Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Love Clouds!!! November 22, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  Checked the weather, and it was calling for IFR in most of the DFW area.  Hmm.  Opened up the door to head to breakfast, and WOW.  I sure wasn't expecting that!!!  We had dense FOG everywhere.  Thick fog!!!  I could barely see cars on the road outside the hotel.  You could literally see the particles of water dancing in the air...the air was completely and totally saturated.

We all went to the hangar to finish up Jeff's 100-hour.  The drive there was crazy!  The fog was so thick!!!  Visibility was 1/4 mile.  We ended up hanging out at the hangar most of the morning...the METAR at Cleburne was showing visibility as 1/4 mile and overcast at 100 feet.  You couldn't even get in here to land!!!  And sure enough, NOBODY was!  The airport was DEAD!!!

Jeff's airplane was finished, but he hung out for awhile for the fog to lift.  I remember stepping into a hangar with him and then stepping back out a couple of minutes later...and the fog was disappearing...quickly!  Trees were now visible across the runway!  I headed over to the FBO around noon to check the weather.  The clouds were still 300 foot overcast at the airport...but our flight plans were showing SKIES CLEAR!!!  I checked the satellite, and sure enough, there was this very thin line (almost like a ruler) of clouds about 80? miles wide...and it hung right over us!  But 40 miles to the east was perfectly clear!!!  10SM and skies clear!

I was ready to go.

I filed an IFR flight plan and headed to my airplane.  I bought an IFR chart and was ready to go.  I was so excited...I rarely get the opportunity to fly in actual IMC, and this was a perfect chance!!!  I started up the airplane, then called Approach from my cell phone in the airplane...

I was cleared to fly to 3000 feet on a heading of 240 after departure.  Perfect.

Everything looked good on the ground, so I throttled up, and off we went!  I hit the overcast around 400-500 feet off the ground.  And it was definitely overcast!!!  But I wasn't even looking outside...I was completely focused on the instruments.  Climb speed of 80 knots, turn right to 240 (Runway was 15), call Regional Approach, altitude of 3000 feet.  I ended up "breaking" out of the overcast at 3000 feet...kind of.  At that altitude, I was in and out, in and out...literally RIGHT on the top!!!  The sight was nothing short of amazing...the kind of sight that makes a pilot realize that every ounce of preparation and work is worth it.  Absolutely NOTHING compares to the overcast blanket.  Literally, the ENTIRE earth is one smooth, gorgeous cloud.  I was in awe.

But I couldn't admire it for too I was often back in it!  So I just focused on my scan...I ended up being on a heading of 240 for about 10 minutes...almost in the exact opposite direction I needed to go!!!  But they allowed me to turn east soon thereafter, and I was finally on my way.  I was in and out of the clouds for a good 40 miles...and I sure miss IFR flying!!!  It's nice to have a trusty, reliable airplane, just gives you added confidence.  I maintained my altitude and heading pretty easily.

I could hear the other guys already out working...they had been there for a couple of hours already...but they didn't have 100-foot ceilings at their airport, either!  I ended up getting on site at 12:25 P.M., a solid three hours after the window opened.  Oh well!

The skies were perfectly clear on the eastern side of the project...there was actually only one flight plan that I could do uninhibited, so I took that one.  I ended up flying two hours on it to get it done.  But I had a problem...


You see, about 10 minutes before I departed, I took a swig of sweet tea that Miss Sarah (the airport manager) had kindly bought for me the day before.  I didn't think anything of it at the time.  But man oh man, I HAD TO GO.

Now seriously, this isn't just an "I have to pee," moment.  This was nothing short of a panicked, "Holy crap, I may pee my pants" type of moment.  I was quite unsure if I was going to make it to the ground on time.  I was watching the hours pass in increments...if I could just make it to 1:30, then I'd only have three more hours.  Then it was two hours...

But it was HURTING!!!  I didn't want to land because I already started three hours later due to the fog.  And if I landed, I probably wouldn't finish a flight plan...AND the clouds were slowly overtaking me I might not get much done unless I stayed ahead of it!  But it became pretty bad...

I always, always, always wear a seat belt when flying.  But not today!!!  The air was smooth, the bumps were non-existent, but the G-forces (through TINY) were too much.  An altitude change or a tight turn put too much pressure on me.  I had to unbuckle.  And I became frantic.  I was looking for hold my pee.  I was frantically looking for an oil bottle...I didn't care if it was full or empty.  If it was full, I'd empty it, then fill it again.  If it was full, why then I'd just fill it.  I contemplated whether my flimsy cardboard granola bar box could hold my pee.  I thought about using the fuel tester...I was nothing short of desperate.

But I continued on.  I finished my flight plan and moved onto the next one...but I was only able to get one line before the clouds overtook me.  It was time to call it at day...a whole half-hour before the window closed.  But boy, was I excited!!!  I hopped on down to Lancaster Airport...just 13 miles away.

All I could think about was peeing.  I remember sitting there as my cameras and computer shut down, desperately wanting to just run out of the airplane.  Well, finally the time came...and I was out!!!  But it HURT so bad!!!  I remember swinging my feet out the door...and this was a pain I had never known before!!!  Three hours of sitting...and holding a more-than-full bladder.  Definitely not healthy.  I made a bee-line path for the bathroom...but it hurt to walk!!!  Seriously, it was painful to move my legs!!!  And I was more than cautious...I wasn't sure I had any control over my bladder muscles any longer!

Well, I made it to the bathroom, and I let 'er loose.  1 minute and 26 seconds worth of pee.  You better believe I counted...I knew it was going to be a long one.  Around the minute mark, it started to taper off...but little did I know, this guy had a second half planned.  It was nothing short of painful and exhilarating all at the same time.

And let me tell you, I never want to experience that again.  Ugh.

Well, now that that was done, I decided to grab a bite to eat.  I had only had two granola bars for lunch, so I stopped in at the restaurant on the field...a more than pleasant surprise!  They closed at 3:00, and it was 2:45 so I asked for something simple.

I ate, I was fueled, and I was off.  Almost!  The skies were CLEAR above the airport...but Cleburne was not.  So I filed another IFR flight plan.  I departed in VFR, picked up my clearance from the sky, and I was off to Cleburne.  The first 20 or so miles were clear...but I could see it coming...the low clouds were still hanging around...this time broken instead of overcast...but still there.

I was cleared for the RNAV Approach for 15 which I had to deny since I didn't have a capable GPS.  I asked for the Localizer 15 approach.  I got it.  Perfect.  They were giving me vectors, too, so that was nice.

Well, as I got closer, I was above the clouds...not overcast but I certainly couldn't see anything resembling earth out in the distance.  I was pretty excited to fly an actually needed approach!  Well, as I got closer, he gave me vectors to  CRAP.

He told me to descend to 2400 MSL.  Which I did.  Man, I love flying through this stuff!  At 2400 feet, I could see the earth...fuzzily.  I was in and out of the bottoms of the clouds.  He told me the airport was 12 o'clock and 8 miles.  Um, I'm still in the clouds, I told him...I needed to descend more or shoot an approach.  He gave me 2300 but no lower, he said.  That put me in VFR again with the field in sight, so I canceled IFR (he was busy).

GRRRR!!!  I wanted to shoot an approach!!!  And I should've demanded it...but he was busy...and he was eager to get me out of his hair.  But grr!!!!!

Well, I landed, hung out at the hangar for a bit (Bill and Stefan were there for 100-hours), and then we headed for the hotel.  We decided to get out of Cleburne tonight, so we headed up to Burleson for some Cracker Barrel.  Man, that breakfast hit the spot.

Got back around 9:15.  Looks like tomorrow is going to be a great day for flying.  We should get at least five hours of revenue time in...should.  But a forecast at night...and a visual in the morning...are often not one and the same.  But we shall see.  As of now, I'm banking on it being clouds at 30,000 feet as forecast.

Oh, and I got a response from another pilot on a pilot forum.  Last night I threw out a shameless plug that I needed a family for Thanksgiving.  No lie.  And certainly no shame!  A guy north of Fort Worth offered his family.  Boy, I tell ya...that almost makes me want Thanksgiving to be really cloudy!!!  The thought of deep-fried turkey is really just too good to pass up.  We'll see...

Goin' to bed at 11:30.  I have work to do tomorrow!!!

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