Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Some Time on the Road

Last week brought an opportunity to take advantage of N631S's true raison d'etre as a traveling machine. I've already shared a few thoughts (here) on our first stop at Kitty Hawk (KFFA); from there we flew down the Carolina Outer Banks to Ocracoke Island Airport (W95), where we landed about 3:30 PM on Sunday.

The strip on Ocracoke is quiet but well maintained, with ample free parking (left). As with KFFA, there's no fuel available but there is a nice planning facility (again the keypad code for access is "Squawk VFR"). Our hotel was quick to send someone around to collect us after we tied down the airplane, and drive us the half-mile or so to the Village. We'd planned only a brief stay for our first visit but did check off the essential items including:
We were back at the airport Tuesday morning, ready to head for our next destination, Nashville, TN. But before that, a fuel stop would be necessary. We'd left KVKX with 75 gallons of AvGas on board which is (conservatively) good for 6.2 hours. The flight down to Kitty Hawk burned 1.6 of that, and the leg to Ocracoke another 0.8 so we were left with about 3.8 hours in the tanks. I'd planned a 2.0 hour flight to Stanly County Airport in Albemarle, NC (KVUJ), chosen because it was (a) on the way, more or less, and (b) able to supply fuel at what now passes for a reasonable price – $5.23/gallon, self-service.

After landing at Stanly County and pumping 49 gallons of 100LL into N631S, we walked over to the terminal and inquired about lunch. The pleasant gentleman at the desk handed us the keys to the "crew car" (a clean and well-maintained van) and directed us to the Log Cabin BBQ Restaurant, where we had a delightful meal. We returned to the airport (stopping to put $10 worth of gas in the crew car...you do put gas in the crew car, don't you?) and got on with the trip. This would be the long leg.

Knowing that there would be some tall country between us and Nashville – and that we'd need to circumnavigate Charlotte – I'd filed from KVUJ northwest to the Barrett Mountain VOR (BZM) then southwest to Sugarloaf (SUG) thence across the mountains to Volunteer (VXV) then to Nashville (BNA) and into our destination, the John C. Tune Airport (KJWN). It's rare for me to get N631S above 8,000 feet but I'd filed for 10,000 this time to ensure some space between us and the hilltops.

On our way, we were step-climbed up to 10,000 feet – first by Charlotte Approach and then by Don Brown's old friends at Atlanta Center. Before we reached BZM we were turned "direct Sugarloaf", and soon thereafter our controller said, "Skylane 631 Sierra, cleared direct to Volunteer." To which I said, "31 Sierra, stand by."

One of the reasons I'd filed via SUG to VXV was that I was comfortable with the clearance provided by that route between our cruising altitude and the elevations of the Appalachian peaks in that area. Now the controller was going to take me off-airway in mountainous terrain and I was sure as hell going to look at the chart before I accepted the vector. But a quick look at the sectional put my mind at ease. The Atlanta Center controller had let us proceed far enough toward SUG to ensure that the turn westbound toward VXV would keep us south of the tallest peaks and maintain several thousand feet of terrain clearance. So I keyed the mike and said, "Center, Skylane 631 Sierra is turning direct Volunteer at this time."

As a life-long flatlander, I found the scenery crossing the mountains both beautiful and intimidating. The forested slopes are surely pretty, but there are very few hospitable places to put down a sick airplane. It certainly reminded me of why we need to take maintenance seriously.

Having crossed the mountains, we still had about two hours of flying left across the relatively flat terrain of east Tennessee. There was a small amount of rain along our flight path and we accepted avoidance vectors from the Memphis Center controller. I'd assumed all along that they wouldn't actually let us fly across the city via BNA to get to our destination airport, and as expected, we received vectors for an arc around the north side that set us up for an easy straight-in to Runway 20 at KJWN. I'd selected that airport for its convenient location and not-too-outrageously priced self-service AvGas ($6.13/gallon). After the 3.5 hour flight from KVUJ, we pumped 38 gallons of the precious stuff and parked N631S. A small consolation: there is no landing fee for light singles, and if you buy fuel and park the airplane yourself, they waive the parking fees.

The FBO had organized a rental auto for us (which they drove out to us at the fuel pump so we didn't need to schlep luggage). We got underway toward our hotel in Nashville and a few days of sightseeing and avoiding country music. And I shall save the trip home to KVKX for another post.


Joseph Rheubeck said...

Quick question, what are the horizontal lines in the third picture?
I really enjoy reading your blog and occasionally use it in my classroom.

Frank Van Haste said...

Hi, Joe!

Thanks for visiting. I'm very happy that you find some of this useful in classroom activities. That's neat!

As for the "artifacts" in the photo, you've probably already inferred that they're the result of interaction between the prop and the camera and that's correct. The phenomenon is called "aliasing", and it has to do with how the CCD in the phone camera scans the image as the prop passes through the field.

For a quick visual of what's going on, look at this YouTube video>

For maybe more than you ever wanted to know, look at THIS post.

Best regards,