Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hello, Southwest! November 17, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  Skies were that blue that you can never, ever find in your crayon box.  The blue only God knows how to create.  It's flying time!

We have just 1 1/2 hours left on one project west of Fort Worth, and two more that we need to start south of Dallas.  One of those projects takes us in to the Class B airspace, and I thought about calling Traffic Control to let them know, but I opted not to.  A mistake as I found out later!

Went to the aiport and after a long warm-up (it was 36 degrees this morning!!!), I was off the ground.  It was kind of an amitious take-off, as (for whatever reason) Cleburne had a ridiculous amount of traffic.  A Piper Cherokee was shooting an approach in to 15 (opposite my 33 take-off), a Twin Comanche was coming in from the northwest, a helicopter was coming in from the east, and I was following a Cessna that had just departed.  And I was jumping into the mix of it all!  I ended up seeing ALL aircraft after I lifted off.  Crazy!

Winds were decent on the ground (15 knots), and they were even more playful at altitude.  I contacted Regional Approach, told them my intentions of mapping inside Bravo airspace, and with no little hesitation, I was denied.  It was a kind denial, but a denial, nonetheless.  She asked if I had faxed any information in (and I hadn't!), so I was refused.  Oh, well, I had PLENTY more work to do on other flight plans.  So I headed for the plans outside of Class B.

Matt went west of Fort Worth to finish that project.  Anyway, the winds were out of the northwest at 40 knots!  At 5500 feet!  When I flew south, I literally had to pull my throttle back to 2100 RPM's just to stay (barely) below 139 knots ground-speed.  Agh, why can't 172's do this EVERY day?!  On my turns to the north, I would push in to 2400 RPM's and only see 70 knots.  At one point, I kid you not, I saw a car overtaking me on a street down below.  I will proudly say that it never passed me, but the downside is that is only because I made a turn back to the south before it could!

I pushed my OAT gauge, and it read a balmy 41 degrees F.  5 C.  So for the next few hours, this was the pattern...

Turn south.  Throttle to 2100 RPM's before the turn.  Wide turn to the left before my turn to the right.  Hit the line.  Hang just below 139 groundspeed.  12 miles.  End of line.

Throttle to 2400 RPM's.  Turn north.  Watch groundspeed increase to 153 in the turn and then QUICKLY change to 69 once the turn was complete.  Freeze since the sun was now behind me.  Pull on heat to stay warm.  Adjust my left foot which was constantly on fire from the heater.  Watch Southwest traffic above...below...

Turn south...2100...heater off...

Turn north...2400...heater on...

You get the point.  I ended up being in the approach corridor for DFW traffic, so on the northernmost portion of the lines, I would see quite a bit of Southwest traffic anywhere from 500 to 1000 feet above or below me.  Pretty fun actually.

I landed for fuel at 12:45 at Midway Regional Airport in Midlothian, Texas.  Nice little airport.  Winds were 320 at 20 knots gusting to 25.  Runway was 36.  A nice fun approach...I was pretty sideways before the runway (winds stronger at altitude), but it wasn't too hard.  Ended up bein' a simple landing...I was more nervous than I should have been anyway.  That's how I felt as I was descending with a pretty hefty crab.  Over the runway was not too bad.  They had a nice DC-3 airplane on the ramp with another one under plastic in a hangar nearby.  I sure do love the sight of these old birds...the one I took a picture of said "United States of America" on the side.  Beautiful!

Went back up, started the same routine.  Ended at 3:00 o'clock.

Headed back to Cleburne at 4500 feet.  Passed by a Seneca 500 feet below me.  So fun to be that close.  I was still on radar, and I was passed from one controller to the next on a heading of 280.

Then I saw something DEAD AHEAD.  Hmm.  An airplane.  Landing lights.  Who is this?  It was fairly large.  I saw winglets.  DEAD AHEAD.  Staying level with me!  12 o'clock.  Crap.  Who is this?!  The airplane was only getting larger with no side movement.  DEAD ON.

I threw on my landing light and taxi light, and threw my right wing up, and dove down to the left.

"Approach, Skyhawk 151, has traffic at 1 mile, 12 o'clock."  I had that forceful "why in the world didn't you tell me about this" tone in my voice.

"Uh, yeah, traffic is a Southwest jet, level 5000 feet, won't descend any lower."

Hmmf.  Thanks for that.  And just like that, I get this BEAUTIFUL shot of a Southwest 737 right above me (and a bit to the right now!), passing 750 feet overhead.  I had dove only 250 feet for collision avoidance...he was right on me.  I couldn't believe the controller just kind of shrugged at it.  Frankly, I LOVE when huge jets pass 500 feet above or below me.  LOVE it!  It's a welcome change to the sometimes boring routine!  But I think I love it because I KNOW they are there!!!  Oh, well, it was pretty exciting anyway.  And I guess I was using some proper scanning techniques to have seen it in the first place.  It's just crazy, though...you can't tell something like that is 500 feet above you in the huge sky.  It seriously looked dead on...only growing in size!

Anyway, landed back at Cleburne.  Filled out the paperwork, topped off, put the airplane away.  Sent in our forms, mailed our boxes, and went out to eat.

I'll head to a coffee shop tonight to pass the time...and tomorrow is looking nothing short of gorgeous.

Winds are forecast at 10 knots at 6000 feet.  Clear skies.  Texas winter weather as I have come to know it.

Looks like the next couple of days are going to be full of...fly, baby, fly.

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