Sunday, July 23, 2006

Typical Florida Summer Weather

The weather forecast called for isolated thunderstorms throughout the state with tops exceeding 45,000 feet. Welcome to Florida in July.

I gave the plane a very thorough checkout and I called North County unicom to see what runway was in use. 26 Left came the reply...the same runway I landed on yesterday. I began to taxi towards the runway and saw another Skyhawk coming towards me looking a little lost. I could see that there were planes on both sides of the oncoming plane, so I stopped and turned off my landing lights as a signal to the other aircraft that I was stopping. He made a slight turn to his right and we passed each other without incident. He made some comment on the radio like "That'll work" and I thanked him.

I went through the runup as we taxied to the runway. Reaching the runup area, I called clearance delivery and received my clearance. I was given an amended clearance - to VRB via radar vectors, then as filed. Climb 2000, expect 7000 in 10. Squawks and freqs. Upon entering controlled airspace, fly heading 360. She then asked me to say what runway I would be using and when I would be ready. I readback the clearance and told her I was ready to depart 26 Left. She cleared me and I switch to the CTAF and off we went.

After contacting ATC, I was told to fly a heading of 330, no 340...then 330 and then was told to join V3. After turning to 330, I looked at the GPS display to see where V3 was. I also tuned the VOR to the VRB vortac. It was clear that the airway was to my right, but a course of 330 was not going to intercept it at all. I cheated and turned to 350 which would have me intercept the airway about 20 miles south of Vero.

ATC was busy calling traffic for everyone except me. I was in touch with Miami center when I saw a twin engine pass directly beneath me about 500 feet below. I just caught a glimpse of him to my left when he zipped under me. This traffic should have been called. We were way too close.

I could see some towering cumulous and cumulonimbus clouds ahead and to my left. These would later become the scattered thunderstorms that were forecast. I heard several aircraft request deviations to go around these clouds. ATC actually told one pilot that most planes were flying right through without any problem. I was really hoping that we would get down before these clouds reached the airport.

The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful although we got a fair amount of weather flying. Nearing Ormond Beach, ATC instructed me to descend to 5000 feet. That would put me directly in the clouds and I should have asked the controller if he could keep me at 7000 a while longer. The clouds weren't too bumpy and Maureen didn't seem to bothered by the ride. South of St. Augustine, I was told to fly 360. This vectored me over the ocean. Daytona approach then handed me off to JAX. We got further and further off shore. I had tuned the ILS and the VOR and I could tell we were getting close to intercepting the localizer, so I called ATC. "Standby" was the reply. Shortly, she called back and asked for my request. I said, "I would like the ILS 32 circle 23 to Craig and I was wondering how long you wanted me to fly 360?"

She replied, "continue flying 360, you are number 3 for the approach". I was flying at 3000 feet now and was probably barely within glide distance of the beach if something went wrong. I then noticed that we had flown past the localizer. Eventually, she turned me to 230 which would be perpindicular to the approach course. I'd be making a steep right turn. She also advised me to maintain 2000 until established on the ILS, "Cleared for the ILS 32 approach to Craig". I turned the plane and descended using the autopilot. As I got closer to the approach course, I canceled the autopilot and began to handfly the plane. I was flying the needles very well and intercepted the localizer, then the glideslope. About 10 miles out, I was told to contact Craig tower.

I called the tower and was asked to report ADERR which is 5.4 miles out from the airport. Reaching ADERR which is also the point at which I started my timer, I called the tower and received clearance to land. I flew the needles to about 300 feet, then looked up and there was the runway straight ahead. Crossing the airport property, I got quite an updraft. I managed to land fairly smoothly and was immediately cleared to taxi to parking.

About 20 minutes after we got home, the skies unleashed a tremendous thunderstorm. If we had left only 30 minutes later, we would have caught this mess. Timing is everything.

Another 2.3 of cross-country and 0.5 of actual instrument plus one instrument approach. Good day.

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