Walt Disney World – June 2011

For our 2011 Family Vacation we decided to go to Walt Disney World in Florida again.  Surprisingly it has been almost 3 years since we went in September of 2008.  Hannah is now 7 and Bryan is 5 so we thought that they would really enjoy it at this age.  Lori and I really had a good time a couple of years ago as well so we decided to make our plans.  This time however we planned to fly our airplane down rather than to drive or fly commercially.  A few months ago we looked at schedules and decided to go as soon as Hannah finished school in early June since it wouldn’t be as hot and busy yet.

For the week leading up to the trip the weather was looking good all the way to Florida.  As with most of our flights, we left the house at the crack of dawn.  The weather is usually much better in the early hours of the day as the afternoon heat and humidity brings on bumpy clouds and thunderstorm possibilities.  We were off the ground just before 6 AM and were flying direct to Paulding Executive Airport (KPUJ) which is in the northwest Atlanta area, just under the Class B airspace.  We had excellent tailwinds at 9,000 feet and were getting a ground speed around 150 knots (173 mph).  We were on the ground in the Atlanta area in about 3 hours.  At Paulding Airport we were treated like we flew a corporate jet in.  This airport is less than a year old and the restaurant on the field is not yet open.  L.J. knew we were coming and picked up some breakfast for us – oatmeal, donuts, fruit and juice were waiting when we arrived!  We couldn’t believe how beautiful the facility was and how well we were treated.  Fuel was also reasonable at $4.99/gallon compared to more than $6/gallon at other airports in the area.  After breakfast and filling up we all piled back into the plane for the next hop down to Kissimmee (KISM).  It was hot, humid and hazy as we departed, but still no storms.  We bumped around a bit as we climbed out but it wasn’t too bad.  Soon we were again cruising along in the cooler air at 9,000 feet.  I was getting some erroneous readings on my engine temperature monitor on cylinder #2 exhaust gas temperature.  They were very erratic but there were no other indications of anything wrong so I suspected a bad probe.  I paid close attention, but decided to continue on as all other CHTs, EGTs, RPM, oil temp & pressure were all normal and the engine was running smoothly.  In no time we were descending and getting vectors to our destination.  I noticed that we were getting close to the Disney TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) but since I was on an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight plan this wouldn’t be an issue.  We were able to get a very good view of Walt Disney World including The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and the All-Star Music Resort where we would be staying.  We were soon on the ground and the crew at Kissimmee Jet Center had us parked and brought the rental car right up to the plane for us to load.  Total flight time down was less than 6.5 hours and we were on the ground by about 2 PM.  Not too bad for over 925 miles!

We were very happy to be in Florida two days earlier than our original plan.  We found a Country Inn & Suites resort that gave us a good rate for the two nights prior to us checking into Disney.  The resort had multiple pools with water slides, a miniature golf course and many other nice amenities.  We found a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner which has somehow become a tradition for us to eat at when we fly somewhere.  That evening we just enjoyed the resort and spent time in the pool.  The next morning (Saturday) we spent time checking out Walt Disney World and shopping at Downtown Disney.  In the afternoon we again enjoyed the pool at the hotel and then we went out to dinner at the Bonefish Grill.  On Sunday we woke up early, had breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites and then headed over to Disney where we were able to check into the All-Star Music Resort.  Disappointingly the room wasn’t as nice as the Country Inn & Suites and it was more expensive, but it was nice to be staying right on the resort.  We decided to make the best of it and enjoy the trip.  We wouldn’t be spending a ton of time in the room anyway and we were quickly saddled up and heading to the Magic Kingdom for the day.

We all had a great time at the Magic Kingdom and rode many of the rides throughout the day.  Hannah’s favorite was Splash Mountain and Bryan’s was The Haunted Mansion.  We stayed all day until after dark when the Electric Parade completed.  It was a long day and we were all tired but everyone really enjoyed themselves.  Monday we planned on going to Hollywood Studios and George Anthony (Jeff’s step-dad) met us in the morning.  He was down visiting a friend and was able to spend a couple of days with us.  Hollywood Studios was fun but the kids didn’t enjoy it as much because everything was more of a show than a ride.  In the afternoon we went back to the resort and enjoyed the pool for a couple of hours before being treated to dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse.

On Tuesday morning I woke up early and went out to the airport to check on the plane and to troubleshoot the engine temperature issue that I had on the trip down.  George met me out there and I pulled off the cowling and swapped a couple of the probes to see if I could isolate the issue.  I noticed that the wire may have been sitting on an exhaust tube and addressed this.  After a couple of tests I did not see the erroneous indications anymore so I fired up the engine and we did three laps around the pattern.  A short flight but piece of mind as all indications were normal.  We then met the rest of the family and headed off to Epcot for the day.  Epcot had quite a few more things for the kids to do and we went on just about everything that we could.  We had lunch with the Princesses in a Norwegian restaurant in the World Showcase that was very good.  Everyone really enjoyed Test Track and Hannah and Lori even went on the intense Mission Space ride and both loved it.  We stayed for the light show at the end of the day and walked around the whole World Showcase.  We were very tired by the end of the day and returned to the room where we all crashed for the night.

Wednesday was our “off” day.  Instead of going to one of the big parks we decided to go to Blizzard Beach which is one of the water parks.  We had a good time trying out the water slides.  Our favorite was Teamboat Springs which was a family raft ride down a long water slide.  In the afternoon we went to Disney Quest which is an indoor park that has a lot of video games and virtual reality adventures.  We then had a great dinner at The Cheesecake Factory where we were able to sit outside and the weather was beautiful.


On Thursday we were back at it and visited Animal Kingdom.  We enjoyed the Safari, the Lion King show and a few other things.  We finished everything we wanted to see around mid-afternoon and headed back to Downtown Disney where we all picked out our souvenirs.  Hannah bought a Rapunzel doll, Bryan bought Phineas & Ferb, Lori a photo album and Jeff got a shot glass.  We returned back to the the resort for dinner and to enjoy the pool for awhile.

Friday was our last full day in Florida.  We woke up in the morning and went to Typhoon Lagoon – Disney’s other waterpark.  Hannah and Bryan both went on some of the larger water slides with Daddy and enjoyed them.  We were all getting a little burnt out by this time so we decided to head back to the hotel to rest for awhile before going out to dinner at The Olive Garden for our last night.  We had an early day planned the next morning so we packed up everything and called it an early night.

It was Saturday morning and the week had flown by.  We had a great time but it was hard to believe that we were heading back to the airport already.  We loaded up the plane and soon were taxiing out for departure.  The leg from Kissimmee to Atlanta was uneventful and smooth sailing.  It was a little more hazy than the trip down.  It was smooth sailing but we were not making as good of time and received some re-routes on the way up to Paulding.  I actually received my first STAR (Standard Terminal Arrival Route) which was the DIFFI ONE.  It was so hazy and visibility wasn’t much more than about 3 miles so I requested the GPS-A approach into Paulding.  We purchased fuel and borrowed the courtesy car to grab a quick lunch in Paulding.  I had been watching the weather radar and I was concerned that we would have to contend with some storms over Kentucky & Illinois.  We departed and it wasn’t long before I was weaving around some buildups that were just starting to grow.  Surprisingly the XM Weather radar showed some yellows and reds just over the mountains by Chattanooga that had suddenly popped up.  At first I was looking for a route around this but it became quickly apparent that I wasn’t going to have any good options.  Bryan had been watching a video and with the addition of the weaving he started getting sick.  It wasn’t a bumpy ride at all as I was remaining clear of clouds.  With limited options I called ATC and asked them for some vectors to the closest field.  I got a quick descent and vectors to Chattanooga (KCHA) which was only a few miles away.  On the way down Hannah also got sick and Lori was quick on the draw with the bowl!  In no time we were on the ground though and we beat the line of storms that came over the area.  After an hour or so it looked like it was starting to clear but the storms I had originally been concerned with looked like they would be more of an issue so we decided to stay in Chattanooga for the night.  We were checked into another Country Inn & Suites which was beautiful and we had dinner at the Cracker Barrel.  We were all tired so it was an early evening.

On Sunday morning we had a quick breakfast at the hotel and were on our way back to the airport in the taxi.  The flight plan was filed direct from Chattanooga (KCHA) to Champaign (KCMI) and we were soon climbing out over the mountains.  It was a very smooth flight.  We were above some clouds but there was no “weather” to contend with.  Ground speeds on the return were around 115 to 120 knots (135 mph) which isn’t bad at all.  It was about a 3 hour flight home from Chattanooga and total flight time for the return trip from Florida was roughly 7.5 hours.  We were on the ground, unpacked and the plane was secured in the hangar by around 10:30 AM.

So that’s the story about our trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.  We all had a wonderful time and it was a great week with the family.  Even with the diversion due to weather it was well worth using the airplane.  The family is getting much more experienced in traveling this way and it is opening up new opportunities the way we had planned it to.  I had never landed in Tennessee, Georgia or Florida and added all of these to my map of states that I’ve landed in.  Now we need to start planning our next family getaway!  Click here to be taken to the photo album with all of the pictures that we took for the week.

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Sounds like a great family vacation! It’s also awesome that you are able to fly your family there…I like being able to cross so much ground so quickly by flying, but I hate the hours sitting so close to strangers and trying not to touch them. 🙂

Excellent write up!

Sounds like a great trip that covered much of Disney. Having been there with my daughetr when she was around the same age I know how exhausting it can be. I don’t know how the youngsters recharge so fast!

Always fun to have your own transportation and 93Zulu is the perfect family hauler. Good wx decisions along the way and as I like to say it’s all about the adventure.

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