Flight home

Well, it didn’t start off promising because I woke up in the middle of the night with an upset stomach and spasming back muscles. But we got home fairly uneventfully. And I even got to fly a bit of an ILS in IMC. Not well, but I did.

Flight trackI think the spasming back muscles (all on the lower left of my back) were probably a result of an experience in this art museum called “The Mattress Factory”. I’d borrowed their filthy decrepit wheel chair to spare my poor knees. But instead, I ended up falling over backwards when this dark and narrow corridor suddenly took a turn uphill. I cracked my head pretty hard, and nearly lost my cell phone and glasses. The upset stomach was probably the result of the Indian meal I had that night where I ordered something I’ve never had before. It was delicious, but I’m still suspicious.

Anyway, I spent a lot of time when I should have been sleeping pacing around, standing, stretching, and trying to find a position that was semi-comfortable.

After breakfast we got some chewable Rolaids and some of those chemical heat pads for my back, which helped a lot. And then it was time to prepare for the flight. The weather looked ok – there had been some airmets/sigmets for widely scattered thunderstorms in the morning, but the afternoon was supposed to be better. There were some jet pilots in the lounge who’d come in from the north and said they hadn’t seen any build-ups along the way. Most of the Pennsylvania was reporting and forecasting high ceilings or clear skies, but southern New York was reporting a layer at 8,000 feet, and Rochester was still forecasting low ceilings (as low as 600 feet). So I actually had to engage the briefer in conversation to find a suitable alternate – Buffalo was also forecasting 600 foot ceilings, but Syracuse was already up to 1400 feet and expected to get better. (BTW: All the horror stories about the Lockmart briefers? I didn’t notice this guy being any better or worse than the typical AFSS briefer, nor was the hold time longer.) Last time I’d flown out of Allegheny County (KAGC), I’d filed the opposite of what I’d file coming in (FURIX v12 MILWO v119 GEE), but had gotten a re-route to EWC EWC050 ZORBO BFD v119 GEE. I’d talked to other Rochester pilots in the past who said they’d gotten the same re-route, and I looked on FlightAware.com for north bound flights out of KAGC and found the same route, so this time I filed it. And sure enough, I got cleared as filed. Yay!

Vicki flew in the back seat, since she’d had real trouble getting out of the front seat because of her shoulder surgery. As a further bonus, it meant that if my stomach got bad, I wouldn’t have to worry about barfing on her. It didn’t take much time to load up and get ready. But on Friday Vicki said she was feeling pretty rich as we got out of our plane and got into the rental car that they drove up to the plane for us. Today she’s plunged down to earth again as several people arrived in their personal jets and departed in limos. Sigh.

It was another really hot day, so of course the Lance didn’t want to climb. The take-off clearance was to climb to 3,000 feet and had us turning right to 040 (which is not towards EWC) and as soon as we contacted Philadelphia Approach, they turned us back left to 360 (which also isn’t toward EWC – it was more like 340 at that point). After a few minutes, they let us climb to our filed altitude and gave us a vector direct to BFD. Just like last time, they wanted to make sure our clearance was to EWC EWC050 ZORBO, but they had no intention of actually making us do it.

Because we weren’t actually going to be doing a west bound leg to start, the altitude I had filed, 8000 feet, wasn’t appropriate, and Cleveland Center asked us if we wanted 7,000 or 9,000. I elected to fly higher, as I always do. But it was all in vain – no sooner had we nursed it up that high when they told us to descent back down to 7,000 because the DUKE MOA was hot from 8,000 to 18,000.

The image shows a couple of little spots to the left and the right of our path. I was a couple little whiffles, but nothing that would sustain rain or be a threat for thunder. Crossing the New York border, I tuned in the Rochester ATIS that was showing a ceiling of 1300 broken, 2500 overcast. So the weather had improved slightly in advance of when it had forecast to, but it still meant I’d be shooting the first part of the ILS in IMC. At 7000 feet half way between ELZ and GEE there was a solid deck well below us. It looked smooth as a billiard table. A Canadian flying a Grumman Tiger was trying to scud run down below the 1300 foot ceiling and had decided that the rising terrain around the Finger Lakes and the low ceilings were a bad mix and had decided to return to Rochester. He sounded a little like the guy flying the Tiger whom I’d ended up going to a Hooters with after we got weathered in at Muskegeon coming home from Oshkosh 2003.

Passing GEE they told us to descend to 2500 and keep up best forward speed to the outer marker. I gave him 145 KIAS, which is the bottom of the yellow arc. The tops turned out to be at 4000, then there was a gap between 3000 and 2500, and then I broke out on the ILS at about 1500. The air in the clouds was perfectly smooth, so being in the yellow arc wasn’t a concern except for one thing. Because I was still going fast, I hadn’t been able to put the gear down at the glideslope intersection, so I’d had to chase the glideslope needle down from a three dot deflection early on. But I got it within the donuts before I broke out, so I guess I win.

After landing, my back flared up again – I think it had liked the seat in the Lance better than standing. But in the process of putting the plane away and struggling with a balky zipper on the cabin cover, the skies had actually cleared up. Knowing Rochester’s freaky lake-effected weather, it’s quite likely it was still cloudy down at the Finger Lakes and that Tiger was still stuck in Rochester, though.