Wednesday 7/27: There were dark clouds just north of KFLD. The weather briefer had also advised us of storms along the coast line of the lake. We worked together to get the tie downs off, gear packed and preflight completed. Before turning the key we paused, double checked everything and validated what we were about to do. Sally started easily, we contacted ground and prepared to take off to the north, right at the storm. We made a downwind departure to the south, putting the ugly weather behind us.
KGYY: The challenge on this leg was the very busy Class B and numerous Class C & D around Chicago. Flight Following was good at pointing out the many targets and before too long we were out over the shoreline at 1500' under the Class B shelf. Spectacular views of the city skyline and a sad park that was formerly known as Meigs Field. KGYY was only a fuel stop so we didn't stay long. We met two fliers from Philadelphia on their way to KOSH that were waiting out the weather we just ran away from. I wonder how they made out?
KHUF: Easy departure, weather was not a factor, we had light (8-10kts) headwinds as we traveled south into Indiana. Weather briefer had no major concerns until we reached the southern part of the state, so Terre Haute would be our rest stop. We arrived just before 6:00pm so the person working the FBO desk wasn't sure about letting the crew car go for the night, but a check with the manager gave us permission. A nice Honda Pilot was ours until 8:00am Thursday morning. Some great food at M Moggers Restaurant and Pub before returning to the hotel for some rest.
Thursday 7/28: Rain and fog and thunderstorms. We sat in the pilot's lounge waiting on the weather. Eventually we borrowed the crew car to go get some lunch and along the way stopped by Rose-Hulman University to take a look. We had visited this place years before as part of Nate's college tour. The sun started to break through in the afternoon, but we were still in an unstable air mass. Nate suggested we try some landing practice. (How often have you landed on a 9000ft runway?) As we went through the preflight I noticed the GPS representation was different. During our last shutdown Nate had pressed a button on the 696 activating its internal battery. It had gone dead over the night so all of my customization's were gone. Track up anyone?
KBWG: We departed the pattern about 3:00pm heading direct to Bowling Green. There were lots of Cumulus clouds but easy enough to fly around. Headwinds at 3500' were moderate at 10-12kts. Due to heavy, ugly thunderstorms to the south, this would be an overnight stop. Colmar Aviation took good care of us by providing shuttle service to and from the Holiday Inn. (They even provided a free breakfast!)
Friday 7/29: Low scattered clouds and mist. The briefer told us to expect a broken layer at 4500' on our way south. This should be an easy leg.
KGLW: The scattered layer turned into a broken layer just a few miles after take off. We climbed above it and very soon after there were no longer any holes beneath us. A quick check of the METARS showed our destination was overcast at 3500'. KBWG was now marginal VFR, the next best airport was Gasgow Municipal. This was not a good time to exercise "VFR Over the Top". We turned back to wait for better conditions.
I large cell was just to the south of us, another had KBWG in IFR conditions. A rectangular SIGMET put us in the box. I thought it would be an hour for that mess to move off to the east. It did, but another cell was born and traveled right behind. We ordered pizza. I went out to Sally to set my preferences back into the 696. We waited. After some more time, we formulated a plan to head north and west around the biggest cells, then south into good air.
KMDQ: We departed about 2:00pm heading roughly toward KBWG. The weather was better than expected, but even so we listened to ATC helping flights find their way around the storms. We had choices to make. Could we make it safely through the opening to the left? Should we divert more to the west? We had Flight Following. We had XM Weather (and were very aware of the limitations). All the time we kept the dark gray monsters in sight to the east. 3500' was good until we got close to Nashville, then we had to go lower but we had to do that anyway to get beneath the west side of the Class C airspace (2400') around Nashville. Down 200' up 100', down another 200' picking our way clear of the base of the clouds. Sally squawked obstacle and terrain avoidance and we could visually verify each one. After KBNA the weather finally got good enough for us to relax. We climbed back up 3500'. Nate put the Foggles back on and set up for an ILS. I had him review the chart on his iPad and brief the approach. Hard work after an already busy day. Just another fuel stop, we did a quick turn around and got on our way.
KCKF: Easy departure, about 4:00pm and weather was still a factor with large thunder storms directly on our path. We had light (8-10kts) headwinds as we traveled southeast avoiding the isolated storms on our way to Georgia. We watched in wonder at the downpours in the mountains west of Atlanta and were relieved when we turned the corner to head south again. Finally some clear skies. But another problem got our attention, an intermittent low fuel pressure warning. Fortunately we have a full set of instruments and there were no changes in fuel flow, RPM or any other gauge. I suspect a bad sensor. We set up for an RNAV approach so Nate got to try going down to an MDA instead of a glide slope. Just another fuel stop, we did a quick turn around and got on our way.
KCGC: We departed about 6:30pm. One more large cell to the south was clearly visible on XM on the 696. We could see this beautiful monster in the distance and could easily get around the western edge and then turn south once again. Weather forecast in Florida was good. We snuck under a thin layer at 4000' as the sun was setting. We prepared for night flight by dimming the instruments and sitting on our flashlights. This part of the country was sparse, not many ground lights. I cautioned Nate about fixation and the "black hole" effect. A Diamond Star was coming up from the south to get his night landings in. While we had a number of airports to choose from, and I chose poorly. "Full Service" does NOT include Self Service. After a night visual approach and landing Nate broke the electric fuel pump toggle switch when turning off the pump. We taxiied to the ramp (avoiding the Diamond Star) and shut her down.
It had been a long day. IMSAFE said we should no longer fly due to fatigue. Low fuel pressure indications with a broken standby pump at night meant our journey was at an end. Although less than 45 minutes from home, it was time to call the ground crew. We secured Sally, walked over to the local Applebees and waited for Kathy to come fetch us. Our heads hit the pillow back in Tampa about 2:00am.