New Year’s 2021/2022 Trip – Savannah

In Flights, Trips, Journal by Steve Sliwa

We have had a tradition of either hosting friends or traveling with friends over the New Year holiday.  This tradition was impacted by COVID last year.  Leading up to this year, Nancy and I discussed with friends Marcie Smith (Nancy’s flying partner) and Susan Larson (99’s friend) some options for the 2021/2022 trip.  We conducted a couple of Zoom calls and narrowed in on making a trip to Savannah GA for New Year’s Eve.  It turns out hotels were pretty booked for the actual New Year’s Eve, so we planned to shift to Tampa for that day to get some Cuban food.

Here is the logistical plan that I worked out for the trip:

It’s pretty amazing that we stayed close to the plan.  The main differences were on the return trip.  We were limited to about 2 hours flight time due to weight limitations with 4 people and baggage.  Basically, we had to start with lower fuel levels.  We prefer a little bit more than an hour of fuel in reserve, so the flights were short.  We had strong headwinds on the way back and nice tailwinds for some of the legs going out.  Here are the airports at which we actually landed:

Tuesday, 28 December 2022

We started at KSDL (Scottsdale) and returned to KSDL at the end.  We picked up and dropped off Marcie at Hayward (KHWD) and Susan at Santa Fe (KSAF).  On the first leg flight to Hayward, I worked with a GoPro camera to record most of the flight.  Nancy was the pilot and I was the co-pilot.  Here is just the final approach to Hayward.  I experimented with different resolutions and sizes.  The raw file from GoPro at 1080p was almost a TB.  I used CloudConvert.com to do the conversion.  (It’s free for amateur and low usage).  This version came out a little more than 100MB.

video

Unbelievably, I received an e-mail with a link to a YouTube video of Nancy’s landing.  We suspect that a camera person on a News or Traffic helicopter caught her approach into Hayward.

video

So clearly the first leg was well-documented.  On the second leg, Marcie flew to Santa Fe with Nancy as the co-pilot.  It was uneventful with nice tailwinds.  For a good portion of the flight, we averaged over 400 knots groundspeed.  It was a little tricky coming in for landingbecause the winds favored one of their narrow auxiliary runways, and the clouds interfered with a visual approach.  I grabbed Marcie’s approach from the GoPro into Santa Fe which showed her maneuvering around clouds and landing in strong winds with a modest cross-wind component.

video

Once on the ground, we had a bag lunch together with the four of us (Susan joined us).  I flew the next leg to KLIT (Little Rock, AZ) with Susan as co-pilot.  She got used to configuring the radios and got a chance to review the G3000 displays.  We got there a little after dusk and had a little trouble spotting the airport for the visual approach.  I ultimately got the gear dropped and full flaps deployed early as we almost flew by the actual runway and we had to drop in.

We stayed at the Downtown Hilton Garden and walked through the downtown waterfront section.  We entered a couple of interesting restaurants, but they were all booked on a Tuesday night.  We ultimately selected the Copper Grill right next door to the hotel.  It was just right after a long day of flying.

Originally we were going to record all of our meals and individual orders, but I decided not to go into quite so much detail.  I will point out more of the interesting dining places as we certainly got to experience some great food.  It put us behind on our New Year’s diet resolutions, but we all felt it was worth it.

Wed, 29 December 2022

We got up early and had planned for an 8 AM departure.  We suspected that there was going to be storm fronts blocking us and we were expecting to have to divert south.  We were expecting lighter tailwinds and with the deviation an additional landing might be required.  However, when we got up, the airport was fogged in.  When we arrived the weather had improved to 1/8 mile visibility.  Most corporate operators have a minimum of 1/2 mile, which is not a bad gouge.  We were waiting for the visibility to improve, but at the same time, a storm front was approaching the airport from the West.  Nancy was the Captain on this leg and she elected to depart when it was about 1/4 mile visibility.  She made a good take-off and it wasn’t long before we were in the clear.  I think we were the second or third plane to take off that morning.  Here is the flight path from FlightAware.  Note the storms approaching Little Rock (KLIT).

Once we arrived at Savannah we got a rental car and headed for our hotel on the waterfront section.  The Cotton Sail Hotel is an old sailing vessel sail warehouse/loft.  It was converted to a hotel of about the Hilton Garden class. Our rooms weren’t quite ready, so we opted for lunch on the roof at the Top Deck Bar.  Our rooms overlooked the waterfront section and we could easily spot giant container ships going by, mostly in the evening.

Note that pictures of the ground activities will be included in the slide show/picture gallery at the end.

That afternoon we took a long walk along the waterfront to see the touristy area.  People then took naps or did more window shopping (or both).  That evening I had pre-reserved a dinner at Garibaldi’s, a 10-minute walk from the hotel.  I was a bit nervous as we passed what appeared to be several interesting and excellent restaurants on the way.  However, the team fell in love with the dining room decor and was won over by the bread stage.  Susan got her first grouper dish and the rest of us we happy with the food and service.  Phew, now the pressure was off.

Thurs, 30 December 2022

The next day our first event was a Segway tour of the historical section of Savannah.  Nancy arranged it with Adventure Tours in Motion.   Our tour leader, Mark, was a local high school history teacher.  He shared a lot of useful information and kept us safe.  It was Marcie’s first time.  Unfortunately, she had a dismount problem about half way through.  She ended up with minor bumps and bruises.  However, she said she would do it again.  We had lunch at Savannah River House restaurant, which was at the waterfront level of our hotel.  Interestingly the hotel went 2 floors above ground level and 3 floors below.  That afternoon we broke up for more walking, window shopping, shopping, and naps.

That evening we had dinner at 700 Drayton which is part of the Mansion on Forsyth Park luxory hotel.  They were both incredibly elegant and stylish.  I would recommend hotels and restaurants from this Kessler group based upon this single evening’s observations.  Our dining room was exquisite, our waiter (Dontrell) was terrific, and the food was excellent.  I had pre-ordered the Savannah Experience was a chef’s table collection of 4 courses.  It was a lot of food, but we enjoyed all of the tastes.

Friday, 31 December 2022

We departed Savannah about 10AM the next morning to allow the mist to burn off from both Savannah and Tampa.  The flight was short with Marcie in the left seat and Nancy in the right seat.  Unfortunately, I had a major faus paux.  I parked the car at the curb of the FBO and accidetnally took the keys with me.  Normally, you park in a rental car spot and give the keys and rental car sleeve to customer service desk.  Somehow, I just left them in my pocket and didn’t realize it until Tampa.  It was New Year’s eve and there was no way to ship them that day.  The earliest I could do it was the following Monday.  Mea culpa!  We ended up paying for a week’s car rental!

After arriving at Tampa we went to the Florida Aquarium.  We grabbed a quick lunch in the snack area and then toured in between the kids and families.  The girls enjoyed the birds, the coral, the sharks, Nemo, stingrays, and other favorites.  My favorite was the otter.  The one that was active was quite entertaining.  I think he knew I was a pilot and did acrobatics for me.

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After the aquarium, we went and checked in at the hotel.  We prepped for an early dinner at the Columbia Restaurant.  It turns out that we had to maneuver around the Outback Bowl New Year’s Eve Parade in Ybor City.  Ybor City is the historical Cuban section of town.  The Columbia Restaurant is famous in Florida with several around the state (including St. Augustine and Orlando) and has been around for 5 generations.  Our goal was to get a good Cuban meal and hit the sack early for departure the next morning.  Our meals were excellent and we did catch some of the parade and decorations before heading back to the hotel.

Saturday, 1 Jan 2022

We got up early the next morning and made it to the airport by 7:15 AM. We were in the air by 7:40 and headed to our first stop at Hammond, LA (KHDC).  We’ve noted that Vision Jet owners like to stop and get fueled there due to the good ‘contract’ fuel prices.  The ceiling started at 1,000 AGL at KHDC and the Tampa weather was about 1/2 mile in visibility in the early morning mist.  Captain Nancy was used to it by now so it was no impediment.  Our main concerns for the day, though, were powerful storms just north of our track, low vis along the coasts, strong  headwinds, and strong crosswinds behind the storm front.

In particular, Texas runways are mostly north and south, but winds were forecast to be about 15 knots with gusts to 28 knots from the west.  Vision Jet’s maximum crosswind landing limits are 16 knots with full flaps and 18 knots with half-flaps.  The headwinds were strong and our fuel limited us to 2-hour legs.  We ended up taking the next leg to San Marcos to get a runway lined up with the wind.  Susan and I flew that leg and it was uneventful.

Marcie determined that going direct to Santa Fe would result in 50 gallons of fuel left at the destination.  That is the minimum according to the book, but we prefer more like 70 or 80 gallons.  So Marcie launched us, with Nancy as co-pilot, for Lubbock, TX (KLBB).  We made a quick turn and then Susan and I flew the last leg of the day to Santa Fe.  Susan acted as the autopilot and “flew the bars” (flight director) for the first 30 minutes.  During that time we climbed up over a storm front that contained icing.  We were anticipating problems flying into Santa Fe as the winds were strong and two runways were closed due to snow.  When we arrived, the winds mostly lined up with the main runway but we had to fly a GPS approach due to low clouds preventing a visual approach.  We went into icing twice during the approach which meant we had some configuration changes coming in, for a little extra complexity.  All good though.  Susan had arranged for us to get into the hangar for the night.  Santa Fe was expecting a low of 10 deg F, not fun to start airplanes in the morning.

Susan proposed a backup plan to dinner at a restaurant.  She suggested hosting at her relatively new home that I hadn’t seen.  We could also spend time with Obie (her dog) and Micheala, her cat.  Also, her racing partner Amy Ecclesine needed a ride to the Bay area.  We offered to take her with us.  So she met us for dinner bringing the primo ‘kitchen-sink’ salad.  We failed at trying to successfully guess all of the ingredients. Susan had prepped these excellent enchiladas and we had our first home-cooked meal in days.

One embarrassment is we got stuck in Susan’s driveway due to snow. Basically, there was no place to turn around and I tried to back up down the driveway and slipped off the edge.  We were stuck for about 10 minutes until we figure a way to push and slide our way off.  We did this before dinner and left the car on the road as an extra precaution.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Nancy took the first leg to Bullhead City / Laughlin.  We planned a later departure hoping we could get the weather up to 15 or 20 deg F before the engine start.  Headwinds were still strong so progress was slow.   On the outbound trip made it in one leg from Hayward to Santa Fe with the strong tailwinds.  But we needed two legs going back with 50-knot headwinds.  Down low the winds were 18 knots gusting to 30 knots on landing at KIFP.  Here is a video of Nancy’s landing in strong headwinds:

video

The next leg to Hayward (KHWD) had Marcie flying in the pilot seat and Nancy in the co-pilot seat.  Marcie flew the RNAV/GPS 28 approach in and that completed her trip.  Amy called a friend to come and pick her up and we delivered the last two.

Nancy and I fueled up and headed back to Scottsdale.  The weather was pretty good, tailwinds were modest, and we ended up landing at about 3:30 PM.  It was quite a trip. Malcolm added 26.6 hours of Hobbs time (engine on) and 22.7 hours of flight time.  So that is our longest expedition to date after our qualifications.

Afterward, we jointly agreed that we enjoyed the following highlights from the trip:

  • great flight experiences
  • good company
  • excellent meals
  • Savannah (most said they would consider returning for more exploration & meals)

Here is a photo gallery of just a few pictures from our trip.  Click any picture to enlarge and enter the photo viewer/slideshow mode.

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