Vistas like this is why I continue to be fascinated by powered flight. Just 25 nautical miles north of my home field at Olean Airport is the Genesee River gorge that makes up New York State’s Letchworth Park. Today after I got the plane started I taxied to Runway 4 and began my takeoff roll. I had my ailerons deflected slightly into the direct cross-wind that was indicated by the windsock. The Skyhawk sprang into the crisp fall air and I quickly climbed to 3500 feet. I had planned a higher cruising altitude, but a broken layer of clouds at 4000 feet changed those plans. I leveled off and began my north eastward flight toward the Genesee River Valley. As my little craft moved along at 105 knots the terrain moved fairly quickly by. I brought my GPS along to help me find my way home, but familiarity with the route helped me to find my way quickly toward the river valley. First the Rawson Road, then Rushford, Rushford Lake, Hume, Fillmore and follow the river to Portageville, New York. The gorge begins at Portageville and snakes its way north for eighteen miles. My aircraft would cover the distance in much less than ten minutes, but an automobile usually takes almost five times that long. As I turned toward home I spied another pilot, perhaps 300 feet above me moving from right to left. Although I keep my head on a swivel in scenic vistas like this there are usually others trying to enjoy the view too. Usually at Letchworth I encounter hot air balloons, but today it was a fixed wing sightseer like me. The trip back was a bit smoother, and a little slower as I was facing a ten knot headwind and I got to see Houghton College from the back side. I flew nearly over the top of their equestrian center. When I returned the airport was busier as there was a Piper Cub ready to takeoff and a Cessna 150 taxing toward the runway. In all I’d been aloft a little less than an hour. I’m grateful for the gift of flying.
I drove up to Olean Airport in nearby Ischua, New York on my way home from Mount Irenaeus this afternoon to see how the improvements were progressing. This year has seen a complete remodeling of the offices, a new roof, a new driveway, fencing and new ramp for aircraft. A regular visitor must be impressed not only with the quality but the relative speed of the improvements. Add to that the airports new website is now fully operational. I have had a very small part to play in that process. Nonetheless, I highly recommend you visit the virtual presence of “Oscar Lima Echo” as a pilot might refer to it. Click here to visit the new airport web site.
I’m always excited to visit the airport whether driving up Hatch Hill or entering the pattern from above. I remember driving up to the airport with my father and grandfather to watch the earth movers take off the top of the hill. Later as a high school student I took my first ride in a Cessna 170 from this airport. The airport support group has compiled a nice history of the airport.