Retired Pilot talks about flying, writing, and teaching
September 17, 2014
I have to have a flexible departure time today. Charles wants to have another go at the CBC. Yesterday was airline flying: a fixed departure time that you meet as best you can, and I did. Start was one minute late, takeoff three minutes early, and landing four minutes early, or one minute early on the once enroute projection. I was trying to be where I said I would be, and when. Just like the airline.
Corporate flying must feel like today. I am trying to be ready to go anytime between 9AM and 2PM.
Whoops! I came back from breakfast and the world had changed. A new low on the GFA chart. Snow in Timmins and rain coming to North Bay. I start to look for alternates. Pembrooke. Midlands. Muskoka. Too many north-south runways. The wind, with this low or occluded front or whatever it is, is forecast to veer south-southwest and blow 20-25 knots. The freezing level is about five thousand feet, and icing is now forecast where it hadn't been before breakfast.
It's not working. I step back a pace and say, OK, the alternate has to be Ottawa. I'll have to come back here. That's one problem. Then the freezing level. I had planned for 8000 feet cruise altitude. I'll make it six, and I can go down to four if I need to – the MEA (Minimum Enroute Altitude) is four thousand until Killaloe and then 4300, and if I'm really in trouble with ice the MOCA (Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude) is 2800. I don't want it to come to that, though.
The weather is changing so fast there is a new forecast due out in half an hour. I decide to wait for it. But then in 5 minutes my head swings around. If I wait until – let's say – 2PM, the whole operation is just too risky. I would probably wind up back here in Ottawa. But what about the kids I'm going to talk to tomorrow morning? I would miss that opportunity. If I'm going I have to go now.
So I do. The clear morning sky is already clouding over with high layers, the sun disappearing. I fill up with gas so I'll have 5 hours of endurance, re-file my flight plan for 11AM, and take off. Part of the calculation is the wind, and the approaches at North Bay. The ceiling is forecast to be 500 feet, which is fine for the ILS on Runway 08 (200 ft. limits) but iffy for the other approaches with 500-ft. MDA's. So I'm hoping to land on 08 before the wind veers around to 240°.
I'm still in the clear at six thousand, but layers of cloud are approaching rapidly. The good news is the temperature is +3° C. By Renfrew I am in and out of cloud, some of the little cumulus quite bumpy, making hand flying busy.
But there's no ice. The OAT is hovering between 2° and 3° at 6000 feet. The wind is still favouring Runway 08. And I get to do my first ILS with a DME arc – that is, the first using GPS for the arc.
The rain starts as I'm finishing the tie-down. A year ago I made 2 pairs of chocks, spliced eyes in three tie-down ropes and forged three stakes out of rebar. Now I know why.
It was a nasty night in North Bay – steady, soaking rain.