Sunday, October 17, 2004

Trip to Louisville (part 1)

Well, last week I flew down to Louisville to see my mom and my brothers. I had a lot of reasons for flying down instead of driving. Mainly I wanted to take a cross-country since I got my license, fly through a Class B, go through the process of opening and using a flight plan, and getting more familar with the Cherokee 180 in our club.

There was some doubt about the weather due to a weak cold front moving in, so I called mom on Friday night, basically telling here I'll give her a call before I left letting her know if I would be driving or flying. Early Saturday morning I finished up my planning and checked the weather, it was still up in the air, the good news is that the time frame I was flying down was mostly VFR, the IFR stuff would move into Ohio close to noon. So I called the weather briefer, who cleared up some points, mainly that the forcasts were prediciting slightly worse weather than what was developing. So I filed a flight plan, called mom and set out towards the airport.

Doug was there and since it was the first time we saw each other since the fly out we talked a bit, he's done with the FAA requirments and just has to take the written and the practical/oral exams. Preflighting 2652T was pretty routine, however like last time starting was tricky. I finally got the engine to catch by leaning the mixture and keeping the throttle wide open. I figured maybe the spark plugs were fouled, so I kept the mixture lean while I finished up the engine start and pre-taxi checklist. Run-up went normally and the engine was doing great, I called the tower and got my takeoff clearance and was up in the air in no time.

Leaving OSU it came fairly apparent that the visibility would keep me from flying very high, I kept it at 3000, which seemed to give me about 7 miles of visibilty. Keeping in mind the lower visibilty I stayed vigilant with the checkpoints, however I still ended up drifting off course, the tell-tale being that I was on the wrong side of a lake that I was using as a checkpoint.

Thinking about how to get back on course, I just planned a diversion, using directly above the lake as my point of origin and my next checkpoint as the destination. That worked pretty well and I got back on course just in time to call Cincy approach.

Now the B in Class B stands for BUSY, and it would be my first time through Class B solo (I've flew through Class C solo). The radio procedures are the same, the big difference is that the controllers in Class B have to explicitly give you clearance. In Class C and D airspaces you just have to establish two-way communication (they read back your callsign). I made it through without too much trouble, the controllers were pretty paitent with me, considering a couple of times I missed some radio calls. I got thrown at first because they preceded my call number with "November," now that's my aircraft full registration number N-2652T, but I wasn't used to anybody actually using it, normally the N is implied and you hear something like "Cherkoee 2652 Tango" or even "52 Tango." Once I figured it out I was able to respond to their requests better.

Good thing about going through Class B or Class C is that they vector you through to where you want to go, unfortunately they also vector you off a direct path, so you may end up far off your orignal course which plays havoc with your neat checkpoints. I ended up in Indiana flying South towards Louisville. Fortunately I had alot of tools available to establish my new position, and to stay on course towards Louisville. I had the VFR GPS unit in the Cherokee, also Bowman field has a VOR right on the field. Basically I just had to dial the VOR frequency, set my CDI needle and fly keeping that needle centered up.

The visibility improved too, and so the rest of the flight was pretty relaxing and I was able to dig out the camera and take some pictures of the Ohio River. Unfortunately the visibility wasn't good enough to get a shot of Louisville's skyline (which I really wanted, Louisville has a very impressive skyline when you come from Indiana).

After I landed at Bowman, I called ground and got instructions on how to get to Central American Airways. I was planning to use Triangle Flying Service, but when I called down there before leaving they told me they had lost their ramp space :(. That sucks, because I started my flight training at Triangle with Southern Air Flying Club. I meant to ask around at what happened but I got sidetracked with a minor annoyance.

Okay, since I wasn't used to Central American, I taxied and parked to the closest tiedown I could find and hiked on foot to their front office. They bascially told me I could park overnight bascially anywhere there was an open spot (no reserved tie-downs for airplane owners on the field??) and I filled out a fuel card for Sunday. Well getting back to the plane to tie it down I noticed there were no chains. Well there where, but they chain spots didn't fit my plane and there was no tail tie-down. Uh oh, so I climbed back in and tried to start the plane.

It wouldn't start . . .

No problem, this is 2652T, the hardest plane in the flying club's fleet to start. I leaned the mixture, applied full throttle and tried again, still nothing. I checked the makeshift ammeter guage . . . which showed just above 2 volts.

The master switch was one and there was no power. Super. I got out and flagged a fuel truck, asking if I could get a tow to another tie-down. He radioed it in and I went back to the plane and waited, and waited, and waited.

My mom was on her way and from the way it was looking I wasn't going to get the plane secured anytime soon. While I was waited I decided to try at starting the plane again. Switching off the alternator side of the master switch reveled that on battery power I could get almost 12 volts.

Thinking through how I could get more power I switched off the electric fuel pump, cranking the mags it sounded like the engine was pretty close to catching. Trying again and really working the throttle the engine roared to life! Sweet! I throttled down to 1000 rpm, watching the ammeter and switched on the fuel pump, the volts stayed up. Checking the load with the alternator and the battery the volts stayed normal at 15. Relieved I taxied to a better tie-down and as soon as I did came a lineman with a tow.

All well, I apologized, got the plane secured and finally met my mom in the parking lot who was paitently waiting for me.

So how much time did I save flying down? Well I left my apartment at 8 and I got in my mom's car at 12. :P Four hours, exactly the same time I would have taken to just drive down. The only difference was my butt wasn't sour since I was in the seat less (about two hours). My time was eaten up by the fact that I had to preflight the plane, and getting prepared for taking off. I was about an hour before I could actually get up in the air, and the whole parking thing at Central ate up at least thirty minutes.

Still it was pretty fun, and I got to do alot of the things I wanted to do, and I was less bored during the trip. I was surprised how easy it was to file a flight plan, open and close one. The process was really simple, in fact any future long cross-country trips like that I plan to use VFR flight plans with the FSS often.

Part two will cover my trip back home to Ohio...

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