Flying Helps You Catch Up with Distant Family and Friends

Your ideal aircraft can be a tool for reconnecting.

Beautiful scenery abounds on the flight to the flight to New York’s Finger Lakes region. [Credit: Jonathan Welsh]

One of my strategies for logging more hours aloft this year than last involved listing all of the places I have planned or promised to visit by air since receiving my private pilot certificate. While I have yet to complete the list, I managed to check off one of the longest-neglected destinations over the weekend.

After weeks of rain, snow, ice, and wind, decent weather arrived in my neck of the Northeast. I had been watching the forecasts and was prepared to log at least a few hours as the sun took over the skies and temperatures clawed their way above freezing by Sunday. As usual, though, deciding on where to fly was a challenge—until I remembered my list. Near the top was Williamson-Sodus Airport (KSDC), near my sister MaryBeth’s home. I texted her, asking if she would be home in the afternoon.

Indeed, “near the airport” does not quite characterize Mare’s proximity. Her property abuts the field at the arrival end of Runway 28. She has reminded me of this several times, even mentioning that the airport occasionally sends crews to trim trees on her property to keep the approach path clear. Williamson is rural, and the airport is surrounded by small farms. Still, I did not appreciate that the airport was her next-door neighbor until I entered the traffic pattern and spotted her silo, which I used as a reference when making my base turn.

Williamson/Sodus Airport (KSDC) is a friendly field with a 3,803-foot runway, self-service fuel and an active flying club. [Credit: Jonathan Welsh]

While I had visited her before, I had never flown to Williamson, despite the airport’s convenient location and the fact that Annie, our Commander 114B, can make the trip in an hour and change instead of five hours in the car. Flying direct is a huge advantage because for drivers, Williamson seems like one of those “you can’t get there from here” places.

The long approach into Williamson provided beautiful views of New York’s Finger Lakes region and its rural splendor. On final over the scenic tree-lined fields I could not come up with a good reason for the decade-long delay in getting there. Fortunately there was no need to make excuses. It happened to be Mare’s birthday, and she appreciated the visit. We had time to catch up on family news and take a tour of her charming old farmhouse that she has spent the last few years restoring.

I have seen lower prices for avgas lately, but not for hangars. Upstate rental rates might surprise pilots based near major cities. [Credit: Jonathan Welsh]

Before long I was back at the airport, topping off Annie’s tanks and getting ready for the flight back to Sussex, New Jersey (KFWN). I took in the pleasant surroundings at the airport, including a nice, smooth 3,803-foot runway, a wide, inviting ramp and neat rows of hangars. Speaking of hangars, they are available at KSDC and renting one starts at $120 per month, which is less than one-fifth of the rate I pay at Sussex. Some airports closer to my suburban New Jersey home charge $1,000 or more per month and have waiting lists that are years if not decades long.

I snapped a photo of the sign announcing the hangar rates and texted it to my wife, Alexa, who was busy at home with other projects and did not fly with me that day. She wrote back quickly. While impressed by the bargain she reminded me that Williamson is a bit too rural for her taste. She would be happy to visit more often, though.

So would I. Let’s aim for this spring.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter