Tuesday, October 17, 2006

2004 Summer Vacation, Day 8

August 17, 2004

Westerly, RI to Cleveland, OH

Time to head home. There's a bit of cloud cover in Connecticut, but beyond that it looks like smooth flying all the way to Ohio. I file direct and hope for the best.

It's not to be. When I call for my clearance, I head the dreaded "78S I've got a full routing here for you, advise when ready to copy."

Drum roll, please.

Here it is in all its glory: "Radar vectors, direct Bradley, Victor 292, GAGES, Victor 408, Lake Henry, Phillipsburg, Victor 30, Akron, direct Skypark." Wow.

Turns out, it's a relatively simple path that steers me north of the New York Class Bravo, then pretty much direct across Pennsylvania to Ohio.

Having determined this, I'm ready for takeoff. When I arrived at the airport, the cloud cover was scattered at best. In the intervening hour, it's become a solid overcast, despite the ATIS report of broken at 6000. Well, in for a dime, in for a dollar. That's why I got the rating, after all.

I take off and within about 700 AGL, I'm in the midst of it and having to make a 90° turn to the right. I'm really scanning hard now, and consciously reminding myself to forget anything I might be feeling in the seat of my pants. Read, cross-check, interpret, and adjust if necessary. After a couple of minutes - that seem like an eternity - I break out on top, headed northeast to Bradley.

Personally, I find that flying over a solid undercast is exceptionally nerve-wracking, and this time is no different. I'm constantly scanning the Low-Enroute Chart, Sectional, and Approach Plates to keep apprised of terrain and nearby airports where I can head if there's a problem. Also, the NRST function of the Garmin 430 helps.

Thankfully, the undercast dissipates just west of Bradley and it looks pretty good for the next couple hundred miles. Scranton's reporting a 100 foot ceiling, but I can clearly see it from 6000 feet, so I suspect something is awry with the ATIS.

I had planned to fly this trip non-stop, but my kidneys and bladder have decided not to cooperate. West of Williamsport, I finally determine I can't make it all the way home without stopping and decide to get a diversion. Frankly, though, I'd rather not tell everyone on the frequency that I have to go potty. I ponder this for a bit, and come up with my line:

"New York Center, 78S with a request."

"78S, New York Center, go ahead."

"78S is going to need a diversion, looks like DuBois will work."

"78S, is there a problem?

"Negative, we just need to attend to, uh, environmental needs."

ATC chuckles, and gives me the desired vector to DuBois. I land and literally race from the ramp to the men's room. After that, it's a quick call to Altoona Flight Service to file direct to Skypark.

The airspace over Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio proves is a little bumpy, so I choose lower - it doesn't help. I remembered - too late - an article I'd read about going higher for calmer air.

As I transit the Youngstown TRSA, I'm in and out of the clouds. Then, we get a student pilot with his CFI, and they've got a stuck mike. It's not the first time that I've heard such a thing, and everyone on frequency gets treated to a narrative about the attitude indicator, pattern flying, the CFI's daughter's house, and what he had for dinner last night. I'm amused, but also concerned, because there's no way ATC can get a word in edgewise. I go back to Cleveland Center and inquire about an alternate frequency for Youngstown. They give it to me and I switch over. Eventually, the student and CFI get the problem worked out and everyone has a bit of a laugh about it.

Shortly thereafter, I'm within sight of Skypark and cancel IFR. I join the traffic, make a nice downwind to base, short final and I'm on the ground. It's taken five hours, not including the layover in DuBois, but I'm home in one piece and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed for the first time in over a week.

It was a great trip despite Mother Nature's best efforts to ruin it for me and my Dad. I logged 13.8 hours total time, including 2.5 hours of actual instrument flight. But best of all, I got to spend some quality time with my Dad and the rest of my family.

1 comment:

The Asian Badger said...

And in the end, that's what it's all about. Quality time. The freedom of GA gives all of us that.

Thanks for sharing.