PIE to Bimini for the weekend

Bimini BahamasThis last weekend I took 7100Q down for a visit to Bimini. The plan was wheels up at 6am but with all the packing and unloading and waiting for passengers it was 6:45 before we got off. The weather looked good all the way to Bimini. I flew with 3 freinds from work and we flew straight out from PIE through SPG airspace direct to Boca Raton and then headed out over to Bimini. I filed the International VFR flight plan from PIE and opened it in the air with St. Pete FSS.

I chose 5500 to be compliant with NEOD and SWEVN and I felt that this would give us time to troubleshoot any problems that could crop up between the coast and the island. I took flight following through the Boca Raton area as that is congested airspace. Palm Beach approach kept me on a 090 heading till about 10 miles out. I ran the engine at 2500 rpm. That seems to be the sweet spot on the engine. Lower rpm than that and I can feel a little roughness to the engine, faster than that and I get some vibrations which I feel coming from the prop. These things may be my imagination but I do find 2500 to be sweet. I also leaned quite agressively till the engine roughed up and then gave it enough mixture to lose the roughness. I haven’t computed the consumption yet but I expect we will be between 7.5 and 8 gph. The winds at bimini were 060 at 10 but at 5500 I seemed to get a tailwind since my ground speed was 110knts even with a headwind. Airspeed was coming in right at 100. I held my altitude all the way out to the island. Palm Beach dropped my radar services about 10 miles out. They gave me a frequency to ask for flight following if I wanted so I just tuned to that frequency so I could talk to them if I needed them. The visibility was unlimited and so I felt this was adequate. I practiced doing pireps along the way and Flightwatch were always happy to take them and give me info that they felt relevant for the routing of my journey. We dropped down to Bimini along the Cat Cay chain of islands and flew over the wreck of the Sappora.

Here is the area

The views were just awesome and that alone made the trip worthwhile. We landed at customs and I had prefilled the C7A form in triplicate but the customs guy didn’t want it and I had to fill out a C7 instead. Not too sure what is up with that. The customs guys were freindly and didn’t give us a hard time.

For the trip back I used the speed dial on the phone in the customs area to call customs and give them the one hour notice. I then tried to call Miami FSS to file my International VFR flight plan but that number was engaged. About then another pilot arrived and I asked him how he did it and he said just climb to 1000 ft and contact Miami Radio in the air on 126.7 and file the plan in flight. I did that and they worked nicely with me. I do think that they would have prefered that I was just opening it rather than filing it but my options were limited. The pilot said that if I kept trying the speed dial for Miami I would eventually get through. Since I had never flown into FXE (Fort Lauderdale Executive) I decided to try that. As I neared the coast I got flight following and they took me right over the top of FLL ( Fort Lauderdale Hollywood) and down into FXE. On the way over the water I started out with about 2 hours of fuel in the tanks with a 30 minute flight. I felt that was a safe margin. Fuel consumption was running the left tank towards empty an the right tank still showed half so I just switched the tanks over to eat from the right tank for a bit and all worked out fine.

Customs is right at the end of runway 8 on taxiway delta south of the runway. The customs were the freindliest customs people I have come accross and were fast and pleasant to us. (Doesn’t happen that often). We then went over to Banyan for fuel and while they were refuelling we took the courtesy car and went out to the beach for lunch. It was very busy and we ended up taking about 3 hours to get lunch so we filled up the tank on the courtesy car and bought the lady at the desk some chocolates to smooth over the fact that we had had the car longer than was allowed. We took off from FXE and beat a straight path home to PIE. It was hazy which made the trip a bit long. I got cell service along the way and called the PIE AWOS. It said sky clear so I just climbed over the haze and flew on back over the top of the crud. I took flight following cos the visibility was limited. As I neared St Pete I couldn’t hear anything on Miami Radio so I assumed I was out of range and switched to sqawk VFR prior to contacting Tampa Approach. Bad idea. When I contacted tampa approach they asked if I was being tracked by Miami and I said yes and they said they were looking for me. So I appologised and learned a lesson. After all a pilots license is just really a license to learn, we never stop learning and that is what makes it so much fun. Tampa approach brought us in to PIE and tower dropped us in. It was a wonderful trip. It took 5.6 hours total and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. They all agreed that this was the best thing that we could have done with a weekend and I would have to agree. A trip to the islands is a huge amount of fun and 7100Q is a great bird to do the flight it.

Tailwinds all.

PS: I put some pictures of the trip in an album at http://web.mac.com/marktatham/iWeb/2006/Bimini.html

6 Responses to “PIE to Bimini for the weekend”

  1. Ray Forrest says:

    Mark, Your flight reports are great. I am glad you had a good weekend and that the airplane performed well. Ray

  2. nick says:

    Hi Mark

    Nice report. Of all the places I have been, I never made it to the Bahamas yet. Maybe on my way back from South America I will stop in. Do they have Jet-A in Bimini?

  3. mtatham says:

    I always check the oil is above 6 quarts. For our trip down to Bimini it was above six but not by a whole lot. The oil temp went up to 225 (max is 245). For the return trip I added a quart and the temps were down to a more comfortable 200. I read the POH and noticed that it recommended for long trips you can take it up to 8 quarts. I understand that this would make the bottom of the plane a bit messy for the next wash but my thinking on this would be to have 2 guidelines for oil levels. Short trips always above 6 and for long trips at or around 7 quarts. This will ensure that there is enuf oil to keep her cool on long trips at altitude.
    Those are my thoughts on this.

  4. mtatham says:

    Some links to the custom forms that you will need to fly to the Bahamas:

    To get into the Bahamas (C7A)

    To get back into the states

  5. mtatham says:

    Sometimes you will need this form if you are just flying to one destination. (C7)

    If you are stopping on multiple islands then you should use the transire pass (C7A) referenced above.

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