My old Bonanza was a very capable airplane for instrument flying, but my panel avionics did not include an FAA-blessed GPS navigator. My Garmin portable was a highly capable situational-awareness tool, but for IFR flight planning, I always stuck to VOR-to-VOR airway routing, even if the turns from one fix to the next involved nothing more than a few degrees.

My one big mission every year was flying to Oshkosh from home base in New Jersey, and I would dutifully plot out and file my legal flight plan—with my first fuel stop at Sandusky, Ohio (a wonderful airport now sadly lost to history). As with most trips west, the frequencies got a lot more relaxed after leaving the hubbub of the New York metro area.

But one oddity I noticed on this annual trip was that, for some reason, the airspace in mid-Pennsylvania would revert to New York Center control, with a jolting return to the rapid-fire exchanges peculiar to Big Apple controllers. On hearing that distinctive cadence after a frequency change, I reported in—with several hundred miles and five or so VORs between me and Sandusky. The controller brusquely said, “Cleared direct Sandusky.”

I repeated the clearance, then added gingerly, “Uh, be advised, I only have a portable GPS.” In a voice dripping with that aggravation New Yorkers can show when they want to do you a favor and you bring up those pesky “rules,” he said, “Youse wanna go direct Sandusky … or not?”

“Bonanza 3473 Bravo, direct Sandusky.”

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