Quick Flight For Dinner . . . Or . . . The $300 Hamburger

John HurlbutFlyingLeave a Comment

All over pilot blogs, forums, books, etc. there is mention of the $100 hamburger. The premise is that as pilots we will find any reason to fly, even if it’s just to fly across town to a neighboring airport for lunch and back.

The airport I fly out of, Pierce County Thun Field (KPLU), has a restaurant and nearly every weekend I see pilots flying in for breakfast and flying out. So of course after getting my pilot’s license this is one of the things I wanted to do, grab a $100 hamburger.  However, I’ve pretty much realized that to get this $100 hamburger, the only way you’re going to do it is if the airport you fly out of happens to have a restaurant.  Because renting a plane at roughly $135.00/hour about the only way you’re going to keep the cost under $100 is to take off, do a couple laps in the pattern around the airport for about 1/2 hour, land and grab lunch.

Now for that hamburger you’re going to spend pretty close to $200 at a minimum.  There may be two airports with restaurants closer than Pierce County and Tacoma Narrows (KTIW) that you could use to achieve this goal, but I don’t know of any.  So on May 30th, that’s what we did! I called up and got the plane for 5PM and Teri and I headed over to The Hub at Tacoma Narrows for dinner.

I asked Teri which route she wanted to take, over McChord AFB or follow the Puyallup River and go over downtown Tacoma (secretly hoping she’d choose over McChord AFB) . She chose over McChord (sweet!) which is the most direct route, but does force you to chat with the controller at McChord (KTCM). In addition immediately after clearing McChord’s airspace, you need to be on the radio to Tacoma Narrows tower to let them know your intentions.

The class D airspaces of McChord and Tacoma Narrows abut each other. The McChord tower guys know that a lot of us that fly over are just going to KTIW and so about 1/2 over their airspace the controller came on and asked what my intentions were. I told him we were headed to KTIW and he immediately signed me off so I could talk to the controller at KTIW.  I had already listened to the weather there so I could call up the tower and report that I had current conditions.

Narrows Bridges on Downwind for Runway 17 - Photo Copyright Teri Hurlbut

Narrows Bridges on Downwind for Runway 17 – Photo Copyright Teri Hurlbut

For new pilots, this is a GREAT exercise to get you comfortable with talking to controllers and CRM (Cockpit Resource Management).  In the span of about 15 minutes you’ve taken off at one airport, talked to a controller at another to get permission to transition their airspace, listened to the weather at a third airport and talked to a controller at that third airport all while you’re maneuvering to enter the pattern and land at the third airport. (This is why I was hoping Teri would pick this route, so I could show her that I’ve got some skillz!)

The Hub Restaurant and Control tower at KTIW.

The Hub Restaurant and Control tower at KTIW.

Teri got to see the building she works at as we flew over McChord, so that was cool too. I’ll also say it’s pretty cool to land, taxi to parking in front of the restaurant, secure the airplane and walk across the ramp into the restaurant. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I wasn’t a pilot, I always looked at those folks with a bit of envy. Like someday that’s going to be me. And now it IS and it feels super good!

We had a great dinner at the Hub and over dinner Teri asked if we could do a little sight seeing on the way back to the south. So I decided we’d fly south over Lacey, then East over Eatonville and back to Thun Field.

We took off with departure to the South (approved by the tower of course) and when we got over Anderson Island, I did a 360° turn around Teri’s dad’s home on Anderson Island, then when we got over Lacey, Teri texted our friends Rick & Annette to let them know we were stalking them and we did a 360° turn over their house too. Both times BTW, I maintained Practical Test Standards and didn’t lose or gain more than about 20 feet in altitude!

Then we headed out over Horizon Pointe in Lacey which happens to have a tiny little corridor that’s just out side the Military Operations Area for Fort Lewis and just outside the class D airspace for the Olympia Airport.

We flew up over Eatonville and came in to land.  It was a fun night and I can’t wait to do more of them! Sometime soon we’ll do a sunset flight and come in after dark. This evening I didn’t have my night currency so we couldn’t do that, but that was to be shortly rectified. Look for an upcoming blog post describing that. With VIDEO! 🙂 The bottom line is that even with these airports being so close, I don’t think we could get over and back even taking the shortest route each way for less than $200 with dinner. But it’s so worth it!

I’m gonna love this being a pilot thing! This summer is going to be EPIC! 

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