Weekend Flight To Deadwood

Heading west tonight with three old high school friends to the fabled city of Deadwood South Dakota for classic male bonding, you know drinking and cards.  We are taking a Cessna 182 instead of my Queen Air Black Betty because the annual isn’t quite finished.  The difference in flight time is almost an hour, bad enough, but the 182 will require a fuel stop as well.  These inconveniences alone would be bad enough but loosing the all important relief tube, no that’s not an intercom, will seriously effect on the beer consumption going on in the back seats, at least I hope so.   The 182 isn’t a bad aircraft, I’ve owned two of them and have about a million hours flying skydivers in them.   It can haul a reasonable load, necessary for this trip, and it’s fast enough, I guess.

  On this trip I’ve got the opportunity to compare my three year old Garmin 696 to the new 796.  The 796 has a few new bells and whistles like a touch screen and some sort of synthetic vision on it.  I’ve been extremely happy with my 696 having flown around the world with it and will have to be really blown away to spend the money and make the change.  I’ll let you all know my impressions when I get back.

 

                     Garmin 696                   Garmin 796

Phenom Trip Day Seven Part II

When last we left our intrepid, daring, young, fearless and yes, devilishly hansom heroes they had just made a foolish mistake based on nothing more than their selfish desire not to spend the winter in Siberia.

  The flight up the Kamchatka peninsula, yes the one in RISK, was beautiful but Marcio and I had a hard time enjoying it with the weather in Anadyr hanging over our heads.  Thirty minutes after passing the point of no return we checked the weather again and were told that the ceilings had dropped another hundred feet.  Neither Marcio or I reacted to the news, outwardly at least.  We knew that the weather suddenly changing so quickly meant that the forecast was wrong.  The low clouds and rain were early and we were screwed.

    As we got closer to Anadyr the weather reports got worse while the sun sank lower.  By the time we were with in twenty minutes of the airport the clouds were down to two hundred feet and the visibility was a dismal three quarters of a mile, right at minimums for the ILS approach and getting worse.  Marcio was flying that leg so it would be my job to count down our altitude for the last thousand feet and watch out the windscreen for runway lights.  We knew the weather was only going to get worse so our plan was to land on the first attempt, no matter what.

  Then things got worse,

  “November 777BF be advised that the runway lights will NOT be available.”

  “Oh shit!” I said, as the radio call from the control tower came in.  Without runway lights we would only have the landing lights to guide us in to the runway, at night, did I mention it was  freaking DARK!  Needless to say we made it clear to the tower that lights would be oh so helpful and would they be so kind as to endeavor to illuminate said strip of concrete so that we may make a landing without putting too big of a divot in the surface, please?  Or something to that effect.  I don’t know if they’d been trying to save electricity or what but they informed us that the lights were indeed lit.

    As we began the approach tower informed us that the ceilings were variable below two hundred feet and the visibility at around half a mile and dropping.  I really didn’t want to leave the clear late evening sky with the full moon shining on the mountain tops poking out from the clouds but that’s why they pay us the big bucks so down we went.  Things got black in a hurry and as we dropped below one thousand feet in began counting down by hundreds.

  900 800 700 600 500 400 300, I risked a quick glance out the windscreen but saw nothing but black,                    200 feet missed approach point, still nothing, wait…

“I’ve got the runway.” I said as the green and yellow lights appeared out of the mist and rain.  We were under one hundred fifty feet  and I estimated the visibility at around one quarter mile.   Piece of cake.  The hardest part was trying to find the ramp and then  some dinner.  Afterwards over a bottle of Siberia’s finest wine and some microwaved non-microwaveable pizza Marcio asked me if I had been scared.  I told him no and quoted him the old saying  “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”

Magic F-18 Ride


 

As with all frustrated fighter pilots I could watch videos like this all day, well not all day, Mrs. Scary still has a long honey do list that I’m doing my best to avoid, but I digress.  We all wish someone would give us a multi-million dollar fighter to bust clouds and drop JDAMs with but the closest I’ve come to that playing with the clouds in a jump plane worth literally hundreds of dollars on the way down from dropping meat bombs.  The Navy pilots have one other advantage over jump pilots, their bombs aren’t flying around in the pattern when they’re trying to land.

 

 

Ferry Flight Pic of The Day

Say Moose and Squirrel

This is Tanya our handler in Petropavlovsk.  Tanya was a no nonsense woman who’s job it was to take care of all our needs, translate for us and generally get us in and out as quickly as possible.  She didn’t take any crap from the fuel guys and barely put up with my attempts at humor.  The look of impatient tolerance in the picture is as close as we could get to a smile.  The women in Russia are the most beautiful women in the world.  Walking down the street is defiantly a hazardous undertaking, what with all the tongue tripping that goes on.  But they have one flaw, they never smile.  Maybe it’s because they live in Siberia or maybe it’s because all the men dress like…like…well, Russians.  I met a beautiful Russian woman in Reykjavik last year and I asked her about it and she said “What’s there to smile about?  That’s the problem with you Americans.  You are always smiling for no reason.”  What she said of course made me smile.

Phenom Trip Day Seven

Petropavlovsk

The weather could technically be called “shitty” when Marcio and I departed Khabarovsk.  We were in the clouds and icing almost immediately after takeoff.  The published departure called for a left hand turn after take off and I was following the procedure when ATC called and asked what in the hell I was doing.  When I informed them that I was following the departure the controller screamed at me to reverse my turn because I was supposed to turn right after takeoff.  Not wanting to argue with the man while in the clouds I dutifully reversed my turn and held my tongue.  It wasn’t twenty seconds later when the controller came back on and again asked what in the hell I was doing?  He said I was supposed to make a LEFT turn after takeoff, did I not know the proper procedure?!  At this point I was starting to get just a bit miffed but was suddenly too busy to care because just then the pressurization system failed again and Marcio told me to put my O2 mask on while he tried to fix the problem.  I put the mask on, finished the turn and engaged the auto pilot.  Hell of a way to start the day.

  When we landed in Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula fours later I couldn’t take pictures fast enough.  Along both sides of the runway were hundreds of Russian military aircraft of every design.  Weird looking transports, helicopters and fighters were parked along side hardened camouflaged hangers.  I couldn’t help but remember that just a few short years ago when I was in the ARMY I probably would have been shot as a spy if I’d landed there.

We went up to the control tower to check weather while the Phenom was being fueled and got some bad news.  The controller told us that the weather in Anadyr was marginal and was forecast to get worse.  The forecast called for very low ceilings and visibility to close down the airport in six hours and would probably remain that way for up to a week.  We had a big decision to make.  Anadyr is located far north on the Bearing sea and there are no other airports anywhere near it to divert to in the event that we couldn’t get in.  If we elected to go we would be committed once we passed the point of no return.  But if we stayed we could be stuck in Petropavlovsk for god knows how long.  We decided to give it a shot.  Our plan was to call for a weather update when we approached the point of no return.  If the weather was good we would press on, if not, it would be back to Petropavlovsk and some of that wonderful Russian vodka.

A neat thing about the Phenom is the range circle on the Navigation display.  The computer factors in winds aloft, airspeed, fuel burn and fuel on board to display a max range circle on the moving map that lets you know just how far you can fly before running out of fuel.  It was really helpful to see the range circle expand when you throttled back to the max range setting.   With the range circle showing us approaching the point of no return Marcio called for a weather update.  The report was exactly what we didn’t want to hear.   The clouds were down to four hundred feet and three miles visibility.   The trend was  for the weather getting worse but it so far we could still get in.  I would rather it was complete dog shit or beautiful sky, not this maybe stuff.  Neither Marcio or I said anything for a few minutes, both of us thinking about the ramifications of turning back or pushing on.  In our favor was the fact that even if we wouldn’t have enough fuel to divert to another airfield if the weather got bad we would have enough for three or four landing attempts before things got quiet.   Not wanting to be stuck in Siberia for two weeks and trusting the Phenom Marcio and I decided to press on, after all what could possibly go wrong?

      TO BE CONTINUED…