Saturday, July 23, 2005

Day 15 Summary

After a quick campside breakfast of grits for the IFR Pilot and oatmeal for the Dadster, we hit the shower in the pilot's lounge. Then, it was time to get a weather brief and launch for Oshkosh.

Holy Cow, Batman, that's not happening. There was a huge thunderstorm cell developing in eastern South Dakota that looked like it was heading right for Minneapolis and points east. Guess where Oshkosh is???

The IFR Pilot again exercised command authority and determined that we were not going to try and "beat" the storm. We'd sit tight and follow in its wake. Plus, Aitkin Aviation was offering free sloppy joes and chili. How can you turn that down? Plus, it gave me time to make some calls and set up lodging in Oshkosh. (That turned out not be be quite as hard as I would have imagined it.)

Aitkin dodged the worst of it, though there were reports of localized flooding and wind damage south of us. So, the $25 I spent to put the plane in the hangar ended up not being necessary, but $25 is cheaper than replacing wing skins damaged by 1.5" hail -- which was widely reported!

Around 2:00 p.m., I got a briefing. The cell was east of Eau Claire, moving at 50 knots. I filed IFR to Eau Claire, and figured we'd sort things out then. After launching, the skud was much lower than I thought. Minneapolis Center wouldn't issue me a clearance without my identifying a bearing off of a local VOR. I had a bit of an issue figuring it out. With the weather worse than I had been led to believe, I elected to 180 it out of there and go back to Aitkin. So, after a total of 18 minutes, we were back in Aitkin.

Make a long story short, after a couple of hours, the clouds had lifted mightily in Aitkin, and every AWOS along the route to Eau Claire was reporting "clear below 12,000." Perfect! I refiled, dialed in the VOR in advance, and took off. I got my clearance promptly and climbed to 5000.

Where we had ground speeds of 92 knots. No way we're staying there kids. The IFR Pilot sought, and obtained, clearance to 7000, at which point our groundspeed soared to 120 knots. Yeah, baby!

Soon, we were above a solid undercast. Hmm, what's this about "clear below 12,000"? Doggone AWOS weather.

I got handed off to the final sector controller, who asked me to advise when I had the Eau Claire weather. I promptly advised her that the weather was all "missing." She asked what approach I wanted, and I said "Gimme the ILS."

The ILS 22 at EAU has three initial fixes: one at the marker with a typical procedure turn reversal, and two DME arcs. The IFR Pilot has flown precisely one DME arc in his flying career, so guess where the IFR Pilot was cleared to? You got it, the northwest DME arc.

Well, I flew her pretty good, and overheard someone in the pattern at EAU. I found this hard to believe, given that from 10 miles out, we had no sign of the airport. I cycled the lights and had advised the Dadster to be looking for the airport lights. We spotted them about 6 miles out, so I called and cancelled IFR, transitioned to visual flight, and made a pretty good landing.

Tomorrow, Oshkosh!

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