There is a tradition in Aviation known as the hundred-dollar hamburger. You and a friend, or a whole group of aviators, gather together and fly somewhere to get food. Usually the food is diner fare or cafe-style food, sort of the classic American luncheon fare, nothing too fancy. The "hundred dollar" part of the HDH refers to the hidden costs of airplane rental, fuel, and ramp fees. Still, despite the costs ingrained in general aviation, the hundred-dollar hamburger is a fun way to spend an afternoon or a great way to make a day-trip.
A friend of mine from work, a physician, offered to take me up in his airplane. I said that I thought it would be awesome if he wouldn't mind, and we made plans to meet at the airport this morning.
I drove out to the Winter Haven airport and found him waiting in a beautiful Beech Musketeer. I climbed in, plugged in my headset, and with a push of the throttle we were off. We chatted about flying as we made our way to the active, and then with a roar of the beastly engine, we took off and headed West.
The Musketeer has a much better sight picture than the 150's and 152's I have been flying in lately. It also is much heavier. The inside is more plush and spacious. The controls are about the same although the heavier weight of the Musketeer was noticeable to me. Compared to the 150's which zip along around 100mph, the Musketeer cruised around 130-140. This was a kick-ass airplane and I found myself thinking that I could get used to flying in such style.
We headed West and stopped for fuel at Bartow. The doctor showed me how to fuel the plane, grounding it first to prevent sparks and then using the fuel system to pump gas into the wing tanks. There was a minor incident of spillover where some fuel wound up on the wing and the ground, but such is life, and the doctor laughed it off.
We called the tower, got our taxi clearance, and made our way back to the runway. Moments later we were cleared for departure and we lifted off and turned West, flying towards Tampa. We cruised around 3,000 feet, and as we approached Tampa we radioed Tampa Approach to ask for radar following service. The controller told us no, which they are allowed to do with non-IFR traffic, and then told us to stay out of Tampa's airspace. That sounds harsh but the airspace is there for safety purposes and only encompasses certain segments of the sky. If we flew at 1,000 feet we could fly below the Tampa airspace, so we descended over Apollo Beach and then turned right and flew below the airspace towards our destination of Whitted field.
Landing at Whitted, we departed the airplane and wandered along the coast for a few minutes before stopping for lunch at a small restaurant situated next to a marina. We ordered, dined, and chatted. I took advice from him to bring home to Mel about medical school and the madness of exams, and also learned many things from his experiences as an aviator. The Doctor has an instrument rating, has flown all over the nation, and has a few thousand hours logged in his books, and so I absorbed whatever knowledge I could from him.
After lunch, we returned to Whitted and departed East, heading back towards Lakeland. We flew over the hospital, then headed slightly North and circled the apartments where my wife and I live for awhile before turning East again and heading for Winter Haven. I could see the end of one of the runways from above our apartment, and it happened to be the active runway, so we got on the radio and announced a straight-in approach. There was some other traffic in the pattern, but we managed to slip in between a Cherokee making a full-stop and a taildragger doing touch-and-go landings.
The Doctor dropped me off in front of the flight school, and I thanked him profusely. What an awesome experience to get to go flying with a friend. I saw and got to handle for a few minutes an airplane I was totally unfamiliar with, and I got to get to know The Doctor a little better as well. On top of all that, this was my first "Hundred Dollar Hamburger." What an excellent day!
The route we flew shown courtesy of SkyVector.com