Archive for the ‘Flying’ Category

Fly for the Hills   Leave a comment

On a sunny post-medical-school-classes North Carolina day, two classmates and I decided to head out for the hills of western NC. We took off from RDU, circled Duke and Durham a couple of times, landed at Rowan County airport to re-fuel, and then set off west for Avery County. There, we rented a car and hiked a couple of the local trails, notably stumbling across Linville Falls, before heading back to Durham just before sunset. It was Riikka and Qihua’s first time in a small plane, and so pictures were copious…

Fly for the Hills - Linville

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Posted 30 Mar 2016 by John McManigle in Adventure, Flying

Home, via Iceland   1 comment

Having completed all requirements of the DPhil degree, it is time to come back to the States and start my last year of medical school. To squeeze in one last adventure, I booked an IcelandAir #stopover on the way home. Sabine was able to join for three days in a Nordic paradise. We were able to fit in quite a few activities thanks to the incredibly efficient Iceland tourism industry. On our first full day, we traveled to the relaxing Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa set on a lava field in the Reykjanes Peninsula. The second day was for adventure, with a small airplane flight from Reykjavik airport to Rif airport on the Snæfellsjökull peninsula and back. The mountain and glacier views were stunning.

Iceland Flight

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Posted 6 May 2015 by John McManigle in Adventure, Flying, Travel

Flying the NYC Hudson River Corridor   Leave a comment

NYC TACThe Hudson River runs through the heart of New York City and between four large commercial airports. The river carves out a VFR corridor from the highly regulated airspace otherwise encompassing the city, allowing sightseeing flights by any prepared pilot.

I’ve been meaning to take this flight for a while, and Lisa and I got the chance on Sunday evening. We flew north from Baltimore, over Philadelphia’s airspace, and descended to 1,300 feet by the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We called the approach controllers and were cleared through the controlled airspace to fly along the lights of the Manhattan skyline. Upon reaching the George Washington Bridge, we turned around, descended into the VFR corridor (below 1,300 feet) and flew southbound along the New Jersey side of the river. We circled the Statue of Liberty at 800 feet before exiting the corridor to the south. From there, we turned back toward Philadelphia to land and enjoy a restaurant week dinner at Garces Trading Company.

Seeing the NYC skyline from just a few hundred feet was breathtaking. Though it was a bit bumpy, Lisa managed to get a few great pictures. And the flight planning and flying itself, while it took a bit of attention, wasn’t too daunting. Altogether, a fantastic night!


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Posted 19 Jan 2014 by John McManigle in Adventure, Flying

Instrument Flight Rating   Leave a comment

View during a night ILS approach. The pilot may descend to 200 ft above the ground without visual reference. With approach lights in view, the pilot can proceed to 100 ft, whereupon the runway threshold must be visible to continue.

Most non-commercial flying is carried out under visual flight rules (VFR). VFR flight is similar to driving a car or operating a boat: regulations and conventions provide recognized “rules of the road” to guide the pilot’s decisions, but safety is ultimately achieved by looking out the window. When flying under VFR, pilots must “see and avoid” obstacles, whether airborne (other aircraft, skydivers, balloons) or on the ground (towers, mountains).

The alternative to VFR is instrument flight rules, a set of regulations and procedures facilitating flight when the pilot doesn’t have visibility to maintain obstacle clearance, commonly due to weather. The departure and en route phases of IFR flight are governed by air traffic control clearances — route and altitude assignments based on navigation radios or GPS. By coordinating these assignments, air traffic controllers ensure no two airplanes are in the same space. The approach to landing is guided by published “approach plates” unique to each airport. These charts guide the pilot along specific, descending paths which, with any luck, culminate in exiting the clouds just in front of the runway.

As you might imagine based on the complexity of some of these procedures, flying under IFR requires an additional pilot rating and its own written, oral, and in-flight examinations. During the first two years of medical school at Duke, I had started working towards the instrument rating with instructors at Empire Aviation. After a flying hiatus while I was in Oxford, I’ve spent most of this year completing the required instruction with Brett Aviation in Baltimore. I completed the required hours just before departing to Florida for the holidays, and was lucky enough to find FlightGest, a Raleigh-Durham flight school that went above and beyond to schedule an instrument check ride in coordination with the drive back from Key West. The tests went well, and I’m now certificated to fly into the clouds!

Posted 3 Jan 2014 by John McManigle in Flying

Baltimore Lights   Leave a comment

One of the many joys of the holiday season can be found in the crisp air and sparkling lights in the long nights. Here are pictures from two examples.

First, Lisa and I went to Baltimore’s 34th Street, where for the past 66 years, (most of the) residents take it upon themselves to put together a pretty impressive holiday light show. The block really stands out against most of downtown Baltimore’s rowhouses, where a few lights in the window are the norm.

Next, Grace, a friend from DukeMed who originally hails from Baltimore, took a flight with me to see her hometown from the air. The air traffic controllers let us fly around the downtown area, and Grace was able to get a couple of great pictures of the Inner Harbor and Johns Hopkins Hospital.


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Posted 21 Dec 2013 by John McManigle in Flying, Notes

Labor Day in Ocean City, NJ   1 comment

For a long time, I’ve wistfully looked at Ocean City, NJ Airpot on the sectional chart. It’s placed perfectly, just a few blocks from the beach. This Labor Day, I finally got there with a few friends from Philadelphia.

The morning weather in Philly wasn’t cooperative, and delayed our adventure to mid-afternoon. I landed at Philadelphia International and went into town to pick up Lisa, Eva, and Jerome. After Lisa ensured that her parents were thinking up a good eulogy and Jerome picked out his favorite Star Wars quotes for the occasion, we launched into a rapidly clearing sky and headed for the coast.

The arrival was quick and easy, and we set off for a wander on the beach and boardwalk before dinner at Hula Grill. We strolled back to the airport (via ice cream, of course) and enjoyed short night flight up and down the Atlantic City skyline before heading back to Philadelphia.

Photo Sep 02, 19 21 01



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Posted 2 Sep 2013 by John McManigle in Adventure, Flying

Elk Country   Leave a comment

My grandfather, who lives in Emporium, Pennsylvania, celebrated his birthday on Friday. My dad made the 5-hour drive on Friday afternoon to celebrate his birthday dinner, but my sister Lorne and I decided to fly up on Saturday instead.

IMG_0873   IMG_0889

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Posted 11 Aug 2013 by John McManigle in Flying

Le Bleu Ridge Redux   Leave a comment

Marcel McNicoll, co-proprietor of Le Bleu Ridge and long-time aviation aficionado, has his birthday on 30 July. This weekend, I flew down to Charlottesville with his daughter Léa and friend Melinda to celebrate the occasion.

Photo Jul 28, 16 23 35   P1010994

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Posted 28 Jul 2013 by John McManigle in Flying

Le Bleu Ridge Adventure   2 comments

On Saturday, I flew with Léa (from a recent adventure) and two new friends, Meg and Mara, to Waynesboro, Virginia. We landed at Eagle’s Nest Airport, nestled just beside the Blue Ridge Mountains. There, we met Léa’s parents and energetic dog, Muffin, and set off to visit Afton Mountain Vineyards. We enjoyed a wine tasting (though in the spirit of 14 CFR 91.17.a.1, I had to pretend to be a wine snob and refrain from swallowing) and certainly found their motto “grapes don’t grow in ugly places” to be no shallow boast.

From there, we set off to hike to Humpback Rock. Along the way, Muffin really came into her own, deciding that she wanted to find out whether she was part bird. Her shenanigans turned an otherwise uneventful hike into a feat of balance and prediction. The view from the top was spectacular, marred only by “Bear”, a local ne’er-do-well with a penchant for off-color humor. But we persevered, and descended victorious.

Then, it was off to Le Bleu Ridge, a beautiful bed and breakfast that Léa’s parents own and operate on a stunning piece of land in Afton. Although we narrowly missed the last tasting at the Flying Fox Vineyard, we chatted the night away over an amazing dinner of yogurt-marinated chicken, grilled steak, succulent scallops and shrimp, rice, and crunchy veg. And topped off with ice cream, strawberries, chocolate, and maple syrup over the first Le Bleu Bonfire of the season!

Of course, the night was over far too soon, and we had to head back to Martin State Airport in Baltimore. The flight to Virginia was quite turbulent under fair weather cumulous clouds and a strong headwind, to the dismay of the two first-time small-plane passengers. The return flight was just the opposite: the windy afternoon gave way to a clear, still evening. Combined with the extremely generous routing from Potomac Approach, which put us practically on top of Dulles and BWI airports (pictures below), it was an extremely pleasant flight back, and a wonderful adventure overall. I certainly hope to see Le Bleu Ridge again!

Photo Apr 13, 16 59 03


Le Bleu Ridge


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Posted 13 Apr 2013 by John McManigle in Adventure, Flying

Penn State Visit   Leave a comment

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I flew up to Penn State to talk with some students in the Schreyer Honors College about life in medical school and graduate school. The little SHC alumni event went well, and afterwards I found myself strolling around campus and downtown State College, taking in the sights. As I decided it was time to go, I wandered by the Student Health Center (affectionately known to relative old-timers as “New Ritenour“) to see whether any of my old coworkers happened to be around. I found a few people I knew second-hand and a few more new friends, as it turned out EMS was welcoming the spring with a bit of a cookout, complete with s’mores. Needless to say, I joined in, and then got the two-ambulance escort to the airport. Of course, PSU EMS provides first response to the University Park Airport in addition to the rest of campus, so in the interests of safety I gave a quick aerial tour of the campus to the EMTs who drove me up to the airport. They seemed to enjoy it, and the tower controller was very accommodating.

Photo Apr 06, 19 14 01


Posted 6 Apr 2013 by John McManigle in Flying