Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Every Flight is Interesting

Since N631S and I began this routine of a weekly commute, my logbook is mostly "BDR - VKX" followed by "VKX - BDR" and repeat. But while it's repetitive it hasn't been boring. Memorial Day weekend, just past, offers a good case in point.

The flight south on Friday evening was notable for the amount of traffic active in the area of the New York Class B airspace. Just after passing Carmel (CMK) on the way to Sparta (SAX) at 6,000 MSL, I heard from Approach, "Cessna 31 Sierra, traffic...no, actually traffic alert 10 o'clock and a mile northbound at 5,800 type unknown; if you don't have the traffic I suggest an immediate left turn heading 180."

That will get your attention.

I started the left turn first, then looked for the traffic while responding, "31 Sierra is in the turn." Before I'd turned much more than 20 degrees I saw it...a low wing single, perhaps a Bonanza crossing left to right. I suspect the controller took the classic measure of turning me toward where the traffic was so that I'd miss the place where it was going to be. I called traffic in sight, no factor, and got, "Roger, resume course direct Sparta."

About five minutes later the same controller issued this call: "Cessna 31 Sierra, turn left to a 190 heading and climb and maintain 8,000; expedite through 7,000." (If you click on the link above to the FlightAware track, you can see this jog over lower New York.) I hustled on up to 8,000 (to the extent that a normally aspirated 182 will hustle on a warm evening) and shortly after leveling I got a vector back to the northwest, then, "Cessna 31 Sierra, resume direct Sparta, contact Approach on 135.8, thanks for the climb."

Once clear of New York the traffic density lessened and the rest of the flight was comparitively quiet.

On Sunday I finally got to make the trip up to Caldwell (KCDW) and back that I've been trying to fit in for a number of weeks. The trip up was routine except for the last ten miles. Right around Solberg (SBJ) the undercast filled in. KCDW was reporting 6 miles visibility and a 1,000 foot ceiling. The LOC 22 approach was on offer and the nice controller provided vectors to final. We broke out just after the final approach fix and landed. So with what really was less than 0.1 hours in IMC I got to log an approach!

I had filed for the return flight with a proposed departure time of 1430 local but we finished up our business early so I called FSS and moved the proposed time up to 1400. We actually lifted off from KCDW's Runway 22 at 1357 local time and headed west toward Allentown. The NEXRAD display on the Garmin GPSMap 396 showed some storm cells out to the west and north but we turned south toward Lancaster (LRP) and Baltimore (BAL) before they could become a factor. Arriving in the DC area there were lots of showers on radar but we got lucky in that KVKX was the hole in the doughnut. (Look at the FlightAware track linked above and you'll see what I mean.) No drama for the landing.

Today,the first half of the flight from Potomac Field to Bridgeport's Sikorsky Airport was quite entertaining. On takeoff the ceiling was about 800 feet, visibility 2-1/2 miles, with moderate rain. Solid IMC at 7,000 feet until central New Jersey. Then things opened up and the rest of the flight was unremarkable.

So, although I am tracking over the same real estate a lot these days, events and conditions have been quite variable. It makes for good aviation.

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