Wilmington At Last!

Hunter and I finally made it to Wilmington, but not without delays. Wilmington is a towered airport, and though we were nervous about it, we’ve been wanting the practice. However, when we heard that the headset jacks weren’t working in our plane, we both agreed it would be a bad idea to trek into a busy towered with our (lack of) experience and not have working headsets. There’s no requirement for them, but the planes are loud and yelling into a mic and yelling at each other is not my idea of fun.

Since we can’t leave anything alone, we messed with the headset jacks and discovered it was a single wire that had broken at its solder point. A call to Mr. Mechanic and a half hour later I managed to solder the wire back on and we were back in business.

Shortly after getting in the air, we got flight following from Fayetteville approach. Visibility was reported as greater than 10 miles, but it was pretty hazy, so it was nice to have the extra set of radar eyes watching out for us.

As we approached Wilmington, we quickly realized just how busy it is there. They have approximately 250 aircraft operating there each day, only 30 less per day than the rather busy Raleigh/Durham. We managed to follow all the instructions without too much trouble, but Hunter did have to land in some gusty winds again. It was… entertaining. 🙂 We made it to the ramp, shutdown and let out a big sigh.

After a small snack, we swapped places and took some time listening to the radio activity to get a better idea of the expected communications for departure. The winds were also higher than forecast, so we waited nearly an hour for them to die down a little. During that time, we saw a dozen small jets, a few larger airline jets, and a handful of small planes like ours come and go. We also saw two enormous V-22 Osprey land and shutdown less than 100 yards from us. Those are some huge propellers!

I managed to make it through all the radio work and get the plane to the correct runway without incident. As we taxied out, a US Airways 737 was on final approach with all its lights glaring; it was a really cool sight to see as we sat there in our tin box a few hundred feet away. We were number two for takeoff and after a successful run-up, I got us in the air as quickly as the plane could.

After reaching Wilmington’s radar limit, they passed us on to Fayetteville for continued flight following. A few minutes later, they advised us of traffic: a Mooney at 11 o’clock at our altitude heading our way. I couldn’t see it, so I responded likewise. A couple minutes later approach advised as follows: “433, if you still don’t have the Mooney in sight, I suggest you climb immediately to 3,500 feet.” We didn’t have the Mooney in sight, so I started to climb. At about 3,400 feet Hunter and I both watched this pretty Mooney traveling at a fairly high speed pass below and slightly behind us. I advised approach and we descended back to 3,000. I don’t know how close he would’ve been had we not climbed, but with visibility not so great it was really nice having Mr. Approach guy on our side.

The rest of the flight was uneventful. It was a good experience and we plan to get more towered airports on our plans, but it sure requires a lot more concentration. I’m ready for another podunk grass strip.