Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Quickest Thing May Be to Slow Down

N631S and I departed KBDR at 2107Z last evening for the weekly trip to DC. I'd had a quick look at the weather radar shortly before departure and was aware that there was convective activity west of Harrisburg that would bear watching.

My clearance was the usual one generated by the ATC computer: Radar vectors to SAX, thence V249 SBJ V30 ETX V39 LRP V93 BAL, thence direct to destination VKX.

Soon after departure I figured I'd better see what was going on with that weather that had been west of Harrisburg, so I switched the Garmin GPSmap 396 to the NEXRAD weather radar page and panned the map to the eastern Pennsylvania portion of my route. At 2200Z, it looked like this:


It's fair to say that it had my attention. I knew from earlier conversations with Flight Service that the whole system was moving eastward, but not all that quickly. My thought was that I should not be in any hurry to get to Lancaster...instead I should give that chunk of nasty weather ample time to clear to the east.

I was at 8,000 feet MSL running lean at 11.8 GPH and getting 137 KTAS. I further leaned the fuel flow, adjusting trim as needed, until the big Continental was running on 10.7 GPH and giving me about 130 KTAS. That probably stretched my time en route to Lancaster by 10 or 15 minutes. I also knew that the last controller from New York TRACON would offer me a shortcut "direct LANNA" and then the Allentown Approach controller would offer "direct FLOAT". I planned to (and eventually did) decline both of those shortcuts, giving me perhaps another 10 minutes enroute.

This all worked semi-splendidly. By the time I turned south at ETX most of the really intense precipitation and all of the lightning had cleared to the east. There was a patch of moderate precipitation to be negotiated between Reading and Lancaster but that proved not to be too uncomfortable.

A word of appreciation is in order for the controller at Allentown Approach. He could see the significant precipitation returns south of Reading on his radar and before he handed me off to Harrisburg he made it a point to be certain that I had equipment on board that would let me see and if need be, avoid that weather. Full points! I suspect that this concern is the result of the Scott Crossfield accident...but I appreciate it nonetheless.

As I crossed over the Lancaster airport the weather was clearing but my NEXRAD display was still showing lots of action to the south-southeast. I asked the Harrisburg Approach controller to coordinate with Potomac Approach so that I could continue on a southwest heading until I was assured of missing the "tail" of the convective activity before turning southeast toward Baltimore. The great folks at ATC made it all happen and it wound up like this:


At that point all of the drama was over. The remainder of the flight into VKX was routine. Here's the Flight Aware track for the entire flight.

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