Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homeward Bound Despite ATC and Weather

I was hoping for a leisurely journey home from NJ on Sunday.  But The ATC radio work around NY was quite a workout. When I was on the ground @ Morristown airport, I was ready for departure ~ 35 minutes prior to my filed flight plan.  I called Clearance Delivery but they were not ready for me.  Rather than wait for a half hour on the ground, I decided to take off without a flight plan and pick up IFR in the air.  In most parts of the country, this technique works just fine.  However, NY is a different world!

The takeoff was uneventful.  But when I tried to call NY Approach from the air, the frequency was  simply too congested for me break in.

At this point, I knew that asking for a clearance on this frequency would have been impractical and perhaps even rude.  Instead, I asked for flight following in the fastest radio voice I could manage.  The controller responded in an even faster radio voice.  He gave me a squawk code, a heading, and told me he would get back to me "when he could".  After ~ 10  minutes of listening, I was amazed at how this controller managed to avoid chaos while talking to more than half a dozen planes!

He never gave me the magic words ("radar contact").  But he did give me a handoff to Philly approach, who eventually gave me a proper clearance.

This clearance worked out well.  It kept me right between an area of heavy rain and the Washington Special airspace:
But I never saw the ground because there seemed to be solid cloud deck below me the whole way.  When it was time to land in Duplin County airport, the view as I descended was rather cool and I managed to touchdown right on centerline!! You can see for yourself in the clip below:

After a wonderful, authentic Carolina BBQ, it was time for the last leg.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate on the last leg. The R9 screen seemed to be filled with nasty colors the whole time.

When I was getting close to the FL/GA border, the controller the said "Heavy to extreme precipitation @ your 12... I don't have a an obvious way to avoid it ... Let me know when you need to deviate and your intentions."

Between that radio call and the glowing red R9 screen, I knew I needed to get ready for for a bumpy ride.  So I put the iPad away, secured everything in the cabin, and tightened my seat belt as much as I could.

As expected, the ride between Jacksonville and Ocala was rough. There was moderate turbulence plus enough rain to make it feel like nighttime.  

Luckily, the turbulence didn't last long.  When I eventually broke out of the rain/clouds, the view was totally majestic (or maybe I was just relieved):

At that point, I found a great routing that seemed to avoid all the rain and even have a normal, dry landing in Tampa.


  1. Hi, T.J.:

    Looks like you had about as much fun as you could stand! Totally unsurprising that you were unable to pick up your clearance in the air departing KMMU. I wouldn't recommend that procedure in that airspace - much more better to eat the delay and get the clearance on the ground prior to departure.

    For the segment from Jax to Ocala, the screen shot looks like about 20 degrees left and follow the coast down for a while, then cut back inland might've helped. Were you good on fuel at that point, for an extended deviation?

    IFR stories are like sea stories - telling them is fun, collecting them is, umm, interesting.

    Stay safe,


  2. Thx Frank! Now I know better... next month when go back to MMU, I will definitely do it differently!!


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