Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Day 19 Summary

OK, OK, y'all have been quite patient with the IFR Pilot and his heretofore lame excuses for not posting the final installment of the Great Alaska Flying and Ice Cream Adventure. Let's see if I can remember what happened on that fateful day last week....

Morning came early to Appleton, Wisconsin. The IFR Pilot and Dadster awoke promptly, checked out, and were at Outgamie Regional Airport by 7:30-ish. We paid our fuel tab and got an escort to the parking area. It was a gorgeous morning, weather wise, and the plan was to ride the tailwinds to Valparaiso, Indiana, refuel, and then get home. Whereupon the Dadster could recharge his batteries in anticipation of the long, long car ride back from to his home base.

Departing Appleton, we headed due south. That put us smack dab in the thick of Oshkosh traffic. I lit up all available lights and climbed to what I thought would be a healthy altitude to keep us clear of the traffic inbound to Oshkosh. The plan seemed to work, because although we heard a continuous stream of traffic both inbound to and outbound from Oshkosh on the radio, we only actually saw one plane in our vicinity.

There's not that much to see, but I snapped a quick pic as we passed west of OSH:

Well, as we approach Chicago's airspace, our travel plans were amended for two reasons. First, I could tell that the weather east of Chicago wasn't CAVU. Second, the IFR Pilot needed to tend to, um, "environmental needs." So, we dived bombed for a past destination: De Kalb Municipal Airport, where we had stopped for fuel on Day 1.

The line guy was helpful, but frankly, I think he's been pumping too much av gas. That he had several aircraft on the ramp at once seemed to perplex him beyond what it should have. And, after determining that some IFR flight was going to be required to get home, he was really confused when I asked to buy a Low En Route Chart. Of all things, they didn't have one. Dadgumit.

On the ground at De Kalb were a trio of gorgeous warbirds that, of all things, were not headed to Oshkosh. I think they were making their way home.

The weather between Chicago and home base wasn't pretty. I elected to make another intermediate stop, this time in Toledo. In an effort to try and stay out of Chicago's way, I filed DKB-JOT-TOL, thinking that route might cut the mustard. Of course not. The actual route, if I remember, was "radar vectors, direct Gipper, direct Toledo." Well, "radar vectors" was pretty much all the way to South Bend, home of the Gipper VOR (GIJ). Think "big huge arc south of Chicago and just over the edge of Lake Michigan, taking me well out of a simple, direct path to my destination." Even 10 miles south of GIJ, when I asked for direct Toledo, I couldn't get it. Egads, maybe I should have overflown the lake. On second thought, nah.

I filed for 9000 out of Chicago, hoping to climb over the cumulus that was building. Approach warned me, "I'll have 9000 as your final, but it won't be for a while." Three times I asked for higher, three times I got rejected. One call went like this:

"Chicago, 78S, any chance for higher at this time?"


That pretty much sums it up, huh?

Well, once under the control of South Bend we got our climb to 9000 and had clear sailing to Toledo. ATIS was reporting some clouds, but we were VFR all the way and got a visual approach.

After a quick lunch, I called Flight Service for a briefing back to the home base. It wasn't looking pretty. The system that had hammered the area the day before hadn't quite departed the area. The reports were of overcast at 500, but with decent visibilities. The briefer did say, "If you're gonna go, do it sooner rather than later."

That's all I need to know, let'd go Dadster.

The home base is VFR only, so I filed IFR direct to the airport two miles east. Once again, no go. Instead, I got send to a couple of VORs before direct to the IAF for the GPS 2 into 3G3. I filed for 7000, which was intended to keep me on top of it all.

Things were hopping at TOL, which I guess was understandable under the circumstances. After takeoff, I was promptly cleared direct to the first VOR and definitively instructed to expedite my climb to 7000. No problem and I "accomodated" the "request."

Handed off the Mansfield, things were looking just ducky. I had reviewed the approach plate a bunch of times, and had the approaches for the alternate -- KCLE -- readily available.

Fifty files from the IAF, Mansfield sent me down to 5000. Oy vey, that's right into the clag. To be honest, the IFR Pilot's not a fan of sustained single pilot IFR flight in an airplane without an autopilot. Indeed, if we're being honest, the IFR Pilot hasn't actually flown much single pilot IFR other than climbing or descending through layers. Well, in for a dime, in for a dollar, if it's that bad, we can always go back to Toledo for a visual. There's lots of fuel on board.

Jumping ahead, after 45 minutes, we were cleared for the approach. Unlike most standard GPS approaches that follow the "T" configuration, the GPS 2 into 3G3 involes flying from the IAF to the FAF via a heading of 003, then turning to a heading of 015 for the final segment. That's actually OK by me, because it elminates making a 90 degree turn in the scud.

Around 3000 MSL, we started catching glimpses of the ground at 3G3. I breathed a small sigh of relief, because to me that was an indication that the approach wouldn't be to minimums. Couldn't be sure, because there's no weather reporting at 3G3.

We broke out for good at 2300 with the runway right in front of us where it was supposed to be. Yeeeehhhhaaaaaawwwwwwwww, I did it!

After touching down and making a quick phone call to the home base, I learned that a couple other folks had just flown in there VFR. So I fired 78S back up and we flew the 3 minute trip to the home base. Over the top for left downwind, followed by a quick base and final and we were on the ground.

And so came to an end our great adventure.

Where to next???