Saturday, February 02, 2008

WAAS Upgrade, Part I

As previously reported, Mike Hotel is undergoing an upgrade on its Garmin 430 to make it WAAS-enabled.

Today, I needed to deliver the 430 to the shop that's performing the work, so they can box it up and ship it out to Garmin for delivery by February 7. Should have been an easy flight from the Home Base to PHD, .3 on the tach. Done it a million times. OK, maybe not a million, but according to my electronic logbook at least 14 times, including a visit on my student pilot long-cross country.

The outlook briefing I received last night predicted MVFR conditions due primarily to low ceilings. Good visibility, and so long as there was a couple thousand feet below the clouds, the flight was certainly doable given the relatively flat terrain that needed to be traversed.

Fast forward 12 hours and peek out the window. Uh oh, that doesn't look so good. Fire up the computer and get a full briefing. Ceilings are around 1400 overcast, and there's an AIRMET for icing from surface to 5000 feet. After hemming and hawing for a bit, and debating whether to sit tight and see if the flight could be done later in the afternoon, I made the decision to drive, in no small part because I knew the boss was expecting to see my face in the office for at least a little while today.

This turned out to be very, very wise, because as I screamed east on Interstate 76, I espied the 1074-foot tall transmission towers here:

What I couldn't see, however, was the top of the tallest one. That, of course, means that the ceilings were more like 900 to 950 foot, and that's far too dicey to be out scud running. There's already been one aviation tragedy this weekend, I won't be contributing to it!

So, what should have been a couple hour adventure turned into 5+ hours of driving. First, drive to the Home Base, track down the mechanic, and have him pull the radio. Then, get on the road and head south. Get off one exit too soon, drive too far west, get hopeful when I see an airport sign, then come to find out it's not the right airport. (2D7 looks pretty interesting though, with a nice grass runway having VASIs at both ends, a couple sets of T-hangars that seemed full, and a beat-up DC-3 parked nearby.)

Retrieve laptop and cell modem from back seat, fire 'em up, and get more directions. Get back on highway, go south one more exit, drive a few more miles, and -- voila -- there's PHD. Drop off the 430 and eat a dozen chicken wings at Perfect Landing. Get back in car, drive home.

For the record, I enjoy visiting New Philadelphia more by air the flight much more than the drive, even with satellite radio in the PT Cruiser...

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