Weather always makes flying more interesting!
After a short but great visit with family in Iron Station, NC that included an afternoon in the pool and watching my nephew Nate play an evening ball game in Charlotte it was time to head back.
Remember that cold front that we flew in behind two days ago? Well, its story didn't end there. After stalling out over South Carolina it backed up a bit and sat with its associated low pressure over Virginia. An area of showers and thunderstorms were waiting patiently for us to make our return flight. It was to the west of our flight path and there was plenty of room to head east if necessary. The Prog charts showed scattered showers in the morning along our route with clearing midday and more numerous showers again later in the day. We had a good window, or so we thought...
After saying 'good day' to Charlotte ATC we climbed a 3,500 foot cruise and relaxed for the 2+ hour flight north to Virginia.
It wasn't too long before it was obvious that this area of storms was moving much faster than forecast. Radar updates every 10 minutes on Garmin Pilot app showed it moving across our planned path from Statesville to Shenandoah. Diverting further to the east it became a race to round the corner ahead of the storms to then turn north again. Going 100 mph would seem fast in a Walmart parking lot, but in the sky with large distances to cover and trying to outrun storms crossing your path that move at 40+ mph it feels like you are just sitting there!
Nope, not flying under that.
Rounding the mark and turning north
Staying to the east of this area of storms that covered more than 100 miles and turning north we still had options to the east and south. However rounding the corner I was feeling like our options were narrowing. We could take a chance of beating this before it cut us off near Washington. Going further east along the Atlantic coast was another option but many of the airports along the way were still socked in and apparently not clearing up as forecast. I wasn't happy with the way things were going. Time to land at Danville Regional about 10 miles to the southeast of me and sort this out from the safety of the pilots lounge.
I immediately turned southeast and began descending. Dipping below a scattered layer at 800' we entered the pattern and I announced downwind on runway 02. As I announced turning base the radio screen went blank and reset to its base frequency. I quickly re-tuned it to unicom just in time to hear a Piper announce he was on a 2-1/2 mile final to land on 02. I rolled back onto a downwind and watched the Piper on final and then turned to follow him in. Hand held radio will be used to broadcast for the rest of the flight...
On the ground we were met by the "Follow me" golf cart which guided us to a tie-down. Before we were out of the plane the attendant had us attached to the earth and as we climbed into the cart it started raining.
The storms stayed to the north of the airfield with only a brief light shower. We waited inside along with other pilots watching the news on one TV and radar on another.
After almost 2 hours the storms seemed to be fizzling out and moving east. Discussing the weather with a third pilot of a TBM, the pilot of the Piper Comanche decided going west around the remaining weather would be the best route to his destination in Canada. I decided to head north towards Shenendoah Regional as the weather was improving there. Once there we had a clear run northeast to home.
We made it as far as Lynchburg, VA about 50 miles to the north where we would stop for fuel giving us full tanks and thus more options as we headed into the questionable weather ahead.
With the aircraft radio only good for listening, I had to plug into the hand-held radio for transmitting. Rather than landing the towered Lynchburg airport I decided to land at Falwell Airport about 5 miles to the northeast. I'm so glad we did! Approaching this airport I could see there was a little rise on the western half of the runway. It wasn't until turning final that it became apparent that it wasn't a little rise, it looked like we were landing on an Olympic Ski Jump.
Runway 28 end elevation is 801 feet while runway 10 end elevation 938!
We fueled up, drank water and ate some grapes. Taxiing uphill to runway 10 for a downhill take-off it took cruise power to do 10 mph up the hill! On take-off we left the ground just as we started downhill.
Leaving Falwell we initially started towards Petersburg, WV.
Flying on top I kept a close eye on the Petersburg weather. When we started it was scattered clouds with a high overcast, when the next update came along the lower layer had changed to broken. Though this probably was only temporary condition I wasn't going to risk being stuck on top of the clouds over mountainous terrain. (Where the mountains were in the clouds)
We headed back 20 miles to Lynchburg with the intention of landing at the larger airport, possibly spending the night in town. But once under the clouds we explored north through the valleys and worked our way to just southeast of Shenandoah Regional which now was partly cloudy. Only one mountain range separated us from sunshine and home. Where route 64 crosses the ridge we could see a gap where there was some space between the clouds and the earth. Cautiously approaching, leaving options to turn back, we could see sunshine through the pass and through it we went.
By this time it was getting late in the afternoon. One of my goals of this trip was to visit my good friend and fellow pilot Jeff who lives in Staunton, VA. It wasn't going to happen. At this point after a short rest we would arrive back home after 7 PM. The next day, Saturday, rain and poor flying conditions was forecasted. Otherwise I would have like to stay the night in Va so we could visit. After calling Jeff, I decided that another trip to VA before the end of the season would have to be made.
Back in the air headed for Mifflin with all the weather behind us now it is just easy cruising.
Garmin Pilot running on my Android phone
Back in familiar territory with Cayuga and Seneca Lakes below.
Next, one of my favorite parts of a flight, a long descent at cruise power to my home field for a landing at 7:41 pm.
Total flight time round trip: 13:36 minutes.
Thank you Diane and Jeff for a great visit!
Dad, I hope you enjoyed our little adventure...