When I first started learning to fly back in 2017, I had a milestone trip in mind – flying to the islands off the southern coast of Massachusetts – Nantucket and Matha’s Vineyard. Anyone familiar with MA and the islands know that they are a total pain to travel to by car. If you’re travelling from Boston, there is the grueling crawl down Route 3 to Cape Cod, which can take several hours, as what seems like the entire population of Greater Boston tries to do the same thing at the same time. Then even slower is the ferry crossing to the islands, making the whole ordeal take a full day.
Now imagine rolling down the runway at Hanscom Field (KBED), knowing that in about 45 minutes you’ll be wheels down at Martha’s Vineyard (KMVY). That was the dream!
I’ve completed this trip twice, now – and what an amazing experience it is. This flight really does have everything – from the aerial view of the Boston skyline, to a water crossing, to the personal tour of the islands as you’ve never seen them before.
I must admit I was a little nervous about making the water crossing over to the island. However, it really is a short hop (about 3 miles if you plan the route correctly), and can be made safely with enough altitude to allow you to glide to solid ground in the event of an engine failure.
The route I chose took me past a couple of familiar airfields (KOWD and KPYM), taking me around the lower shelves of the KBOS Bravo airspace. You can ask for a transition and make for a more direct route (and see Boston closer up), but this is a busy segment of the airspace and such requests are often politely refused. After KPYM, the route heads direct for the airfield, making the shortest possible crossing to the island. The views are fantastic on this leg.
Once on the airfield, ask ground for transient parking, and you’ll be directed to the ‘blue ropes’ towards the west of the field. The FBO is great, and will send a line person to guide you to a parking spot. They even offer you a complimentary ride to the terminal in a golf cart. All pilots must check in at the FBO before leaving the field.
Car rentals are available, although a cheap and frequent bus service stops at the airport and will take you to many of the major destinations on the island, including Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. I chose the latter, where I rented a bicycle and rode the ocean-view trail around the north-east coast up to Oak Bluffs. This is an easy ride which is mostly off-road, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Although this trip is very highly recommended, watch out for the weather. The islands are notorious for poor visibility and rapidly changing conditions – low cloud and fog are very common throughout most of the year, and can appear even if the forecast suggests otherwise. Also, make sure you plan the water crossing safely, taking into account altitude and glide distances.