Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ahead of Irene

Yesterday afternoon when I arrived at KBDR, N631S was one of the few aircraft on the ramp. With Hurricane Irene on the way, most others were either in hangars or flown away to safer locales. Earlier in the day my friend Jared Gowlis from Three Wing Flying Services had called me just to be certain that I planned to fly out. The precautions are well advised, as conditions anticipated for Sunday at KBDR are downright unpleasant. Here's the 18Z TAF issued on Saturday, 26 August:

KBDR 271939Z 2720/2818 10012KT 5SM -SHRA BR BKN004 OVC008 
     FM272300 10015KT 3SM RA BR OVC006 
     FM280200 09030G38KT 1SM +RA BR OVC006 
     FM280600 10040G49KT 1SM +RA BR OVC004 
     FM281100 10050G60KT 1SM +RA BR OVC004 
     FM281500 09060G72KT 1SM +RA BR OVC004
Yes, that last line says sustained winds of 60 knots (69 mph) with gusts to 72 knots (83 mph) from 11:00 AM until at least 2:00 PM tomorrow. Not fit for man nor beast nor unprotected airplane!

So N631S and I got underway for the trip south to KVKX, Potomac Airfield, just across the river from home in Alexandria. The clearance was what I've come to expect: vectors to SAX V239 SBJ V30 ETX V39 LRP V93 BAL Direct.*

Aside from dealing with moderately strong headwinds, the trip proceeded uneventfully for the most part. About an hour after departure I had a look at the NEXRAD display on the Garmin GPSmap 396, zoomed out to a wide view, to see where the leading edge of Irene's precipitation shield was. It was well to the south – nothing to be concerned about on that score. The only weather in Virginia was a few isolated thunderstorms unrelated to the approaching cyclone.

Later, still over Pennsylvania with an hour to go, I took a look at the situation near KVKX, my destination. Ah, there was a bit of a surprise! A couple of those summer cells had set up shop in the immediate vicinity of where N631S and I wanted to go. And with the storm on the way, this would be a bad night to have to divert. I watched those cells for a while – they were stubbornly disinclined to move away. The only good news was that there appeared to be no weather immediately over KVKX.

Just south of Baltimore, with Andrews AFB abeam, the rain was clearly visible. There still seemed to be no weather over KVKX and the approach to Runway 6 looked clear. The Potomac Approach controller asked if I wanted to try a visual approach or would I like the RNAV Rwy 6 instrument approach. I considered the visual too chancy, given the cells of weather in the area so I requested the RNAV approach and loaded it into the GNS-530W.

Approach passed along a couple of weather avoidance vectors as they routed me around the intervening precipitation and toward WOBUB, the Initial Approach FIX (IAF) for the RNAV approach. I was asked whether I would like Vectors-to-Final for the straight-in approach or the full approach with the procedure turn. Under the circumstances, it was a good idea to get N631S on the ground with all deliberate speed, so I requested the straight in.

A couple more vectors routed me toward CRROL, the Final Approach Fix (FAF) and onto the final approach course. After passing through just a spray or two of drizzle, Runway 6 at KVKX popped into view for an uneventful landing. N631S was soon snug in the hangar and I headed home to wait for Irene.

* Or, to translate, radar vectors from Bridgeport west to the Sparta, NJ VOR then south along airway Victor 239 to the Solberg, NJ VOR thence westward along airway Victor 30 to the East Texas VOR (near Allentown, PA) thence south along airway Victor 39 to the Lancaster, PA VOR thence southeast along airway Victor 93 to the Baltimore, MD VOR, thence direct to KVKX.


Stephanie Belser said...

Stay safe.

Frank Van Haste said...

Coming out the back side now, at 13Z Sunday morning, none the worse for wear. You folks up in the NY metro area have a few more hours of interesting wx to watch.

Thanks, Steph.


Gary said...

That cell looks like it will require a wide berth. VTF to speed up the process is always a good thing.

Frank Van Haste said...

Thanks for stopping by, Gary!

I cut that cell fairly close and was comfortable doing so because there was no sign of electrical activity, it wasn't a fast mover, and I had no problem staying visual with it.

Lightning or darkness would have necessitated a very different approach.