Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 02:53PM
John Samford in Flying, Journal

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of rain? This has been a terrible summer to try to fly anywhere in the Southeast. In the mornings, we have low foggy ceilings. As they begin to burn off near noon, the afternoon thunderstorms begin to build. It’s hard to catch the right moment to launch. And Thursday, it was complicated by a front that had passed through Birmingham and became stationary between Birmingham and Savannah. Having passed on flying because of weather Wednesday, I was trying really hard to get back to Savannah Thursday, and somehow I timed it just right. I left Birmingham around 11:00 am CDT and arrived at my destination at around 2:15 pm EDT. The flight track above shows the weather at some point during my trip but there were actually more openings to fly through than appear here.

It was not an easy flight. I was in IFR conditions most of the day, had to fly south to Eufala before heading east, and then had to dodge thunderstorms and shoot a full GPS approach almost to minimums to get into Wright Field in Hinesville, GA. But it was a confidence builder. At one point, the gaps between storms I had been aiming for began to close up, and I thought about landing somewhere near Macon. But with the help of onboard weather and helpful controllers, I was able to shoot the narrow gaps and dodge the storms.

Then I had to worry about getting into Wright Field. The minimums on a GPS approach to Runway 6L are close to 600 feet above the ground, and the ceiling was at 400 feet most of the day. The last hour of my trip the celiling had risen to 700 feet and just before my arrival were reported at 900 feet, so the approach was a piece of cake, and I made it back safe and sound. Had I left Birmingham any earlier, I couldn’t have gotten into Wright Field and would have had to divert elsewhere. Had I left any later, the stoms would have forced me to land somewhere near Eufala.

Just to complicate things, I got a screen alert during the trip that the engine sensors were not reporting in to the glass cockpit and all engine readouts went away. This presented a few new problems because I no longer had fuel guages, manifold pressure, RPM’s, fuel flow, engine temperatures or oil pressure. I let the air traffic controller know of the problem but I quickly figured out that there was no sense in stopping, as a landing at my destination wasn’t far and would be no more difficult than a landing along the way. Without fuel guages, I stayed on the fuel tank I was using longer than usual so that I coud be sure of having plenty of fuel for the landing in the other tank. I left the RPM where it had been set at 2400 RPM until going to full RPM just before landing. I also left the mixture where it had been set for leaning at 9,000 feet until moving it to full rich for landing. The throttles I simply adjusted for proper airspeed and descent rate throughout the approach. Everything worked out just fine, and I landed without any problems. Since this wasn’t a real emergency, I didn’t want to reset any circuit braekers in the air for fear of screwing up something else. But after landing a resetting of the Data Aquisition Unit (DAU) breaker solved the problem. If it happens again, the DAU may need to be replaced (under warranty).

So here I am back at Ford, until my next attempt to find good weather. 


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