Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Trip of Choices - Part 3

The last night Up North
Life is nuts. Previously I had written about our flight to upper Michigan. Now it's time to tell you how we (finally) got back! The morning it was time to leave upper Michigan we awoke to some nasty storms on the radar. What was once predicted as "scattered storms" was now a frontal system the size of the whole state. That's summer weather for you! A call to Flight Service told us we would not be departing for at least another 8 hours. Although our plans were once again disrupted, we made the best of it and had lunch at our favorite spot, did some shopping and hit the beach one more time.

8 hours later, the weather looked more promising, but still not ideal. We headed to the airport to fuel up, pack and check the weather one more time. The people working in the airport office were very kind and Turbo got spoiled from treats in a jar on the airport manager's desk. We planned to fly to Houghton Lake, KHTL, which was just across the Mackinac Straits and we'd land there to fuel up again and decide if it was good to continue from there. 

Waiting to go!
All seemed quite positive until Bob pulled out our weather map. It was shattered. Apparently Bob had dropped one of the large rocks we collected from the beach on it previously, but we had no idea of the extent of the damage at the time. So, we decided to use mine. The problem was it didn't have XM activated so we had to download radar from the internet and remember that it would be very outdated. In the back of my head, this was strike two. One was stormy weather. Two was no on board weather. But, it looked like we could make it safely to HTL.

The weather was good departing Calumet. As we went over the lake, we were in and out of clouds. The closer we got to Houghton Lake the cloudier it got and soon ATC warned us of moderate rain ahead. Poor Turbo did not enjoy the rain. But soon it was time to do the approach. I read off the minimums and information off of my tablet and Bob went to load the GPS27 approach. But it wouldn't load.

Mid flight
"Strike three!" My head finally said. Bob was cursing and I told him to go missed. But then, a hole opened. Phew! We canceled IFR spiraled down and came in to land right over Houghton Lake. But it wasn't smooth sailing just yet. I was glad Bob was at the controls because from base to final we experienced some severe wind shear. The throttle was full forward and we were just getting slower and slower. After what seemed like forever, we were finally safely on the runway. I was thankful to be on the ground, thankful for Bob's skill and thankful that we had that lesson behind us.

The airport was absolutely deserted, but open. There were clean bathrooms inside the main building along with a lot of meeting space. While we were fueling the plane, a UPS truck pulled up and sat their waiting. A few more minutes later, a Cessna Caravan appeared through the clouds and landed with a full load for the waiting brown truck. I remember wondering what would happen if the Caravan wouldn't have been able to make it in. Would all those shipments be delayed?

A fun find at HTL
We went inside to check the weather again. Despite a few rainy spots, it looked like we would have much better luck on our way home. I felt confident in our flight for the first time during the whole day. It was around 7:30pm when we departed Houghton. We were more than ready to go home and more than a little hungry. We had trouble getting our clearance on the ground, so ended up calling for it. Once we were in the air and in contact, we ended up relaying a clearance for the Caravan.

The flight back to Frederick was smooth and thanks to very helpful traffic controllers, we did not see any more rain. They warned us of two small spots on the radar and both times directed us around it. It was the most relaxed we were the entire flight home. We landed around 10:15, hungry and tired but happy to be home safely. 


  1. Thanks for sharing. This is a good example of the challenges posed by cross country flight to those of us who fly light aircraft.

    I'm sorry to hear about the shattered weather map. Part of me is amazed that I haven't done something similar to my iPad yet after as much use as it's gotten.

    Did you ever figure out why the GPS approach would not load? The only reason I ask is because I was reminded of an issue I had with my GNS-430W (and I can't remember if that's what you have in the Glasair or not) where the GPS would drop certain RNAV approaches. The fix was to do a software upgrade to the most current software. After losing the RNAV-28 at Le Roy, a bunch of us with GNS-430s upgraded to the current software version and the missing approaches came back.

    1. Hi Chris!

      It's an excellent example and the phrase "Time to spare? Go by air!" rings true here. Sometimes even though you have an airplane, you can't always get somewhere you want when you want. We are still san-weather map and hoping to replace the screen (of a very outdated tablet) versus buying a new system.

      It looks like we are equipped with the same stuff! We also have a GNS-430W. We'll need to fly it again and make sure everything was indeed updated. I hope it will be back to working correctly!

    2. Go to this link at Garmin:

      Scroll down until you get to "RNAV (GPS) approaches with LP minima removed due to lack of descent angle". You'll see that the RNAV approaches to 27 and 9 are both included. This was the same bug that bit us at Le Roy (you'll see 5G0 listed in there, too). Upgrading the 430W software to the current version (5.12, I think - I was on 3.something) cleared up the problem. The software update was free, but I had to pay tech time for it to be installed by the local avionics shop.

    3. Victoria, I had the same thing happen flying into KIOB - Mount Sterling-Montgomery County Airport located Kentucky. Had three of the four approaches and the one assigned was the RNAV GPS 3, it wasn't there.

      Chris had the answer so I will make sure our 530W software is updated this month during the IFR cert update. Sorry to hear about the tablet screen, that's never fun.


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