by Charles Gulick
Title: MARATHON RUN
Aircraft: N10289, E19565
Tower: NIO286.643, EI9569.085
Tower: 14 Heading: 075
In this scenario we'll depart mainland Florida, from Tamiami Airport, and head out over the Florida Keys, where we'll enjoy the interplay of blue sky, indigo water, and miles of miniature islands sparkling in the sun.
Take off on Runway 13, get your gear up, and climb straight out on the runway heading. By the time you have 1000 feet of altitude you'll see Card Sound and the beginnings of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park straight ahead. Climb on up to 1500 and settle down into maximum cruise configuration.
Have a look at Miami off in the distance to your left. When you're over the Coral Reef State Park turn southward and aim straight down the Keys. Your heading will probably be within a degree or so of 207. You may see what looks like some towers or high-rises in the ocean, to the left of your course. As to what they represent, your guess is as good as mine.
John Pennekamp is actually an underwater park, popular with skin divers for its hundreds of varieties of fish and plants. Covering over 75,000 acres, it's part of the only living coral reef formation in North America.
The bright patch ahead is Key Largo, largest of all the Florida Keys. The water separating it from the mainland is called Barnes Sound. At the foot of Key Largo, U.S. Highway 1 slices over to join the island chain and become the Overseas Highway.
The Florida Keys are 135 miles long, and the 110-milelong Overseas Highway is one of the longest overwater routes in the world. It is built on the roadbed and piers that originally supported a stretch of the Florida East Coast Railroad--a project abandoned after the hurricane of 1935. Follow the highway, keeping it right under your nose. It bears about 220 degrees along here.
Where you see the tower in the water, and where the highway jogs right and then left, is Fiesta Key. At that point you'll be 20-25 miles from our destination, Marathon Airport on Marathon Key. If you like, set a tower there at N9873.1638, E19355.881 while you fly. You'll need a good bit of ZOOM to see yourself, for a while.
Start now to keep the Keys and the Overseas Highway slightly to your left, which will make easier for you to spot the strip at Marathon.
Some of the bridges connecting the Keys are more than seven miles long, and people fish from them--as they do from piers, rowboats and charter boats. Virtually everyone in the Keys fishes.
When Marathon Airport shows up, you'll still have quite a distance to fly. When you judge you're not too far out, get into slowflight. You're cleared for a straight-in approach to Runway 25.
And what a pretty approach it is.
Airport elevation is below 14 feet.