Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Go Where the Weather Isn't

Better late than never, I'm finally getting around to a post about the flight last Friday from KBDR to KVKX. You might recall that some fairly enthusiastic weather came up the coast on Thursday. By Friday afternoon a deep low was churning up the Gulf of Maine and some continuing weather was wrapping around the back side and descending into lower New England.

I'd been watching the development of the system (first discussed here and then here). Now it was time to deal with it.

The freezing level was predicted to slope from 8,000 feet over North Carolina down to 4,000 feet over Massachusetts. I was concerned that the usual ATC preferred route (west to Pennsylvania then south, at 8,000 to pass over the KEWR arrivals) would encounter icing, so I filed for a route across JFK and down through New Jersey at 6,000.

By 18Z, things were looking promising. At left, the view from my office parking lot, with a broken deck at moderate altitude, clear above. The airport was reporting that ceiling at 4,400 so it looked like punching through the layer to clear conditions could be a viable approach.

Of course, I got an e-mailed notification from FlightAware.com that ATC was intending to issue the "usual route": SAX V249 SBJ V30 ETX V39 LRP V93 BAL direct. They wanted me to go where the weather was and I wanted to go where it wasn't.

At left, the radar picture (base layer) at 2025Z, roughly my time of departure. The composite looked scarier. Between the radar picture and what I could see from my window, I really didn't want to go to the west. So when I finished pre-flighting N631S and was ready to go I called Bridgeport Clearance Delivery:

N631S: "Bridgeport Clearance, Skylane 631 Sierra IFR to VKX; you're going to read me a clearance that starts with "radar vectors to Sparta." I'm going to be unable to accept that due to icing conditions on that route. I need something that starts with "Vectors to Deer Park, thence Victor 16."
KBDR Clearance: "31 Sierra, you want to go V16 over JFK?"
N631S: "Affirmative."
KBDR Clearance: "OK, stand by, let me talk to them."

I'd been here before and wasn't very optimistic about New York Approach being in a cooperative mood. They really want the southbound traffic to swing out to the west. But as the minutes passed, I started to be a bit hopeful. After all, it doesn't take any time at all to say, "NO!" Sure enough, after ten minutes I heard:

KBDR Clearance: "31 Sierra, we've got it, just give me a couple more minutes to work out the other end of the route," followed two minutes later with, "31 Sierra, advise ready to copy."
N631S: "31 Sierra, go ahead."

The clearance I got was: Vectors to DPK V16 DIXIE V1 ATR V308 BILIT direct DCA direct. The back half of that would have to be re-negotiated en route - there was no way that Potomac Approach would let me go to DCA, and Waterloo (ATR) was out of the way - but the front half served to get me outta town. Sold!

The METAR in effect at KBDR when I took off was:

KBDR 151952Z 27020G29KT 10SM FEW040 BKN110 13/05 A2936 RMK PK WND 31033/19270
20 knots of wind gusting to 29 is fairly sporty, but it was nearly aligned with Runway 29 and so not a problem. The lower cloud deck had opened up to "few at 4000" above the airport, but I could see more solid cloud coverage to the south.

I was happy to find that my assigned altitude of 6,000 feet initially put me on top of the cloud deck. By the time I got to JFK the tops had risen a few hundred feet so that I was in and out of the layer. The temperature aloft was 30F but I was never in the clouds long enough to accumulate any ice.

In due course, New York Approach handed me off to McGuire and McGuire handed me off to Atlantic City. It was time to do something about that clearance.

N631S: "Atlantic City Approach, Skylane 631 Sierra, request."
A.C. Approach: "31 Sierra, go ahead."
N631S: "My current routing has me going by way of Waterloo and DCA and I know Potomac Approach doesn't want me going to DCA. Can you work out something like after LEEAH, V268 to Smyrna then V379 to Nottingham thence direct?"
A.C. Approach: "31 Sierra, let me talk to Dover and see what they're willing to do."

A.C. Approach was back in five minutes with a re-route: Present postion direct ENO V16 CHOPS V308 OTT Direct. OK, I liked it. The red line on the chart clip above at left (courtesy of Skyvector.com) is my original routing. The blue line is the re-route. One of the nice things about the blue-line route is that it avoids a fairly long leg over water going down to Waterloo (ATR). I will do single-engine over water beyond gliding distance to land, but I never like it.

The balance of the trip was uneventful. And once again I am appreciative of ATC's professionalism and flexibility, essential to making this flight on a day with interesting weather.

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