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Round Trip to Memphis Convention

SSA Memphis Convention was good.

This is a travel story, not a story of the destination.

I flew out and back with Doug in his Bonanza. You have to understand that as a PIC, I am a strictly VFR pilot. Doug is more accomplished than I, and has more hardware on board. The trip out was nice, and established crew duties for the second seater (me). Fold charts, keep COM 2 set on the past and current frequencies. Pass out munchies for dinner over Arkansas. Simple.

Is it IFR if it's VMC on top? Looked like this for hours, mid-continent, east bound. Only thing worth snapping was curls in cloud tops.

Wind riffs in cloud tops

 

IFR log:

5 minutes of descent into MEM was IFR. And they have got a POT load of lights on those runways. Good thing they've got Ole Muddy Mississippi River next door to make some hydro electric for all those lights. Lead in Arrows with rabbits. Double white centerline lights, edge lights, threshold lights, lead off taxiway lights, continuing (different color) centerline taxiway lights, taxi edge lights, runway centerline not enough distance remaining lights, and heaven knows what else that I missed. The only thing they could have possibly missed was a span crossing light for a Land and Hold Short marker, which doesn't occur on their airport layout. Geesh.

MEM lights on final

Flight home with Doug was long. A bit of headwind, three fuel stops, IFR below us from Arkansas East to Texas West edges. I got to be second in command (de facto) for a fair amount of real IFR.

Departed MEM VFR. It took clearance delivery about 15 minutes to figure out how to allow us to do that. We should have skipped straight to ground control. That guy asked what our destination was, paused, and asked if we would mind waiting on the ground a moment to accept a Rwy 27 departure on course. We happily agreed. Our FBO was about a 200 yard taxi to an intersection departure with 6000 feet remaining ahead for takeoff.

When we got outside the Class B, and it was still warm and pretty, we filed our IFR flight plan enroute. I only got about 15 minutes of sightseeing, and we were VMC on top for the next 5.5 hours. The only break in the monotony was hearing a Roper 45 declare an emergency and shutting down Number 4 for no oil pressure, he returned to Navy something with 16 souls on board. In the middle continent, we were amazed to hear so many planes under the smuck whining about icing at 3k. They could have had sunshine and dry at 5500 msl. Weird.

First gas stop was in Ardmore, OK. Tops were about 5500 msl, broke out under at about 2400 msl. Smooth all through the descent. But that gave us about fifteen minutes of actual IMC doing the full arrival.

Under the lid at Ardmore, OK

Nice place. No snow on the ground.

Very friendly 60 ish gas truck "boy", reported that we were his second arrival for the day, and he figured we were the last. He had a warm coat, gloves, and his favorite Elmer Fudd earflap chinstring cap on. Gas in, water out, and up we went.

Fifteen minutes of real IMC on the climb. Smooth, smooth. No precip. That's NICE IFR.

Solid undercast until nearly Hobbs, NM. Boring stuff.

Then began the scenery, and the terrain at about 4 pm. But still, the headwind was NOT helping, and we spent the leg calculating whether we would make the gas stop of choice at Las Cruces. We did. The Organ Mountain range west of Las Cruces is really an elegant and abrupt piece of topography. Sunset colors while snapping a photo of "Marty's plane" on the ramp. Ham or Turkey cold sandwich for dinner, I walked around a LOT, while Doug studied weather.

Marty's plane at Las Cruces, NM

We knew there was icky stuff in AZ. All of AZ. But the satellite photos and radar shots said it was all drifting north of our course line. We agreed that we could turn south, or east and stay happy, and then we hopped off again. We filed our IFR enroute.

Nav screen into LCU, no time for photos to River.

There were rotor lines we crossed VMC across AZ, getting wetter as we neared Tucson, and deviated off route 20° and 20 miles to avoid the lightning on the north side. We had lines of mild cu stacks, bases maybe 10k and tops maybe 14k, and we were at 12. We spent lots of time splatting in and out of IMC, with plenty of chunky bumps.

Doug kept peeking for ice, and we got some on the windscreen. The Bonanza provided a steady platform, and I got plenty of scanning practice on the panel. The last glimpses of sunlight had shown clearing out west (somewhere).

By Gila Bend, we finally had the wet behind us. It was not fun being mostly stiff and getting tired, and having demanding conditions to deal with. Actual IMC time?

Perhaps 40 minutes?

As we crossed the River, we debated options for a final fuel stop. This cold front we had just danced with had really slowed our progress with the jog off courseline. I suggested 29 Palms, Doug thought PSP, but I mentioned they would want to drive a truck around... his AOPA Directory said 24-card fuel at 29. 29 would be quicker.

When we injected ourselves into the Center radio stream of LAX-Julian arrivals, they were pretty darn interested about why we would land before our destination. We said, 'fuel' and they either couldn't hear or didn't believe us, as they asked 3 times. I told Doug to quit telling them we wanted gas, and to tell them we were stopping for 'passenger comfort'. They seemed to want to imply that we weren't allowed to halt short..... I didn't really need to water a bush, but it isn't any of their darn business why we want to amend a flight plan. Grr.

Clip of Chart for 29 Palms

29Palms has a cute new gadget. When you blip the CTAF to announce, it burps back and gives you a half an AWOS reply, and tells you to 'listen' for traffic. Again, a lot of lights there for a quiet little airfield. Multi level intensity and full taxiway lights. Makes ole L71 look pretty hick.

Gassed 'er up, and got going. This leg was only VFR with flight following, and simple. A few banks of rotor lines in the Yucca Valley and south of George AFB, but clear across R-2515 to home. And Joshua Approach was quiet on Sunday night and we got to go direct across. Bumpy air at home turned out to be more rotor.

10 pm local from a 10 am MEM local time depart.

Doug checked Camarillo weather, VFR to home. Whew, he must have been a tired puppy.

Did I tell you he had been sick for four days in MEM? Really sick.

I imagine he spent the next day in bed, and rested up.

I was glad to be crew support on second seat, to get us home. Old habits did have me folding charts and thumb tracking position on both outbound and inbound trips.

And I didn't bad mouth the electron toys, except to comment that we now had three splits in the screens on the panel. VFR only netted two 'windows', one each on the displays.

It was a wonderful trip.

See you soon,

Cindy

 

Posted: 3/5/2007 By: Cindy Brickner


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