Dinner was very nice at the Lakeside Inn. Mom had a wonderful time and it was nice to be together with my sisters and Kathy's new hubby, Kevin. Mom opened her presents and we hung around the hotel until it got rather late.
I asked Kathy if she could take me to the airport before it got too late. On the way to the airport I called for a weather briefing. The conditions were about the same as the flight down although the winds had diminished a bit. I had expected to get pretty strong headwinds, but they weren't too bad. I filed IFR and we arrived at the airport.
The plane had plenty of fuel - about 3 hours worth and the preflight turned up nothing unusual.
The airport was pitch black and abandoned. I listened to the ASOS and to the CTAF. No traffic, good weather. I clicked the mic three times to turn on the runway lights and I taxied to the end of 31. I completed my runup, announced my intentions and started the takeoff roll. As I passed through pattern altitude, I announced my departure and called Orlando Approach Control. I advised that I was at 2000', had just departed Leesburg and requested my IFR clearance to CRG. The controller said, "Standby, I'll see if I can find a clearance for you." That sounded odd to me...should be in the system. After about 30 seconds, the controller called back and cleared me as filed and told me to climb to 4000'. I had filed KLEE direct to OCF direct CRG. Procedures requre that you file for a navaid as the first point and OCF was the closest aid that was somewhat on my route. Just a few minutes later, ATC handed me off to the next controller who immediately cleared me direct to CRG. This put me through the Palatka MOA and the restricted areas within it...since they were all cold, there was no problem. That clearance saved me about 10 minutes of flying time.
South of Platka I encountered some dense clouds for about five or 10 minutes. That's spooky flying - night and in IMC. It's like driving with a blanket over your head. I managed.
As I neared CRG, ATC asked me what approach I wanted. Since there were lots of clouds in the area and I was approaching from the south west, the best approach would be the ILS32. Even though that would take me out over the beach, it would be the best way to find the airport through the clouds. ATC gave me vectors towards the approach. I was cleared for the approach and handed off to advisory. The CRG tower closed at 10 and it was around midnight.
I flew the needles very well and came out of the clouds around 1000' AGL. The wind favored circling to 5, so I did that and announced my intentions on the CTAF. Like Leesburg, I had the airport all to my self.
The other day I was reviewing the approach plates for CRG and noticed that there are nonstandard arrival procedures - the ILS and Localizer 32 are not available if the tower is closed. Hmmmm....ATC cleared me for the approach, but I requested it. I've got to look in to this.
Single pilot night IFR is an absolute blast.