So yesterday, I got up at 0200 and headed out to Baltimore International Airport for a flight into Nashville, Tennessee (via Charlotte, NC). I got through the TSA passenger-molesting lane without incident, but I did watch them pull a soldier in uniform off to the side and they proceeded detail-stripping his bags. However the two young middle-eastern guys that were behind him and ahead of me in line got right though, too. It's makes me feel safer about the invasion of my privacy to know that at least TSA doesn't profile. (Sheesh!)
Arriving in Nashville, I got picked up at the airport by J, the seller of my new aircraft, and he drove me up to Glasgow, KY, where the plane was.
We signed some papers, took one last look at the weather (Dodgy with a chance of "screw this!"), and then I hit the starter on MY OWN PLANE and taxied off to the departure end of the runway.
It's a 401nm (nautical mile) trip, but I'm not making it alone. I've got my trusty Choiceasaurus with me.
He's a little green dinosaur shaped like a suitcase, and he was part of a promo for Choice Hotels back in the early 1990's. I snabbed him out some hotel in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where I'd snuck in to use the pool while on a road trip way back when. He's been a dashboard companion on countless trips since then and has been to 40-some states by now. So it's only right that he take up flying now, too.
A nice little Kentucky lake. People down there having fun.
A bit further east, I started running into clouds. These cumulus clouds were down around 5000 feet, and the ones way above were at 15,000.
My read on the weather is there's bad stuff to the northwest, coming into the area. My chances of hitting some of it around Charleston, WV are about 50/50, but the longer I wait, the worse the odds get. So my plan is to zip through as quickly as I can, with plan B being a detour to the south if I hit any, and Plan C being to just land and read a book I'd brought along and maybe find a motel room for the night if I can't get through safely.
As I travel along, the terrain is pretty.
But the clouds are getting thicker and a bit lower, too.
I'm starting to get buffeted by this stuff, and some of them are now dumping rain so I've got to fly around those. But after a bit, I look up and realize that these things are mostly topping out just a couple of thousand feet higher. So why the hell am I down in the weeds getting beat up? Sheesh! Power on, and CLIMB!
At 7,000 feet, it's a whole new world The air is calm, the sun is bright, and I don't have to worry about another scud-runner blasting through one of those low clouds and t-boning me. Up here the air is so still that I just trim the plane out and take my hands off the controls. A tap or two on the rudder every now and again is enough to keep me on course.
As I approach their airspace, I make contact with Yeager International airport in Charleston, WV as a courtesy to let them know that I'll be passing through. Their controlled airspace only goes up to 5,000 feet and I'll be above it, but I want to let them know my intentions and check weather. I'd planned to stop there on the trip but as of now, I think I'm right on the edge of the bad weather, and Charleston tower confirms it. My alternate fuel stop at Elkins, WV, is clear though so I proceed on.
Hey look! There's Charleston down below!
And there's our state capitol building!
Just for a moment I wish this Cessna was an F-105.
And there's Yeager Field. Hi guys!
Once through that area, the weather falls behind and the clouds break up fast. I've got nice weather all the way into Elkins, where, since I don't know this plane yet, I plan to stop for fuel.
At Elkins, I made a couple of phone calls, hit the restroom, chatted a bit with Dave, the airport attendant on duty, and checked the weather radar. Rest of the flight path looks good...but it also shows weather coming into Elkins fast from the southwest!
On the ground at Elkins. Oh look at the new weather coming. That was just a line on the horizon ten minutes ago. After a brief argument with the computerized self-serve pump, I get twenty gallons for $112.00 and taxi out again before that stuff can catch me.
I climb out past the trailer park. A trailer park next to an airport. Yeah, that's "Almost Heaven" for some people, I guess.
Looking back over my shoulder at Elkins, I see that the cloudburst is already pasting them. Another five minutes on the ground would have had me in that.
Climbing out of the mountain valley that Elkins is in, I've got hills to both sides, and rising hills ahead of me (Great place to put an airport, people!) and while I feel like I'm climbing, a look at the approaching terrain suggests otherwise. Every sense in my body tells me that I'm going up though. So I look at the gauges. Vertical Speed Indicator shows 200FPM descent. Altimeter confirms. OK then. I know better to argue with the instruments. More power! I've experienced this disorientation flying with vision-limiting goggles on during training, but never under clear skies before. Kinda neat experience for a few seconds. But let's not do that again for a while.
And once over the mountains east of Elkins, there's hardly a cloud in sight. It's nice and calm and sunny here. I Per the weather radar at Elkins, I'll be in the clear the rest of the way home.
"Good escape", says Choiceasaurus.
East of the mountains, it's nice over here.
Just an hour of smooth flying from Elkins to my home field. And there it is at last.
Five hours after hitting the starter in western Kentucky, I'm on the ground in Eastern West Virginia, tying my new plane down across the strip from the Air Force C-5s.
And now...It's Miller time.
(Sadly it was not, though. I still had to catch a ride from PH back to Baltimore to get my car, then grab a bite in Frederick, MD on the way back home. But there was beer there, to be sure. And it was good! And I was asleep within fifteen minutes of getting back home.)