February 18, 2005

Mad Dogs And Englishmen

Another good confidence builder -- a long flight in 2SP through interesting weather (interesting by Bay Area standards, anyway), a bunch of actual, a lot of real-world experience in complex on-the-fly clearance changes, a new approach (the GPS RWY 13 into Gnoss (KDVO)), a stretch of airwork on the way back into Oaktown (not terrible, but definitely needs improvement), and a lot of clouds and rain. And an early start (15.00), which is making a difference. I fly OK, and don't make too many stupid mistakes, and really enjoy the whole flight. There was one point somewhere around Concord VOR (CCR) where we broke out of actual into a beautiful cloud canyon, with the walls of cloud to both sides of us, and the ground visible 6,000' below us; off through another canyon to the left we can see the low sun reflecting against the Bay. Then it's straight back into the soup...

* * *

It's a Real IFR kind of day, so we file using DUATS. I look at the charts and pick V195 SGD V108 STS as the route; it's about 80nm for what would be a 40nm flight under VFR, the extra being due to the usual victor airways and feeder routing contortions, but nothing too onerous. John just smiles and says he has a feeling we might get something a little different. Half an hour later sitting on the ramp in light rain the clearance comes back from Deliverance: heading 090 then vectors to V244 ALTAM V334 V108 STS direct... i.e. the long way round, a 130nm trip for the 40nm direct flight. Even as I'm getting it down from Clearance I understand why -- NorCal's got the main Bay Area airports going on the SouthEast flow plan rather than the much more usual Westerly flow plan, and there's not a hope in hell that they'd route us straight into the incoming. Wish I'd thought of that myself... (not that I'd have filed any differently, but I'd have been better prepared). A good lesson in real-world IFR.

Later, even that plan gets amended on-the-fly, and once again I curse the KLN 94 as it just sits there staring blankly at me as I make yet another silly input mistake in IMC. This unit is even worse in some respects than the GPS 530 -- in some cases nothing you can seem to do will save the loss of several minutes worth of keystrokes due to a stupid blunder, and the unit rarely tells you in any coherent fashion what it is you've done wrong. I guess I'm just going to have to get better at getting it all right the first time. And this is with a unit whose manual I've read completely, several times. Urgh.

* * *

We depart Gnoss VFR for Oakland and do a bunch of airwork over San Pablo Bay before calling NorCal and heading back to Oaktown. The first thing I see when John tells me to get out from under the Cone Of Stupidity over Richmond is a flash of lighting out over the Golden Gate. Hmmm. The way ahead looks dark, grey, wet, and uninviting, but the horizontal visibility is OK, and the ceilings surprisingly high despite the constant rain. And no one's going missed due to the weather yet, at least not as reported by NorCal. So we decide to get back as quickly as possible before we get stuck in the storm coming across the Bay at us; we can always divert to Concord if it gets too bad. We do the Oaktown VOR/DME 15 approach all the way back to runway 15 in the rain; I land in a stiff variable quartering tailwind in increasingly heavy rain. The VOR/DME 15 approach is -- once again -- a very flyable approach; here's hoping that it, or something like it, might one day be available instead of the (not-as-usable) approaches for runways 9.

Fifteen or so minutes after landing the storm's directly above us; another thirty minutes after that there's just some drizzle, and a bunch of lightning in the distance. This is the second thunderstorm this year in the Bay Area -- the newspapers are already calling it a record year for storms. Well, it may sound pathetic to those of you raised in stormy climes (as I was), but it was quite dramatic approaching Oakland just ahead of it...

* * *

As we're tying 2SP down in the rain and gloom, I can't help muttering about the weather and Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Almost as I'm saying this -- with the storm still directly above us -- we watch a Lancair depart noisily for the north, straight towards the worst of it. We can't tell if it's VFR or IFR (the former, by the looks of the departure path), but it looks suicidal. Hmmmm, again.

No comments: