Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Florida on Fire - Mother's Day Weekend 2007

Friday was my last day at SAS. I spent most of the day tieing up loose ends and packing up my office. I bolted for home at 3:30 in the hope that we could leave immediately for the airport and make the 4:00 IFR slot that I had filed.

We almost made it, but the plane wasn't ready. A photog from the Times-Union had hired one of the Sterling pilots to take him up for shots of the fires that are plaguing North Florida these days. Unfortunately, the pilot paid no attention to the time and returned the plane 30 minutes late. I was not pleased and probably was a bit harsher to the nice people at Sterling than I should have been...but this was the second time in a row that the plane was returned late by an inconsiderate pilot who blamed his tardiness on ATC.

We finally took off and headed south. Almost immediately, we found ourselves enveloped in haze as the ground disappeared beneath us. I departed runway 5 and was given a heading of 100 for departure. The plane's climb performance was miserable - I was only getting about 600 fpm. The air was hot, hazy and smoky, so I think there must have been lower O2 content. ATC turned me to a southeast heading, but shortly after, he asked me to expedite my climb. I replied that I was givin' it all she had. The controller turned me back to the east - probably to avoid the blimp that was orbiting the TPC Sawgrass for the big golf tournament. Once I had reached 5000', I was cleared direct to Ormond then on course.

We found ourselves in and out of IMC throughout the flight. Passing Melbourne, I was handed off to Miami Center who changed my clearance to Pahokee, as I had expected. I punched in PHK in the flight plan and turned to the southwest. I could see some large dark clouds ahead and I warned Maureen that it might get bumpy. I even dug out my plastic garbage bags just in case her Bonine didn't do the trick. The ceiling was barely VFR, so when I was asked if I wanted the ILS 8R, I replied in the affirmative.

There was no traffic in the pattern when ATC handed me over to advisory. I called, "North County traffic, Skyhawk 6-3-foxtrot, 4 mile final for 8 right, north county." Another voice asked if I was flying straight in, so I replied, "I'm straight in on the ILS 8 right, full stop."

Coming in, I slowed the plane to 65 knots and made a very nice touch down on the runway. I braked and turned off to the left at the first taxiway, then proceded to the ramp. The flight had taken a scant 2.0 hours and I logged .5 hours of actual instrument.

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