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I went flying today. - Tina Marie's Ramblings
Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme...
I went flying today.
11:30 am: I was hanging out in Michael's hanger when Jim came by. Jim's a good friend of ours - he's got a Pacer based at a little grass strip 4 miles north of my home base. Greetings were exchanged, and Jim mentioned that he was going to spend the afternoon puttering around his hanger.

12:30 pm: I'm sitting at Panera with Michael and Mike and Amy having lunch. It's pouring down rain outside - thunderstorms everywhere, low clouds, mist, haze - it's a terrible day. I said to Michael, "You know, I should fly over and hang out with Jim this afternoon".

01:03 pm: We're back at the hanger. The closest weather reporting is at DWH, 7 miles away. They're calling it 300 ft ceilings, temperature and dewpoint both 22C, 2 miles visibility in rain and mist, but it's an hour old.

01:15 pm: I get the 1 o'clock weather. 500ft ceilings, 3 miles, temp and dewpoint still 22. A walk to the FBO confirms what I'd suspected - most of the thunderstorms were to the east already. There was another line 15-20 miles west, but I had an hour slot before it got here. Houston Hobby and Sugerland (the nearest ILS) were both reporting 800 ft and 5 miles. I bought a copy of the latest approach plates and the new IFR enroute chart for the area. These weren't actually going to do me any good, since I don't have the equipment to shoot the instrument approach into Weiser (which needs 860ft ceilings to get in anyway), and Dry Creek (where Jim is based) doesn't have an approach at all. But having them gave me a Plan B if something went wrong - I could climb to the minimum IFR altitude (2000 ft in this area), call approach, confess my stupidity, and get vectors to the instrument approach at Sugerland.

1:30 pm: I pre-flight in the hanger, then pull the plane out in what's a bit heavier then light rain. I confirm that the grass seems firm enough to make it safely to the runway, and I contemplate navigation. The good part is that I'm only going 4 miles. The bad side is there are a lot of towers much higher then where I'm going to be flying, and visibility is going to be bad. I know the area, but just to be sure I pull enough local approach plates to confirm: yep, all the towers I need to worry about are east of my route. As long as I stay on course or to the west, I'll be okay at 2-300ft. I'm going to fly there the same way I always get there - follow the highway that runs off the end of the airport to the blue church, line up on the church, and I'll be on final approach with the runway right in front of me.

As a backup, I know that STRUK intersection is right over the airport, so I dial that into the GPS. STRUK is on the 308 radial off of Houston Hobby, so I dial that into the VOR as a backup to the GPS. If nothing else, if everything goes wrong and I have to call Houston Approach, at least I can say I'm on Victor 308, holding at STRUK.

So now I think I can get there: but I can't count on landing from the first approach, because it's a grass strip, and we've gotten more then 4 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. So I plan to fly to the airport, make a low pass down the runway, check to ensure it's dry enough to land on, circle to the left (to avoid the towers to the east), then come in and land.

1:45 pm: I climb in the plane and start the engine. I get all the radios set while it warms up. I taxi carefully to the end of runway 27, do a runup, melt the ice out of the carburetor, make my radio call, and start rolling. I took off with one notch of flaps, so I didn't have to put them in before I landed, so the plane flew off the runway at 60mph. I was up to 250ft AGL by the end of the runway. A slight right turn put me over the freeway. I kept climbing, but at 400ft AGL the visibility got bad, so I came back down to 300 and stayed there. Tracking the freeway gave me lots of options if the engine had quit- I had 2 feeder roads, two main lanes, plus the 3 'lanes' of grass that separated them. Looking down, I could see lots of scattered ground fog, rare here in the afternoons.

The church popped up right where it should have been. I pulled the power back a bit, put the carb heat on to melt the ice (again!), lined up and headed for the runway. The 300ft tall crane between the church and the freeway came as a bit of a surprise - I knew they were building a shopping mall there, but I hadn't expected the crane. I sidestepped to the right to avoid it.

I leveled off at 10 ft or so to check out the runway. It looked good - no standing water, the grass was short enough to see dirt (tall grass can hide puddles), and it looked like I could make the turnoff to get to Jim's hanger.

Which was closed and locked, not a soul around.

I sighed, flew to the end of the runway, did a left climbing turn back to 300ft, melted the carb ice again, flew back to the freeway, followed it home, landed, and went to the pumps to fill up the gas. While I waited for my credit card to be accepted, I called Jim's cell phone:

Me: "Hey, where are you? I just risked life and limb to come see you, and you weren't in your hanger!"
Him: "I'm having lunch at Weiser. What did you do, fly over there in this weather?"
Me: "Yes, actually, I did."
Him: Silence.

Okay, maybe it wasn't such a great idea after all. But it sure did put a smile on my face all afternoon.

Current Mood: mischievous mischievous

2 comments or Leave a comment
From: ex_inviolet697 Date: April 26th, 2004 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
You go, girl.

Next annual, perhaps think of installing a pair of cable-cutters on the Tripacer?

alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: April 26th, 2004 03:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Heh heh heh...

I remembered people remarking that they didn't expect to see me turn up at PJY in "that weather" in the Cessna 140. When you only go 85 knots, VFR 'yep, it's three miles, one and a half out the left window and one and a half out the right' is actually practical. Although scud running is heresy to some, in a slow plane it can be done.

Which reminds me. One of my friends who owns the major share in the Auster once had to _climb_ to get back onto the northern plains of the Isle of Man he was flying so low over the Irish Sea to stay in sight of the ground (water). The northern plains are about 75ft MSL. At least over the sea there's not much to hit. Scud running is sort of the way of life in the northern British Isles.
2 comments or Leave a comment