Flying up the East Coast

Flying up the East Coast

This is a continuation of my previous post, Flying Across America! My dad and I are flying a single engine plane around the United States; in April we flew from Oxnard, California all the way to the Bahamas and left the plane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A few weeks later, we’re back flying up the East Coast!

Day 1: Fort Lauderdale, Florida to St. Augustine, Florida

It was Friday night when we hopped on the plane to take a red eye flight from LAX to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’m usually pretty good about sleeping on planes since I can pass out anywhere, at any time, but unfortunately taking a budget airline means no reclining seats, period, and leg room that’s barely enough for me (and I’m 5’3″!). Dad, on the other hand, took a different flight so he could get first class and have a nice bed to lay out on. 

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 5 AM and we headed to Banyan FBO (Fixed Base Operator; an organization that provides aeronautical services such as fuel, parking, aircraft maintenance, etc.) at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where the plane was situated. Banyan is probably the most luxurious FBO I’ve ever seen, with a cafeteria (and freshly baked cookies 🙂 ), bedrooms and showers for pilots, a movie theater – they have everything! My sister and I were waiting at the front counter for a solid half hour, ready to fly, but had no idea where our dad was. A woman finally said, “Oh, your dad picked up a towel and said he was going to sleep for a few hours.” Of course. Thanks for letting us know, Dad…

As soon as the sun rose, we were up in the air and headed to North Carolina for our first stop. Unfortunately we had such a strong headwind that after an hour and a half of flying we decided last second to land at St. Augustine, Florida for the night. I wasn’t really excited to be in Florida another night, but this town was unexpectedly a great place for a weekend getaway! 

St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, founded by the Spanish in 1565 and is filled with old Spanish colonial architecture and a unique stone fortress, Castillo de San Marcos. Not only does it have great history, but it’s a great place for foodies! For the second best pizza in the US, go to Pizza Time! The line is usually out the door but the slices are huge and freshly made right in front of  you. There’s also some great dessert places like The Hyppo that has super tasty but healthy ice pops (I got pineapple cilantro and my sister got avocado coconut) and also Peace Pie, which has ice cream sandwiches with a layer of pie filling in the middle (not so healthy but super good). 

Day 2: St. Augustine, Florida to First Flight, North Carolina

We hopped in the plane and dad let me take off in the Mooney for the first time! I got to fly the whole way up the East Coast for almost 3 hours until we reached Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers had their first controlled, sustained flight. You can see a giant monument on a hill overlooking the area dedicated to the Wright Brothers, and right next to the monument is now an airport called First Flight. We came in on final approach as if we were landing so we could get some aerial photos up close, and then did a “go-around” and ascended back into the sky to land at Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, about half hour from the monument. 

We drove half hour to First Flight to check out the monument and museum. The museum is still under construction but it was pretty cool to check out the monument and see the actual railing that the Wright Brothers used to guide their plane. There’s not much else to do in the town, so we hung out at the beach and grabbed dinner on one of the piers. 

Day 3: First Flight, North Carolina to Washington, D.C.

In order to fly into D.C.’s airspace (30 mile radius of the capital), you have to take a test provided by the FAA Safety branch. Because it’s the capital, it’s not easy to fly into the area but we were lucky to get the “ok” to fly! On final approach into Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, something went wrong and we started descending really fast. Luckily my dad was able to figure out that the vacuum pump went out and we had a backup in order to land safely. Not only do tall pine trees come right up to the beginning of the runway, but it’s also a really short runway. We were coming in hot – too hot – so dad had to do a go-around in order to land. With the vacuum pump out, incredible turbulence, and some serious gas someone passed – I was ready to get down on the ground. Luckily the airport we landed at also specially services Mooney’s so we chose a good place to land.

We rented a car and drove an hour west to Dulles Airport in Virginia to check out the Air & Space Museum. It was THE COOLEST and I enjoyed every minute, especially the Discovery space shuttle exhibit. Dad really like the Enola Gay and the SR-71 exhibits. I even had chicken nuggets in hand as I was walking through. Double cool. 

We stayed in the Georgetown University area in DC so I could meet up with one of my best friends the next morning. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been best friends since middle school, but I’m so proud that she just completed her second year at Georgetown Medical School! Since this trip was rather last minute, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see her because the time it takes for her to respond to text messages is usually one week… not kidding. Surprisingly, she answered, and she cooked breakfast for us at her cute colonial home and we got to catch up before I embark on my next journey! 

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