Saturday, September 12, 2020

Finally, Back to the Valley

It’s time to head north and get back to my annual task of taking care of my parents grave. The last trip north for Mary and I together was in May 2016, and my last trip was September 2019. Where has the time gone?

I went through my typical flight plan process and turned up one nugget of info that would have been critical if not for the timing of our flight. KAVP has a NOTAM that reads as follows.

Thankfully we will depart Ocean City around 8am and arrive in Wilkes-Barre around 9:30am. The airport closure is no factor.

Winds at seven thousand are five knots, and a head wind of course. On our departure AVP is MVFR with broken clouds at three thousand five hundred, but, they are clearing as the day goes on. Ocean City METAR is as follows.

METAR KOXB 121153Z AUTO 07009G16KT 10SM SCT035 21/14 A3022

I set up the video camera and after a short engine warm up taxied for runway two.  The airport at 8:15 was quiet as we made our way to complete our run up.  Everything checked, I rolled for takeoff. Plenty of rudder needed this morning for the gusty crosswind and once above the trees we really took a gust that rocked the plane. I told Mary to relax and she quickly snapped "don't tell me to relax". As fast as the plane moved with a mind of its own in the wind, it was over. The remainder of the climb to seven thousand five hundred and cruise was smooth sailing above the layer.  Mary drifted off to sleep and I did that pilot stuff.

Once on top we settled in and enjoyed the sunshine and smooth ride. I spotted the glory (plane in the rainbow) but the camera shot wasn't clear enough.  
C&D Canal

By the time we crossed the C&D canal  some of the layer had broken up.  The view didn't last long as we were once again shielded from the view of what's below. Dover handed me off to Philadelphia approach as I continued north for the DuPont (DQO) VOR.
Philly handed me off to Allentown Approach for a short ride and they in turn handed me off to Wilkes-Barre Approach.  Now I was cruising along at 7.5 and I know I needed to start down.  For the second time approach left me at my own choice, obviously no different then when I was on an IFR flight plan.  A step down would have been nice but I asked and was given a descent at my discretion. I pulled the power and started down but knew I would be getting the slam dunk just like the last time. I advised I needed to descend and remain clear of the cloud layer. Approach advised report on final, well that was easy enough. I made my turn inbound, reported and cut the power.  Adding approach flaps and the gear, still pointing at runway four. I added the second notch of flaps as I crabbed my way in and despite a wind gust managed a nice landing. 
I was marshaled in and shut down as directed, right next to a king air. After a quick fuel check I ordered ten gallons for the right tank and six for the left, also inquiring and securing the courtesy car. 

Mary and I made the trip across the valley to Forty-Fort and found our go to flower shop just off exit 4 on Welles Street.  We purchased two lavender Mums and headed to the cemetery. There was construction all along Wyoming Ave but traffic was moving at a good pace. Once we arrived I was not happy about the condition of the cemetery, grass was a bit long and there were downed tree limbs that needed to be cleaned up. That's a first.

I planted the Mums and Mary and I made our rounds as I said a prayer for each family member. Mom and Dad along with the aunts and uncles always joked about having a party on the other side since most of the family and friends were buried there. I have no doubt.
Lets Head Home

We saddled up in the courtesy Jeep and headed back to the airport, retracing our steps.  So much has changed and it's been a year since I was last there, some of the lay of the land has slipped away.  Maybe the brain decided to purge things not required for the day to day operation.  Insert an eye roll and a disgusted shake of my head. 

I settled my fuel bill and Mary purchased a coke for the ride home. 3 Tango charlie started up, ran for a bit and died.  Mary asked what her problem was...maybe the nut behind the yoke should switch the tanks to both instead of off. Yikes!

With the plane once again started and oil warming I did the chug and plug to enter my return course, a reverse of this morning. The sky had opened up and I didn't have a problem climbing for my planned altitude of six thousand five hundred. Once clear of the mountains and wind turbines we enjoyed the sun above the layer of clouds below. 

Wilkes-Barre handed me off to Allentown and they in turn handed me off to Philly.  They must be short staffed since Philly kept me on the one frequency all the way south of their mode C ring without a hand off.  Eventually I was handed off to Dover and road along with them for a good portion of the flight over Delaware. 

I had a traffic call out, some jet at seven thousand opposite direction just five hundred feet above me. The jet passed by from my two o'clock, down my right side. I advised I had the traffic. The jet climbed to eight thousand, on his own, and approach gave him some static. He deserved it.

I cancelled with Dover so I could make my way for a hole in the cloud layer. I needed to descend from my cruise altitude.  I found a long slot leading from my position, closer to Delaware Coastal KGED, towards Cape Henlopen, this would work just fine. I descended though the wide open hole following the slot then turning back to drop below the cloud layer.  Easy peasy, and our reward was a bumpy ride the rest of the way in. 

I had announced my position at ten and five miles out, switching from runway two to runway one-four.  A bit less of a cross wind and a longer runway, just in case. The jump plane had taken off on our way in and I wanted to get on the ground before the jumpers if we could.  It all worked out, and despite some crab action on the way in, I made a nice landing to end the day.


Chris said...

Glad to see that you made your annual pilgrimage, Gary. I bet it was good for the soul.

Because you describe dealing with cloud layers, I’m curious why you didn’t file for this trip?

Gary said...

It was very good for the soul, reconnecting with my parents in a special way. One of the nice things about that cemetery is that it's under the pattern for KWBW, Wilkes-Barre Wyoming valley. There are always planes overhead.

I had to file and fly this trip VFR. I am two approaches short for currency. I would have been so much easier climbing out of OXB and into and out of AVP. Instead I had to fall back on VFR skills and maneuver for openings to keep clear of clouds.

Chris said...

Got it. You’re generally so conscientious about maintaining your currency (and proficiency), that I was surprised.