Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Rain, the Cold, and the Presidential TFR

Yesterday, I attempted to take a little fight for myself in our club's Archer.  You know, the weather gods are just not being very kind to me these days. 

I was hoping to be wheels up by 11 am, but marginal VFR weather that was scheduled to clear up before another system worked its way into the area late afternoon pushed back my departure time.  Adding to my joys was a campaign stop of the president to push for green energy technology, and apparently Argonne labs was the place this had to be accomplished.  So much for sequestration, right?

Finally getting more clear weather (or so I thought given the weather observations), I pulled out the plane and was finally wheels up with my unique squawk code and heading southwest toward Illinois Valley Regional (KVYS) where I intended to so some landings, some air work, and then a return to DuPage.  I had a few extra stops on my flight plan just in case the humor was on me. 

As I lifted off of 20R at DuPage, I immediately noticed complete CRAP to the west.  As I leveled off at 3500 (4500 would have put me in Bravo airspace) and started to get trimmed out for the ride, the next piece of bad news hit... rain on the windscreen.  Now, I've never really flown in rain before and they were light showers.  Had it been 50 degrees outside and getting stuck somewhere was not a big deal, this could have been a fun experiment.  But the icing SIGMET and near freezing temperatures at the surface really got my attention.  Just as Aurora Municipal (KARR) was passing under the nose of the aircraft, I asked the center controller about the weather en-route or to see if I needed to go off frequency to get it.  He informed me that I would be in rain showers all the way there but that my destination was reporting decent VFR weather.  The controller was probably kind enough to help me out because I transmitted in the blind for him to a helicopter that was out of communication. 

After another few minutes, I decided that this trip was just not worth the risk of continuing into IMC or becoming a test pilot with iced wings.  It was still wet rain that was just sliding off the plane, but who knows what I would have flown into.  On a normal day as a VFR pilot, I could just make a 180 and return to my departure airport with no problem.  When flying under a presidential TFR, it is always best to get a clearance for such things so that there are no unpleasant surprises waiting for you on the ground. 

With my clearance on the tape, I completed a 180 and returned direct KDPA.  Winds were calm so I was given my choice of runway.  Since I had to put fuel in the plane before putting her to bed, the best choice would have been 15/33 or 10.  But because I could not see that well, I wanted the one with the brightest lights and chose 2R, or 2L, or whatever... It got questions from the controller and changed, and probably sounded like a complete idiot as I clarified that I was cleared to land 2L.  Well, I knew it had a 2 in it.  I said to the controller, "better to sound silly and land on the right piece of concrete."  His reply was "roger, that." 

So, here we are again.  Complaining about winter and early spring flying weather.  I got all of .6 in the logbook with one landing (that was nice, flare on the numbers and on center line) rather than what I had planned for.  I also got weathered out of an instrument lesson on Tuesday, though I did fly with another club member last Saturday and got four practice approaches and other hood time in. 

Will this lousy winter NEVER end? 


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    1. Winter can be tough. I've spent my weekends staring at low ceilings, then looked out of windows at work into bright sunshine, but not been able to take advantage of it. It WILL get better.

  2. Yeah, it happens. I'm ashamed to publish my "Hours by Month" graph at times... since Dec-Mar usually are but tiny speed bumps compared to the rest of the year. Don't fret, it should be much more conducive to aviating again soon!