Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hundred Dollar Hamburger Revisited

Ever since my father's birthday at the end of August, my weekends have been filled with chores, football games and other responsibilities that have kept me on the ground. When Christy pointed out that the Gator game this past Saturday was at night and the Jaguars had a bye week, it started to look like we might have some time to get airborn! Nevertheless, I spent much of Saturday pressure washing our house in Glen St. Mary (anyone want to buy a beautiful home on 2 acres of rural waterfront?) But Sunday came and I found myself filing a flight plan. Since I haven't flown in about 6 weeks (the longest absence from the air since I got my private pilot certificate in 2003), I needed to shoot some instrument approaches in order to keep my currency. Since Christy is not a pilot, I couldn't use her as a safety pilot, therefore, to log the approaches, I would have to find someplace with instrument conditions. The weather looked beautiful, though. I planned my flight down to Flagler County KXFL. I calculated that the entire flight should take about 30 minutes.

We preflighted N13312 and found that the tanks were not full, but each had about 17 gallons, so we had better than 3 hours of fuel - more than enough. Once on board, I got out my checklist and ran through the pre-flight and startup procedures. The auxilliary battery was just a bit low, registering 23.8 volts (it should be above 24 volts), but everything else seemed ok.

I yelled out the window, "Clear!", toggled the master power switch and turned the key. The propeller spun and the engine groaned, but it did not start.

Christy commented, "Isn't this the plane that had this same problem last time?"

She was correct, we had had some difficulty starting this plane that night that I executed my jackass maneuver. So for the next attempt, I twisted the key and then slowly increased the misture from idle cutoff to full and the engine roared to life.

I checked the engine systems, turned on the electronics buss and tuned the radio to 125.4 to listen to the ATIS. The recording indicated that the winds were light and runway 32 was in use. I called clearance delivery and was told that nothing came up for me. I didn't understand why nothing appeared - I filed for an 11:15 am departure. Since the weather was clear, the controller told me that if I wanted to depart VFR, the frequency for JAX Departure was 124.9 and I could request clearance once in the air. Since he was pulling double duty, he cleared me to taxi to runway 23 at Foxtrot via Bravo.

We pulled up to the runup area and I ran through the checklist. When I switched to the right magneto, the engine ran rough although the RPM drop was within tolerances. I switched back to both mags and leaned out the engine until it ran rough, then advanced the throttle to generate 2000 RPM. I then enriched the mixture and the RPM came up. I left it lean for about 30 seconds to burn off the carbon on the plugs then tested the mags again and found no roughness.

I started to pull up to the hold short for runway 23 at Foxtrot and the controller told me to take 32 at Echo instead. I had to make a hard left turn, but we made it ok. He had other traffic that was landing on runway 5. I lined up the plane on 32, advanced the throttle, leaned for best power (just a little) and we were on the roll. The plane climbed quickly in the cool air.

As we climbed out, I noticed that there were three or four other planes in various stages of approach, so I delayed my left turn until I was about 800 feet and then delayed my turn to the south until I was outside of the usual traffic pattern. I didn't want to take a chance on bumping in to one of the other planes coming in.

Once I reached 3,500 feet, I leveled off and set the autopilot to follow the heading bug while maintaining altitude. We flew past our neighborhood and spotted the trail that our cat took when he ran away a while ago (Pookey was returned to us).

I then began reviewing the brand new instrument plates that I had picked up on my way out of the FBO. I started by looking for Flagler. Nothing.

Then I looked for Bunnell, since the Flagler Airport used to be listed under Bunnell. Still nothing.

I couldn't imagine that this airport had eliminated all instrument approaches, so I looked in the table of contents. It seems like the nouveau riche folks living in Palm Coast decided to claim the Flagler Airport as their own - it was renamed Palm Coast!

I then listened to the AWOS at the airport and it sounded like the winds were favoring runway 6. I contacted Jax Departure and requested instrument clearance.

"Jax Departure, Skyhawk 13312", I announced.

"November 13312, Jax Departure", the controller replied.

"Skyhawk 312 is over the UDUZO intersection at 3,500 feet, would like clearance to shoot the GPS 6 approach at Flagler", I requested.

After clarifying the intersection, the controller was silent for a minute or two. He then called, "Novermber 312, squawk 4246".

I repeated the squawk code and plugged it in. After a minute, the controller announced, "Skyhawk 312, radar contact 5 miles west of St. Augustine, climb to 4,000 feet, cleared direct Flagler."

I repeated the instruction and gave the plane full power for the short climb from 3,500. I proceded to select the approach in the GPS. The controller then told me that runway 29 was in use, so I requested the GPS 29 approach. I advised that the approach would be missed followed by another one.

ATC said, "November 312, fly heading 140 vectors for the approach."

Shortly aftwards, I was handed off to Daytona approach control who I contacted by saying, "Daytona Approach, Skyhawk 13312, level at 4,000".

The controller acknowledged by saying, "Roger 312, Daytona altimiter 3-0-0-0, say your heading".

I told him we were heading 1-4-0 and we continued. We were above a solid layer of clouds and couldn't see the ground. I heard the controllers talking with VFR pilots who were trying to find holes to drop through so they could land at Flagler. The layer of clouds was about 1,500 feet thick starting about 1,500 to 1,600 feet. When the controller descended us, I hand flew the plane through the clouds until we leveled off at 1,600 feet. We could see the ocean below us peeking in and out of the clouds. The controller turned us to 160, then a hard turn to 270.

"November 312, you are 4 miles from HAGAV, maintain 1,600 until established, cleared for the GPS 29 approach." said the controller.

I acknowledged by repeating the call, then activated the vector-to-final in the GPS. I disengaged the autopilot and lined up on the approach line. Crossing HAGAV, I began my descent to 560 feet as I slowed the plane. Daytona approach then handed me off saying, "November 312, contact Ormond Tower on 118.95."

This instruction surprised me in two ways. First, I was not landing at Ormond, so contacting Ormond tower made no sense. Second, in all of my prior flights to Flagler, I never saw a tower, the instrument approach plate didn't show a tower, and I didn't see any notam advising that a tower was now in operation. I questioned the controller saying, "Did you mean Flagler tower, 3-1-2".

The controller said "Correction, November 312, contact Flagler tower on 118.95". I repeated the call and contacted Flagler.

The tower controller instructed me to report passing the final approach fix, but I was already about a mile past it. I guess Daytona was a little late handing me off, but that was probably due to traffic in the area. She amended her instructions and asked me what my DME was from the runway and then told me to report 2 miles.

I continued the approach and leveled off at 560 feet. When the GPS said that I had reached the runway, I applied full power and turned right to 360 while climbing to 1,500 feet as instructed by the Daytona approach controller. As I turned, I advised the tower that I was going missed. She handed me off to Daytona Approach and told me there was no traffic in the area. I thanked her and advised that I was showing two aircraft behind me on my scope.

Daytona Approach turned me from 360 to 090 and advised me to climb to 1,600 feet. I continued out over the ocean and was turned to 140, 160 and finally to 270 at which point I was given a clearance that was similar to the prior clearance. Approach handed me off almost immediately to Flagler tower.

This time, I was able to contact the tower about 3 miles before the FAF. I called, "Flagler Tower, Skyhawk 13312 is 7 miles out on the GPS 29 approach, full stop." She again advised me to report 2 miles. At 2 miles, I contacted the tower and was cleared to land. I slowed the plane by pulling power to 1,700 RPM checked that my lights were on and mixture was full rich. As the speed dropped below 105, I added the first notch of flaps and pushed the nose down to counteract the motion induced by the dropping of the flaps. The wind buffeted the plane and it tried to blow me to the left. I adjusted my approach for this by tipping my right wing into the wind and applying just enough rudder to stay lined up with the runway. I began my flare a bit high and made a few adjustments as we got closer to the ground. The wind continued to gust and our approach was not as stable as I would have liked. I pulled the nose up and the plane dropped to the runway a bit more firmly than usual landing on the right main gear, but I held it steady and the nose dropped as our speed dropped.

We taxied off the runway and I asked the tower if there was a ground control frequency. She replied that there was and gave me the freq, but advised, "Taxi to the ramp, remain on this frequency."

We had a very nice lunch at HighJackers - mine was a mushroom and swiss burger and Christy had a beef tip sandwich. Fully stuffed, we headed back to the plane with barely enough time to make it home by 2pm.

I listened to the AWOS and adjusted the altimeter setting noting that it had dropped slightly since the last report. I then tuned the tower and asked for the ground frequency again. I thought I had written it down, but I couldn't find it. I requested taxi clearance for northbound VFR and was advised to taxi to runway 29 via Alpha.

We taxied from our parking space and made a right turn towards the departure end of runway 29. Once I was past the parking area, conducted my runup check on the roll. Arriving at the hold short line, I switched to the tower frequency and called, "Flagler tower, Skyhawk 13312 ready to go 2-9 at Alpha." and the tower cleared me for take off.

I climbed out and leveled off at 1,200 feet to remain below the clouds. Noting inbound traffic on the TCAS, I adjusted my path to avoid them and then advised the tower when I was clear of the class delta airspace.

Once I was outside class Delta, I found a hole in the clouds and I climbed up to 3,500 and headed towards the beach. As we cruised along the beach, I gave the controls to Christy after demonstrating how to turn left and right and climb or dive. She was doing great although we were climbing a bit. After passing St. Augustine, I asked her to descend and I gave some nose down trim - this surprised Christy and she decided that I should fly the plane.

I listened to the ATIS at Craig and then contacted approach to request a straight in on the ILS 32. ATC granted my request and we leveled off at 1,900 as instructed. We got the hand off to Craig about 8 miles out and I contacted the tower announcing my intention for a full stop. There was one plane in the pattern ahead of us and one coming up behind. I adjusted my speed to give the plane ahead enough time to clear the runway. I pulled the power about 100 feet before crossing the threshold and the plane descended smoothly to the runway. Pulling back on the yoke, I flared the plane and it floated just a bit. I pushed the nose down slightly and the wheels gently touched down on the runway with an almost imperceptable squeak.

It was a great day to fly and we encountered a good mix of VFR and IFR conditions. The flight South took 1.2 hours, but the flight home took only half that. I logged about 40 minutes of actual IFR on the approaches. It was so good to be back in the air again spending $300 to have a good hamburger!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:30 PM EST

    sounds like a lot of work ,and kind of stressful ,as a truck driver,we do a P.T.I.,I know if I was flying an airplane,I would definitely check everything,before getting in .