March 16, 2005
March 11, 2005
|Tuesday March 29, 2005|
Last Wednesday I flew the Mooney from Charleston up to West Virginia. I had some
chores at home to accomplish before flying on up to the Northeast to visit my
Connecticut daughter for Easter.
The trip up from Charleston was
through brilliant blue skies and smooth air. As usual Dude snoozed in the back
seat, only stirring to swap ends, glancing out the window as he did, as if to
confirm that we were on course.
As we arrived over the mountains of
southern West Virginia, a cloud layer slid under us to hide the rugged
landscape. Nearing Buckhannon I tuned in the ASOS for Upshur Regional Airport
and found the airport advertising a 400-foot overcast and a mile and a half
visibility. A quick check of Clarksburg showed better weather there, so we
continued the twenty or so miles north and took the visual approach there. On
the descent through the cloud layer, clear ice swept back over the windshield,
making me glad the layer was a thin one. Underneath the clouds, night had fallen
and the transition from day to night was startlingly quick.
there was heavy rain throughout the day as I worked in my home office. Clouds
crowded the mountaintops with temperatures hanging in the mid 40's and I
wondered about the flight north tomorrow.
Friday dawned with no change
in the weather and I called Flight Service for an early briefing. Bad news.
Freezing levels were forecast to be lower than the minimum enroute altitude
across the mountains, so another plan was in order. A check of airports along my
planned route revealed that a VFR flight to stay out of the icing might be
possible, but I wasn't convinced it was the smart thing to do. I was undecided.
Should I go to the airport to be ready to go if the weather changed for the
better? Once I loaded the truck to start, but changed my mind after a few
minutes of watching the scudding, broken layers of clouds overhead, obviously
much lower than I would be while crossing the mountains. The air felt like there
was ice in it, and even SMELLED like there was ice in it, if you know what I
I unloaded the truck. Perhaps I would drive the miserable ten
hours to Connecticut. Another hour of dithering and I called Flight Service
again. Ha! Now there were pilot reports, and the icing level predictions had
been revised upwards, enough for me to stay out of the freezer at the MEA. I
filled IFR for six thousand feet, even though it was the wrong altitude for the
direction, with a note in remarks that I wanted six thousand to stay below the
freezing level. The truck was repacked and I headed for the airport.
noticed that many times the flights that cause me to worry the most in advance,
are the flights that end up being the most routine. Almost all of the minutes
that I've spent absolutely terrified in an airplane came unpredicted and
unplanned for, while most of the flights that I've dreaded have been good ones
after all. The Friday flight was one of these, routine in the extreme, but
planning it was exhausting, and arriving in Danbury I felt as If I had flown
much farther than I really had.