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Night circling NDB approaches are, like, teh suk. I had an… - Tina Marie's Ramblings
Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme...
Night circling NDB approaches are, like, teh suk.

I had an AngelFlight, from Gulfport, MS to Houston, last night, in the Twin Comanche. I left work early so I could be in the air by 5. Winds were awful - surface winds 15G25 out of the southwest, winds aloft were out of the southwest from 25-35kts.

Some quick number-crunching said it was going to take me 2 hours to get there, and 2.5 to get home. This wasn't a big deal - I wasn't meeting my patient until 8 in Gulfport, and we'd be home by 11:00.

First problem: I couldn't get anyone from Angel Flight to give her a ride to where she was staying at the Med Center that late. It wasn't a big deal, because I don't live all that far from where she was going, so I figured I'd just drive her there.

Other then the winds, weather was great. 10 miles of vis, clear below 25000 ft. My briefing mentioned a few scattered clouds over downtown, but I figured it was just a bit of lifted smog.

I filed IFR (lots of MOAs and the New Orleans Class B along the way, and I want flight following over the Louisiana swamps), I loaded up Matt (the flight instructor I used for my multi), and we headed out.

I had a minor reroute at the beginning, but they gave me 9000ft right away, and sent me east. The flight there went great - everything worked fine, except I forgot to tell the Shadin fuel gauge that I'd filled the tanks, and it started flashing at me menacingly when I got down to what it thought was 45 mins of gas. Then it got more persistent at 30 mins. And when it thought the tanks were empty, it got really, really annoying. Luckily, by then, I was at the destination, because otherwise I'd have pulled it's breaker.

But, overall, it went well. The descent and slowing-down went great, and I was at pattern altitude below flap speed before I got to the field. This is a big deal in the twin, because you can only do one of those at a time, so you have to start thinking about these things 50-75 miles away.

Nice landing, except I forgot to advance the props, and it was a bit long.

My patient was there when I got there, so I told her we had a few minutes, put in my fuel order, got a new briefing, and re-filed to come home. Winds had picked up even more, and now I was looking at 3 hours to get home, but they said the surface winds had died a bit - down to only 10 knots of crosswind. Oh, yeah, and there were a few scattered clouds at 3000.

Matt preflighted for me while I got the patient in and settled, and we headed out. By now it's 8:15, and 11:00 isn't looking doable. But I run a little higher power setting, and it's not too bad - I'm still showing 130kts groundspeed. By the time we got back to the Houston area, it's obvious that there aren't just a few scattered clouds at 3000 - I hear them clearing people for the GPS/RNAV approach into West Houston, 7 miles from my destination.

They give me a great reroute, shaving 10 minutes off my trip. But they won't let me descend - at 13 miles out, I'm still at 5000ft. They finally let me down to 2000, but not until I'm 3 miles out, and there's no way I can do that, and clear me for the visual. I level off at 2000, still on top of a broken layer, a mile past the airport.

What I thought:

"If I could just drop another 500 ft, I'd be underneath, and visibility is good, and I could just scud-run back to the field."
"But I'd have to cancel to do that, and if I do that, and something goes wrong, I've lost my option to do the approach."
"This is ridiculous. This is a big airplane, and I should be operating it professionally, especially with a passenger."

What I said:

"Matt, would you call approach and tell them we need the NDB approach, please?"

I slowed down while they vectored me to final, then shot the NDB, breaking out at 1200ft. Then I had to circle to the other end of the runway. Matt was a wonderful co-pilot, helping me when I needed it, and staying out of my way when I didn't. But Weiser's always a challenge in the twin at night, because it's short, narrow, and not centered between the runway lights. Add 10 kts of crosswind, and an unstable approach, and, well, I've had better landings. I've certainly had landings that used less of the brake pads.

But we were down. My patient was thrilled - she said it was "the best adventure she'd had in months". By the time we were headed downtown, she was asking about flying lessons.

Matt offered to put the plane away, and I let him. I was just too exhausted to do anything but drive her to the Med Center, go home, and go to bed. I finally got to bed about 1:30.

We go back to Gulfport to take her home tomorrow morning...

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alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: May 1st, 2005 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Weiser - the site of my most embarrassing landings!
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: May 2nd, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think most embarrassing landings in the Houston area happen at Weiser. :)
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