I woke up this morning at was shocked to find it was raining. This was a total surprise to me, as I thought the forecast was for more sun. This was a huge disappointment, because I’d decided that I’d prevent New York controllers from giving me a half hour ground hold or re-routing me all over hell’s half acre by flying VFR.
Fortunately, while it was raining all over most of southern and eastern New York and New Jersey, it was all layered stratus clouds so no thunderstorms. So it would be IFR, but flyable IFR. That’s good.
I filed the opposite of the route I’d filed for the flight in. After all, it had sort-of worked on the way in, plus I could just load the flight plan that was already in the GPS and inverted it. “KBLM RBV v276 MAZIE v149 CFB v252 GEE KROC”, at 6,000 feet. I offered a forlorn hope that 6,000 feet might get us above the rain.
The rain was pissing down, and I got soaked doing the pre-flight and getting the plane packed. And because I thought it was going to be nice weather, I hadn’t put the cabin covers on so the carpet on the floor was soaked.
But we got all buttoned up and the engine started. I called for my clearance, and got “clearance on request”. Oh oh, I knew that meant a re-route. And sure enough, the clearance came “direct DIXIE v276 RBV ARD PTW v29 ETX v164 FQM v31 ULW direct KROC”, altitude “2,000 feet, expect 4,000 10 minutes after departure”. Not much in common with the route I filed, eh? My low altitude enroute charts were soaked from the rain, so I did something I shouldn’t have and just put those VORs into the GPS without verifying whether there were other VORs and turns in the airways. Bad me. (It turns out there weren’t.) Another aircraft on the frequency got a similar re-route and said “that’s entirely new territory for us”.
After several minutes on the ground reprogramming the GPS, we took off. Up into the clouds at about 400 feet up, I turned towards DIXIE and contacted McGuire Approach. They had us climb to 4000 feet and turn directly towards ARD (Yardley). It was raining heavily and I couldn’t see anything beyond the wingtips. At one point I thought I saw small leaf or something on the windshield, but it flew off. As we reached 4,000 feet and levelled off I realized that the “leaf” was actually a flake of paint from the oil filler door – most of the paint had now flaked off. I guess the engine had gotten a little hot in the climb or maybe on the ground while I was reprogramming stuff.
Level at 4,000, it was very bright. I had a feeling that there must be sunlight not too far above us. I asked for 6,000 and they said they couldn’t give it to me until after I’d been handled to Allentown. And sure enough, soon after the hand-off the controller cleared me up to 6,000. But it was like flying in a milk bowl, but I think we were between the layers instead of in one.
At this point, the Allentown controller asked if I was going direct to Allentown. I said no, I was going direct to Pottstown (PTW) right now. She said that I was supposed to be direct Allentown. I asked the code for Allentown, and she exasperatedly said “It’s on your route.” I said it wasn’t, and she said “you’re supposed to be going Allentown then Lake Henry.” I said that was absolutely nothing like the route I was cleared for, and read off the clearance I’d been given. It struck me after that she was expecting me to fly the route I’d filed, not the one I’d been cleared for. She sighed and said “fly direct East Texas (ETX)”.
I noticed that my speed was dropping. I looked down and saw that the manifold pressure (MP) had dropped from 22 inches to under 20 inches. I applied some carb heat and the manifold pressure went back up, and so did our ground speed. I guess I’ve been flying a fuel injected plane too much, I got out of the habit of checking carb heat. So for the rest of the flight, I watched the MP and when it dropped a bit, I put on the carb heat for 10 seconds or so, and it would come back up. I was probably doing that every 3-4 minutes.
About 75nm from home, the weather changed. The clouds below us turned into a few isolated cumulus, and the rain started tapering off. The ATIS for Rochester didn’t mention rain at all, just a few clouds at 4,500 feet and an overcast layer at 12,000 feet. And sure enough, the rain stopped completely and I could see for miles in spite of a slight mist. I got told to expect a visual for runway 7, and after reporting the field in sight 20 miles out got cleared to land.
So sure, it was nice that we didn’t get re-soaked tying down the aircraft, but it means that I spend two hours in actual IMC, and I don’t even get to log a freaking approach out of it.