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Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Chrisgoesflying, Mar 9, 2023.
I wonder how many VFR into IMC accidents that could avoid.
Hear hear! Well said. The OP has described exactly what I would want to do with a plane if I were able.
Long cross countries are only a bunch of short cross countries joined together,in my Cessna 150. If you make the weather a priority in your planning and you are flexible long cross countries are fun.
As I was asked for a quick write up of the trip, here it is, at least the first part of going south. I'll add the second part, going back north later.
Day One: CJS4 -> KGTF
It was only November 11, but holy crap was it already cold. Just a few days prior, we had a blizzard come through so several inches of snow on the ground and the day we departed was around 5 degrees fahrenheit. Also, considering we were going to Florida, our route should have been either Williston or Minot ND to clear customs but all of ND was under IFR condition with icing, frozen fog and all that beautiful winter crap, hence our decision was to go around it. Since Minnesota reported more of the same, we went west towards Montana where things looked very VFR. The night before the departure, we filed all paperwork for the border crossing, called CBP and the next morning, we loaded the plane (in a heated hangar luckily), hopped on board and the hangar owner pulled us out so we never had to actually endure the cold. The flight itself was uneventful. Just over 3 hours. Upon landing in Great Falls, we taxied to customs, the officer was nice and actually remembered us from last time we flew in and within 10 minutes, we taxied over to the FBO, picked up our rental car and went to the hotel.
Day Two: KGTF -> KBHK -> KRAP
We slept in, got some breakfast and headed out to the airport, getting up in the air around noon. Still cold, but a whole lot less cold than it was the day before in Canada. Originally, I planned to fly to Miles City for the first leg. However, upon checking the NOTAMs in flight, I found out that the runway has some snow and the taxiways were not cleared. It was the weekend and they just had a snowfall the day before. I called the airport manager on the phone as well and he confirmed that there is some snow on the runway and taxiway although should be land-able with a Cherokee. We had enough fuel, the weather was great so I decided to continue on the BHK instead. In BHK, as I turned final, I noticed I was way too high. I ended up aborting that landing, going around and trying again. Second attempt was great. Total flight time was just about 3 hours. After landing, I fueled the plane, ate my sandwich and walked the dog. We were on the ground for maybe an hour and then continued on to KRAP. The second leg was completely uneventful. I flew into KRAP before so I was familiar with the airport. It started to get dark by the time we arrived, but still within civil twilight so legally speaking it was a day landing. After just under 1.5 hours flying, we taxied to the FBO, got our rental car and the staff put our plane in the hangar so I don't have freeze the next morning loading the plane and doing the walk around.
Day Three: KRAP -> KTQE -> 3LF
We got the airport at around 11 and it was WINDY. 20 G30 but straight down the runway. We loaded the plane, got to the runway after doing all checks and got cleared for takeoff right behind a Piper Malibu that was going the same direction as us. We got off the ground in no time but boy was it bumpy. KRAP had no ceiling but there was a layer of clouds east and southeast of KRAP at around 3,000 ft AGL (6,000 MSL) and I originally planned to stay under it. The Malibu called ATC to let us know that it's really bumpy below the deck but super smooth above it and the layer is thin, just about 1,000 ft. so the clouds were still scattered, I found a hole to get above and we ended up flying at 9,500 ft and above that layer of clouds that eventually became overcast. I knew the destination was clear so I wasn't worried about getting trapped on top. Also, up at 9,500 ft, we had a really strong tailwind and were going 150 mph over the ground. Halfway through the flight, the cloud layer below us slowly turned from overcast to broken to scattered, few and then eventually nothing. The tailwind however also turned to a headwind and suddenly ground speed went down to around 80 mph. We ended up descending to 5,500 ft where we got decent ground speed for the rest of the flight to TQE. Total flight time was just under 3.5 hours. In TQE, we once again just stayed for about an hour, getting fuel, eating, walking the dog and off we went again. All the snow was gone by now and temps in TQE were around 40 degrees F but the stiff wind made it feel much colder. On the second leg, the first half of it was still daytime but the second half was a night flight, albeit completely uneventful. We landed in 3LF after about 3 hours flying in the evening and the owner of the Airbnb we rented picked us up from the airport and took us the house. Super nice of him. As there was some weather forecasted south of Illinois in the coming days, we stayed in Litchfield for three days.
Day Four: 3LF -> KMSL -> KECP
After our three day stay in Litchfield, we were ready to get going. We hoped we could rent a car in Litchfield while we were there to go to St. Louis but the Enterprise branch in town closed down so we ended up just hanging out in Litchfield. It's great for a day but not much to do for three days. Anyway, we took off from 3LF in the late morning. It was a cold and windy, but very sunny morning. As we flew south, we could see St. Louis over to the right of us. My original plan was to fly to KTCL for the first leg but we had an urgent need for a bio break on board just as we crossed into Alabama so I decided to land at KMSL after about 2.5 hours. The FBO was super nice and nobody else was there so we had the pilot lounge to ourselves and the dog was going crazy running around in circles lol. As usual, we ate a snack, and then hopped back on the plane. The most exciting thing about that stop was the fact that we finally felt like we're in the south. Temps were in the high 50s and there was no need for that coat and hat any longer. The second and final leg to ECP was smooth until it became dark. And wow, did it become dark towards ECP. As there was an overcast layer at 6,000 ft and a light drizzle, there was no moonlight and on the ground, there was nothing. As we got closer to ECP, already with tower, I lost the horizon visually, looked at the artificial horizon and noticed we're in a bank. I kept my eyes on the instruments, asking my wife to look outside to let me know once she sees the airport or any sort of light source on the ground. It didn't take long and she had the airport in sight. Tower gave us a straight in and we landed safely after just about 3 hours of flight time. Finally in the south!
While in Panama City Beach, we mostly used ground transport to check out the local area. I did three flights while in the area. One was just a sightseeing flight to see the beaches and islands from above. The second was an instrument training flight with a CFI to refresh my skills flying under the hood. I don't have an instrument rating but I'm working towards one and since I fly at night occasionally, I try to keep at least some basic instrument skills fresh. The third one came towards the end of our stay. Our Airbnb rental came to an end and we considered flying back north immediately. However, it was the week where they forecasted that HUGE snow storm in the midwest so we decided to stay in Florida for an extra week and ended up flying to Gainesville, staying there for the week. It was a great decision. It was in the high 80s to low 90s the entire week in Gainesville while the rest of the country froze and got dumped on by several feet of snow.
Second part of the write up will follow.
I hope you got to try the Ariston Cafe while in Litchfield. That's the only thing I know of to do there, lol. Somebody recently told me Jubelt's is worth going out of your way for as well. Too bad you couldn't get a car there.
The thing I love about flying south is getting out of the plane and feeling that warmth. It happens in a car too, but 3 hrs is so much more dramatic in an airplane. Leaving home with numb fingers from loading the plane, then getting out for lunch and having to take clothes off because you're getting hot.
Oh man this is soooooo freaking awesome and I am soooooo jealous. Thank you for sharing this because I am inspired. I have 200 hrs under my belt (VFR) and have been thinking about doing a trip from IL to Tx to CA to Vegas and back in a 172 (180 HP). I have been debating if I should or shouldnt. This is given me the inspiration to DO IT.
PS....3LF is literally my backyard.
This is what I have seen/done recently. Several flights where I needed to file and fly IFR to get up or down through a layer with smooth VMC above for the majority of the flight. Bringing my plane home I had one leg I departed VFR but had to do a pickup clearance to get down through a couple of layers. The next leg I filed IFR and needed it for the climb, then later I was in the clouds at cruise at 13,000 and through most of the descent.
It just adds options.
Just did this a week ago. Flew NE MD to CT. No jackets on for preflight, in the back seat for departure. IMMEDIATELY on upon arrival. Departing, wishing I had a heavier jacket. Landed back in MD and immediately out of the jacket.
Great write up about your trip. Do you have an autopilot? I imagine you don't. Also what was your most favorite thing about the trip? What was the thing you disliked the most?
We did. I mean, we tried all three restaurants (I don’t think there are any more) while in town lol. On days where the airport courtesy car would start we drove to the lake for some walks as well and three days went by fast enough.
Yes, do it!
No autopilot but when trimmed out in smooth air the Cherokee flies pretty much hands off.
Most favourite thing: just sharing all these moments up in the air with the family.
Least favourite: Loading and unloading the plane.
It is really nice to be able to travel like you did with your family, and not be under a huge time constraint to get back home. My job, before I retired, would rarely let me do that. We traveled some, but always in the back of my mind was “we need to be home by ….” I often left a day early when the weather appeared to be more favorable.
Thanks for taking the time to let us ride along! Many folks here would say you don’t have a “traveling airplane,” but you just proved them wrong!
Our only time constrain is the due date on the I-94 when traveling to the States. That’s the beauty of owning an online business that for the most part runs itself whenever we want it to. I would also argue that any plane is a traveling airplane. Some are just more comfortable than others lol. I surely wouldn’t mind a Malibu or any of the six seat twins but until the bank account gives me the go ahead, the Cherokee will do just fine. Heck, I went on 500+ NM trips in the Ercoupe we used to own. The Cherokee feels like a 787 compared to that plane haha.
Great job, thanks for posting!
You absolutely should. You'll want to be cautious of density altitudes and winds through mountainous areas. A portable oxygen system is a good idea but not mandatory. But as long as you are flexible on time and smart about your loading, route, and weather, 180hp is plenty.
I am working on my IFR training right now. I'd prefer to do it after being instrument rated in case I need to fly ifr. I agree on DA out there. I wouldn't mess around up in the mountains and I'd not go higher than 9500.
I used to live in the PNW (Vancouver, BC) when I owned the Ercoupe. We did several trips into the mountains. If we could do it in an 85 HP airplane, you'll be fine with 180 HP.
I learned how to travel in a 180 hp Arrow. I had it at the service ceiling for a while doing my instrument cross-country lesson (15,000 DA, which was the 12,000 MEA on a hot day over Wyoming). The plane did fine, although my O2 sat was down to 85% or so. You shouldn't limit yourself to 9500 MSL, unless you have a medical condition that requires it. I prefer to cruise at 8000-9500 unless weather pushes me elsewhere, but sometimes weather and terrain have put me as high as 14,000 for a while. Why not fly a little higher and see how things feel? Knowing the performance you and your plane can deliver at various altitudes will help you plan longer trips.
One of the reasons I never go above 10,000 is for the pets. They can't speak and tell me when things aren't comfortable for them so I stay below 10k for them. Maybe @ahmad has pets on board as well?
That's fair. I try to keep my dog lower (8,500 if possible) but I have occasionally had to go higher with her on board. She came through okay, but she was already a little wacky so it's hard to measure changes.
Do low O2 sats hurt anything? I thought the issue was that they made you sleepy and dumb, but there were no lasting ill effects once you got back to normal levels. I was kind of hoping that cruising at 14k on our western trip would put my kids to sleep, but alas they were still in the high 90's at that altitude.
YMMV. I kept the plane upright all day long at 85% (well, 11 hours in the air and probably only 4 were at 12,000 feet). But I don't think there's any one-size-fits-all answer on hypoxia-related questions.
"En Route IR" sounds like what I was suggesting. It requires VMC for takeoff and landing, but allows for transtions to and from IR during the flight. It only requires ~15 hours of training. It seems to me something like this would be very useful for private pilots in the US and might help reduce the number of VFR into IMC accidents. I suspect many VFR pilots would take advantage of this, as I think it covers much of the way PPs actually use their instrument ratings.
Privileges ✅ of the EASA En-route Instrument rating
The privileges of the holder of an en-route instrument rating are to conduct flights by day under IFR in the en route phase of flight. The privileges of EIR may be extended to conduct IFR Night flights the en route phase of flight if the pilot holds a night rating in accordance with FCL.810. The holder of the en route instrument rating may only commence or continue a flight if the latest available meteorological information indicates that:
the weather conditions on departure are such as to enable the segment of the flight from take-off to a planned VFR-to-IFR transition to be conducted in compliance with VFR; and
at the estimated time of arrival at the planned destination aerodrome, the weather conditions will be such as to enable the segment of the flight from an IFR-to-VFR transition to landing to be conducted in compliance with VFR.
Since the privileges of the enroute instrument rating are only to be exercised in the en route phase of flight, iaw AMC1 FCL.825(a) holder of an EIR should:
at no time accept an IFR clearance to fly a departure, arrival or approach procedure;
notify the ATS if unable to complete a flight within the limitations of their rating.
Conditions for exercise of En-route Instrument rating
To comply with FCL.825(a)(2), the holder of an enroute instrument rating should not commence or continue a flight during which it is intended to exercise the privileges of the rating unless the appropriate weather reports or forecasts for the destination and alternate aerodrome for the period from one hour before until one hour after the planned time of arrival indicates VMC. The flight may be planned only to aerodromes for which such meteorological information is available. When filing a flight plan, the holder of an enroute instrument rating should include suitable VFR to IFR and IFR to VFR transitions. In any case, the pilot needs to apply the relevant operational rules, which ever are more limiting.
A suitable VFR to IFR transition is any navigational fix:
to which the flight can be safely conducted under VFR; and
which is acceptable to ATS if available.
A suitable IFR to VFR transition is any navigational fix
to which the flight can be safely conducted under IFR;
at which VMC conditions exist; and
from where the flight can be safely continued under VFR without having to follow instrument arrival or approach procedures.
Hmm, so you were PIC at 15,000 feet without supplemental oxygen? So admitting violating the regs on an open forum???
§ 91.211 Supplemental oxygen.
(a) General. No person may operate a civil aircraft of U.S. registry -
(1) At cabin pressure altitudes above 12,500 feet (MSL) up to and including 14,000 feet (MSL) unless the required minimum flight crew is provided with and uses supplemental oxygen for that part of the flight at those altitudes that is of more than 30 minutes duration;
(2) At cabin pressure altitudes above 14,000 feet (MSL) unless the required minimum flight crew is provided with and uses supplemental oxygen during the entire flight time at those altitudes; and
(3) At cabin pressure altitudes above 15,000 feet (MSL) unless each occupant of the aircraft is provided with supplemental oxygen.
My post that you quoted clearly says that I wasn't PIC and I wasn't at a cabin pressure altitude above 14,000 feet. It was the instrument cross-country lesson, which must be conducted under an IFR clearance. (61.65(d)(2)(ii).) You cannot be PIC under IFR without the rating. (61.3(e).) And I was at 12,000 indicated altitude--which would require an altimeter setting less than 27.92 to be a pressure altitude above 14,000 feet. The 15,000-foot elevation I mentioned was the density altitude, which has no bearing on oxygen requirements for pilots but is important for airplane performance. In this case, it was the service ceiling of the plane.
In my mind, the language creates a bit of ambiguity, but I have used the altitude when O2 is required to be used/considered as 12500-14000 MSL with the local altimeter setting, and not the altitude representing pressure altitude with 29.92 used as the setting. But the regulation clearly does not call for consideration of DA, even if that may be a better physiological consideration.
I don't see any ambiguity in the FARs, which state precisely that they are talking about "cabin pressure altitude." You can choose to use oxygen at lower altitudes for any reason you wish, including that you think DA makes more sense than PA or you just feel better after a long flight with oxygen than without it. But I do wonder if they went with PA for a physiological reason or only practical reasons. (The VFR-required altimeter doesn't have to be adjustable and not all planes have an OAT gauge, so PA is the only kind of altitude that all planes are required to carry equipment to measure.)
Well, since MSL is used in the regulation quoted above, that is a reference to sea level requiring the local altimeter setting. If the regulation just stated PA, I would agree with you and used 29.92 to determine the regulatory requirements. That’s my understanding but I’ll be glad if you can correct that for the future.
And here is the return trip write up...
Day 1: KGNV -> KDHN -> KTCL
Our time in Florida finally had to come to an end and we had to head back north into the cold. It was a hot day. 10AM and already in the mid 80s in Gainesville. After the pre-flight checks, we were off the ground at around 11 heading north east. The sky was nearly clear in GNV but just a few miles northeast it was broken to overcast at around 4,000 ft. I was considering to go above that while the sky was still clear to few but decided against it. The forecast at DHN was calling for scattered at our planned arrival time. I would have gone above it if the forecast called for clear or few, but not scattered. Chances are too high it ends up being broken and I'm trapped on top. So, we stayed below the clouds and boy was that a rough ride until right around the Tallahassee area. Then, clouds went from overcast to broken, to scattered, to few and finally clear and all the bumps were gone too. After about 2 hours, we landed in DHN with clear blue skies. I guess I could have gone above it but how could I have known. Oh well. Stayed in DHN for about an hour - still super hot and then off we went again. The second leg was uneventful. Clear skies, no bumps and less than two hours later, we landed in TCL. We parked at Dixie and I can't say enough good things about the staff there - one of the nicest FBO operators I've met. The next day, we stayed in Tuscaloosa due to bad weather. Thunderstorms and low ceilings over TN so we got to explore the city a bit.
Day 2: KTCL -> KPAH -> KRFD
We went to the airport around mid-morning, got the plane ready and off we went for a full day of flying straight north. It was again pretty hot, already in the 70s at 10 AM but I knew this won't last as we fly north that day. I started the plane and called ground. This was one of the hardest to understand controllers I've talked to. He had such a thick southern accent, I had him repeat almost everything he said lol. Once off the ground I picked up flight following and pointed the nose to the north. After a 2.5 hour flight, we arrived in PAH. It was the perfect flying weather. Sunny, no wind, no bumps. Temps in Kentucky were still in the high 60s so this was a really pleasant break. However, I knew things looked a little worse further north. I checked the weather and saw several ATIS along the route or nearby that indicated low ceilings. I called a briefer and he said all of this should be gone by the time we pass through - it was really just fog in these areas that should burn off eventually. Everything to the west was clear, while most of the ATIS reports to the east were not. I decided to go and just monitor things closely, either through Windy if I get internet at altitude or through FSS. Worst case, we have to go west and around any bad weather. As we made our way north though, all the red, pink and blue dots on the Windy app turned green and the second leg was uneventful and rather nice. After another 2.5 hour flight, we landed at Rockford International Airport where our rental car was already waiting for us at the FBO. We also stayed a day in Rockford due to bad weather the next day. Unfortunately, we didn't discover too much of that area because we were frozen. Hello winter, I sure didn't miss it!
Day 3: KRFD -> KSUX -> KFAR
This was a dicey one. It was the day where they forecasted a huge snow/rain/ice storm for the Chicago area. The storm was supposed to arrive right around lunch time. The morning was supposed to be foggy. So, there was about a two hour window, from around 10 to 12 where there was a chance that we could get out. We went to the airport in the morning, ATIS was still hard IFR but as I returned the car, loaded the plane and got ready, it went from red to blue and eventually green. Ceiling at 4,000 ft. Great, we can get out. Problem was, everything to the north and to the west was showing IFR conditions and further south, that's where the storm was located. The only place that looked VFR was Quad City to the southwest of RFD. So, we took off and initially flew towards Quad City. We saw the storm in the distance, as we were flying at around 3,000 ft. As we got closer to Quad City, the ceiling lifted and it became sunny. We now could point the nose direct to KSUX and the remainder of the flight was uneventful. After almost 3.5 hours (due to the little detour), we landed at KSUX. To my surprise, not only was it sunny, it was also really warm. High 50s so the jacket came off and we decided to take an extended break, knowing that we would fly into the night but I figured, Fargo and beyond will be so cold, we won't spend much time outside so we let the dog run around, enjoyed the sun and the spring like temps as I knew we'll have to wait for that at least for another month further north. After a good two hour break, we took off again, heading north towards Fargo. It was a smooth flight which turned into a night flight by the time we got handed off to Fargo approach. After another three hour flight, we landed in Fargo and boy it was cold! We unloaded the plane, got a huge rental SUV from Hertz (normally I get a crossover but in Fargo they gave me a Ford Explorer) and off we went to the hotel to file all border crossing paperwork.
Day 4: KFAR -> KMOT -> CYQR
The next morning, we grabbed some Starbucks and headed towards Minot. It was sunny and cold. Great for aircraft performance. Not so great for my comfort level lol. The flight to Minot took about 2.5 hours. After we landed in Minot, I called Canadian customs and filed an international flight plan for the crossing. It all took about an hour on the ground and we were ready to roll again. Two hours later, we landed in Regina, called customs, got our entry number and we completed our epic trip.
Throughout the entire flight, both ways, I always picked up flight following. They only lost us three or four times due to lack of coverage at our altitude.
My wife probably has more photos of the trip. Once I get my hands on them, I'll post more here.
Thanks for the pics and pirep @Chrisgoesflying
Great write up for the return leg.. I was wondering what do YOU do during those long flights? Do you talk to your wife? Contemplate life? Just constantly check your gauges, look outside? Reason I ask is that I find myself just going around and checking gauges and things like that. DO you listen to music?
I won't presume to talk for Chris, but when I'm taking long trips, I often listen to downloaded podcasts if I'm solo. If I'm with a passenger, I can usually keep a conversation going the whole time, although those trips are generally 3 hours, not 3 days lol. If it's just my wife and myself, we both go to podcasts eventually; after 15 years we've already said everything there is to say . I sometimes wish ATC would shut up, but it's the pilots trying to get flight following that have to be prompted for every piece of information that really drive me up the wall.
You are inspiring me to quit my job, sell the house, live in hangar like Burt Munro and just fly from place to place. I wonder if I should ask my wife first?? Surely, she'd think it was a great idea.....
Usually my wife and I just talk if ATC chatter isn’t too busy. If ATC chatter is busy when with a busy center frequency, my wife usually listens to music or watches videos and I enjoy the view or read something on my phone. If the internet works, I look outside for planes, find them on FlightAware and check where they’re going lol. I try to avoid music or podcasts as I don’t want to be the guy who misses a call from ATC with a new frequency and then some airliner has to call me to relay that message lol.
Haha, maybe talk to your wife first. I agree that this would be fun but I’m afraid it would also get old fast lol. After we arrived in Florida I was glad we didn’t have any long flights planned for a little while. Now that we’re back in Canada, no longer trips are planned until mid April and I’m glad about that as well. Sure, I’ll bore some holes in the air or pick up a $100 hamburger (with inflation $110) but then I’m glad I get to go home and sleep in my bed.
Is CYQR an efficient choice going into Canada in the middle of the country? I have driven there several times over the years and considered flying up one of these days, possibly en route to Alaska but also possibly just for a weekend. It seems like the cities in the prairie provinces don't have much for reliever airports, so GA must use the "big" ones.
Define efficient choice. Getting in and out is fast and easy in my opinion most days. Sometimes on the weekend you might have to wait for a clearance due to lots of student traffic but I never had to wait for more than 5 minutes. Kreos is expensive so the flying club is your more budget friendly choice but has less amenities. En route to Alaska, it’s definitely a good choice. Now, for a weekend trip, I’m not sure. Not much to do in Regina so Winnipeg and Calgary are probably better choices for that.
Don't sell Regina short. It's the closest Robin's to where I live.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love it here. Maybe partly because it doesn’t have much, hence no crowds lol.