Don’t remember when last I did this (file and fly an IFR flight plan), maybe way back in 2005 (see Partial Panel). By the way this almost would have become a Partial Panel flight if we hadn’t switched aircraft!
Arriving early at the airport, we discovered that the aircraft had a steady “Low Vac” annunciator display on. Running the engine for a while did nothing for it. The plan was to file and fly under instrument flight rules (IFR). Thunderstorms were in the forecast for the afternoon. When are they never? That in itself was challenging, so definitely didn’t want to work with fewer avionics.
Fortunately we swapped with another aircraft and were off as usual almost an hour later than planned. We filed:
with the plan to fly the RNAV GPS R12 approach into BCB.
The clearance we got was:
After a long wait, to let confused pilots who mixed up 16L with 16R, go arounds and landings, Leo and I finally departed and contacted Potomac Approach.
“Turn 020” said Potomac.
Here we go again. The extreme heat meant a sluggish climb to 8000ft. Our current heading put us away from the Appalachians and hoping for a more direct route we decided to stay at 6000 ft. Maybe a bad choice for soon we were headed back “Direct Whitto. Then MOL”. A request for GVE transition produced an “Unable” answer.
The cloud buildup was pretty impressive! Much sooner and much more than we anticipated. After flying through some whisps of light clouds we hit the well established ones. I had already postponed this flight from Friday to Sunday due to the severe thunderstorms in the forecast for Friday. Sunday looked pristine on Friday. Guess not anymore. I had assumed I was learning the weather patterns; that 30% probability offered better chances than 60% but am not sure any more (see Weather & Me).
Truth be told I wasn’t nervous at all. It was calm. We were holding steady at our altitude and flying level. Wasn’t this what all IFR flying was all about?
But thoughts about the return trip, brought sanity back in check. Reluctantly instead of Blacksburg, we decided to land at Charlotesville (again!). I have stopped counting the number of times I have diverted to CHO instead of heading to my final destination.
Lessons learned today:
- I still remember my first foray into the clouds (see Chasing Clouds). I can handle it as long as the clouds are not dark, ominous and lightning is in sight.
- Calm frame of mind and a steady hand are always important for a safe flight.
- And good, calm, safety pilots are hard to find!