Sunday, February 8, 2009

Richmond, Yo!

It had been awhile since I'd done a solo cross-country flight, so I was looking forward to Saturday's escapade to Richmond to visit Shivi for the weekend. I flight planned carefully, as watching the crash scenes in Speed & Angels had humbled me somewhat. I decided to go West and skirt the protected airspace around Dulles International before heading South to Hanover County Airport, which is situated just North of Richmond International.

Since Greg's instrument lesson was called off unexpectedly, I was airborne shortly after 1. (Not before imploring him - unsuccessfully, of course - to return Tiny Tiger, who went missing after I foolishly left him in the plane before Greg and Jodie's trip to Tennessee a few weeks ago).

I used the Lucke and Jasen intersections as rough waypoints for my route, which turned me southwest before crossing the first ridge of mountains West of Gaithersburg. There was a significant amount of mountain wave turbulence even at a distance, so I was glad that my route of flight had not been directly over them.

Being alone gave me a chance to practice using the plane's NAV/COM instruments and to think through various in-air emergency procedures, which felt good. As I sailed along, I noticed that lakes were still frozen, but I doubt that will be the case for much longer. I love the fact that once winter is gone in this part of the world, it rarely makes a reappearance. No mid-March snow dumps in Virginia!

As I was tying down the Tiger at Hanover, I realized that the Gaithersburg baggage handler for Tigress Air deserved a very stern talking to. Somehow, the overnight bag that I had so diligently packed had remained in the trunk of my car while I had flown away! Shivi and I were thus forced to spend the afternoon shopping for new clothes. It was truly awful.

Afterwards, we had a fun night out on the town. We stumbled across a blind date bar night gameshow and the tail end of a democratic party gathering. Although we were tired, Sunday morning was simply too beautiful to stay inside. After a Thai "brunch" we went in search of the James River. We found it, and walked out on a bridge for a proper view. It looked a little treacherous, but I still wished I'd had my kayak.

I checked the wind before we headed out, and saw that it was predicted to be around 17 with gusts up to 29 knots most of the day. It was more or less down the runway at Gaithersburg, so I could have landed, but Shivi was happy for me to spend the day, so I decided to plan my flight home to land around sunset when the winds usually die down. I took off at 4:45 and called Potomac Approach for flight following 25 miles North of Hanover. The moon was already out.

When I got handed off to the second controller, he asked me if I was looking for a Bravo Clearance. It took me so by surprise that I responded something like, "Uh, no. I'm fine." I soon got handed off to another controller. I started descending from 4500 feet to 2500 to prepare to get under the Bravo shelf. Suddenly, the controller came on and said, "Grumman Tiger 28244, Hold 2500, I'm working on a Bravo Clearance for you." It wasn't really a question. The next time he hailed me, it was with a vectoring of 030. And just like that, I had my first Bravo clearance and was heading into the heart of a large number of squiggly lines that I typically try to avoid. Every five minutes or so, I was assigned a new vectoring along a route that threaded me between Dulles and the no fly zone around DC.

Although my heading wavered a few degrees, I couldn't help snapping photos of Dulles airport as I flew by. I was so CLOSE! As the sun set in the distance over the mountains, I was pretty chuffed. As if hearing my mental thought, "Can flying get any cooler than this?", I heard the controller call, "United XXX, you'll be overtaking a Grumman Tiger at 2500 feet."

The United Flight declared me to be "no factor," of which I was glad. Shortly thereafter, I was informed of traffic at my 2 o'clock. A Boeing 737, at 4000 feet, and we would be passing Right to Right. I had never heard that expression before watching Speed and Angels. I dutifully reported that I had the traffic in sight and repeated that we would pass Right to Right.

I crossed the Potomac with Sugarloaf mountain directly ahead of me. The controller apologized as I did so, and vectored me away from Gaithersburg for a few minutes, before giving me a direct heading and discretion to descend.

The winds were almost straight down the runway, and I touched down just as civil twilight was ending. I hustled to buckle down the Tiger before darkness fell in earnest. John came over and asked whether I had found Tiny Tiger in the plane. I explained to him that Tiny Tiger wasn't lost, he'd been kidnapped. Fortunately, though, Shivi found me a replacement mascot until the situation with Tiny Tiger has been resolved...


At February 10, 2009 at 8:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tiny Tiger, as you call him (we call him propeller bait) will be returned to you unharmed since you have paid his ransom. You will never know how close he came to being unreturnable, at least in one piece. Next time he's found in an airplane, he will NOT be so lucky and will end up either (a) a dog toy, (b) tossed into a spinning propeller, or, if we're really in a bad mood, (c) a gift to a nephew. Same for the midget lion, too.

-The League of No Stuffed Animals In Airplanes

At February 10, 2009 at 8:51 AM , Blogger Greg said...

Great photos!

At February 10, 2009 at 1:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a cross country adventure this past weekend! I especially loved hearing all about it before the blog was written! And Bravo airspace on the way home too! :)

PS: hmmm ....having read earlier comments,sounds like the little lion is in jeopardy....who could be so draconian?!

At February 20, 2009 at 11:58 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Did you get tiny tiger back? Maybe you need to get 10 of them just in case.....;)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home