for sunny Florida.
The weather for the trip back home on New Year’s Eve was clear with light winds. Rather than file IFR, I elected to fly VFR, down low, and enjoy the view. Despite what you may think, once you get inland and away from the coastlines, Florida is still very much undeveloped. Looking out the window you see mostly swamp, timberland, and cattle ranches, until just south of Orlando.
Approaching Orlando Class B airspace from the south, I could hear that the ATC frequency was congested, and the approach controller was in a “zone”. It reminded me of the flick Pushing Tin, about a controller who had a talent for working large volumes of traffic.
I made my initial call-up to Orlando Approach for Class B service over BAIRN intersection, on 119.4, the frequency for that sector. The controller in that sector works mostly low-level traffic into the satellite airports surrounding KMCO, Orlando International. These smaller airports are frequented by general aviation pilots, some of who are not always professional on freq when talking to ATC.
Today, however, was pleasantly different. The approach controller was working a lot of traffic in his sector. He was responsible for aircraft into and out of every airport, clockwise from Titusville to Kissimmee, Orlando North, Leesburg, Orlando Exec and Sanford International. The controller issued rapid fire instructions, and pilots responded with crisp, concise read-backs. This allowed both ATC and pilots to get into a cadence, or rhythm, anticipating each transmission, and making the whole process much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Once I was clear of Bravo, the controller terminated RADAR service and turned me over to the Leesburg tower with a cheery “Happy New Year”.
To top off a very enjoyable flight day, I watched Central Florida beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl, on ESPN, and then had a great dinner out with my wife and some close friends.
Happy New Year!