Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Hazy Trip to Michigan

Yesterday I took a flight from Chicago Executive (KPWK) along the Lake Michigan shoreline around to Benton Harbor, Michigan (KBEH), which was enjoyable as usual.  It was a very smooth day for flying, although the wicked heat and humidity made from quite a bit of haze that really disturbed my view out over the lake.  The words of my instructor rang through my ears when we did my night cross country... would not want to go through that without an instrument rating.

I did not take advantage of flight following on my way to Benton Harbor, figuring that I was staying low enough to be out of the way of any airliners that might be heading into ORD or MDW, but it turned out that there was a fair amount of traffic.  I did listen in to Chicago approach so that if I became the subject of discussion I'd know about it.

The haze did more than make for a less than ideal picture out over the lake, but also I could see that stuff I read about haze making objects seem closer than they appear.  One small aircraft that passed just 400 feet below me to my left seemed quite a bit further away, but the TIS probably was not lying.  It was a bit unnerving, but we certainly maintained adequate visual separation.  It also left me thinking that those reports I was reading where a bit deceptive, or that I have mistaken "CAVU" flying for 10 miles visibility.  The automated weather information for PWK, GYY, and BEH all said that the ceiling was clear below 12000 and visibility was 9 or 10 miles, but it sure didn't seem that way.

Benton Harbor was actually pretty easy to find, and though I was using GPS to aid in navigation I had my iPad charts open on my lap to verify my position.  It's a fairly nice airport, although I had an interesting situation.  I was making all the appropriate radio calls and had just announced and initiated my base-to-final turn for runway 28 when the Cessna that had been holding short of the runway announced his departure.  I repeated that I was on final and he stopped.  I was miffed and befuddled by this, and that probably showed in the bounce and go around that insued.  I didn't bother complaining to the pilot because it was an honest mistake, but it would have helped if I could have used more of my brain for landing and less of it for go-around planning and general frustration.  Fly the plane, Dr. Shrink... fly the plane.   My next two landings were pretty good, so I was happy about that.

After departing the pattern I picked up flight following from our friends at South Bend and headed back around the lake shore.  South Bend then told me to squawk VFR and that radar services had been terminated, but that I should contact Chicago Approach.  I did that thinking I'd have to ask for flight following again, but they were expecting me and assigned a new squawk code.

I said goodbye to the fine folks at Chicago Approach once I was over Northwestern University and Ba'hai Temple (very cool sight from the air), and managed to get it back on the ground at Chicago Executive, where the winds were squirrelly and I did need a go-around.   I was using 12 even though winds really favored runway 6.  If you've ever landed on 6/24 at PWK, then you know that this runway is interesting - 50 ft wide, a bit of a turn toward the south, in the midst of it, a nice "Dukes of Hazzard" jump in the middle, and if you're coming in on 24 a very displaced touchdown.  My last experiences with this were not ideal so I wanted to avoid it.  I had a reasonable landing on my second try, so I'll take that.

Nice day to fly, and I crossed the 100-hour mark with this flight.  I also added both a new airport and new state to my travels.  I love this stuff.   I hope the weather holds up as Ms. Dr. Flying Shrink and I are planning a day get away up to Door County. 

Flight: KPWK - KBEH - KPWK
Plane: C-172S
Hours: 2.4  (100.4 hours total time).