Saturday, June 25, 2011

State #37 (NE) and Missouri River Flooding

On the way back from Sioux Falls, the weather once again played a factor in my route.  I needed to leave SD before the storms arrived and I was also hoping to hit one more state on the way. 

I was heading to Lexington, KY and found a routing through Omaha that worked perfectly:
On the way to Omaha, I noticed a very unusually shaped TFR (temporary flight restriction), which is the red outlined area in the picture below:
At first I wasn't sure what to make of this .... Then I realized that this TFR was over the sections of the Missouri River that were experiencing some major flooding.  The TFR was surface to 4000 FT.  I overflew most of it and saw how just how bad it was first hand:

Omaha, which is right on the Missouri River near the Iowa border, was also affected by the floods.  The airport was still open despite flooded areas adjacent to several taxiways.
You can even see some of the devastating floods on the approach.  What looks like a giant lake in the approach video below is actually a flooded area:

Not sure if you can tell from the video... This was another tough, gusty landing (winds were 100@ 15 knots gusting to 21 knots).

After landing (and taking a deep breath), I jumped into a crew car and headed to the Hollywood Diner.  It was simple, regular diner food.  But it did have some unusual decor.  The whole place is decorated like a 1950s diner with tinsel town memorabilia in every wall, ceiling and corner.
The final leg of the journey was from Omaha to Lexington.  This part of the journey was smooth and uneventful.  Even had a moderate tailwind most of the way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

State #36 (SD) and Weather Detour

The plan was elegantly simple! (Direct from Tampa to Sioux Falls, SD).  As you can see in the clip below, this is what the flight plan looked like in my head:
Then I started the real flight planning and realized that it wasn't quite that easy!

First, I realized it is ~ 1200 miles, which means I would need a stop for fuel.  Since I started using the Foreflight app on the Ipad, this part was easy.  Type in the route and Foreflight shows you a map with a fuel price overlay ... This is the coolest software feature I have seen in awhile... (It even works when you are in the air!)

Second, I checked ATC routes, which didn't really change my plans at all. (There were no preferred ATC routes along this route.) 
Then I checked weather and that's when things got interesting... There was a front passing right through my direct route. 

I thought I was being clever by timing my departure so that I would reach my fuel stop in Paris, TN just after the front passed.  As you can see from the picture below, this part worked:
After some self serve fuel and a break, I checked the weather again.  This time there was a line of some nasty weather directly in my path to Sioux Falls.  I was planning to "wait" for a couple of hours to let it pass.

While I waited, I was reading the digital version of the AOPA Pilot magazine on the iPad and came across an article about an interesting restaurant at the Wichita Mid Continent airport called the Hanger One Steakhouse.   When I looked at the map, flying to Sioux Falls via Wichita avoided all the nasty colors on the map (including the turbulence airmets and convective sigmets).

Sooooo I quickly filed IFR, did a "hot start" on the Cirrus and was off on my detour.  You can see the inflight weather and how nicely it worked out below.  I think I found the only smooth route in the entire area.

While I did successfully miss most of the bad weather, it was very hot and windy in Wichita.  The METAR shown below gives you an idea of just how hot and windy it was:

After a tough, gusty landing, I felt like I got a sunburn just walking from the plane to the terminal.

But the detour was worth the trip.  Hanger One, which is in a control tower shaped building, is a "must visit" for any pilot.  Aside from the obvious aviation history and decor on the walls, the waitresses where various types of pilot uniforms and even the music is from aviation movies. But the coolest part was the furniture, some of which was made from airplane parts.  Here's a table made out of a Pratt & Whitney engine:

After a great meal, it was time for the last leg from Wichita to Sioux Falls.  Because of full fuel and a 100 degrees, the plane was VERY sluggish in the climb.  I struggled to maintain to 700fpm climb and had the A/C full blast until ~ 8000FT.

Eventually, I reached the 36th state!

Instead of the weather causing unwanted delays, on this trip, it enabled a scenic detour that made the journey even more memorable!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Angel Flight "on the way home"

It has been quite a while since my last Angel Flight.  Over the past month, I checked the AF website each week for a suitable mission that would fit into my schedule.  Nothing came even close.

But this week I found one that worked!  It was sort of "on the way".  I was in Tennessee on business and I was heading home to Tampa.  The mission was to transport a cancer patient who lived near Knoxville to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for treatment.  You can see the route home on the left.

The patient was a young lady named Kristin, who was fighting a rare form of cancer called carcinoid cancer.  She needed some very specialized care that is only available in a few places in the country.

After a brief introduction and preflight on the ground, we took off from Knoxville Airport into some beautiful weather.  Knoxville has mountains directly to the southeast.  While the mountains are not very big, they are certainly enough to affect your flight path.  As a result, ATC cleared us for an initial climb heading southwest.  After we got to our cruising altitude of 11000 FT, we were cleared direct to our destination.  The altitude was just perfect.  There were occasional clouds below us and around us.  But we had a smooth ride and some great views along the way.

While Kristin has taken Angel flights before, this was her first time sitting in the copilot seat.  As you can see from the picture below, she was "drinking in the scenery". 

On a couple of occasions, we flew through some very light clouds, which she seemed to particularly enjoy.  I was able to capture some of it along with the landing at Craig Airport, which you can see in the video below:

After a "quick turn" @ Sky Harbor Aviation, the last 150NM leg was a fairly straight shot (except for those pesky military airspaces that I had to fly around).  Overall, it was a very smooth trip and really "on my way home"!

Hopefully, I can find more missions that are "on the way" soon!

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