Through footless halls of air

We flew the Lance to Pittsburgh last night. It was glorious.

Flight trackI filed GEE v119 MILWO v12 FURIX, which is what AeroPlanner and DUATs both give you as the low altitude autoroute, and got “cleared as filed”, which is nice. Even better, with the new mags and new battery, the plane started like it used to in the old days.

It had been hot and humid all day, so not surprisingly the air was murky with haze until we got on top of the “6000 feet few” that had been in Rochester’s ATIS. Vicki asked me if this was legal VFR, and had to look for landmarks on the ground to see if I could see 3 miles, and it was just barely. I know I wouldn’t want to be out there fat dumb and happy without radar separation services. I had filed for 8000 feet, and had barely gotten leveled out there when I noticed that just past ELZ there was a very thin layer of dense cumulus exactly at my altitude. I asked for higher, and got cleared up to 10,000 feet. It took the old girl a while to get there – when I pitched up to try and get 500 feet per minute out of it, the plane slowed down to 90 knots, the automatic gear extension activated and the landing gear came down which didn’t help the climb rate one bit. So I re-engaged the gear override and let it speed up to 100 knots which gave us about 300 feet per minute.

All this time, the ancient StrikefinderWX-8 Stormscope on the panel was indicating lightning out 60+ miles off our nose. There was a very large thunderhead out in that direction, but it looked further away than that. Also, that thin layer of cumulus below us had occasional “whiffle-diffs” as I believe they’re called, where one of the cumulus clouds will start boiling up and building to above our altitude. But we were still in good visual conditions. In spite of the building clouds, I had full confidence that if our path was going to take us into one that was building too much, I could ask for a diversion around them. But by luck, ever one that looked like it was going to be on our path ended up being a few miles beyond one of the turns in our course, so I missed them all. Instead, we got to see them passing of our wings, sometimes one on each side. That’s when I started thinking about “footless halls of air”.

We were pretty much out of the build-ups after we passed Clarion VOR and they started giving us descents. Below 6000 feet, once again, it was so hazy that I was glad we weren’t VFR. The KAGC ATIS said that ILS 28 was the approach in us, so as we neared MILWO, I tuned the localizer and was pleased to see it coming alive. Pittsburgh approach told us to expect the visual for 28, but as we turned towards the airport I realized I’d never be able to see anything with the sun directly ahead and all that haze, so I asked for the ILS, and was cleared for it. I flew the ILS and didn’t actually “break out” and see the airport until about 500 feet up, so I think that counts as a real loggable approach.

At the airport, they drove our rental car out to the plane so we could load our stuff. I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but I get a feeling like “this is how the rich people live” whenever that happens. Like living in a gigantic home and flying a Lance doesn’t make me “rich people” already.