Monday, January 19, 2009

Grounded. Dammit!

Once again the Libertarian in me is screaming for the government to get the hell out of my life. But, my wails fall on deaf ears. Here's the situation: Almost a year ago, I was awakened by a pain in my back. The pain was getting stronger and stronger and I recognized it as being caused by a kidney stone. I had one about 9 years earlier and it is hard to forget that intense pain.

I got out of bed, drank a bottle of water and hoped that it would pass. When it became apparent that the pain was getting worse, I asked my wife to drive me to the hospital. (I'm not married any longer, but it has nothing to do with a kidney stone). The first time I had a kidney stone, I drove myself to the hospital after experiencing pain for 4 days.

The E.R. doctor gave me some saline and a flomax injection. Flomax is usually for urinary trouble resulting from an enlarged prostate, however, it also helps people pass kidney stones. I was x-rayed and they confirmed that I had a stone and that it had already moved down the ureter. I asked the doctor for some coffee and orange juice because I still didn't seem to have an ability to urinate. Finally, the beverages had the expected effect. I passed the stone - it sounded like a b-b hitting the urinal, but it was actually very small.

I left the hospital, went to the airport and caught a flight to Boston - I had missed my earlier flight.

The point of all this detail is that although kidney stones can cause debilitating pain, in every situation, I have managed to deal with it and I am certain that if I had one in flight, I would have no trouble landing the plane.

The FAA doesn't see it that way. Apparently, I was supposed to tell them as soon as I had the stone. I didn't realize that. When I went for my bi-annual medical review, the doctor told me that I would have to obtain the records from my hospital event, visit a urologist and then send the results of this to the FAA. According to the doctor, I should be able to fly by March.

I haven't gone a month without flying since I took my first lesson. I was told that I could go up with an instructor, so that would be ok, but more expensive. Oh well. I just have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops if I want to fly.

Staying Current

Staying instrument current can be a challenge in a place like Florida where we have so much sunshine. I would much rather fly in actual IFR than in simulated and arranging for a safety pilot can be a hassle at times.

This time of year, we tend to have a few days of low ceilings and fog and a few Saturdays ago, the sky was cooperating. The ceiling had risen to 300' overcast by the time I got to the airport. I would be flying the Archer again and that would give me good steam gauge practice...and I wouldn't be spoiled by any autopilot.

I wondered how thick the cloud layer would be when I took off and my question was answered suprisingly quickly. I was out of the clouds by 1000'. This was perfect IFR weather. It wasn't too windy or stormy - just a layer of fog that had risen to slightly above minimums.

I filed for a round-trip to CRG and departed on runway 5. ATC turned me to a heading of 080 at first and then progressively gave me 160 in 20 degree increments it seemed. There was a decent wind above the clouds and I think the controller wanted to get a feel for the amount of drift I would experience. I advised the controller that I would like the ILS32 approach at CRG and would follow that with more of the same. He gave me a 100 heading for my climbout on missed and assigned 2000 as my clearance altitude. I flew along above the solid layer of clouds until I moved off shore where the clouds nearly disappeared. ATC turned me for my base leg about 5 miles southeast of the ADERR intersection. Then about half a mile east of the localizer, I was turned to 300 and told to maintain 2000 until established on the approach. I had previously obtained the ATIS weather information for CRG and the plane was set up for the approach. As the needle began to close in , started my turn to line up on the localizer. Just south of ADERR the glideslope needle reached one dot above center and I pulled the first notch of flaps. I was maintaining 90 knots in my steady descent now and the clouds were solid in front of me. Focused on the needles, I made small adjustments to the trim and to my heading in order to keep the needles centered. I entered the clouds and it was solid white around me. Nothing to do but maintain my instrument scan and pay close attention to the altitude. I called out 500 feet to myself and still couldn't see the runway. The tower cleared me for the low approach and I continued lower. About 300 feet, I popped out of the clouds and there was the runway right ahead of me. I felt ver proud that I had executed this instrument approach so flawlessly.

As I crossed the threshold, I pushed the throttle, began to climb and retracted the flaps. I then told the tower that I was going missed and he handed me off to Jax Approach. I turned the plane to 100, continued my climb and called Jax. Two more approaches followed similar paths, however, by the last approach, it was clear that the clouds were burning off quickly and I decided against flying a fourth approach.

That was such a fun flight due to the moderate challenge of the cloud layer. Single pilot IFR is a great confidence builder provided that you don't crash.

I logged .6 hours of IFR with three approaches and a total of 1.1 hours.