Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Flight Home - into 7N8

Decision time. The weather was forecast to be cold and bumpy...very bumpy. We sat in the hotel room and reviewed our options. We both decided that it would be wise to have her continue home via rental car while I went solo for the remainder of the trip. I believed I could probably get to northern Virginia before getting into icing conditions, or snow or other lousy winter weather. So she drove me to the airport in the rental car and with sad eyes we said goodbye. This was NOT how we wanted to end this adventure, but we both knew it was the right decision.

Glitch #1 was still with me during the run-up, but Glitch #2 didn't seem to be much of a problem. The take-off was normal and I climbed east on course and contacted flight following using KSBY as my destination. That would take me east around the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area. (I missed her being with me in the cockpit, but didn't want any new friends flying as my wing-man.) About an hour into the flight glitch #1 went away. All was right with the world. The air was much smoother than forecast and the sun warmed my right side enough to keep me from complaining about glitch #3. ATC advised me that a restricted area on my path was 'hot' and asked for my intentions. I said I would take a vector, but he offered me JIMIE to use as a way point. That worked out fine. It was approaching JIMIE that I got just the slightest sense of being alone. The Chesapeake is a "big puddle" and I found myself checking the nearest airports more frequently. Glitch #1 came back.

I contacted ATC and told them my new destination KPTW. The weather started to burble when I turned north toward KSBY. A small scattered layer began to develop right at my level and I had the fun of piercing one of those little puffies before descending to 4500. Constant weather checks showed a ceiling above me at 9000 but a thin haze layer was developing by the time I passed the power plants just south of New Castle. Down to 3500 and staying clear of the Vice Presidential residence I encountered more chop. Winds were picking up gusts to 28 and my little plane and I were getting quite a ride. Once clear of the Philadelphia Class B I canceled Flight Following and told the nice lady I would be going to 7N8 VFR.

I planned to overfly Butter Valley to check the winds, and give myself two tries before diverting to N47 or KPTW. Down wind was a little close so I broke it off and repositioned to give myself a nice long straight in. Everything looked great (except for those trees on final) and I touched down just past the line and stopped before going up the hill. I felt GREAT! No one to celebrate with, I headed toward a tie down spot and secured her for the first time.

My wife arrived safely home about five hours later.

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