Sunday, June 11, 2006

Coming Home

The weather forecast for the return home was about as good as it gets. Good VFR weather all the way, perhaps some undercast through central PA -- where there always seems to be clouds -- and only the least bit of gusting winds for the departure at KWST.

For the heck of it -- or actually to avoid having to plan a route that avoided any restricted airspace -- the IFR Pilot filed IFR.

Before departing, we got to see a Pawnee pick up a banner for towing over the beaches of RI and CT. It was amazing! A very-low level pass about 10 feet off the ground, followed by the sudden roar of the engine as the pilot made a steep climb out with the banner in tow. The only thing missing is a picture, because the IFR Pilot left his doggone camera in the plane while it was all happening.

After saying all the requisite goodbyes, it was a short taxi over to runway 32 to accommodate the winds: 330 at 10, gusting 16. Every other time I've been into WST, winds have always favored runway 25, so this was the first time using any other runway. Takeoff was a non-issue on the near-4000 foot runway.

The first hint of a problem came when on checking in with Providence Approach.

"Providence Approach, Arrow 2MH."

"Arrow 2MH, Providence Approach."

"2MH just departed Westerly, IFR to [the Home Base], requesting IFR clearance."

"2MH, standby."

Then came the most feared words:

"2MH, I have your clearance. It is a full routing. Advise ready to copy."

"2MH ready to copy."

"2MH is cleared to [the Home Base] via Bradley, V130, BOWAN, V292, SAGES, V408, Lake Henry, Phillipsburg, Akron, direct. Climb, maintain 4000, expect 8000 in 10 minutes."

Well, after that exercise in Gregg Shorthand, I managed to get the readback correct and headed for the Bradley VOR. Clearly, this evil route was the product of a evil Air Traffic Controller who wanted to punish the IFR Pilot for going IFR on a VFR day! Here's what the routing looked like:

Truth be told, the IFR Pilot didn't care, because one purpose of this trip was to make a major dent in the 10 solo hours the insurance gods want. So, if it took an extra 15 or 20 minutes, that was fine, as was the practice in navigating the system with the new GPS.

Of course, the IFR Pilot doesn't take anything lying down, and as soon as it seemed practicable, I started requesting direct to various VORs or intersections that helped cut down on the unnecessary routing. Flight Aware shows the final track wasn't too bad:

Well, as it turned out, filing IFR was prudent, because it wasn't entirely CAVU. There were some awesome looking cloud formations out of CT, plus PA was socked in again. Do people living in PA ever see the sun?!?!?!

Of course, the IFR Pilot was hard at work aviating, navigating, and communicating the entire time:

This, unlike what he did during the San Diego trip:

For the record, however, MS was also seen "working hard" during the San Diego trip:

Anyway, back to the trip at hand. About 270 NM from the Home Base, after having been given another amendment to the routing, the IFR pilot was switched to a new controller. She promptly inquired if I wanted direct to the Home Base.

I briefly considering asking her to marry me, but I thought that a little quick. After all, it was only one good reroute. So instead, I responded with, "Two Mike Hotel will take direct anywhere you want to send me." LOL, she got a kick out of that. I'm just glad she didn't send me to, well, nevermind.

The worst part of the entire flight occurred about 80 miles from home, just when I'm starting to stop worrying about all the what ifs, and start preparing for the arrival. I noticed an object speeding toward me out of the corner of my eye. I barely had time to react, when I saw that it was a UAV. No, not one of these:

No, instead, it was a balloon. Not a hot air balloon. Just a balloon. Like your child would have at his or her birthday part. It was incredible, it just sped by me on a current of air and before I could do anything, it had passed by me. Only after it was gone did I think, wow, that really could have caused some problems if we had run into it. I think there was a string or ribbon attached to the bottom. We certainly didn't need to get that wrapped around the prop, that's for sure!

Well, after that excitement died down, it was time to make a beeline for the Home Base. A mere 4.6 hours takeoff, we were on the ground. The IFR Pilot did manage to bounce the landing, not too hard, but enough to come off the ground for a second before I got it back down in plenty of time.

With that, only another 1.5 solo hours until the sacrifice to the insurance gods is complete. Time to sign up for some more Angel Flights!


VFRPileIt said...

No, instead, it was a balloon.

Funny, the same thing happened to me this past weekend. Saw it right off the nose. Manuevered just a bit and it passed under the right wing in the slipstream... got video of it too!

There probably wasn't much danger of it getting wrapped up in your prop but a good rule-of-thumb is to never hit anything in the air.

On the subject of balloons: while I was working a flight test mission a few years ago, our pilot encountered a large (30+) bundle of ballons approx 20K MSL, had to manuever to avoid sucking the bunch down an intake. Really could have impacted the mission.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the Garmin blog --

They're giving away a free t-shirt right now if you have Garmin equipment in your plane.