I flew from Ottawa, ON to Washington, DC (400 nm) today, with a few pilot firsts:
- First time flying south of the Mason-Dixon line.
- First time flying outside the 40-49 degree north latitude band .
- First time flying into the Washington, DC ADIZ.
- First time dealing with turbulence, icing, IMC, thunderstorms, and extensive routing changes in unfamiliar airspace all at the same time (with no autopilot).
What a difference 45 minutes makes …
Over central Pennsylvania: cruising in smooth air, under clear skies, watching the Susquehanna River wind back and forth across my flight path, eating a bagel and thinking “it doesn’t get better than this.”
Over Maryland: in cloud in the weather that was supposed to stay south over the Carolinas, rain pounding on the windscreen, checking the Stormscope every few seconds, and trying keep the LO chart (and my head) still enough in the turbulence to find VORs I’ve never heard of for my new routing, while staying roughly on course, at altitude, and level. No bagels involved.
The ADIZ is no big deal if you’re IFR — it’s exactly the same as any IFR flight, except that you have to turn around and exit instead of continuing to your destination if you have a transponder or comm failure. It was no different than flying IFR into, say, Philadelphia or Montreal.
Washington/Dulles is surprisingly GA-friendly for a big airport — there’s an $8.00 landing fee, a bit over $18.00/night for parking, and that’s it (they waive the $28 handling fee if you buy gas). The FBO is right beside the main terminal, closer than you’ll usually be on an airliner (where you have to take the @#$#@ people movers from a satellite terminal).
I was flying ridiculously slowly (80kt) at full throttle into a brutal headwind, but both Potomoc approach and Dulles tower were very accommodating, vectoring me parallel to the localizer until about six miles back, then giving me an easy intercept. I had no delay to speak of, even though I was sharing the approach with much faster jet airliner traffic. They gave me the runway I requested (close to Signature), and even gave me step-by-step taxi instructions (which I didn’t ask for, but appreciated after a long flight).
Still better than the airlines
I think it’s great that I can fly from the Canadian to the U.S. capital on 38 U.S. gallons of avgas, in about the same amount of time as it would take on the airlines (when you include having to be at the airport early for security, etc.). Last time I took the airlines, the trip was actually longer than it would have been in my Cherokee, since the flight was delayed.