Friday, February 4, 2011

Revolving Squawk Codes

As you may have guessed from the timing of this post, I did indeed stay in Miami on Wednesday(not only for dinner but overnight)... The trip home on Thursday should have been a quick, simple trip home... But as often happens, I tried to get too clever and mother nature "corrected" me.  First, I tried to avoid dealing with the crowded Miami airspace. No IFR flight plan, no departure procedures, just good old fashioned hand flying... Well, as "old-fashioned" as can be done in a Cirrus.

I was planning to do the short 180 nautical mile trip entirely on squawk code 1200 and with near "radio silence"... Instead, the short 1 hour trip ended up with numerous squawk code changes, nearly continuous radio communications and I was even too busy for any music!  Here is how it happened.

Squawk code # 1 - 1200: Simple call to Tamiami Ground "Request taxi to 9L ; VFR Northwest bound with information Delta."   Then I taxied to runway 9L, where I was immediately cleared for takeoff (into a clear, blue sky).

I carefully dodged around (and below) the Miami class B airspace and was heading direct to the CURVE intersection and then direct Tampa.  This routing manages to avoid all MOAs, Class Bs, and all that "funky" FL airspace.  After the reaching CURVE @ 2800 FT, I started climbing to 10,500 FT because it just didn't feel like an oxygen day.

As I passed through ~ 9,000 FT, I noticed a cloud layer forming (or maybe appearing) below me.

Hmmm... Didn't like that ; I was planning to stay VFR the whole way.  But if there was a solid cloud deck below. So there was no way to legally make a VFR descent.  So that led to the next squawk code.  I was still 113 miles away from the destination.  I checked the Tampa ATIS using the R9 Info page and found the following:
Notice the Cloud Cover @ 600 FT Overcast
I knew I had to switch to IFR.  But switching VFR to IFR enroute is not something u do everyday.  I decided the easiest way would be to pick up VFR Flight Following and then ask them to "convert" me to IFR.  (Not sure if controllers are supposed to do this... But I have had friendly controllers do this for me before).

Squawk Code # 2 - 0714: Miami Center said the magic words "Radar Contact"... But unfortunately followed it quickly with "heading 270 for traffic"  (So much for the quiet direct VFR route home).  If you have never flown this area, you should know that it is one of the busiest airspaces on the East Coast.  The controllers talk fast and have little patience for pilots without strong radio skills.  After the radio calmed down, I eventually asked for IFR.  The controller politely told me NO... He suggested I file a flight plan with Miami FSS.  Miami canceled my flight following.  So that lead to squawk # 3.

Squawk Code # 3 - 1200(again): Now I went through the painfully slow process of filing an IFR flight plan with Miami FSS. By this time I was already less than 100 miles from destination and the clouds were approaching fast.  So I stayed at 10,500 FT but filed a flight plan for a lower altitude (6000), which would give me time to get "radar contact" from Fort Myers Approach.

Squawk # 4 - 4714: I heard the magic words again "Radar Contact" this time from Fort Myers.  Surprisingly, they immediately changed my squawk code again and gave me a vector for traffic and a descent to 6000.

Squawk # 5 - xxxx (I don't even remember what the # was): I descended to 6000, where I was firmly "in the soup".  I got cleared to Lakeland (LAL) then JUVAS, which was the Initial approach fix on the GPS 23 approach.

After passing Lakeland and descending to 2000, I felt like I was "almost home"... The only problem was that I still could not see anything outside.  Luckily, the winds were tame and the ATIS had improved slightly with OVC 800 and 2 miles visibility.  On most of my IFR flights, I typically cancel IFR services when I am ~ 20 miles from the destination.  But on this flight, I told the controller I would "call him from the ground to cancel".  He "read between the lines" and promptly gave me alternate missed approach instructions.  As I continued my descent, I broke out of the clouds "as advertised on the ATIS", which was at ~ 700-800 FT.  The video is a bit shaky (not sure why) ... But you can see for yourself:


So in the end, the short, silent 1 hour hop ended up feeling like a grueling training session (without the comfort of a CFI sitting right seat).

Phew! Good to be home!!

Cheers,
== T.J.==

6 comments:

  1. Does your camera have Electronic Image Stabilization? I've seen that 'bumpy' effect before when it's enabled on mine... turning it off gets rid of the problem.

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  2. Steve, YES + when I import it into iMovie, there is an option for image stabilization, which I chose. (Maybe the 2 didn't cooperate)

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  3. Yeah my best guess is it's somehow related to the rolling shutter effect (that we see in how the props are recorded) we get with most cameras today that have CMOS sensors.

    I was convinced my mount was somehow introducing vibration until I realized turning EIS off greatly reduced / alleviated the problem yesterday on a flight!

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  4. A pop-up IFR clearance is quick and easy. You don't file a flight plan with FSS, ATC takes care of everything. I prefer them in situations like this one, where time is short. Controllers can't suggest one, you'll have to ask. Then the work is on them, making your life easier.

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  5. Thanks Glenn! Gr8 Advice for next time!!

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