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June Airport(s) of the Month: KSCH & KABE

For this month’s Airport of the Month, let’s take a look at a few different airports that I visited on my Commercial Long Cross Country a few weeks ago. To start, let’s take a look at 14 CFR 61.129 (4)(i) and the specific requirements for this flight. The regulation states:

i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles; and”

With this in mind, I chose to fly to Schenectady, NY (KSCH) and Allentown, PA (KABE). The PSM-SCH leg is 137nm, SCH-ABE is 148nm, and ABE-PSM is 253nm. Over the days leading up to the flight, I called the FBOs to verify their availability and kept a close eye on the weather. It was a little windy and both SCH and ABE but they each had more than one runway and I ultimately made the decision to go!

After a very thorough preflight, I loaded into N922CA and started up. I picked up flight following through our tower and was off! It was a gorgeous morning to fly - a little low level haze but not a single bit of turbulence. I initially picked a cruising altitude of 4500’ but I knew that I would need to climb up to 6500’ eventually to clear some ski resorts and other mountains. However, as you can see below, I had a 30kt+ headwind, so I chose to stay at 4500’ right until I was coming up to the mountains.

The approach into SCH got pretty turbulent below a few thousand feet, but I made a straight in for runway 28 before taxiing into the FBO. The FBO took care of me quickly, and I was able to be wheels up in less than 45 minutes. Next, I was heading to Allentown.

Just like the descent, there was continuous light chop on the climb out of SCH. I deviated just south of the Catskills to avoid flying over a stretch of 20-30 miles of nothing but mountains.

The approach into ABE was a blast - getting vectored around other aircraft and experiencing the new terrain surrounding the airport. There were a bunch of taxiway closures so I had to land long and still keep my speed up as I was in front of a CRJ900 that was about 50kts faster than I was. It’s always fun flying into new airports, and ABE did not disappoint.

The FBO was again very welcoming, but they definitely were busier than the one at SCH. After a quick lunch break while I waited for fuel, I was back in the air and en route back home to PSM.

As I was crossing through NY/NJ, I enjoyed watching the EWR heavies pass below me on their descent. It was a smooth flight back to Portsmouth, but it definitely felt much longer than it was.

To be honest, it was a VERY long day of flying, but I definitely came out as a better pilot. Additionally, it was great to cross off the last requirement of 61.129 moving towards my Checkride. The best advice I can give to students and pilots heading out on longer flights and to new airports is to do your best to familiarize yourself with where you're going. Have a game plan in case you need to divert and be prepared to copy any frequency change or instruction.

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