We flew from Winter Haven airport to Albert Whitted, in St. Petersburg. Whitted is a small general aviation field in St. Pete that's right on the waterfront, and I had flown there before with a friend of mine who owns an airplane. There are a lot of places to get coffee or food, and the airport is a five-minute walk from several nice parks and a marina.
Airport Information at SkyVector.com
We took off from Winter Haven around four o'clock and flew West, into the afternoon sun. We climbed to 3,000 feet and flew over the Lakeland airport before turning South and calling up Tampa Approach. Melissa made a great co-pilot, looking for other air traffic as we flew along.
About a half hour after leaving Winter Haven, we turned across the bay and were handed off to the controller at Whitted. We landed smoothly on runway 25, and as we looked out the window, Melissa couldn't believe how close the runway was to the ocean. "It's practically in the water...looks like dolphins are going to jump over the runway!"
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I taxied into the FBO and shut the airplane down, pushing it back into a parking spot and tying it down. We left the FBO and walked down the road to a pilot shop where Mel did some secret Christmas shopping, and then we took a leisurely stroll through downtown St. Pete before stopping for a late-afternoon coffee and a snack at a Starbucks.
We got back to the airport just after the sun went down and signed out, heading out to the ramp and giving the airplane a quick preflight. Much to my dismay, the landing light--the light on the front of the plane that acts like a headlight on the ground--was inoperative. Luckily my beacon light and nav lights worked, and after a quick runup and a weather check we called the tower and were on our way over the bay.
Tampa Approach cleared us to 3,000 feet and we cruised East, looking down at the city lights and the roadways and up at the stars and satellites. It was a perfect, clear night with no clouds...great for flying. Mel asked questions about the instrumentation on the airplane and on the things that the controller and I said to one another, and I gave her a lesson on airplane instruments and communications.
Back at Winter Haven...
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...we landed successfully despite our inoperative landing light. Taxiing was a bit tricky as seeing where we were going required peeking out the side window and moving very slowly, but I made it to the ramp and we tied down the airplane.
Going home, Mel and I talked about the day...we flew to an awesome airport, had a nice leisurely afternoon, and then flew home. No traffic, no stop signs, no aggravation, just us and the air-traffic controllers. Flying in a general-aviation airplane, you get a new perspective on the world, seeing the lakes and the neighborhoods and the people from the sky. You get the unique combination of intense focus on what you're doing and the ability to explore whole new perspectives.
We flew from Winter Haven to Whitted in half an hour, a drive that would take at least an hour and twenty minutes even without much traffic. It was a fantastic day. Soon we'll go back to Whitted to eat at the airport diner, and we have many other flights planned out to take soon. Someday we might even get to own our own airplane.
Melissa and I in a Cessna 152, over the Western beaches of Florida.
It's fun to fly!