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Portsmouth, NH to Pompano Beach, FL


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I needed to reposition my CTLS to south Florida for the winter, so my wife and I recently took a leisurely trip south.  For the past several months I had been playing on Skyvector to find a route with just the right leg length to allow us to stay at some fine hotels along the way.  My intention was to fly inland along the Appalachian Mountains and overnight at some select resorts.  At the last minute, with the combination of several weather systems and the realization that the late fall did not afford the best mountain views, I switched to a more coastal oriented itinerary.  I’ll save the inland route for the return in the spring.


The costal route is great for sightseeing.  I’m encouraged to see how much of the east coast beaches remain undeveloped (and, for the most part, not very accessible), especially around South Carolina and Georgia.  The coast, of course, provides numerous options for great overnight stops.  Norfolk Beach, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, St. Simons, Charleston, Savannah, Kiaweh Island, just to name a few.


I’m constantly surprised at the reaction to the CTLS.  The line crews are always fascinated.


Day 1:  KPSM-3N6-KCGE


Portsmouth, NH to Cambridge, MD.  Flew at 2,800’ to NY and then transited through the Hudson River VFR corridor at 1,100’.  A great aerial tour of Manhattan!  There is an easy online course you need to take before flying this route, but the protocol is simple and worth the trip.  Several of the buildings were higher than our altitude.  We stayed at 1,100’ until a quick fuel stop at Old Bridge airport.  Not a place I would return to except to get some self-service fuel.  Went back to 2,800’ (one of my favorite altitudes for the New England area to pop over all the Class D airspaces) for the rest of the trip to Cambridge.


I used flight following for most of the route, except I was dropped around Danbury, CT (“radar services terminated…”) and again around Philly.  Cambridge is in 60-mile ring of Washington, DC so you will need to take the DC Special Flight Rules Area course.  When I got my weather briefing in the morning, the briefer asked me to confirm I had completed the training.  Surprisingly, ATC did not ask the question.  Admittedly, there are no particular requirements outside the 30-mile zone that impact a CTLS.


The Cambridge airport is a nice place to land.  It was planned to be a landing location for jets visiting nearby industrial facilities that have not yet materialized.  The terminal is less than 10 years old and has a restaurant specializing in fried seafood.


The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay is only 1.5 miles away and on the bay.  Great hotel with a great location.  Good destination for golfers.




Cambridge, MD to Hilton Head Island.  We intended to stay overnight in Myrtle Beach, but since poor weather was forecast for the next two days I landed to get some fuel and continued south headed to Hilton Head.  At Warren Field (KOCW), a leg-stretch stop, they are in the process of building a new terminal, so now the FBO is only a small modular unit.


Along the way, I got a “Warning – Electrical Current” message and noticed that my amps were down to -51!  I started shutting off electrical equipment and I unplugged a USB charger from the 12V outlet.  Eventually (within a minute), the condition cleared, albeit gradually, and I never saw the issue again.  No circuit breakers tripped.


Heading further south didn’t help us get clear of the impending weather.  We ended up stranded in Hilton Head for 2 nights due to fog and low ceilings, but enjoyed the area and beach resorts.  I recommend the Lucky Rooster for dinner (we ate there both nights), a suggestion from the FBO.  Signature Aviation was exceptionally friendly and helpful.


For routing, once we left Cambridge, we headed out toward the eastern shore and flew along the Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel.  On the eastern shore, if you are flying relatively low (I was at 1,200’), you won’t be able to raise ATC for flight following.  I picked them up again as I headed to Norfolk and they cleared me through the Class C airspace.




Hilton Head to Fernandina Beach, FL.  Finally it looked as though the IFR weather was going to lift along the route to Pompano Beach.  While Hilton Head had 3,000’ ceilings, the ceilings along the route were forecast to change from IFR to MVFR to VFR in the afternoon.  We departed Hilton Head and figured we could make it to Pompano in about 4 hours, perhaps with a stop in Melbourne or Vero Beach for lunch.


The rest of the route would be along the shoreline at about 1,000’.  For this, I usually will set the autopilot to TRK+ALT and adjust my track to hug the shoreline of the moving map.


Just south of Savannah, I lost ATC and flight following due to my altitude.  They suggested trying Jacksonville when I got further south.  The ceilings were about 1,300-1,500 feet.  That’s another reason I like the shore – I don’t have to worry about towers or any other obstacles (other than traffic, but no one else seemed to be out flying).  After I passed over St. Simons, it looked as though the forecast for lifting ceilings was not happening, but I ventured further south with the expectation that if there was no improvement, I would put down back at St. Simons Island.  At Fernandina Beach, FL, the ceilings were down to just under 1,000’ so a turn-back was inevitable.  Until I spotted the Fernandina Beach airport.  I flew the pattern at about 600’ and smoothly set her down.


We ended up stuck (if you call two nights at the Ritz Carlton stuck) in Fernandina Beach.  Very nice airport with a small FBO that likely caters to a lot of jet traffic and others spending time at the shore.  Much to my wife’s delight, I opted to stay the extra night and not hope for a later day lifting of the weather (which turned out to be the right call).




Fernandina Beach to Pompano Beach.  The weather system dissipated and the ceilings lifted from MVFR to VFR for the final 3 hours to Pompano.  I tried to fly at 1,000’, but ATC requested I go to, at various times, 2,000’ and 2,800’ for traffic avoidance.  Normally I can get through West Palm Beach at 500’ or below, but ATC wanted me much higher and no closer than a mile from shore.  In theory, of course, I could have terminated the radar services and opted to go the same route at 1,200’ or less and still stay out of their Class C, but decided to stay with the traffic advisories.


Overall, as with any flight, some thorough advance planning and a healthy does of flexibility made for a great trip.  I read recently that people get more benefit out of spending money on experiences rather than material goods.  In this case I have both:  my CTLS and the ability to make fun, memorable trips like this.

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jbm3, nice report.  Your route is one that many N. Eastern U.S. fliers will use for the seasonal trips to the south and are interested in.  It is interesting to interact with people at gas stops during cross country trips.  Most GA pilots are not aware of the capabilities of the Flight Design aircraft and I find that most are surprised when they find out how far we have come in such a short time on so little fuel.

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