Best Kept Secrets #3: PIN Quest Success!
Like many pilots, I love to visit new airports. Recently I have been exploring airports in Maryland because my pilot daughter is in school there. I decided to pursue getting my PIN so I can land at beautiful College Park airport (CGS). Because I am not local, I split the process into several trips. I visited airports in the surrounding area on each trip and found some delicious eating and shopping secrets that I am delighted to share.
On my third trip, I headed to Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), taking my two photo IDs, my check book and the form I picked up at College Park airport on my first trip, which the Baltimore FSDO Specialist signed on my second trip. Continuing to follow suggestions from the website (www.collegeparkairport.org/vetting) as it fit my schedule, I arrived by Metro during the fingerprint office lunch break, so I had time to look around, something I never had time to do in all the years I flew in and out of National on business. I enjoyed a snack on a bench looking at a statue of Ronald Reagan, on the quiet end of an otherwise busy airport. I peeked into the historic section of Terminal A, which was being set up for a big party. It would be an unusual but elegant spot for a destination wedding.
I was first in a long line of mostly non-pilot airport workers when the office reopened. I was pleased to discover that the fingerprinting process has improved greatly since the last time I was fingerprinted for a clearance. No ink is involved, just a special computer! I was expecting to spend the rest of the day trying to remove ink from my fingers. Instead, I returned to College Park Airport clutching my completed form with my clean fingers. I turned in the form to Nicole (mentioned but not named in my first article) who signed it and gave me a copy of it. My part of the vetting process was complete.
The next morning; I began a victory tour of Maryland airports to celebrate. My first stop was Ocean City Municipal (OXB), with wireless Internet (courtesy Express RentaCar). A big sign on the way up the hill advertises 24 hour free parking. Off-season, the parking was plentiful, although most Ocean City tourist attractions and restaurants close all winter. A small pilot shop featured in a glass case in the lobby caters to enthusiasts. Unfortunately, winter hours were in effect so I will have to return to shop there. Signs advertising aviation services seem aimed at summer tourists.
Grass strips abound on the flat Delmarva Peninsula, but even the nicely maintained ones were not listed in the MDOT Airport Directory, so they must be private strips. We can dream!
Busy, rural Cambridge / Dorchester (CGE), located comfortably outside the DC SFRA, has a new building, including a basic pilot lounge and a busy cafe. The café features vintage warplane wallpaper and wrap-around views of the runway. It is typical of thriving airport restaurants in its popularity with local drive-in diners. It has an appealing row of tempting cakes under glass for fly-in visitors who do not need a whole meal. Our food was delicious and we plan to return any time we can. Cars were parked in the lot and planes were in the air.
Easton Airport / Newnam Field (ESN) is bustling and professional, but not intimidating, with wireless internet and a charming café. Sugar Buns features attractive upscale baked goods and is open for breakfast and lunch (www.Sugarbuns.com). Across the lobby is a well-stocked pilot shop aimed at serious pilots, but also featuring some aviation themed souvenirs. I bought a Washington DuraChart (my first, since I use ForeFlight™). Long-term parking is gravel. I encountered friendly helpful staff everywhere.
Bay Bridge Airport (W29) just outside the DC SFRA, buzzed with activity. Flight training seems to be a priority, with several options available. I picked the closest one with a preflight underway on its apron. Hangar talk is readily available. One of the FBOs has back issues of the Atlantic Flyer (in case you missed my first two Best Kept Secrets articles). Another FBO features a Pilot shop with extras focused on the female pilot (pink headsets?!!). I am a fan. I was told that local seafood is available within walking distance.
Freeway Airport (W00) is inside the SFRA, but nestled into a notch outside the FRZ and tucked into a residential area. Once we figured out where it was, we saw all the airplanes scattered around the field, but there was only a hand-lettered sign for flight training. It closes at sunset (spectacular to see and worth the trip). Flight instruction and plane rentals are available, summarized in their brochure (www.Freewayaviation.com)
A few weeks after this trip, I received an email that my PIN was available. Following the instructions in the email, I collected my PIN. I am planning my cross-country to CGS and am very excited about finally landing there. The Quest ends successfully! Stay tuned for more adventures.
By Linda Sue Boehmer, aka “the Pink Lady”