Friday, September 21, 2007

Newport News

KPHF, scattered,smothered & covered

METAR KPHF 211654Z 08007KT 10SM -RA FEW017 SCT027 BKN090 25/21 A3014

Mary and I saddled up for Newport news early this morning but had to wait out the weather en route and at our destination. We decided to make a stop for breakfast at Lucky's Coffee Shop, formerly The Ranch House. Nice place with good service and good food.
I made a call to FSS (1-800-wx-brief) and was connected to St. Petersburg, FL. The Morning briefer was really good, very in depth, a pilot and had knowledge about the area. My route had some problems with showers, low cloud layers and thunderstorm possibilities. The route was KILG-SBY-CCV-KPHF. I decided our 10am (1400z) planned departure would be put on hold. After breakfast at Lucky's I made a second call to FSS. This briefer was more of what I expected. Cut and dry, reading exactly what I read on the internet, no insight, no details. I made the decision that at 11am it was a "go" for launch.

Wilmington seemed quiet this morning except for the strange sound of something different flying overhead. As we finished with uncovering and my pre-flight we were treated to some new helicopter hovering over 27 and making it's way to the ramp. Strange looking bird with stub wings and big box fan set up for a tail rotor.

Our taxi clearance was quick to taxiway mike at 27 and our departure smooth. The initial plan was to climb to 4500 and clear the scattered layer which we did. As we headed south past KDOV we could see the NASCAR event parking areas packing in the campers. We continued on towards SBY watching the cloud layers over top around 7000 and the low scattered layer about 2000. This held steady past SBY. I skirted the Bay to maintain VFR watching the land mass across the Bay remain clear. To our 9 o'clock the scattered layer was getting thick and closing up escape holes. Patuxent Approach seemed fairly quiet today as we road along. I requested to go off frequency to update wx with Flight Watch. This my first experience with FW, it was easy and provided an extra look at the numbers to confirm what I was looking at up ahead.

Patuxent handed us off to Norfolk and we continued south. About 15 out of PHF we get handed off to another Norfolk Approach. I request to descend to 3000 since the scattered cloud layer looks to be about 1500' over our destination. I get the ok to descend and bring comm 2 online again to listen to the PHF ATIS. Information Oscar is current and I note the info as I ready for entering the pattern once turned loose to the PHF tower. At this point things get a little crazy, the ATIS is now bleeding through Norfolk Approach, I double check my comm settings, they are correct. I dialed in the ground frequency just to eliminate the ATIS, no luck. It sounds like a stuck mic and Approach is now non-existent. I need to descend to TPA (1000') but approach last has me at 3000', I'm to close to busy airspace to change with out notifying. I try Norfolk approach twice, no luck, then switch to the PHF tower. I announce my position and altitude and that I lost comm with Approach. The tower gives me a second frequency to try and I confirm. I dial in and contact Norfolk Approach and follow with a request to descend to maintain VFR. I was cleared to descend at my discretion and then turned loose to contact the tower once reported in sight. I was forced to circle in order to loose enough altitude prior to entering the the pattern to avoid a cloud layer. Contacting Newport News (PHF) tower I was directed to enter left downwind followed by cleared to land runway 7. I acknowledged and after watching a Hawker Jet depart I turned final over the Patrick Henry Mall and eased in for a nice smooth landing. We made our way to Rick Aviation and were met by two men to help with our baggage and secure the plane.

I was happy with the flight even if it was a bit crazy at the end. Mary said I was so calm, it just goes back to our training to fly the plane, make good decisions, keep people who need to know informed and as the PIC take charge of the situation. Kudo's to Newport News Tower folks who were very understanding when I needed to circle over the bay and they worked me right in. Clear concise communications of who what and where get you great service!

We met Susan at Rick's as we walked through the doors, great timing. Lunch was in order and something cold to drink. We made a stop at the "Red Robin", great burgers and very good service. If you ever stop at one of the Red Robin's you must try the pot roast burger. Sliced or pulled pot roast on a fresh bun with sauteed onions and cheddar cheese, oh and excellent fries. After lunch we checked in at the comfort suites and agreed to meet at 5:15 for dinner prior to going to the show at the Ferguson Center. Mary took a nap (full tummy puppy syndrome) and I set up the computer and my flight planning 'stuff'. We showered and headed out the door making our way to the lobby at 5:10. Susan was here right on time so we headed out to Keagans for dinner. I had a pound of steamed shrimp and my Bride had Oysters Rockefeller. Since there would be no flying until Sunday morning and no driving for me, I decided to make Friday happy hour and enjoy a double captain and coke. Mary had a few glasses of white wine and dinner was a blast.

We headed out to the show and arrived around 7:45. We found our box seats and settled in. The show was Hairspray and it was a riot. I guess it's really a musical not just a show as I was instructed, but whatever you call it it was fast paced, funny and the singing and dancing was terrific. We called it a night and made our way back to the room for the night.

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