Sunday, July 23, 2006

Craig to North Palm Beach

We flew from Jacksonville Craig Municipal (KCRG) to North Palm Beach County (F45) for the weekend. As seems to be the norm these days, the plane was not fueled and had more squawks than I prefer when we arrived Saturday morning. The log suggested that about 3 hours of fuel had been burned since it was last refueled and that would not have allowed me the required 45 minutes reserve for an IFR flight. I started the engine and motored over to the fuel depot. I was very happy to see that one of the line crew had shown up for work early. The fuel is not self-service and I have no idea how to turn the pumps on.

I was rushed and went through my preflight a little faster than usual. I found that the taxi light did not work. No big deal. Everything else seemed to work fine. When I checked the ATIS, I clicked the push-to-talk and nothing happened. I had to really push hard on the button to get the mic to transmit. Not good.

Because I had rushed throught the preflight, we were able to depart within a few minutes of our scheduled departure of 9:15. I went through the runup checklist and the engine checked out fine. I taxied to the split between taxiway C and F in case the tower wanted me to hold for release, that way I could get out of the way of waiting aircraft if needed. I heard the tower clear another aircraft for landing and then I called for take-off clearance. The tower cleared me, but didn't give me a departure heading. As I taxied onto the runway, I asked the controller if he had a departure heading for me. He responded as though I had asked the dumbest question ever. He said, "Do you mean a departure frequency?" with lots of attitude in his voice. I calmly replied, "I'm departing IFR, an usually the tower assigned a departure heading". Now he understood and replied, "Position and hold".

He then asked the flight in the pattern to extend his downwind by a half mile.

Momentarily, he re-cleared me to takeoff and fly heading 160, climb 2000. An odd way to do it, but it worked.

Throughout the conversation, I was having fits with the PTT. Half of my calls were broken up because the mic cut in and out. Getting frustrated with the unreliable button, I pulled the cord from my headset and swapped it to the other side of the plane. The PTT on the co-pilot's yoke worked fine, but it meant that I would have to reach across the plane every time I wanted to talk.

As I approached Daytona, the Daytona Approach Controller gave me several traffic alerts. The first one was at 5500', five hundred below me headed in the opposite direction. I saw this aircraft about 15 seconds before he passed beneath me. Next the tower called for another plane behind me that was overtaking me. He was also at 5,500' flying on the V-3 airway, same direction. I looked behind me, but couldn't see the airplane. As he passed beneath just below the right wing, Maureen pointed it out. I couldn't see him until he got way in front of me. He was not in contact with ATC and was flying VFR only about 1000' above the clouds below him. I was just about to call ATC to announce "Tally-ho", but the controller called me first and said the plane was no longer a factor and had begun descending. I watched as this VFR flight descended into the clouds along the airway.

This kind of crap really pisses me off. The regulations are very clear and anyone flying a twin engine plane should have plenty of flying time to be extremely familiar with the regulations. We were on the airway which is Class E airspace. He was not on an instrument flight plan or ATC would have been in contact. Nevertheless he flew into the clouds. This is so friggin' dangerous. So what if you are instrument rated. If you aren't in the system, chances are you will not receive any traffic calls...heck it's just illegal and dangerous.

The rest of the fight was fairly uneventful and we arrived on schedule. I canceled IFR about 8 miles out because ATC was going to have me hold for a student flying the ILS 8R. Winds were favoring 26L and I didn't want to hold. At 2000 feet, we were below the cloud layer at 3000'. I could see the plane flying the ILS as well as one aircraft in the pattern. I opted to overfly the airport at 1500' then make a descending teardrop entry into the midfield downwind for 26L. I was a bit impatient and didn't fly past the airport far enough, so my pattern was very close to the runway. This meant that my descent would be steep and hot. As I turned final, I pulled power to idle, dropped full flaps and executed a forward slip until I was about 40 feet AGL. I kicked out the slip and lined up the runway. I was still a bit hot, but made a smooth touchdown.

I really love flying and days like this give just enough challenges to be interesting without being too dangerous. 2.3 hours of x-country with 0.3 of actual instrument.

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