I woke up early this morning so I could fly to Tampa to attend a meeting with my mother that was scheduled for 10am. I would need time to pre-flight, fly, and to get from Tampa International to mom's house, so working backwards, I thought that a 7:30 wheels up time would do the trick. Checking the weather for the trip I discovered that the METAR at Craig Airport (KCRG) had recently deterioriated according to three special issue reports. Visibility had decreased from 7 miles down to 1/4 due to fog or mist. As I drove to the airport, the sky was clear, but I could see wispy pockets of ground fog in low lying areas. Driving past runway 5-23, I could see the cloud sitting on the ground - it was only about 10 to 20 feet thick and it wasn't very dense. I took this shot of runway 14/32 as I preflighted. The fog got just a bit thicker before takeoff.
I completed my preflight quickly and found the fuel to be down about 18 or 20 gallons which was confirmed by the onboard computer, but that would still be more than enough fuel for the 1.2 hour flight. Checking the ATIS with my handheld radio, the report showed clear skies and good visibility - which was strange since there was definitely some fog obscuring the runway.
After I started the engine, I called for my instrument clearance to Tampa International. I had requested a direct route, but was cleared via radar vectors to the Ocala VOR, then V581 to the DADES intersection then direct. That would add a few minutes to the flight, but I'd rather fly in the system than VFR especially when flying in to Class B airspace, so I didn't complain.
I was cleared to taxi and I had to rev the engine a bit to clear the moisture from the windshield enough to see where I was going. I taxied to the runup area and did my run-up check using my checklist. With that completed, I taxied to runway 23 and called the tower for my clearance that came as "November 6-2-0-0-Quebec, cleared for take-off on runway 23, fly heading 140." I acknowledged the clearance and off I went. I climbed through nearly 2000 feet before the tower handed me off to JAX Departure control. Since a heading of 140 was not in the direction that I needed to go, I climbed at Vx to minimize the lateral distance traveled while climbing. I would have to make up for that distance once I was turned towards my destination. After the handoff, I was cleared direct Ocala and I eventually leveled off at 5000 feet and flew a heading around 220. Note that this is one more example of ATC assigning an altitude that is different from what the AIM recommends. This is common in Florida and is due to the fact that most travel is North-South rather than East-West. South gets odd altitudes and North gets even whereas the AIM gives even to West and odd to East headings.
About 30 minutes in to the flight, I passed over a portion of the former Cross-Florida Barge Canal - a big ditch that was originally intended to go all the way across Florida to save shipping time. Environmentalists put an end to that about half way from completion. There are locks, dams and canals near the east coast and the west coast, but not much in between. The sunlight and fog on the ground created a surreal picture as I flew over - here's one of the shots I took with my iPhone.
Shortly after taking this picture, ATC cleared me direct DADES and that made my flight just a bit shorter. I was encountering headwinds at about 8 to 10 knots for the duration of the flight and anything to shorten it was appreciated.
At Tampa International, runway 18L/36R is closed along with quite a few taxiways. I suppose that this must make commercial traffic in and out of KTPA a bit slower than usual. It also meant that runway 9/27 is about the only option for GA aircraft regardless of wind direction. Taxiing from a landing on 18R/36L would require passage through the commercial ramp as there is no open taxiway that would take you across to the GA ramp. This would be a very slow process and might create some security concerns.
I was cleared to land on runway 27 and I did so flawlessly. After securing the plane and meeting mom, the clock on the wall in the FBO showed 9:00AM, so I had timed the flight perfectly.
My visit was short, but I got to see my sister and my lovely neices at grandma's house. Here's a shot of them having lunch with one of mom's cats.
Total HOBBS time 1.5 hours, .1 hours of actual instrument time. All in all, a very nice trip.