*** Guest post by Bob ***
We had left the plane outside weeks earlier, and one of the airport ground crew had been very helpful in arranging a monthly rate in an unheated hangar, instead of the $50/nightly rate paid by transient pilots in the heated hangar. He also setup a hot-air preheater so the engine would be ready to start when I arrived. When the city told him I would have to wait for the morning, he so arranged for me to give $20 to the late-night ground crew guy who normally leaves as soon as the 11:30pm airline arrival turns off the runway to stay longer and open the hangar for me. But because the airline landed to late and the weather had turned worse as forecast, I would not be going anywhere except the couch that night. But at least the airplane was warmed up and clear of snow.
The backup window on Friday I had planned to use looked OK in Houghton but was now showing a cold front that would be in lower Michigan, setting up low IFR and icing conditions that I would have to travel through. I went back in the terminal around before the afternoon departure to thank my flight crew for the decision to spend 3 hours waiting for fuel trucks instead of a few minutes of holding that cost me the late night weather window.
A FedEx Caravan turboprop single took off a few minutes later. I walked out to the hangar and grabbed my handheld radio, the battery half-dead from cold. I managed to get Green Bay center’s ground RCO and asked them to get a PIREP from the 208. The result was tops at 4000, clear above, and negative icing. Not too bad! While I was afraid of any potential layers above that I decided it would be best to get the airplane as far south as possible before the cold front I would pass over turned lower Michigan into an icy mess.
I fired up the engine- and nearly slid out of control on the icy ramp despite holding the brakes- and back-taxied to the departure end about 15 minutes after the airline, who confirmed the Caravan’s tops report. Weather at the time was overcast at 1300', visibility 1.25 miles, light snow, wind 12 gusting 20 and temperature –8C.
View down the departure runway.
I pushed the throttle in and the plane accelerated great with the low fuel load and cold temperatures. A frozen gear indication switch worried me for a second, but after one cycle I could tell it was shut tight as no air was coming through the flap handle opening. The light went out just as I went into the soup. Climbing around 1800 FPM I soon broke out to a clear sky with only another layer well above my 7000’ IFR altitude and no traces of airframe ice.
Safe above the clouds heading south.
Planes arriving into Traverse City were reporting light clear ice while inbound, but luckily Pontiac was far enough away from the approaching front that their weather reported clear skies (they were more like scattered at 3000’) and I was above the weather. Landing around 4PM in Pontiac I filled up on Avgas and had a Jimmy John’s sandwich delivered, as there was no food to be had at CMX and I had not eaten since dinner the night before at ORD. About 45 minutes later I climbed through those scattered clouds a little slower with full tanks, but a howling tail wind soon pushed ground speeds above 215 knots. Before I knew it I was descending at 240 knots into Frederick- which prompted Potomac ATC to alert another plane about a “GLAS…A Turboprop?” that was converging on his path.
240 knots coming into Frederick!
A smooth landing with clear sky and calm winds followed and the plane was tucked back into its hangar, only 12 gallons of fuel lighter from the 384 statute mile journey from Pontiac- 32.2 MPG! And then I remembered… how am I going to get home, my car is still at Dulles!