COPA Bahamas Trip PIREP, Part 1

Here is an account of the delightful Bahamas trip some intrepid COPA members made on May 3rd - 6th, 2002.

My original plan was to fly from Alabama to Spartanburg, SC on Friday night, meet up with my friend Jay Duncan, spend the night in Spartanburg, then strike out for Ft. Pierce, FL early Saturday morning. Because of the thunderstorms forecast for Saturday morning, we did a quick turnaround in Spartanburg and took off for Florida that night.

Our flight down was uneventful, since we outran the front coming east from Georgia. Coming into Ft. Pierce on a long final, I was cleared to land “number two behind the Queen Air.” As I got in closer, I finally spotted the Queen Air on base. It soon became obvious that we were going to beat them to the runway. Gee whiz, I was only doing 120 knots! Out of respect for our newer technology, the tower made the Queen Air do a 360 while we landed.

I didn’t know where to go, so Ground Control suggested The Tiki, where “all of the other Cirrus were.” I squeezed into a parking place next to Roger Fermon’s '20, chocked it, and put on the cover.

Fortunately, we met Roger and his instructor friend Aaron waiting for a hotel shuttle to the Radisson. Jay and I hitched a ride on the shuttle and got one of the last available rooms.

At dinner in the hotel restaurant, we ran into Marty Kent and his wife Deb. Apparently, we had stumbled into COPA’s secret Florida HQ, where all the high-level executive decisions are made (Chicken or fish? Baked potato or french fries?)

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and a walk on the beach, we packed up and headed for the airport via hotel shuttle. There I met John Kinsey, Rick Beach, and Myron and Barbara Garfinkle for the first time.

We got our planes fueled, asked some last-minute questions of Marty about flight planning and all the little forms, and filed. It was the first time I had filed an International Flight plan, and I learned a few things. For instance, did you know that the Cirrus wake turbulence category is “L” for “Light”? At any rate, the examples and blank forms that Marty included in his excellent package of trip information made it easy. I filed IFR, since I’ve pretty much forgotten how to fly VFR for anything more complicated than touch-and-goes.

After a thorough and slightly paranoid pre-flight inspection, we got our survival gear in order. While I was at Sun 'N Fun, I bought a Winslow inflatable life raft. We put it in the center of the back seat, so either of us could reach it. I also bought two Switlik “Helicopter Crew” inflatable life vests, which we put donned. The vests had pockets, so I double-bagged my handheld radio in Ziplok bags and put it in a vest pocket, along with a tube of sunblock. Jay carried a Garmin handheld GPS in his vest, also double-bagged.

The rest of our survival gear consisted of a gallon jug of water, and a watertight plastic Rubbermaid box with a first aid kit, flashlights, and snacks. Unfortunately, the box didn’t have enough room for a television, VCR, or adult beverages, so if we did have to ditch, it would have been hell. All of this went into the back seat within arms reach.

Finally, we were ready to launch.

To be continued …