Heaven's Landing is a residential airpark in Clayton, Georgia. Every year since we started building our plane, we have stopped at their booth at Oshkosh and spoken with owners Mike and Holly Ciochetti. They are beyond nice and the place always looked absolutely amazing. It is situated at and above 2,700 feet on a mountain in northeast Georgia with a 5,000 foot concrete runway and amazing views. It never gets very hot or very cold. We are still 10 years or so away from retirement, but this sounds like an ideal place to end up.
Finally, the stars aligned last weekend - great weather over a holiday weekend. We called Mike and he invited us down for a visit to see the place. It flight planned out to only 2.5 hours at Velocity speeds. The visit turned out to be a great time and the place was everything they said it would be.
We fueled up on Thursday afternoon after a half day at work. Another great thing - fuel at Heavens Landing is $3.99 compared to our $6.25.
We taxi up for takeoff behind a jet. Sean is taking the front seat. He is 15 now and is bigger than Nancy.
Here are some shots on the way down. We went from KMQS-KFDK-GE99. That's Chester County Airport at home to Frederick, Maryland to Heaven's Landing. This gets us around the west side of the SFRA, or restricted airspace around Washington, DC then straight to our destination. However, it turned out to be less than ideal because we spent 400 miles right over a mountain range, and had bumps even at 9,000 feet.
Here's a nice winglet view at 9,500.
There was a TFR along the last 1/3 of our flight due to a forest fire. Even at 9,500 feet we were in haze and smelled wood smoke.
|View of the forest fire|
|Huge fire in the next valley|
We cleared the fire area and headed into the mountains toward our destination.
|View of the fire behind us|
|Winding mountain road. These mountains are high!|
We descend into the mountain range, looking for the runway at Heaven's Landing. The GPS is telling us it is only 5 miles/ a few more minutes away, then we see it. It is beautiful and sits right up on top of a mountain. I've never done anything like this before, and I set up my landing approach for the 2,700 foot elevation runway on the mountain.
There it is- the faint diagonal stripe on the top left near my headset.
Here is a video of the approach and landing.
After landing, we taxied up to the (gorgeous) hangars. Our host, Mike Ciochetti, not only let us put the Velocity in a hangar for the weekend, he provided us with a pickup to get around.
We stayed at the Parker Ranch Guesthouse, a great local B&B. Our room was comfortable and our hosts, Becky and Paula, were friendly and accommodating.
|The welcoming entrance|
|Our host, Becky. Thanks for the great stay!|
|Common area living room|
|The dining room. We had terrific breakfasts.|
|A little wine on the scenic porch outside our room. Not bad.|
|Sean relaxing in our room.|
After breakfast, Mike picked us up for a 2 hour tour of Lake Burton, a stunning high altitude lake with over 60 miles of shoreline only minutes from Heaven's Landing. It is clear, clean, gorgeous and warm. The lake is surrounded by stunning homes of the rich and famous, yet is surprisingly accessible and uncrowded. We saw only a few other boaters while we were on the lake. This would be a great resource for water sports and relaxation. Boat slips are even reasonable. I may have to take up boating.
|Mike's pontoon boat. Comfortable, but can hit 60 mph. I need one.|
|Map of Lake Burton at the marina.|
|Nancy finds spider repellant. She HATES spiders.|
|Sean chills on the lake with mountain views everywhere.|
|Absolutely gorgeous views in every direction. I love this lake.|
|Touring in relaxed mode.|
|Checking out the houses on the shore.|
|Humble little lake house.|
|Wow, just wow.|
|Even Sean likes this experience.|
|Nancy loves the ride.|
|A dam with a huge drop off at the end of the lake.|
|Another beautiful home.|
|Our pilot and host at the helm. Great tour, Mike!|
|The Rileys in their happy place.|
After the lake tour, we have lunch in town and then head to the Waterfall Country Club. Heaven's Landing has a shared amenities agreement with the club, which is perched on a cliff over the lake and is just over the top in terms of facilities and views.
|Indoor heated pool|
|This is the lounge in the men's locker room.|
|Almost makes me wish I had hair. Sean checks it all out.|
|View of the lake from the dining area.|
|Panoramic picture of the panoramic view.|
|We loved the view.|
|Tee at the top of a waterfall|
|The whole course was gorgeous.|
We finally got around to touring Heaven's Landing. We decided that we'd rather have a higher lot with a great view than a taxiway access lot at the bottom.
Pictures don't do the place justice. In order to give a sense of the scale and layout of the place, I have attached this first person view of driving into the place to a hangar. You will see the great hangar layout and size of the runway. The homes are to the left up the slope of the mountain.
|The houses were stunning.|
|There were views everywhere. You had to make a hard choice.|
|Imagining this as my back yard view.|
|Another potential spot.|
|Loved this lot. Check that view!|
|Mike and Nancy patiently watch me clambering through the brush for pictures.|
|Mike points out the view from the deck of one of the homes. Pilot heaven.|
After the tour, we cleaned up and joined Mike and Holly for dinner at Glen- Ella Springs restaurant. The food and view were amazing.
On Saturday morning, we drive to Tallulah Gorge, a nearby park with a trail through waterfalls. One of the things that attracts us to this area is the surrounding landscape and outdoor activities.
|My new Clayton hat.|
|Yup, 1600 steps.|
|Beautiful mountain laurel.|
|The most steps I have ever done.|
|The views are worth it.|
|Nancy checks out the falls.|
|Sean and Nancy|
|Cool suspension bridge|
We have to be back home for Easter Sunday, so we headed back to Heaven's Landing.
|Sean prepping for flight.|
|I'd love to have one of these hangars.|
|Our host, Mike Ciochetti.|
|Nancy loads the plane from our borrowed truck.|
|Ready to go.|
Here is a quick video pan of the area to get a feel for the great layout of the place.
Here's a good video of our takeoff. I was nervous about the altitude, the trees and mountains on the departure end, etc. The Velocity handled it with no problem. After takeoff, they called us on the radio to ask for a low pass. We turned and gave them a great low pass at 170 mph and 30 feet.
Here is a brief video of the low pass taken by Mike as he stood along the runway. I love this one. Turn the sound up for the full effect.
So long Heaven's Landing. Here's a view looking back over the wing as we depart.
We settle in for the 2 1/2 hour flight home after our great visit.
For the way home, I opt for a smoother ride by flying east out of the mountain range before turning north for home. This gives us great views off the pilot side.
|The skies are clearer on our way home.|
We make great speeds with true air speeds of 190 knots and ground speeds over 200 knots/ 230 mph.
Here's a quick video pan as we cruise along.
We are going through and around some very restricted airspace near Washington, DC. I am talking with the approach controllers to get flight following and they allow me to cut the corner and go through Dulles' airspace. This saves us time.
|Dodging through restricted airspace.|
As we get within 75 miles of home, we come upon a solid layer of clouds at only 2,300 feet and have to dive beneath them. It's a low bumpy ride for the last 15 minutes.
|Low cloud deck ahead.|
|Under the cloud layer at 1,900 feet.|
|Crossing the Susquehanna|
|We spot our airport ahead in the haze.|
Here is a video of our approach and landing at home at Chester County Airport (KMQS), outside of Philadelphia.
Right on time, we pull up to the hangar only 2 1/2 hours after we left Georgia. I love this plane.
It was a great trip. Once again we did a 1,000 mile weekend trip with no problem in the plane. Heaven's Landing was superb. We have a lot to think about. Thanks again to our hosts Mike and Holly Cichetti!