Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving Flying

The second flight of the long weekend took me from Jacksonville's Craig Municipal Airport (KCRG) to the Tampa North Aeropark (X39). Mom was picking us up in Tampa and I had offered flights to my neices and nephews. I told her the night before that we would be there by 10:30 am, so a 9AM wheels up time would be the order of the day.

There were three or four other planes who were leaving on instrument plans at 9AM, so clearance delivery told me that my clearance was on request and he'd give it to me in the run-up area at runway 23. He also cleared me to taxi to 23.

I ran through the checklist as I taxied. Reaching the run-up area, I found another skyhawk already there, another single coming up behind me and a Mooney coming from the opposite side of the airport. I parked as close as I could to the Cessna. The controller advised me to tell him when I was ready to copy - I immediately told him I was ready.

I was cleared via radar vectors to OCF then direct DADES then X39--Climb 2000, expect 5000 in 10 given a squawk and the departure frequency. It might come as a surprise that I had filed 5000 as my altitude since this flight was to the West, but in Florida, ATC does things a little differently when dealing with altitudes. If you are in the system - whether flying IFR or using flight following on a VFR flight, ATC looks at things from a NORTH/SOUTH perspective rather than an EAST/WEST perspective in the Florida peninsula. Since we have a long, narrow state, more flying is done north/south than east/west. Traffic separation is more easily accomplished when adjustments are made with this in mind. I've seen this quite a bit on flights down the East coast - When I flew home from North Palm Beach County, I was given 7000' and oncoming Southbound traffic was generally at 6000' or 8000' - even though my heading was North by northwest which according to the AIM should receive an even altitude.

Anyway, my takeoff clearance had me turning to 280 and I was immediately handed off to Jacksonville departure control. The controller advised me to climb to 4000' and to expect on course after 3000'. Usually, I get an on course vector after 2600 - just high enough to clear the NAS JAX airspace. This time, however, the controller was very busy and I received an on course vector when I was passing 3400'. At the same time, I was told to climb to 5000'.

Shortly after that, I was cleared direct to DADES - which was great. This shortened the distance to X39 by taking the bend out of the flight that would have taken me over OCF. It also gave me some practice with the GPS making it skip entries in the flight plan.

It was a beautiful day for flying with only occasional clouds in the distance. Every once in a while, the traffic display reported another aircraft in the vicinity, but we never had a problem. Tailwinds were in abundance with the GPS showing as high as 34 knots of a right rear quartering wind. This was giving us a ground speed in excess of 140 knots and nearly 165 knots on our descent. I was babying the plane to save fuel so I was only getting 114 knots of true airspeed and burning only 7.5 gallons per hour!

There was other traffic in the pattern at Tampa North that I discovered by monitoring the CTAF on the second radio. About 25 miles out, ATC descended me to 2000'. At 12 miles, the told me the airport was 12 o'clock, which I already knew thanks to the incredible technology I had on well as the numerous prior flights I had made to this airport. ATC said I could cancel with them or with the FSS on the ground, so seeing no clouds in the area, I canceled IFR and completed the flight VFR. I overflew the airport at 1,500' and heard other aircraft landing on runway 31. This meant that I would have to land and taxi back. I made a teardrop entry and flew a tight pattern. We touched down near the numbers and I turned the plane around in the width of the narrow runway.

Parking was going to be another story. There must have been quite a few visitors in town for the holiday as I only saw one parking spot available. I pulled in front of it and then pushed back. Mom wasn't there yet, so I called and learned that she was 20 minutes away. She was bringing my 16 year old nephew, Tony, with her so he could take a flight with me.

This flight was 1.5 hours of cross-country, a very small amount of instrument time, and was about as uneventful as they come.

Tony's flight is next.

David West

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