Tangier Island Holly Run December 2nd, 2017
By: Juergen Nies
The weather turned out to be beautiful for the Tangier Island Holly run. Tom Parry and I met at my hangar at 7:00 AM to preflight the Pacer and get the engine heater running to warm the oil. The temperature was in the mid-30s Fahrenheit, but later in the day it warmed up to the mid-50s. We had signed up for breakfast at Bay Bridge Airport in Maryland (W29) and then to fly bags of Holly (plus some school craft items for the school at Tangier) to the Island to spread the holiday spirit. I also signed up to fly cats off the Island and deliver them to Maryland airport (2W5) to an animal shelter who will put them up for adoption. Before leaving the house in the morning I filed three IFR flight plans. One from Winchester to Bay Bridge to get through the Class B and SFRA, one from Tangier to Maryland airport and one from Maryland airport to Winchester (2W5 is inside the SFRA).
Before taking off we received our clearance from OKV to W29 and then took off into the cool clear morning air. Just past Frederick the controllers for the Baltimore airspace started giving us vectors to cut off part of our cleared route. We got a really good view of BWI airport to our South and downtown Baltimore to the North of us. By then, we could see the Bay Bridge even though it was a little hazy and we were looking straight into the sun at times. The controller at the East side of the Class B was quite busy, but managed to step us down from our 5,000-foot cruising altitude to comfortably reach pattern altitude at Bay Bridge. Runway 11 was in use which provides a nice landing pattern over the Bridge spanning the Bay. Soon after we parked “Rudolph 1” (with its shiny red nose) arrived delivering Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Take a close look and you may recognize them as two of our Chapter members. All of us grabbed breakfast, attended the safety briefing, and loaded up for the flight to Tangier.
The departure of about 50 airplanes from a small airport is a very interesting process to watch and listen too (on the radio). Especially since we used RWY 11 which requires to taxi on the South side of the RWY and then cross over it to the North side to taxi all the way to the departure end. The flight path down to TGI looked very crowded on the I-Pad (picture below) with a whole bunch of Santa sleds on the way, but Tom and I only got visuals on a few of those targets. Especially “Rudolph 1” must have zoomed past us very fast, we never got a glimpse of it (it does show right beside us on the I-Pad).
When we got into the landing pattern at TGI it was not that bad, there were only about three airplanes in the pattern ahead of us and another three or four joining behind us. Luckily the wind was out of the North, so we were able to use RWY 02. There is only one entry/exit to the RWY at TGI, and it is at the far Northern end of it. After we exited the RWY the parking Elves directed us to a spot to shut down. First thing after we secured the Pacer and delivered our Holly and Craft items, was for me to check in with the Lady who was in charge of “Operation Cat Lift”. I was told she had a total of seven cats and there were also seven pilots who signed up to fly them. She didn’t think she needed all of us since there were a couple of pilots who said they can take at least four cats at a time. She asked me to come back to the airport after lunch and look for her golf cart. If she wasn’t there anymore, then all the cats are gone. She really appreciated for some of us to sign up air lifting cats off the Island.
Tom and I walked to the restaurant for a nice crab cake sandwich with a cup of crab meat chowder. After lunch we took a little walk around the Island since it was too early to go back to the airport. I have flown to Tangier Island since the late 90s, and I must acknowledge that the Island is slowly getting smaller and apparently is also sinking. The first visual clue is when on final approach to RWY 02. It is visible that the RWY has been shortened (the “old” RWY is still partially visible). I remember when the RWY was over 3,000 feet long, but there are only 2,426 feet left of it. The second thing I noticed is that there are now many houses with standing water in their yards. I don’t remember seeing that much water in the yards almost all the way to main street. I need to look at pictures I took over the years to compare. If you have not been to Tangier Island, a nice time would be during the summer when the restaurants and the gift shops are open. If you are looking for a really quiet get away for a night, stay at one of the bed and breakfast places on the island. Bring plenty of reading material since I believe there is no internet connection.
When Tom and I arrived back at the airport the cat lift organizer was not there. We pre-flighted the Pacer and I took one more look to see if there are any cats left, but her Golf Cart wasn’t there. So, no cats air lift for us. As soon as we were airborne I checked with Patuxend approach to make sure R6009 just to the West of TGI was inactive and we were cleared to transition through it below 3,000 feet. After we cleared the airspace we climbed to 4,500 feet in smooth air, but about a 17 to 20 knot headwind.
It was a very enjoyable day of flying a big circle around Washington DC and to spread the Christmas Spirit to the residents at Tangier Island. Of course, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus did their usual good job to make the kids happy (and some of the adults too). Hopefully we can join again next year, which will be the 50th (!!!!!) annual Holly Run.
Baltimore downtown with the inner Harbour
On the ramp at Bay Bridge airport with the bridge in the background
Santa Claus with Mrs. Claus
Rudolph 1 with its shiny red nose
The trail of Reindeer moving towards Tangier Island
Lorain's Restaurant at TGI