Back from Oshkosh

I’d gotten an STMP (or whatever it’s called) reservation for an IFR departure at 1715Z. But by 1400Z, there just wasn’t that much left to do around the campsite, and I didn’t want to buy another day’s ticket. So I went down to the gate house, got my camping refund (they make you pay for the whole week in advance, then give you a refund when you leave), got a weather briefing, and took a shower, then got ready to depart VFR to see if I could pick up flight following from Muskegon Approach.

The forecast at Rochester was better if I waited until 1715Z, as there were widely scatter thunderstorms around Buffalo and Rochester that were supposed to dissipate by the evening. But they looked pretty small on the radar, and I’ve got a StormScope. If nothing else, I figured I could skip across Lake Erie to Dunkirk and find some place to wait for the storm to pass that wouldn’t involve finding out what Canada Customs thinks about unannounced drop-ins. (Rumours have been floating that they’ve been hitting people with substantial fines for that.)

No departure goes exactly as planned, and the first problem is that my new ultralight headset from Clarity Aloft doesn’t work. I can’t hear anything through them, and when I talk on its mike I can’t hear it over the other headset. So I toss them in the back to deal with later and pick up the old Flightcomm 4DXs that I borrowed.

As I started to taxi towards Runway 27, the north tower suddenly announced that departures from 27 were on hold and we all had to go to Runway 36L. This sucked majorly, because up until that point there was no lineup. Suddenly there was a huge lineup. And that lineup lead into another lineup, and then that merged with another. I’m not sure exactly how long it took to get to the runway, but I didn’t take off until 1630Z, almost exactly 45 minutes before my IFR clearance would have been available.

I took off behind a Cessna 140, and because we were restricted to 1,300 feet and 150 degree heading but not given a speed restriction, I soon caught up with him and passed him. I could see traffic below me at the sea plane base, and a flight of four coming up from Warbird Island, as well as a flight of some unfamiliar large crane-like birds with white wings with dark wingtips.

And by an interesting coincidence, I ended up at GAYLE intersection, which is where you are supposed to pick up your IFR clearance from Muskegon if you don’t have an IFR reservation at Oshkosh, right about the time my IFR clearance would have been appearing on the FAA computers. So I called up Muskegon to see if it were possible to pick up the IFR flight plan that I filed from Oshkosh even though I didn’t activate it in Oshkosh. And it was! This is good news, because I was at 9,500 feet, and I could see that once I got “feet dry” in Michigan I’d be over a broken layer that seemed to stretch from about 8,500 feet to 9,000 feet. And of course, once I was on an IFR flight plan, I had to descend to 9,000 feet, which put me dancing in the tops of the clouds. I enjoyed that.

I did a quick turn at Saginaw, where the fuel was slightly cheaper that Muskegon and they had free hot dogs. I checked the weather, and there was a small line of red just over Buffalo and a bit of green over Rochester, but otherwise pretty clear. The TAF for my arrival time mentioned CBs at 4500 feet, but another layer above it at 6000 feet, so it obviously wasn’t building high, and they weren’t in the TAF for a few hours later. I figured I could definitely work my way around them with the StormScope, or at least find a place nearby to wait for them to go.

Approaching the southern tip of Lake Huron, I could see two very distinct vertical bulges in the cloud layer ahead of me way off in the direction I was heading. I figured that was probably the spots I saw on the radar at Buffalo. That would put them about 200 miles ahead, and they were only developed up to about 11,000 feet, and nothing was showing up in the 200 mile ring of the StormScope, so I congratulated me on my excellent weather decision making and figured they wouldn’t be an impediment to reaching home. As I passed London Ontario I asked the Toronto Center controller if she had weather capability, and although she said it’s not “certified for weather”, she didn’t see more than slight rain in Buffalo, confirming what I had thought. Still nothing on the StormScope, even at the 200 mile range, while less than 150 miles to Rochester. This was definitely going to work.

As I approached Buffalo, that one vertically developed cloud was still not going much higher than about 10,000 or 11,000 feet, so it wasn’t dangerous, but I decided to put the things I’ve learned from my subscriptions to “IFR Refresher” and “IFR Magazine” to work and asked for a deviation 20 degrees to the left (upwind side) to avoid having to fly though that. They approved that, and told me to fly direct Rochester when past the build-up. It meant that when I actually did hit some clouds and rain, I was much closer to the tops (and the air was about +10C, so it wasn’t icy) and the rain was gentle and the turbulence mild.

I was in the rain and turbulence for only a few minutes as I descended from 9,000, and broke out at 6,000. Went into and out of one little cloud while being vectored towards runway 22, and that was it. Once again, I didn’t get an approach.

Man, Oshkosh was fun, but it’s good to be home.

2 thoughts on “Back from Oshkosh”

  1. The best part of OSH is that first really good, hot shower you take when you get home.

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