Saturday, June 6, 2009

That's What an Alternate is For!

Yesterday afternoon. Generally rainy but looking flyable for the weekly commute from Bridgeport to Alexandria.

Everything's goin' good up until about 2330Z. KDCA reports a 1300 foot ceiling and I am cleared for the RNAV (GPS) RWY 6 approach into KVKX. Piece of cake. Enter the approach, fly the course reversal, line up on final and start to descend. 1500 feet at the Final Approach Fix...4 miles from the runway, no joy. Descend to the Minimum Descent Altitude of 680 feet. If I look straight down I see the houses just fine. Looking ahead, I see...nada! It becomes obvious that the ceiling has lowered and this is going to be a missed approach.

I climb away from the airport and report the miss to Potomac Approach. She gives me a climb to 3000, a 180 heading, and a frequency change. The next controller tells me that the bases are reported at DCA at 500 feet. Even the big guys are missing, and it will be at least 40 minutes until they can give me another shot at the approach. "Say intentions."

"Stand by..."

If I go somewhere and hold for 40+ minutes and then spend 20-30 minutes shooting the approach again and I miss again (it will be dark by then and there's no real reason to count on a higher ceiling) then I will have to find somewhere else to go...and by that time I'll have less than two hours of fuel remaining.

I key the mike and ask, "What's the current weather at Manassas?" KHEF is reporting scattered at 1100, overcast 1700,  landing Rwy 34R. I dig out the appoach plates for HEF. There is a very nice RNAV (GPS) RWY 34R with a Minimum Descent Altitude of 620 feet. Sold.

I advise the controller of my intention to go to KHEF and he clears me via radar vectors.

 The approach goes routinely and a half hour later I'm on the ground. At the wrong airport, but on the ground. I rent a car and drive home.

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