Sunday, September 30, 2012

BAC Fest 2012

Hours of flight planning have come to an end and it's now time to begin the journey.  Mary and I decided on leaving one day early so we could enjoy the festivities and get some added beach time together. Day one flight plans will take us south, along the east coast route with a planned stop south of Raleigh NC, KTTA  and a second top off stop in Perry GA, KPXE then into Gulf Shores AL, KJKA.
wheels up!!!
Looking down the Delaware river
We dropped off Maggie at 7:30 for boarding and made a stop for sandwiches and water with the plan to eat along the way.  Our stops were strictly for fuel, stretch the legs and nature calls. We were both excited to get going and we quickly uncovered 08Romeo and loaded the bags, lots of bags. I had previously went through my check list for aviation needs and the Garmin 530 and 496 were up to date along with my iPad and iPhone.
We were moving along, on time, now ready to get the engine started. As soon as I got 08Romeo started I had to chug and plug today's flight plan in for the first leg.  The key is to "save" the plan in case of a problem so you can recall it. With the electronics set and checked we picked up our clearance to KTTA, Raleigh Exec Jetport At Sanford-Lee County. The first leg was a good flight with many hand off's to various approach controllers to keep me busy. Final hand off was to Raleigh Approach and I was cleared for our arrival, a visual approach runway two one. First Leg was 3.5 Hours.
short final TTA
With a quick gas and go we were headed back out to the plane.  I did a sump for the fuel and a quick walk around.  With everything in order we launched for KPXE, Perry Ga. This was the strangest clearance I have received to date. Instead of the typical cleared to destination airport and my planned route (SDZ V155 IRQ V56 MCN KPXE), on this leg  I was given "cleared direct LEECO". Who? Where is that? I was wondering what was up.  I had my iPad up and running just in case I got something different or a last minute change and quickly found this new fix.  Hmmm...I'm cleared a total of five miles.  OK, we'll give it a go. 
I announced on CTAF and coordinated with a Cirrus pilot inbound for a practice ILS approach, inbound opposite direction.  The cirrus was going to do the procedure turn at LEECO at around 1,500'  I was climbing out to 3000 feet.  I had comm two set up so we could communicate our positions while I had Approach on comm 1.  Everything worked out and as I approached LEECO I was cleared as filed for the remainder of my routing. I also passed along a thanks to cirrus pilot as I made contact with him opposite direction passing my ten to five o' clock low. 
Short final one-eight at PXE

This leg was as smooth as the first, hands in my lap, looking out at the scenery and adding an occasional tap of the rudder to remain on course.  Nothing beats a smooth flight and today's flights, so far, have been perfect. KPXE was the last planned fuel top off before turning towards Gulf Shores. Mary and I were having fun listening to the tunes and taking in the beautiful views.  We decided to grab a bite to eat enroute and opened up the sandwiches we picked up this morning.  It was fun, cruising along at six thousand feet having a better meal than the spam can airliners sharing the skies around us.
On the ramp next to us at PXE
The second leg of the day clocked in at 3.2 hours. Our arrival into Perry Georgia was simple and smooth. This airport was really nice and the folks there were as friendly as could be. Mary stated many times during this trip that if most companies could take a lesson in customer service from the airport FBO's it would go a long way to increasing their business, maybe she is on to something here.  We took on fuel for the last hop of the day and headed out to the plane. With the sump check and walk around completed we climbed aboard. Once again this hop will be as filed, gezzz....I love when they say that.  KPXE RRS V241 CEW NUN KJKA.
Chattahoochee River
The start of the build up's
Gulf Shores Coastline
We launched for KJKA, Gulf Shores, as excited as two kids on a first date. We could not wait to get some beach time in the warm Gulf waters. Ok, I needed to tone it down and get back to business and I took off my hat with the propeller and put the captains hat back on.  This leg, unlike the first two, was not a hands in your lap flight. We had some bumps along the way and had to dodge the many huge build ups.  These towering clouds were thousands of feet, it was like driving in downtown NYC looking up at the skyscrapers (Marys description). With deviations left or right and reporting back on course it seemed to take forever to reach the Gulf. Pensacola approach offered me a direct to KJKA and I accepted, this was to easy. Sure enough here we are riding along fat dumb and happy at 4,000 and about two minutes into our "direct" approach tells us he needs me at 8,000 for holding traffic. time direct with a long climb on a full belly of fuel or trudge along here at four???  Leaving 4,000, climbing 8,000, 08Romeo. There, the deed is done, I guess that's not to painful. We did pick up a tail wind and the ride was smoother but the distant wall of building clouds did not look good.
Short Final KJKA runway 9

I had asked for lower knowing I could not out climb the towering monsters that blocked my path to vacation like an offensive line protecting their QB on game day. We crossed the arrival path of Duke Field,(Eglin AF Aux NR 3) (EGI), Whiting Field Nas North and South and finally Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional (PNS). I finally did get lower and was relieved to pass under the layer which provided a clear line of site west south west towards KJKA. I cancelled in the air and entered on a 45* for the left downwind runway nine. It was great to see the Gulf coast and even better the runway on short final, we were on vacation!

I have to add this, although Mary will give me the NCIS DiNozzo head slap.  When the line guy asked how was your flight in Mary responded that "I'm not sure but I think I left my Arse in Georgia"  Yes, all those hours in the saddle made for numb butts.

Wednesday night we had all went out to Bubba's for dinner, it only gets an "ok" rating from Mary and I. Sure, there was plenty of atmosphere and the service was very good but we were not impressed with the food, I think everything was fried; I had the shrimp po boy and Mary had the oyster po boy, we give the food just two stars.


Mary and I are up pretty early and headed down to the hotel cafe' for breakfast. Good service and good food. Both of us had two eggs over medium, grits with cheese (yummy!)bacon and raisin toast. With full tummy's we tossed aside the old wives tale about waiting thirty minutes before swimming, heck we were care free and on vacation, lets be dangerous.
We rented to lounges with an umbrella and parked it on the beach. I can't explain how soft the white sands were, maybe like baby powder since each grain was so small. The sand actually squeaked when you walked across it, very bizarre. The sun was hot, the crashing waves were perfect and I had the perfect company, my Bride.
We need a few Corona's
We spent plenty of time jumping through the waves, we had a blast! I think the last time we spent this much time in the water was our trip to Myrtle Beach back in 2007. The sand was scalloped and made for walking like a drunk, which took the attention away from the next wave that knocked us under. We saw fish riding the waves, as if body surfing, almost every time the next wave crested. We also saw stingrays and were instructed to shuffle along so we didn't step on them.
I headed back to change so I could get over to the airport for arrivals. As of today there are 15 planes in Gulf Shores, 10 fixed gear and 5 retracts, more expected on Friday. I hung out with fellow BAC members and finally headed back to the hotel.  I headed up to the room to change so I could swim for a short time before we had to shower and get ready for dinner.
Dinner tonight as a group was scheduled for Lambert's, home of the "throwed roll". Lambert's is located in Foley, Alabama., eight miles north of Gulf Shores. 59 BAC faithful made it to Lambert's, not a single person left hungry! Mary and I ended up at the "Sand Bar" in the hotel and capped off the night with a drink. Good times tonight and looking forward to Fridays events.


Another early start for me since I am going to attend the retract seminar back at the airport. Mary slept in for a short while then headed to the pool. Marty did a great job explaining the retract details of what to look for and maintenance issues.  I know I'm happy with my fixed gear but it was nice to get a look at the Sundowners sister, the Sierra.

The group was headed to the Pensacaola National Naval Aviation Museum, I took a pass.  Mary and I decided that we would see the museum in our future Florida trips, besides I wanted more beach time. I headed back to the hotel and caught up with my Bride. Mary was pool side chatting with a couple of ladies she met. The sisters were on vacation and frequent the Island house, they say it's the best on the beach. We decided on lunch at the hotel cafe' and then more swimming. Mary and Bo had chicken salad on a croissant and I had a tuna salad. The croissants were fresh and tasty!

We called it a day at the pool then headed up to get ready for the BAC reception tonight. We made a quick run out to the Pottery place we saw on the way to Lambert's last night. We were disappointed, it was more of a Christmas tree shop than a pottery place.  No worries, Mary brought something home, a gift for Mom and a brightly colored rooster for our kitchen, yes you read that right, a rooster, sigh.

We made our way back to the hotel and spotted two places we were interested in for dinner tonight. LuLu's, Jimmy Buffet's sisters place and Steamers, we'll see what the other BACers want to do for chow. The head count tonight at the reception was 66.  As a side note the 19th baby beech also arrived at KJKA. As Brad put it best, "Gulf Shores is rockin with BACers!"


Today we got up and after a late night assessing wx I confirmed my decision to bug out a day early. Sadly we will miss the banquet dinner this evening but safety is my first concern, not the cost of tickets.

We were out early and pulling into the local Waffle House for breakfast at 6:30.  I wanted to be wheels up by 7:30 and Gulf Air was going to have the Sundowner pulled up out front waiting.  I enjoyed my pecan waffle and an order of scattered smothered and covered. Mary had sausage gravy over biscuits and grits w/cheese.
Departing KJKA
I made one stop to top off the rental car and then we were off for the airport.  I checked oil and added a quart since I was down a half after the 9.4 hobbs hours day getting here. We bumped into a fellow BAC flyer heading to Florida, he was bugging out early too. We saddled up and got the fan turning keeping the air moving while I plugged in the new flight plan.
Goodbye Gulf Coast.....
The first leg of the journey home was planned as follows; Black was the intended route and red was the new route/shortcut. A great start to the flight home and a time saver!
I monitored wx along our route and when I was closing in on Tullahoma (THA) I made the decision to divert to Smyrna, KMQY.  Leg one was 3.7 hours with some IMC time and breaking out well above the MDA. We were number two behind a Diamond Star and made a smooth landing.
Short final at KCRW
We topped off our fuel and made a quick turn around for the next stop KCRW, Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV. This leg lasted 2.8 hours and we road along at 7,000.  ATC was good, we had some munchies and water to keep us going while we enjoyed the view. Indy did move us to 9,000 for traffic followed by the next controller descending us back to 5,000. Overall not bad and we had CRW in view making our way to final and keeping our speed up as requested for jet traffic behind us.
Another turn and burn for a fuel and nature call then back out to the plane. The folks at the FBO were great and I got to see some football scores while getting the fuel bill squared away. We were soon off for the last leg home. This flight had some cloud layers and made for some interesting deviations to avoid the major build up's.
ATC moved us up and down for traffic and kept me busy but eventually we were handed off to Philly and I knew home was close. We crossed the Susquehanna and could see down the Chesapeake Bay.  Another aircraft headed into ILG passed overhead and we mirrored his path and calls. I spotted ILG and the twin spans when I was handed off to the tower. I was cleared for the visual runway one but requested straight in runway nine. Another nice landing and taxi to our tie down.
LOVE tail winds!
Home at Sunset
I'm not sure how or why but I had a burst of energy after we got out.  I cleaned up the plane while Mary got the SUV. We loaded the bags, I installed one of the back seats we had removed and got 08Romeo covered. With a pat on her side I thanked her for getting us home safe.

Flight Time - 18.7 hours
Miles Flown - 2010
New States - 1 (Georgia)
IMC - .3 hours