For our next trip we decided on visiting the small airport at Concrete, WA. which is about 70 miles north of Seattle, the plan was to get a close look at the west side of the Northern Cascade Mountains and Concrete seemed an ideal place to fly from while doing this. We had planned to visit during their fly-in a few weeks ago but unfortunately we couldn''t make it due bad weather on the Oregon Coast. The Skagit Aero Education Museum is based at the airport and the opportunity to see their collection of vintage aircraft was an added bonus for our visit.
Our take-off from Florence was followed by a completely clear one and a half hour flight to Scappoose where we landed for some really cheap fuel ($4.91/gallon, 74 cents less a gallon than Florence!). We routed over Hillsboro Airport at 3,000ft and as usual they didn''t really expect to talk to us as their airspace only extends to 2,700ft, however it always seems a good idea due to the number of movements usually going on there, including plenty of jet traffic.
Crossing the Columbia River into Washington State just to the west of Portland.
After a quick refuel, helped by the nice people at the Scappoose FBO, Transwestern Aviation, we were soon airborne and heading north to Bremerton. We had a slight headwind, and this created a few bumps, but the visibility was great and the temperature was comfortable.
Flying over the Washington State Capital Dome, just to the north of Olympia Airport. The water of Capital Lake was stained by algal growth.
We routed over Kelso and then to the east of Chehalis. To the east we could clearly see Mount Adams, Mount St Helens and the mighty Mount Rainier, all had plenty of snow covering them even though we were now in August. We climbed to 3,000ft again to route directly over Olympia airport, once clear of their zone we started our descent to Bremerton National Airport where we planned on having a breakfast stop at the excellent Airport Diner Restaurant.
Breakfast was, as always, excellent and plentiful and after dropping in to the well stocked pilot shop at the Avian Flight Center for some spare parts and supplies we were taking to the skies again.
Just to the north of Bremerton Airport is Bremerton Harbor and we climbed to 3,400ft before crossing this area. Pilots are requested to cross at an altitude of 2,900ftor higher for national security reasons as the harbor is a busy US Navy dockyard. Down below we could see four old aircraft carriers being stored probably waiting to be scrapped, and there were also quite a number of submarines tied up in the water being stored and some presumably active ones being worked on in dry dock. Most of this area to the west of Seattle is free from Class Bravo airspace but you have to be careful when heading to the northeast of Bremerton as things start to get a bit more complicated very quickly. Over Bremerton Harbor the Class Bravo starts with a 6,000ft shelf, a few miles beyond that it plunges to 3,000ft. Bearing in mind that a few miles to the west is the restricted area P-51 (Bangor, the nuclear submarine base) which must also be avoided at all costs, and the requirement to fly at +2,900ft over the Harbor it''s easy to see how some may get in trouble when flying around here if they don''t pay attention.
Four de-commissioned aircraft carriers moored up at Bremerton. ex-USS Independence (CV-62), ex-USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), ex-USS Constellation (CV-64) and ex-USS Ranger (CV-61).
Thirteen de-commissioned submarines moored up at Bremerton.
Heading northwards we descended to keep clear of the Class Bravo and routed across the south of Whidbey Island and the across Puget Sound. In the distance we could see a large naval ship being escorted by some smaller faster boats. It turned out to be the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard which had arrived for the Seafair event that was taking place that week in Seattle. It was tempting to fly nearer to have a closer look but thought our presence may not be appreciated.
The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard arriving in Seattle.
Carrying on with the nautical theme, one of the many ships that we saw sailing around the Puget Sound area.
Once across Puget Sound we could see the entrance to Skagit Valley where we would leave behind the busy Seattle area and start the 30 mile approach to Concrete. Not having flown there before I was interested to see how the winds would be in the valley. I expected them to increase and the flight to become bumpy, however flying down the valley at 2,000ft it was suprisingly smooth. The wind decreased noticeably but I noticed by looking at the GPS that the wind from the north had switched around and was now a tailwind from the west. As we got to witihin 5 miles of Concrete I still could not see the airport, and it actually looked like we were flying towards a large hill at the end of the blind valley. In fact this hill lays just half a mile or so west of the airport and has to be negotiated while you are in the pattern.
By joining the pattern mid crossfield from the north you can have a look at the windsock to see what the wind was doing at ground level. During our stay the winds were from the east early in the morning (mountain breeze) and from the west for the rest of the day. The winds were typically gusting but was not as bad as you would probably think seeing the terrain surrounding the airport.
Final for Runway 25 at Concrete.
Concrete has a laid back, friendly feel about it and Jack the airport manager did everything to make us feel welcome. There is a great pilot lounge available for use which has a comfortable seating area for 30+ people, a well equipped kitchen, toilets, and best of all, showers and wi-fi! We set up our tent on a quiet (actually the whole airport is quiet!) piece of grass and went off to explore the 6 hangars that form the air museum.
Admiring the view after arriving and setting up camp at Concrete.
The pilot lounge at Concrete, an excellent resource for based and visiting pilots alike.
A resident Cessna 140 taxying back to it''s hangar. Snowy Cascade peaks can be seen in the background, the scenery around the area is stunning.
Two of the air museum hangars. The grounds around the museum area meticulously maintained and it was a real pleasure walking around.
The quality of the museum aircraft is very impressive. Many have been restored to a better than new condition and one of the guys who is responsible for the restorations said that many of the finished aircraft had 20 coats of dope applied to them with each individual coat being finished by hand. It''s difficult to show the quality of the aircraft using digital pictures but I think that these of their Piper Colt below will give you some idea.
The quality of this Piper Colt''s paint work is superb.
Immaculate Piper Colt cockpit.
One of the air museum hangars.