Did I mention how much my Bride loves the beach? As soon as we cleaned up after dinner Mary, in a blink of an eye had three bags on the couch, ready to go, in the family room. A bag for extra clothes for dinner, bag two bathing suit and beach thingys and her new Coach hand bag. Hmmm, I didn't even start on the wx/flight plan yet. I wandered back to the computer room and ran through a quick flight plan on AOPA flight planner, it's habit and I always print one out even on short runs. I always print out my weight & balance along with a wx sheet on the back for reference too. After doing some investigation it seems that the morning may be a bit misty/foggy but good to go around 8ish and looking even better at the beach. I went through my flight bag and toy bag (the garmin and the zaon) they both took their place alongside Mary's collection.
I got up early so I could feed the zoo and let the dogs run out back. While they were busy, I fired up the computer and finalized my plans and wx outlook. Everything was printed, my notes penciled in on the wx sheet and I only had my wx brief call to make. I had a great Briefer this morning, if everyone was like this guy there should be no complaints. Ok, the business end of the flight was ready and all I needed was a shower and something for breakfast. We rounded up the critters and locked up the little guy Rudder, neither of us trust him on an all day event. The rest of the zoo is fine they'll do what they do best, sleep.
We made a quick McD's stop for a breakfast bagel and something to drink. We rolled through the airport gate around 7:30 and drove right out to the plane. It's a routine, rarely practiced, but one could set it to music. There is not much chatter as we go about the pre-flight process. I start the uncover process, Mary places the bags next to the plane and unlocks the tail tie down and baggage door. Nose plugs and chock are sitting on the wing walk area along with the pitot cover and gust lock I removed from between the wing and flap. Mary put the bags in the plane after she removed the storage box and loaded it in the truck. I was tossing the cover tie downs over the top of the plane and she walked back in time to slip the cover off, fold it and place in the truck also. I started my pre-flight and Mary took the truck outside the gate to park and lock. AeroWays was pulling up to top us off as Mary walked back to the plane. I sumpped both tanks and we were ready to get going.
I set up all the toys and stowed the flight bag. I completed my check lists and started 679er to get some cool air moving, it was already getting hot. ATIS info noted,flight plan plugged, Ocean City's NDB and DuPont VOR all entered and good to go. My taxi instructions were runway one nine via Kilo, hold short, contact tower. With the run up complete we were ready to go, Wilmington tower Archer 28679er is ready to go one niner at Kilo. Archer 28679er cleared for take of one nine have a great day.....I replied cleared for take off one niner and we'll see you tonight, thanks.
We launched in to the typical ugly haze so Mary got comfy for her cat nap. I use my references for visibility and the twin bridges were in view along with the Salem nuke cooling towers which figures to be maybe 8-10 miles. I switched over to Dover Approach and picked up flight following for the trip south. Traffic was very light this morning as I listened to Dover's calls making a mental note of who was coming from where. I forgot to turn the Zaon collision avoidance system on but had the 496 up and running with wx. I got a call out for traffic at my 10 o'clock and responded looking for traffic 679er. A glance up at the Garmin 496 looking for the traffic and nothing is on the screen. Oh well, eyes outside, fly the plane. My next call is Archer 679er traffic 12 o'clock make left turn to one zero zero. I snapped left 45* bank and glanced in long enough to hit my course heading while still looking for the traffic, I also woke Mary and asked her to look. Once on the new heading I immediately requested a position update on the traffic. Dover said traffic will pass behind you, no factor resume on course. I turned back south to a 180 heading and reached up to turn ON the Zaon, the screen lit up with box alerting me to a target same altitude just behind us. I'm adding check traffic system 'on' to my pre taxi procedures.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, that's a good thing. I reported the field in site maybe 15 miles out and Dover had me squawk VFR. I replied 679er squawk VFR, Thanks for the service today. I switch to Ocean City's new CTAF 123.05 and announced position and intentions. Winds favored one four so I set up for a short 45* entry to the left down wind. I called out a five mile position report then entering down wind base and turning final. I made a very nice landing this morning and I think Mary gave me a thumbs up too!
We were met by the follow me golf cart and taxied down by the T-hangars and self serve fuel to park. The lineman tied down the plane as we unloaded and offered us a ride back to the terminal. I signed in and paid my $6 parking fee and advised I will be heading back out shortly but returning, at that time I'll take on fuel. The timing was perfect, Pam and Ted pulled up as I walked out the door and Mary was already waiting on the benches in the shade.
Ted got a new Escape and had the a/c blasting, it felt great! It was so nice to catch up today and of course on the way to their place the ladies had one conversation going in the back while the men a separate conversation going up front. Apparently a storm ripped through OCMD and they were doing some repairs to their deck, nothing structural but clean up and curtain things. Ted was working on the a/c changing filters and cleaning the cooling fins/baffles then made a run to a local appliance store to find a part for their stackable washer/dryer door latch. They said the unit was old but this place has parts for everything, they did.
The men were ready to go fly and the ladies were headed to the beach. We made plans to meet up for dinner and I wanted to be wheels up heading home by 7:30. Ted drove us back to the airport and we jumped on the golf cart for a ride out to the plane. The lineman put cones in our tie down spot so we would have a place when we returned. I decided to take Ted and Trevor on a short hop across the Delaware Bay to Millville Airport, I was hoping Tom had his hangar open and they could get a peek at his war bird collection. We launched off of one four and climbed out to 3,500 for some pictures and to let them have a good look at the OCMD skyline. I eventually picked up flight following for the trip with Atlantic City handing me off to Dover Approach. I shadowed the Cape May shore line of the Bay and soon reported the field in sight. Traffic was light going into KMIV but Millville radio managed to screw things up as they always do. They really really suck, I'm sorry there is no other way to put it. I get ticked just thinking about those nit wits. Anyway, the few planes in the area do manage to keep each other informed of their positions and everyone lands safely. The Flight Line was closed so we decided to invade the Corner Stone now the The Sunset Grille. As we unloaded a coworker JoeC met us at the plane. Joe has flown with me prior and when he got out of the Op's vehicle he just laughed. He knew it was coming, I whined about Millville radio and how bad they tie things up. It was so nice to see Joe, I haven't caught up with him since before my surgery the first week of April.
We had a great lunch! I had the crab dip with some pita bread slices, Trevor had a cheese burger and Ted a sirloin burger. Everyone seemed full as we headed back out to the plane. This next hop was a direct line back to OCMD so we could meet the ladies for dinner. We climbed out of Millville at a nice smooth cruise climb as I kept hearing MikeB's voice laughing at my "gary climb rate". The haze was still with us and it was hard to make out the Delaware shore line from 15 miles but when I had a clear view I used the 496 to calculate a 12 mile visibility. The cursor/pointer can scroll around the map and whatever you point it at will show bearing and distance. It was time for Ted to fly for a while so I briefed him on our course and altitude and gave him control. I did any rudder work but he did a fine job of holding course and not to bad with altitude. He flew us across the Bay and over the top of Cape Henlopen then transferred control back to me. Ted seemed to enjoy the stick time and noted it took some work to keep squared away. Heck, he did a fine job and was pretty steady if I must say, better then I did my first time up.
I made my position calls for Ocean City traffic and with the few planes inbound and one departing we blended very nicely. If pilots communicate things flow very smooth. I turned base to final with another smooth landing to put in the book. My sight picture has been spot on since I got back in the air, it really feels good. We locked up 679er and walked up to the terminal so I could order fuel. The density altitude reported was dropping and I figured in another hour or two it would fall even more. With just Mary and I returning I asked to be fueled between tab and full on each tank. Just some added safety margin and I would launch in short field configuration.
We made our way back to pick up our dates. Trevor stayed behind as the adults, or older adults enjoyed a nice dinner out. I have to add here that this was the first time I met Trevor, he is Pam and Teds neighbor up in Gap, PA. He and their son Patrick hang out so he was waiting for Patrick to get off work. Patrick was also ticked he missed the flight. Today's flight was Trevor's first in a small plane, he did great and I have to say he is a really nice young man with a great sense of humor. Mary and Pam met us in the parking lot and we all piled in for an Italian restaurant, the Flavors of Italy Bistro. I had Chicken Parm, Mary had some shrimp lasagna mix, Ted lobster Alfredo and Pam something scampi with red sauce.
I was dead beat tired and was considering not flying home tonight but after two ice teas I felt like a new man. Mary told me later she almost pulled out the trump card and called no flying home since I looked so tired. I was just dehydrated and it took a toll. I had three ice teas with dinner and half of Mary's water. We all climbed aboard the escape, love that new car smell, and headed for the airport. The terminal was closed and the only access to the field was through a man gate which I had not walked through and didn't know the code. I tried a few of the typical numbers I thought would work but the man at the jump school eventually gave us the code to let us in. We all walked to the plane and took a few pictures, I was missing the golf cart after eating that dinner. I did my pre-flight and fuel sump then climbed aboard. 679er came to life and we were ready to head north. My wx checks showed clear wx going home within our arrival window.
It was a cool smooth ride north as I brought the auto pilot online and enjoyed the view. I picked up flight following with Dover Approach about six miles north of Ocean City so we had some company and extra eyes watching out. It was very pretty flying home, some haze as usual but the sky to our west and the sunset was very pretty. I did notice one monster towering cloud formation north west of us maybe at a rough guess on the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. I glanced up at the Garmin 496 and hit the button to widen my scan. Sure enough there was a yellow and green patch south west of Wilmington with two red cells. I scrolled the cursor over to it and it said 56dbz sounding and cloud tops 11,000....a real mac daddy going our way. I immediately changed my backup to something on the Jersey side just in case we need to make a run, I had plenty of fuel and made the decision to head to Millville if we needed to ride out this passing cell. I have friend there from work who would come get us if we needed them to and besides Big Sky has comfy leather couches.....I know strange things to think about when planning your alternate, alternate diversion.
I was still on with Dover approach and I did hear them say they were now wx radar equipped when a south bound Cessna asked about rain showers. My original guess was right, the cell was moving towards 58M Elkton Maryland which is ten minutes flight time from Wilmington. Now I know better then to swear by the 496 xm wx for final decisions but everything I was looking at matched what I was looking at just off to our ten o'clock. Dover turned me loose and I almost asked to stay with them until I had Wilmington in sight but elected to switch to the ILG tower and listen to any aircraft landing. The ATIS was reporting winds 180 at 15 gusting 20 so that storm was moving towards ILG. I looked at my 496 and I was now just 9 minutes out and could see the beacon. I was directed to enter a right down wind for one niner and acknowledged but thought that was odd. As I got closer I confirmed right downwind and the controller asked if I prefer the left, I acknowledged feeling better not crossing the field. at just about a mile out I turned down wind then base to final. Those runway lights sure looked pretty after looking at that cell headed our way. Ok get the mind back in the game, land the plane. The tower reported winds as I added my last notch of flaps having the field made. I pulled the power but was ready for any gusts as I set 679er down sweet and soft with a roll out to taxiway Kilo needing just a touch of throttle. We were home! I was happy and relieved all at once, it was a long hot day and I needed a cold drink.
We buttoned up 679er in short order. Mary brought the SUV in and we loaded up the bags, broke out some cold water she had packed in small bag with ice packs. It felt mighty good going down and the a/c did too. We had a great day, Mary got her much needed beach time and she did get in the water for a bit. I got to fly all day and logged 3.5 hours. As a side note to the wx, it started to spit as we merged onto I-95 for our ride home...it was a good call to continue home and I had an added comfort factor with the XM WX on board to back up what the eyeballs were looking at.