Friday (12/14) was a rare east coast CAVU day. I was fortunate enough to have arranged a Pilot ‘n Paws mission that I could fly that day. It turned out I flew four dogs (2 pups and 2 adults) from Elizabethtown, NC to Cross Keys, NJ. I left KXSA at 10 am, arrived KEYF about noon, departed 45 minutes later, made it to 17N about 3:30 and then returned to KXSA at 5:10 pm logging my first night landing. It was 6.3 hours of great flying.
It was my first PnP mission in an RV and I learned a few lessons that I thought I’d pass along. In the past I’d flown these missions in my Cherokee and while I never thought the baggage compartment was big, compared to the 9 it was huge. On one trip in the Cherokee I took 3 dogs and 15 cats and the copilot seat was empty. All the critters were in crates.
The baggage compartment of the 9A is 12 cubic feet. I brought along a collapsable crate that pretty much used the whole area. It will probably work for small dogs but not bigger critters. I put Shaggy, a 45 pound male full of curiosity, in the crate, stuffed two pups in zipped the crate shut. I used a lead and the front seat belt to hold Tinsel, a 25 lb +/- female into the copilot seat. She seemed pretty calm and I thought all the dogs were safely stowed. I taxied down to the run up area.
As an educator and occasional amateur dog trainer, I appreciate curiosity in both people and animals. By the time I’d taxied to the run up area Shaggy had finagled his head out of the crate. Try as I might I could not get him back in and get the crate zipped up. It was decision time – Fly with loose dogs in the baggage compartment or not? I’ve only flown 4 other dogs and they all slept during the flight. Would Shaggy sleep too? My imagination had me about 3,500’ up when Shaggy decided the baggage compartment wasn’t for her and he wanted first class cabin seating. I imagined struggling to get (and keep) him out of the cockpit. After about 2 seconds of imagining, I returned to the ramp to figure out plan B. By the time I got to the ramp Shaggy was entirely out of the crate and so were the pups.
The pax shoulder harnesses were not being used so I tied Shaggy’s collar to both of the harnesses, made sure they were both tight and out of his reach, then made sure he could not get out of the baggage compartment. I tightened Tinsels seat belt arrangement and now being more than an hour behind schedule, rushed my take off. I should know better than to rush. At about 20’ off the runway I realized the canopy wasn’t fully closed. With 5,000’ of runway it was easy to cut power, land and take my time to do it correctly the second time.
What a great flight it was. Like I said CAVU and nary a bump in the sky between southern NC and Maryland and only a few small bumps from Maryland all the way to Cross Keys. Interestingly, Shaggy never slept. He paced a lot. He liked to jump with his front paws on my shoulder harness straps and look out the canopy on the left side. From the amount of dog slobber I cleaned off the canopy my guess is he really liked the view.
The pacing made Tinsel nervous. She was awake for most of the flight.
Along the way we (me anyway) had fun looking at the sights. Here's Lake Drummond.
And here's Virginia Beach and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Ahead in the distance is the Eastern Shore of Virginia - home of Humptybump.
And I looked for Salmon Field - I hate to say I couldn't see it...(but don't tell Glen). It is a beautiful area of Virginia and that's the Chesapeake Bay in the background.
Off to the right was the Atlantic for at least an hour of the flight. When I took this shot I could see Ocean City but I sure can't see it in the photo!
When it came time to land we picked up a few small bumps below 3,000’ and Tinsel was scared. She tried to ride in my lap. So on a 45 entry into downwind at Cross Keys at just over 1,000’ I find myself with another task – keeping 25 pounds of nervous dog put my lap. All I could think was ‘fly the plane’ – ‘fly the plane.’ I flew with my left hand on the stick as always and controlled the dog with my right hand. Power reductions were a bit of a challenge but manageable.
Once on final, with the power at idle, I knew we were in good shape. We touched down just a bit long and a bit fast but we landed on the mains and everything was uneventful. But I learned a few things - I’m going to use a dog harness with any dog that flies as my copilot (and I really need a bumper sticker now that says, ‘Dog is My Copilot’). I’m also working on a crate design for the RV-9 baggage compartment. What I did worked but a better solution is easily possible.
After transferring the dogs, refueling the RV and a quick pit stop for me, I was back in the air heading home. The sun was setting and right in my face. Hardly ideal to navigate between Washington, DC’s SFR and Patuxent River’s airspace but with technology (2 GPS’s) and being familiar with the area, it wasn’t a problem.
And finally, a shot of the sunset.
All in all it was 6.3 hours of flying fun. It is my record for solo time in an RV in a single day (but after 7 weeks of ownership what do you expect if your name isn’t Vlad?).