Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 10: Reunion

Chicago, IL (PWK) to Birmingham, AL (BHM)
654 statute miles (568 nm)
time enroute: 6:33 (including a 65 minute food and fuel stop)

Our plan for this morning was to take our hosts for a scenic lakeshore flight and then depart for Birmingham to pick up our daughter from the family where she has been a mother's helper this past week. At five-plus hours, it would be the longest day of traveling so far in the trip, and we were concerned about the possibility of thunderstorms later in the day. As it turned out, the scenic flight was not to be.

When we left for the airport around 10:00, there was an overcast at 1000 feet. Our new plan started with filing IFR to get out of Chicago. At this point, I discovered a minor glitch in my pre-trip planning. In acquiring the 17 pounds (yes, I weighed them) of charts and instrument procedures I might need on the trip, I overlooked Indiana. It turns out that the direct route from Chicago to Birmingham flies right down the length of the state. I had Kentucky covered, so I could have filed to somewhere south of Indiana, but I took the more cautious approach and chose to fly slightly to the west, staying in Illinois. I picked Fairchild, IL as a destination, with the idea of either canceling IFR once the weather cleared or getting a clearance to a further destination while enroute.

Flying IFR out of Chicago meant waiting while they fit us in to the busy area traffic. While holding at the run-up, we saw this classic B-17 arrive.

After a 10 to 15 minute wait, we were cleared for takeoff for the first IFR flight of the trip. Our initial clearance was 3000 feet, which meant we were smack dab in the clouds. They kept us there for the first 20 minutes of flight, until we were clear of Class Bravo traffic. At that point, we were cleared up to 8000 feet. That altitude kept us above clouds for most of the flight, although we ended up asking for higher eventually. The clouds below us were pretty solid, so we gave up on going VFR. After checking our sectionals, we changed our destination to Sturgis, Ky (TWT). Once we were cleared down to 4000 we were at the bases of the clouds and we were able to get a visual approach into Sturgis.

On the ground, we were offered a crew car and directions to Dempsey's Dew Drop Inn, where we grabbed a quick hamburger. Fuel was pretty cheap so we filled to the brim and pointed the nose at Birmingham.

The first hour of flight was relatively easy, but as we got to Tennessee the clouds started piling up. We got a pop-up IFR clearance and before we long we were in and out of clouds. For the last 30 to 40 minutes, we didn't see much clear air and the NEXRAD on the Garmin became our very best friend. Our tiny ship was tossed and turned (well, just a little, it was the roughest segment of flight but probably not more than steady light turbulence). We got another visual approach--so far the approach plates in the baggage compartment have been good for insurance and a little aft CG. Still, we needed to be IFR for a lot of the flight and approach-capable to do that.

I think today's flight was the most challenging of the trip so far. It got the juices flowing but never crossed the line to anxiety-inducing.


Post a Comment

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com