Wednesday, February 24, 2021

New Approaches (N57)

It was a beautiful day, and I just had to fly.

After taking care of Ziva and making some breakfast I turned on 3 Tango Charlie’s preheats with a simple text. I had planned on flying up to New Garden, N57, to fly the two new approaches listed in the latest Jepp update. New Garden has two new RNAV approaches,  GPS runway six and two-four.  I also wanted to catch up with my friend Charles so he could get some fly time, and check out the new GPS approaches, since he is still waiting on his new engine for his Piper. 

I headed to the hangar to knock out my preflight and mount my video cameras. As I finished up Charles texted me and advised he would meet me at N57 in an hour.  

Perfect, I had already hooked up the tug and just needed to get the hangar door closed. 3 Tango Charlie started on a few blades and I got to the first of my tasks. Did I mention how much I miss my FlightStream 210? I chugged and plugged my simple flight plan in the GNS480 while oil temps came up. I  picked up the weather and got the video rolling, it was time to taxi out to runway two-zero.  Runway 14 - 32 is still NOTAMed closed during the weekdays. 

I launched into a beautiful blue sky, turning east for the coastline and then north, enjoying the view. I had one ADSB target, the WBOC traffic helicopter.

The flight was smooth and traffic minimum, at least until Dover.  I saw some activity around Delaware Coastal (KGED) so I picked up flight following advising I was west of the waterloo VOR, level at three thousand. 
Dover acknowledged and passed along a squawk code but the, I'm assuming, trainee Controller didn't give me a altitude setting. I would have asked but the next aircraft that checked in received the info and I just made a slight adjustment to what Ocean City had reported. 

Once north of Dover I crossed that magical line for weather and the ride became bumpy, at times uncomfortably so. 

The Monster Mile

I was handed of to Philly approach and attempted to contact them multiple times but could not hear them. I heard everybody else checking no problem. I decided to try comm two, and I heard approach ask if I was up. I responded and advised trying multiple times but could not hear them, now trying comm two. I switched back to comm one and by now they were loud and clear, not sure what was up with that. I eventually canceled once I was ten or twelve miles from my destination. 
I made my calls for New Garden, same CTAF as Ocean city, 123.050. 3 Tango Charlie settled into the down wind and flowing through the GUMPS check I soon turned final. I made a nice landing and rolled out, not needing to use up brakes since there wasn't another aircraft landing after me. There was activity around the self serve tanks and I noticed Charles was standing along the taxiway adjacent to the ramp. This would be a pick up one and go, no need to even shut down. Charles approached the plane from the rear and climbed aboard, we were soon ready to roll.

First up after we launched was to get Charles some stick time. I was head down loading the new RNAV approach on the Garmin 480 since I updated my GPS data card one day early. I also had to make the same change, deleting the Pennsylvania terminal procedures on my iPad so the updated data cycle could be active. We were all set and ready to shoot the RNAV GPS 24. Charles and I swapped control and we were off for the initial fix ZEYNU.

Traffic was picking up but we made our way to the initial fix and then after the procedure turn, which wasn't the most crisp PT, we pointed inbound for the final approach fix (FAF) ENUKE.  Who comes up with these names??

We decided to break off early once past the FAF and head out north north west to now try the GPS 6 approach.
We transferred controls again while I set up for the GPS 6 approach, direct DELFA. We had a traffic conflict and had to change up our course to avoid one aircraft before heading to DELFA. Charles spotted the traffic pass by our right side low. 
My procedure turn was much cleaner and we headed inbound for the FAF, YOSGU, before stepping right to join the pattern for runway two-four. I made a nice landing turning off on the first taxiway since there was a plane on final behind me. 
We decided on lunch at a local place. Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. The food was excellent and it gave us time to debrief the flight and catch up along with planning on places to go with our brides in Ocean City.
Charles retuned me to the airport and we chatted with a regional pilot flying an RV that was waiting to fuel at the self serve. I didn't want to start up since we were tail to tail on the ramp. Once clear, I climbed aboard and started 3 Tango Charlie. I didn't use the cowl plugs so she was cool which required some hold time to bring my oil temps back up to a safe operating temp. While I waited I set up the video cameras and reversed my flight plan from this morning on the Garmin 480 with a simple press of a button. 

I taxied for the T-Hangars just past the runway so I could do my run up. This required a dance with a pick up truck waiting to get by. He moved over, I taxied by and started my 360 to point back at the taxiway to the runway and the truck turned in unison passing by my left side. We both laughed as we passed by each other. 

Once my run up was completed I announced departing runway two-four and off I went. It was a wild bumpy ride climbing out with serious windvaning. The ride remained bumpy all the way past Dover then conditions finally settled down. 

No flight following on the way home but I did monitor Dover approach and guard. Once I passed Delaware Coastal I started down for Ocean City and switched to OXB's CTAF. I made my calls at ten and five out blending in with traffic. First for the airport was the Kilo November King Air, a frequent visitor, followed by a school plane entering in the pattern. 

Looking down the Chesapeake Bay
I figured on being number three for the field. The Cessna made her calls and with the current NOTAM's the King Air had to back taxi. The young lady advised turning final and the King Air pilot said he had to back taxi and advised maybe a 360, obviously for spacing/timing. The Cessna continued in advising they would go around and the King Air said he was good as long as she didn't get to big in his wind screen. It was a friendly exchange, both keeping it light but professional. I continued in and made my landing just past the aiming point bars. With a quick turn around I taxied back to cross the closed 14-32 and taxi to the hangar. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Antares Launch - NG-15, S.S. Katherine Johnson

NASA Launches a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket with a Cygnus cargo ship to resupply the International Space Station. 
A NASA mathematician whose calculations helped send the first American into orbit is being honored as the namesake for a resupply craft that will support the astronauts circling Earth today. 

The S.S. Katherine Johnson, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship, launched to the International Space Station this afternoon at 12:36, 59 years to the day after Johnson's work made John Glenn's Mercury mission possible. 

Northrop Grumman announced the name of NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft in honor of Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician who overcame barriers of race and gender, the company wrote in a Feb. 1 press release. "It is the company's tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight."

Johnson, who died at age of 101 on Feb. 24, 2020, was among a pool of African-American women whose role it was to be the human computers for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor agency to NASA. Johnson and her colleagues performed the mathematical work needed by the engineers to advance their aeronautical work.

How the day unfolded...

My plan was to fly 3 Tango Charlie down the peninsula and either orbit Pocomoke City or hold over the MAGGO intersection on V1 southeast of Crisfield W41 and Northwest of Wallops KWAL. 
Orbit Pocomoke


With the low clouds sitting at 3000' and the winds blowing 25 knots from the northwest I thought it would be best to just drive an hour each way.  I gave the map a quick glance and found a Veterans Memorial Park right on the water, only six miles north of the launch. 
Red dot is the launch site

I saddled up and was on my way, there was very little traffic until I entered Chincoteague. The main street parking areas were full and there was plenty of foot traffic. I continued on, scouting a go to parking lot if I had to abandon the Memorial Park plan. As I made my way to the park I was the only one on the street where the park entrance was located. The park looked more like a children's playground that had typical kids equipment, ample parking, and a boat ramp. 

It was T minus three minutes to launch. I grabbed my Cannon 40X, locked the SUV, and walked across the lot to a gazebo on the waters edge.  The people were very friendly, and another spectator called out one minute. 
Launch is at the 1:26 mark
I searched the sky to the south and as soon as someone shouted there it is as I put the camera on it.  Even with full zoom on this small camera I only managed to see a spec with a fire trail until the sun washed out my view. I did see a contrail then the craft disappeared into the clouds.  The sight and sounds were awesome! The gusting winds drowned out the sounds in the video, but at least I witnessed the launch and heard it. 

Monday, February 08, 2021

Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Mary and I needed a get-away and we have been thinking long and hard about Florida as the go to spot.  We wanted to look at a few properties on each coast for our winter getaways, and visit with my brother and his wife for his birthday. 

My initial planning looks like a six hour flight so I'll make one stop midway to top off with cheap fuel and then continue on. I have explored multiple stops; Grand Strand SC, Georgetown SCMt. Pleasant SC, listed closest to farthest. The final selection will depend on winds aloft Thursday morning.

Every flight plan starts with weather watching and I have started a week in advance. It feels good to knock off the rust on my flight planning. Having only done local day flights of late, a pilot can loose the long range planning skills needed for safe flight. I explored all my go-to web pages, NOAA Graphical Forecast, Vans Airforce Weather, Skew T Soundings, and Foreflight Imagery.

Thursday - Departure Day

I selected Mt. Pleasant SC, KLRO for our one and only fuel stop and a chance to stretch our legs. Mary and I arrived at OXB at 7:15 and I finished up the preflight. I followed the inspection by adding the bags, we were just under max gross take-off weight by seven pounds.

Ocean City has runway 14-32 closed by NOTAM. This morning's choice would be runway 2. The connecting taxiway, Hotel, was also closed thus requiring a full length back taxi. 

I launched, and made my call to Patuxent approach in order to open my IFR flight plan. An easy peasy start to the day with the always welcome, cleared as filed. Mary quickly returned to dream land while I did that pilot stuff. 
I counted seven tankers at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay as we slipped by overhead. The ride this morning was smooth, and we enjoyed some tailwinds.

Grand Strand KCRE
As we continued south I was handed off to multiple approach controllers, but for the most part the ride was quiet.  
Norfolk handed me off to Washington Center and I was quickly given direct PLANN, I had to confirm the spelling since I thought ATC had said FLANN, somehow food is always on my mind.

This leg was three hours from wheels up to landing at Mt. Pleasant. I entered the right downwind for runway three-five and followed a Cirrus to the ramp. Once shut down the fuel truck pulled up, the line personnel was responsive and friendly. The airport was clean and in excellent shape.

Mary decided to stay in the plane, no stretching the legs, she was ready to go. I settled up the bill and we were off.

Second Leg
With 3 Tango Charlie fueled and ready to go we launch for our final destination, Fort Pierce Florida, KFPR. I had taken on enough fuel to bring me to fifty total for the last hop.  3 Tango Charlie hot started with no problem and we taxied out for departure. 

Once in the air I contacted Charleston approach and picked up my IFR clearance to Ft. Pierce, we were once again on our way.  The ride was smooth but we now had somewhat of a headwind. Approach had asked my speed when I picked up the clearance and I responded 130 to 135 knots.

Once level in cruise I had to run a bit harder to hit 130, averaging 127 all the way to Savannah. Upon reaching Savannah I turned south and the tailwinds picked up and carried us along.  The ATC hand offs continued and all controllers did a great job. At this point I noticed the radio was starting to get busy. 
Approach directed me to climb to eight thousand for slower traffic and I complied. I could have cancelled, and I did give it some thought, but with all the busy airspace ahead I thought it best to suck it up and get it done. I eventually requested six thousand once clear of the traffic I was following.  As we crossed into Florida we were handed off to Jacksonville approach, the tempo had surely intensified. 

The outside temps had started to rise and the need for cabin heat diminished.  Mary started peeling off her jacket, then followed with her vest.  I had long ago shut my floor vent off and was enjoying the cool air from my overhead vent.
From Jekyll Island south we followed the east coast, just off shore, eventually crossing back to land at Ormond beach. Along the way each coastal airport was a bee hive of activity, I was wondering where so many planes had come from. I hadn’t seen this much activity since flying in New York. 

The radio was buzzing with chatter, it was a rude awakening compared to sleepy winter Ocean City. Traffic was heavy and I was no longer following my flight plan, instead, I was following vectors to keep clear of traffic. I switched off GPSS and relied on my heading bug to lessen my workload, choosing to take advantage of the autopilot. 

Once on with Orlando approach I advised that I had the weather at FPR. I was handed off to the next Orlando sector and ATC advised to expect the visual into Ft Pierce. ATC  did a nice job of stepping me down for the airport with the requirement of not to exceed 90 knots. I complied and had to dirty up the Commander to fall in the Congo line to land. I made a nice landing and taxied for the APP Jet Center.  
Once parked I took on fuel and confirmed our hangar space. My brother and his bride were at the gate and helped us handle the bags once they were given access to the ramp, in their vehicle. 
The drive to the condo was just under twenty miles. Once home and unpacked I took a nap to give my right leg a rest. Sitting for so many hours really takes a toll and I could hardly walk on it.  Ibuprofen to the rescue!
I slept for maybe an hour, hour and a half. The meds kicked in and my wheels were once again feeling “normal”. Dinner plans were changed and the four of us decided on tacos. I went along for the ride to pick up our take out order at Taco Dive.  Mary had two steak tacos, I had one beef, one chicken, and a pork I didn’t even get to. My brother and his bride each had two shrimp tacos.  We closed out our day playing cards (canasta), actually relearning the game from my childhood.  It was so nice to finally sit a talk with my brother face to face. The last time we were together was pre-covid. Texting and talking on the phone will never replace real face time.


What a great start, my brother cooked breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, home fries, and bacon. Following all the good eats I hooked up with a realtor here in Port Saint Lucie.  This realtor was referred to me by my friend and fellow pilot Charles G. Mary and I had discussed our wants and needs for a Florida home and we relayed this list to the agent. Now that he was on the hunt we all saddled up and went on a tour of the local communities. We found the perfect home in a 55 and older community that accepted our fur baby and met all our wants. One problem, it blew through our budget without a second thought. Back to the drawing board. 

After a long day of searching we headed home to relax a bit then headed out to dinner. Tonight we went to the Stuart Boat House
My brothers birthday dinner was fantastic! We all took a short walk to help digest our meals and walk to the SUV. I have to say the town of Stuart was bustling with activity. Restaurants were busy and on the ride home I  noticed all of the mall parking lots were loaded with vehicles. Day two ends relaxing at home, and an early night heading off to bed. 


This morning my brother made pancakes, once again he did a great job.  With full tummy’s we headed to Dubois Park. 
The parks in Florida are amazing.  At least the state of Florida puts your tax dollars to good use. I will also say that the many sports complexes are just as beautiful. I guess the drive was maybe thirty minutes south.  Parking was free, there were also shower and bathroom facilities available. The park was doted with picnic tables, BBQ grills and there were life guards on duty. 
Jupiter Lighthouse

Red-headed rock agama

Jupiter Lighthouse
After exploring the park we headed back north to investigate some condo listings our agent provided. The first place was in a beautiful gaited community. We wanted to check the place out and asked the first car entering if we could piggy back on passing through the gate to look at a listing, he agreed. The condo was adjacent to Greenville Point on the St Lucie River, just a gorgeous location. 

The second condo was in Vero beach but we decided to call it a day. After a quick phone call to the agent we agreed to tour homes tomorrow, Vero beach will be first. I was also advised that the condo near Greenville Point was now under contract, that was quick. Tonight we relax with wine, crackers, cheese, and maybe more cards. 


The forecast matched the conditions which were not good for our flight north. The revised departure from FPR will be 8:30 Monday morning. 
The plan for today is to tour with the real estate agent. One of the properties we had scheduled to see went under contract yesterday, they seem to move fast.  So today we are heading to the Vero Beach Area. 

One of the biggest hurdles is our Ziva girl. Twenty pounds seems to be the weight/size that is allowed, Ziva is 110 lbs. The other concern is hangar space, the availability and location relative to whatever property we decide on. 

Sigh...Right about now a new motorhome is looking better for our mission.

Monday - Departure Day

It’s an early start to a day of flying, let’s get to the airport.  Joe drove us north to Ft. Pierce airport and we rolled right out on the ramp to load the bags. APP Jet had 3 Tango Charlie ready to go at 8am.  

I squared up the bill for hangar space which was $45 a night. A bit more then I wanted to pay but I knew the plane would be safe from storms.  I completed my pre-flight and we said our goodbyes, at least Joe and Janice will be back up north soon.

METAR KFPR 080753Z AUTO 03005KT 10SM OVC16 21/18 A3005

Once the fan was turning I set up my GPS and took care of all the cockpit tasks prior to movement. With instruments and radios set I requested my IFR clearance to Mt Pleasant KLRO. 

A 2/6 in ten
F 123.62
T 7442

When my run up was complete I advised ready to go at A5 and Runway 10R. My new instructions were fly heading 100°, that was it. Ok, that heading will take me out over the ocean headed to the continent of about then As Filed?

Once wheels up and climbing out I was quickly handed off to Orlando approach just after going feet wet. Orlando turned me towards Melbourne (MLB) once identified and position verified. 
We were in IMC until breaking out around 5,800 feet. After the initial break out we were in and out of the clouds until we passed Ormond Beach. The view on top was beautiful.
The ride was still very smooth and we had a slight tailwind. I was handed off to multiple approaches; Daytona, and Jacksonville (two sectors). The last Jack Approach amended my route, Direct BASSO direct KLRO. Well that was an easy update to the GPS and a time saver. 
Direct BASSO
The direct BASSO route takes me about nine miles offshore as we road along at seven thousand feet. With tail winds I could easily make the shore line in an emergency. I was splitting traffic on V1 that was heading southbound.
Saint Simmons Island
I was handed off to Savanah then Beaufort and finally Charleston Approach. Charleston stepped me down and once I reported Mt. Pleasant in sight, and had the weather, they cut me loose. It was an easy entry to the left down wind for runway 17 and I followed with a smooth landing. Once shut down on the ramp I took on thirty-four gallons to bring me back to fifty. Mary didn't bother to get out of the plane so I grabbed her a Dr. Pepper and crackers.

3 Tango Charlie did not immediately hot start, I had to try a few times before she fired up. I don't think I held the pump on long enough on the initial start. 

I taxied to runway 17 and after my run up launched for home. The Garmin 480 was showing 2 hours and 46 minutes to OXB. The sky was now CAVU along with a smooth ride. No short cuts on this leg but we did manage a few pictures along the way. 
What a view passing over Norfolk! We could see Virginia Beach in the distance off our right wing and clearly see the entire Bay Bridge tunnel. As we went feet wet over the Chesapeake there was a good bit of traffic, both military and commercial. My head was on a swivel and the ADSB really helped. 

The best part of the flight came as we crossed the Bay and were just about to reach the Delmarva Peninsula. I got a call out for traffic, two F22's.  Yes my excitement was now full on mode. I then hear ATC ask if it's a flight of two or four...this is getting even better. 
My mind flashes back to the Top Gun Scene when Slider calls, "Ice we have a problem here, now I'm bringing up four aircraft on radar, not one pair but two pair."  Mary and I are straining to see the F22's, both trying to spot them and then there they are, one thousand feet high at our one o'clock, it was awesome! 

With that excitement I now had to settle myself back down and keep flying.  Wow, what a sight passing right overhead. We continued for home with a handoff to Patuxent approach as we made our way north. Pax asked our on course heading to confirm we would not enter the R-6604 restricted area at Wallops Flight Facility. I advised my heading and even turned away a few degrees to make sure I was clear.
I cancelled with Pax and switched to Ocean City to monitor traffic. It was quiet, I had the airport to myself as I entered a long left down wind for runway two-zero. I made a nice landing and rolled out, forgetting about the taxiway closure that required me to have to back taxi. I made a one eighty and headed to the hangar. 
It was fun trip flying and even better catching up with my brother after all this time. It felt good to get the first real cross country completed in our Commander. 3 Tango Charlie flew perfectly, a real pleasure, and the speeds reduced the flight time. I felt on top of my GPS work and it really felt good getting some IMC time. I had not gotten my ticket wet since the Summer of 2018.

New airports - 2 (136) KLRO and KFPR
Air time - 12 hours round trip
IMC time - .6 hours
Miles - 1526 nm