Thursday, October 29, 2015

Home Coming

I wanted to get some more flights in but my travel schedule, the Pennsylvania weather and finally a visit by the Pope kept me on the ground. I really regret not getting one more flight in with Mark. He'll do well with another instructor. All of my students will.

My plan was to fly to the SportCruiser/PiperSport Home Coming in Addison on October 2nd, then travel to Tampa from there the following week. Hurricane Joaquin changed my plans. The foul weather wasn't directly associated with Joaquin, but the low pressure system over Pennsylvania was locked in place until the hurricane moved out to sea. Winds for the weekend were forecast to hit 40 mph. Mike found me a hangar and I spent the weekend warm and dry.

A direct route would take me down the east coast into what was left of the storms, and South Carolina, which was really hit hard  by the never ending rains, would not be a very good host. I decided to stay west of the Appalachians and travel south as soon as feasible. The original plan looked like:

UKT - USW - RVN - HQU - X60 - VDF

About 8:00am Monday morning, preflight complete and looking at beautiful blue skies I turned the crank. hmmm. Turned the crank. Rested, checked everything and turned the crank again. The blades spun but no pop. First time ever, I flooded her. After 20 minutes or so I tried again (choke off) and after a sputter she came to life. ahhhh.

A late start but I got a pleasant surprise at 6500ft, a tailwind. Passing Harrisburg I started recalculating my destination. After notifying Flight Following that I would change my destination I settled in to reset the GPS. Browsing the AOPA directory I found that my new fuel stop didn't have any fuel. Back to inflight flight planning. Another airport chosen, but this time I checked first, again no fuel. One more time and I found Lonesome Pine.

A beautiful airport in the extreme southwestern corner of Virginia, it is primarily a corporate airfield used by the coal industry as a place to check on local mining operations. A single engine piston is kind of a rarity. They treated me as something special. As I checked on the weather further south I was disappointed to find IFR conditions all the way to Tampa. I might get another hundred miles but it would be marginal. At Klnp the airport manager offered me a crew car, helped with reservations at a local hotel and offered free hangar space. I stayed the night.

I woke up to fog. I took a leisurely breakfast, put some gas in the Jeep and headed back to the airport. By the time I got there it was blue sky with wispy mist laying on the farmers fields. The weather briefer said I could get down into Georgia but after that there would be low clouds. Not advisable for VFR. I decided to travel as far south as Atlanta then stop and take a look.

The clouds filled the valleys of  Tennessee and brushed up against the mountains around Asheville. I wondered if I was Sport Pilot legal? I had good ground reference with the peaks but directly below was a solid undercast. The controller lost me for awhile and asked or a position report. I love my 696. NRST/VOR immediately gave the radial and distance to the nearest VOR. I was advised to stay clear of the Asheville Class C and did so with a minor track correction to the west. By the time I crossed the Georgia border the clouds had disappeared and it seemed to be turning into a nice VFR kind of day. I took on fuel at Milledgeville.

The weather there was great. Tampa showed 3500ft broken and improving, but in between was a solid low layer of clouds. I would be VFR on Top, a Private Pilot once again. With full tanks I had over 2 hours reserve but I get that "twinge" flying above a solid deck knowing that Sally and I are not IFR current should I need to get down. Passing Gainesville I started to see some holes again, and by the time we reached Ocala it was time to descend to avoid the tops that were reaching up to touch us. Florida is flat. I was comfortable at 2500ft for the final leg of the trip. I prepared for the arrival at KVDF.

"N674PS if you can hear me turn NOW!" I over powered the autopilot and turned sharply to the right. I must have missed his first call. Another plane at the same altitude on opposite heading got the controllers attention. I looked back through the little window and watched him pass by. Thank you Flight Following.

A very nice landing at Tampa Executive (I need to find out about the history...recently called Vandenberg) and as I pulled into the visitors tie down space the linesman asked how long I intended to stay. "Oh, about ten years." Welcome home, Sally.