Monthly Archives: June 2012

Back to the Cape for a weekend

I seem to be making a habit of trips out to the Cape. Looking back at my logbook I’ve made three trips down to Cape Cod in June. When I arrived at the Rectrix FBO in Hyannis on Saturday the line guy marshaled me in and said “Welcome back!” when I opened the door.

This time the goal of the trip was to spend some time with friends at a house in Eastham, MA. While Chatham or Provincetown would have been slightly closer Hyannis has a nice FBO which doesn’t charge for overnight fuel and sells fuel cheaper than home. Plus I’ve noticed that Hyannis is somewhat less likely to be affected by fog and low ceilings and there was a possibility of that on Saturday morning for our arrival.

Despite the forecast of 1500 broken in the morning over Cape Cod the weather was nice and clear. The direct route from Nashua to Hyannis goes directly over the city of Boston. I cruised at 5,500 and requested a Bravo clearance. Unlike last time I did not receive vectors from Boston Approach but my Bravo clearance was “maintain 5,500 direct Boston”. No problem, my wife was already reaching forward to hit “direct-to” on the Garmin 430 as I turned left a bit towards BOS. We passed directly over the airport then received a vector. Initially I was a bit alarmed as the vector took me directly out over Massachusetts Bay. But soon traffic passed in front of us through out altitude and with them in sight I was cleared to proceed direct to Hyannis. While passing over the top of Logan airport we could see a Delta heavy passing below on approach to one of the Runway 4s (I couldn’t tell if they were landing 4L or 4R).

Things were pretty busy coming into Hyannis. Upon my initial contact to Hyannis Tower I was told my traffic was on a left base and “you’ve got 30 knots on them.” After slowing we had them in sight although a few times I was second guessing that it was the correct traffic. I was number three to follow this traffic although the tower modified this sequence and had me extend my downwind to slip a Cessna 402 in front of me.

Thanks to the wide pattern and extended downwind my landing was sloppy. I let myself get a bit too slow on the approach and ultimately in the flare I plopped it on with a solid arrival. It wasn’t too bad but I felt the need to apologize to Abby. Taxiing into the FBO I was greeted by the friendly lineman who recognized me from last time and was also able to get a look at the traffic that I was 30 knots faster than – a cool little Flight Design CTsw Light Sport aircraft.

My friends met me at the airport and we headed off to Eastham. We were staying at a cool spot near Sunken Meadow beach. This is on the Bay side of Cape Cod and when the tide goes out there are flats extended out a long ways. We had great fun, and even managed to finish up our grilling just in time as a fairly strong thunderstorm rolled across the bay with winds gusting to 30 knots.

On Sunday afternoon I invited anyone who was interested for a Cape tour. The weather was fantastic with light winds and no clouds in the sky. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take everyone who wanted to go in one trip and Abby and I needed to get back so some had to take a rain check. If I hadn’t already asked to be fueled when I arrived I could have filled all the seats, something to keep in mind for next time.

Derek and Maria accompanied me on the Cape Tour while Abby hung out in the lounge at Rectrix. The tour ended up being around an hour start to stop, mostly just cruising around the Cape at 2500 feet and 65% power. The air was mostly smooth with just a few bumps where the winds swirled. We went past the house in Eastham and out to Provincetown then back past the house. I checked to make sure my passengers would be OK with a steeper turn then cranked it over around 40 degrees to make a left turn 90 degrees back towards the shoreline.

At this point I headed back to Hyannis, lined up for a straight in to Runway 24. Once again the airport was busy! I slowed it up and turned to the right a bit to fall in behind some traffic on base about to turn final. There was a slight crosswind from the left and the landing was perfect – stall horn beeping, left wheel touching first, and smooth. Abby reported Derek and Maria came back into the FBO all smiles.

Once again the friendly line staff at Rectrix helped us load our bags into the plane for departure and soon Abby and I were headed back to Nashua. Cape approach was very busy with IFR traffic and VFR requests and although we eventually managed to get flight following we were soon handed off to an even busier Boston approach controller. On initially contact with Boston approach I gave a typically terse “Boston approach Cardinal 52667 level 6500 request Bravo.” This time I got a “roger” but no Bravo clearance. He was dealing with arrivals into Boston including one airliner who was obviously behind the ball on the approach and kept missing read backs.

Soon I did receive one acknowledgement the controller still remembered me. I could see an airliner approach from the left about to cross in front of us and sure enough a rapid fire traffic call out came “Cardinal 667 traffic 11:00 two miles an Embraer” which I was able to quickly respond with “Traffic in sight 667″. Told to maintain visual separation we watched the Embraer passed quite close in front of us, unmistakably a JetBlue livery! Very cool to watch.

Still no Bravo clearance and Abby and I watched and waited until we were close and with no Bravo clearance forthcoming with about a minute to go I cranked it over to the left again and headed around the outside of the airspace. Soon there was a break in the Boston arrivals and it turns out the controller did remember me – unsolicited he finally gave the desired “Cleared into the Boston Bravo airspace maintain 6500 fly heading 320″. Good enough. The next controller’s sector was eerily quiet and shortly after contacting them we were cleared to proceed direct to Nashua.

I recently switched jobs and my new job is software engineering at a startup in a building located just off the approach end of Runway 5 at Hanscom field. The building is distinctively triangular and I managed to snap a quick cell cam picture as we descended over Hanscom.

From this directly I received a left base pattern entry from Nashua tower. A familiar airplane was on downwind and received us as traffic called out – Skyhawk 7242G, the airplane I did my primary training and soloed in. My landing was very nice and smooth although I dropped the power a bit early and ended up landing just past the threshold rather than further down which can be nice at Nashua since I park towards the end.

As we were tying down N52667 my old friend 42G pulled in and it was a flight instructor from Air Direct with a female student. There is definitely a gender imbalance in aviation and I am always extra happy to see fresh blood especially when it increases the diversity of the rather exclusive community of pilots. I stopped in the office briefly to chat with the student and instructor Doug Gale. The student was around 6-7 hours along and getting into the meat of landing practice. I wanted to inquire of Doug about something else related to training… his availability for instrument instruction! I’m hoping I might be able to start some of that this weekend!

New Hampshire Poker Run

On Saturday the flight school where I did my primary training – Air Direct Airways – held a Poker Run to benefit Homes for our Troops, a charity that builds specially adapted homes for disabled veterans. A Poker Run is an event where for a particular buy-in ($25 in this case, all of which went to charity) you get a sheet where your “hand” will be marked. There are five remote airports throughout New Hampshire each with a deck of cards. You fly to each of these airports in no predetermined order and pick a card at each (the decks are at the FBO which is the business that provides passenger services and fuel at airports). An employee at each location marks your sheet with the cards you draw. At the end everyone returned back to Nashua and each “hand” was compared against the others to determine the winners of several donated prizes.

I did the Poker Run with Abby and we each got a hand. Unfortunately we got a bit of a late start. This was my fault – I failed to estimate exactly how long it would take on the ground at each airport. Our initial destination would be Keene. It was pretty bumpy! Winds aloft were pretty stiff and blowing over the mountains and ridges of Vermont not to mention Mt. Monadnock near Keene. Fighting the bumps and the headwinds I maneuevered around Mt. Monadnock then overflew Keene to enter a left downwind for runway 02 – the designated light wind runway. There was some other traffic in the area and I followed them in. I was nicely positioned on approach to drop the power out and trim nose up and the landing was pretty good.

Finding the proper FBO building was not so easy. Foreflight’s mini airport diagram depicted it in the wrong place and unfortunately I had already shut down by the time we realized this. It ended up being the first good fuel injection hot start practice of the day and soon we were taxied across the runway to the proper terminal building. Our cards weren’t too big but Keene is a lovely little spot and we were welcomed to the airport by a man and his son playing catch out front. Nashua to Keene: 0.6 hours.

Next was Lebanon. This meant even more bumps! It was pretty wild. I had been intending to suggest that Abby try some of the cruise flying but I quickly changed my mind. I needed to be concentrating on flying to take my mind off the bumps. Getting close to Lebanon the ATIS reported that they were landing runway 36 and taking off runway 7. Before departing Ron at Air Direct had warned me that Lebanon might be very busy because it was Dartmouth’s graduation week. If they were unable to take us at the FBO or the airport we could just move on and draw the final card back at Nashua.

My course was already well aligned for runway 36 and on initial call up the tower asked me to make straight in and report several distances in and to keep my speed up to slip in before a following business jet (they go a lot faster and can’t slow down!). I figured I’d give it a try – worst thing it would mean a go-around and I had a passenger so there were two brains thinking about getting the gear down before landing. In fact I had no trouble remembering the gear since I intended to use it as a speed brake.

I held around 135 knots until passing through a mile and a half then pulled the power to idle and leveled off to get me down into the speed range for the first notch of flaps. With the plane still pitched for level flight and power out 10 degrees of flaps gets you into the gear speed range in several seconds. Gear down, the nose gear door flops out and acts like a huge speed brake. Setting the propeller RPM high is yet another speed brake as that big prop flattens out and causes more drag. I went to full flaps and set up the power off glide at around 68 knots. Approach speed was stable and I put it down just past the bars on the nice long runway. I was clear long before the business jet and barely beat them to parking. It is always good to know I can do this sort of “busy field approach” when requested by ATC. Keene to Lebanon: 0.6 hours.

Next up was Laconia. I went here during my night flight as a student and during my long student XC. Laconia was reporting a gusty crosswind with peak gusts of 18 knots! Fortunately there is a nice, wide, long, runway at Laconia. As I approached the airport a Citation business jet approached and made a clear example of atrocious radio work at a pilot controlled field like Laconia. The proper approach is to make a position report on a common traffic advisory report and state your intentions. other relevant traffic will respond with their position. Instead this hot shot jet pilot gave poor position reports and ended every call with the lengthy and useless “any traffic in the area please advise” on a crowded frequency. Of course, they also stated their intentions to land on runway 8 instead of 26 which the winds favored and others in the area had used. Sigh.

When I turned final for runway 26 (like everybody else) I could tell it was going to be an interesting landing because I had a *lot* of crab angle in for crosswind correction. Fortunately the winds did seem to die down marginally closer to the ground and as I transitioned into the sideslip for landing it didn’t look so extreme. The wind was gusty and it was a perfectly safe landing but no greaser. The nice part is I held it there on one wheel in the crosswind gust with the proper crosswind correctly to track straight ahead. Lebanon to Laconia: 0.5 hours.

Departing Laconia on 26 I turned left and climbed over the terrain with some pretty intense bumps. I slowed a bit until getting well past the terrain where it smoothed out marginally. By that time it was time to descend towards Skyhaven/Rochester, NH which was visible from quite far away. My course heading left me almost perfectly lined up with runway 15 but winds favored 33. The standard traffic pattern for 33 is right turns (versus the usual left turns) so I side stepped to the left and flew downwind then a nice approach. We didn’t spend too much time on the ground, getting our cards and letting the local FBO take a picture of us. Laconia to Rochester: 0.4 hours.

Since it was already getting late and we were hungry we elected to skip the stop at Concord and head directly back to Nashua. This time I called up Boston Approach for advisories and to pass through the Manchester Class C airspace. Before handing me over to Nashua Tower the controller advised me of “numerous aircraft in the vicinity of Nashua”. He wasn’t kidding, great weather on a Saturday brings folks out at Nashua. We were number four in line to land and on a very extended downwind. Things were stacked up pretty tight too and the traffic in front of me elected to go around. This left the runway clear for me to make one of the nicest landings of the day and taxi back to parking. Right in the flare a gust hit and we ballooned up. I gave just the right shot of power to keep the total energy reasonable and nailed the approach pitch attitude, doing a second flare. The touchdown was smooth and slow, a bit long but that was perfect since I park towards the end The final leg was 0.6 which brought the total to 2.7 hours logged and five landings.

Unfortunately we didn’t win anything and our hands kinda sucked! Good thing it is for a good cause. And there was food and drink generously donated by the Midfield Cafe at Nashua. The winners were announced with much fan fare.

Landing at 5 different airports in 2.7 hours is experience expanding. Every airport is different. Different runway lengths at widths present a different sight picture during landing and you need to adjust. Picking airports out of the surrounding terrain is a very valuable skill as well. Finally thanks to clear skies and beautiful June weather the sun hitting the ground made it quite bumpy and gusty. Every airport I went to had a different wind angle and speed. Every landing is different and every bit of practice helps me get more consistent.

Back to Cape Cod: The Old Colony Rail Trail

Since I didn’t have work on Friday I decided to take advantage of the free time and head down to Cape Cod. A friend from the gathering last week in Dennisport had explored various parts of the Cape Cod Rail Trail network and told me that one part of the trail went right past the Chatham airport. I have a Dynamic Sidekick 8 folding bicycle which fits neatly on the rear set of the Cardinal so this was perfect.

My transport sits on the backseat: The Dynamic Sidekick 8.

The weather was predicted to be clear with scattered afternoon thunderstorms. This didn’t concern me too much. With plenty of fuel and no time pressure I had plenty of ability to deviate around any weather or to divert to another airport and wait it out. One nice thing about thunderstorm weather in this kind of air mass is that they are isolated or scattered and very easy to see and avoid when you are flying under visual flight rules. Even if a thunderstorm cell is directly over your destination airport a wait of just 30 minutes to an hour maximum will generally bring it back to good flying weather.

The direct route to Chatham or anywhere on Cape Cod from Nashua goes straight over the city of Boston. Fortunately Boston Approach is very accommodating and I was cleared into their airspace at 5,500 feet. The air was very smooth at this altitude and I had no trouble maintaining the altitude with a needle width. Much like the trip to Hyannis I did receive some vectors (turn 10 degrees right) around arrival and departure corridors but once I was perhaps 10 or 15 miles south of Boston Logan airport I was cleared on course. The direct route would have taken me a fair distance over the bay so I followed the shoreline for a curved course heading towards Chatham.

My clearance was to maintain 5500 in the Boston Class B airspace. Exactly on it in smooth air. Top CDI indicates we are right of course due to ATC vectors around Logan airport arrival and departure corridors.

Eventually I could receive the automated weather report from Chatham and was dismayed to hear it reported a 300 foot overcast ceiling! This was not forecast. In fact, the entire rest of the Cape was in complete clear with not a cloud visible. Visibility was perhaps 50 or more miles. I was still talking to Cape Approach and so I told them I would take a tour down to Provincetown and back at 2500 and see if it improved.

Boston city center and Logan airport.

The weather was nice and clear over most of the Cape and perfect for sightseeing. I followed the shoreline around the Cape and checked out a few spots. There were some interesting round pounds which I assume are glacial in origin.

Some round ponds on the eastern side of the "vertical" part of the Cape.

By this time Chatham was reporting “Ceiling 500 broken variable between 500 and 700.” I decided to at least check it out and heading back towards Chatham. In fact, the bank of clouds that was causing these readings was rolling in off the ocean on the breeze. As soon as it got above land the rising warm air would completely vaporize the clouds and it was completely clear. In fact the reason why the automated weather was reported a variable broken ceiling is because the clouds (the layer itself only a few hundred feet thick) were dissipating right over the top of the airport. The approach end of runway 24 was completely in the clear. Since Chatham airport’s airspace is only controlled down to 700 feet above ground I was able to utilize “Class G” airspace VFR requirements which are 1 mile visibility (reported visibility was 10 miles) and clear of clouds. The terrain around Chatham is very flat and unobstructed which made this a good opportunity to get in VFR. With a slightly irregular pattern and a number of radio calls I maneuvered around the areas of cloud and made a very nice landing on runway 24. In honor of one of my previous CFIs who has gone off to Alaska to give people float plane instruction I dub this an “Alaska VFR Approach”!

Parked at Chatham. Weather a bit ugly but meets "Class G" airspace VFR minimums. One side of the airport is almost in fog, the other side was clear above visibility unlimited!

There is no charge to park at Chatham for the day. Sign the guest book and exit the gate right onto the bike trail. I decided to head towards Dennisport so the first step was to cross the street then you are on the old rail bed portion. As train tracks often are the trail is very straight and any grades are very mild. The folding bike was perfect for this.

The Cape Cod Rail Trail (Old Colony line). Rail trails are so straight!

The trail goes past houses and some land managed for drinking water aquifer recharge. Eventually I started to get hungry as I reached Harwich and as if by magic I came to a road where there was the word “Cafe” written in chalk on the pavement with an arrow! Clearly I was in for an adventure and began to follow these cafe arrows eventually landing at The Dancing Spoon Cooking Company. This location is off to the side of the center of town but worth searching out. The food was excellent and fast and I could put my bike in a bike rack right out front and sit outside eating it. I highly recommend it.

The unfolded Dynamic Sidekick.

After eating lunch I headed back to Chatham. As I got close I started to get worried – the clouds were obviously worse, not better, and in fact there were some areas of obvious fog! Arriving at the airport I found that the cloudy side (runway 6 approach end) had gotten cloudier with a 300 foot overcast and visibility 5 miles in mist. Of course, the runway 24 approach end was still completely in the clear. Winds were around 8 knots and favoring runway 24.

I waited for a bit to see if the weather would improve. No signs of this happening. I went out to the plane, grabbed my the POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook) and flipped to the performance tables section. Normally one would not try to take off with a tailwind, but with considerable “fudge factor” added to the calculations I determined that despite the only 3000 feet of runway at Chatham I could take off with a tailwind and be able to clear a 50 foot obstacle several hundred feet before the end of the runway. Fortunately I did not take on fuel in Chatham and ate a light lunch!

I was happy with the performance figures and after a careful run up and pre-takeoff check I turned onto runway 6, looked straight ahead at the beautiful blue sky, and stood on the brakes bringing the power up to full for proper short field procedure. Releasing the brakes brought the speed up fast and the takeoff definitely felt fast over the ground! Sure enough, I hit flying speed with plenty of margin before reaching my planned abort point halfway down the runway as promised by the performance calculations. I climbed at best angle climb speed until I was absolutely sure I was clear of any obstacles and turned to climb away from any of the cloud bank before calling Cape Approach and asking for advisories back past Boston.

Hyannis - my destination last weekend - in the clear. Nantucket behind is solidly IFR in low stratus fog!

I didn’t get a good picture of the stratus cloud deck just south of Chatham but you can see Nantucket in that picture. Well actually you can’t – it was similarly covered in low stratus clouds. The entire width of the Cape was clear near Hyannis and the Cape Cod Canal. Again I followed the shoreline back and began to look off to the right for the thunderstorm reported by Cape Approach as being near Boston.

Passing to the east of scuddy clouds south of Boston.

Soon the thunderstorm was quite visible off to my right. I received a Bravo clearance at 6500 feet and a heading that would take me towards the west. Boston Approach is very helpful and will work with you to help you pick your way around weather (especially if they know you do not have on board weather RADAR like the big jets do). They were very busy with IFR traffic deviating left and right around the cells and yet still helped me by relaying a pilot report from someone who got into Nashua by going around the storm to the west around Fitchburg. I headed for this area and visually navigated around the areas of heavy rain and clouds. This is a case where the flexibility of VFR flight is very good – you can go around these big thunderstorms IF you can see them. You can’t if you’re flying around in a cloud.

Shooting the gap - diverting west out to a line between Framingham and Fitchburg to get far from the thunderstorm over Boston. After this point it got too turbulent and the autopilot couldn't fly anymore so I put the camera down for good :)

I got my wings a bit wet at the edge of some of the showers (no problem) and the turbulence was “continuous light chop” at times. Nothing too bad, but continuously bumpy the whole way around the outside of the cell. Sometimes you could see lighting arc up the side of the cloud about 20 miles off the right side! Not dangerous, but the pucker factor was there.

Soon after passing over the top of Fitchburg airport Nashua was visible in the clear blue skies behind the back edge of the storm. I gave the rain shafts a nice healthy margin and headed for Nashua. There was a crosswind but it was steady. Just the experience I needed and the result was a very nice smooth crosswind landing on one wheel right on the center line! A great ending to an excellent experience broadening day.

(Bigger versions and some more photos can be found on my photo site. Unfortunately I bumped my camera and didn’t notice I’d set the ISO to 400 so they are grainier than normal.)

Weekend trip to Cape Cod

So I flew my first weekend trip this weekend. I never did it as a renter because of all of the complications but owning the Cardinal makes this easy. The destination was Dennisport, MA on Cape Cod for a relaxing gathering of staff for a science fiction convention I volunteer for called Arisia. My wife was co-running the “Relaxacon” event so she had to drive down earlier. Another attendee was able to pick me up at the Hyannis airport so I didn’t even need to rent a car for the weekend.

I had two passengers for this trip, friends of mine who were also attending the Relaxcon. Neither have flown with me before but have expressed interest in flying before so it seemed perfect. They had to work on Friday so I headed up to the airport a bit early and did my preflight then met them as they got to the airport. One of my friends brought a big tub of board games. Unfortunately due to the “hump” in the middle of the RG’s baggage compartment (the space where the main gear wheels retract into) the entire bin couldn’t go in so we loaded up individual games. I weighed baggage with a little baggage scale and estimated things like a bag from the liquor store and the board games (light). Weight and balance would have been fine with full fuel and I had less than a full fuel load so everything was good to go.

One of my two passengers took a bunch of good photos, but he is still going through them. So I’ll update this post later and add his photos.

The takeoff roll was fine, the weather nice, and a beacon code had already been obtained from Nashua ground for the eventual Bravo transit. But when I retracted the flaps after takeoff there was a sudden whooshing sound as the baggage door popped open. Whoops. The latch was flakey and this time the full baggage compartment meant things were pressed against the door. Training kicked in and my thought was “fly the airplane”. Remembering what I read on CFO about the baggage door latch I extended flaps 10 again and nosed over just a little bit to increase air flow down wash in the vicinity of the baggage door. The door immediately slammed closed. I called Nashua tower and told them we had a baggage door problem and would be returning. I kept flaps 10 in the whole time and asked my rear seat passenger if anything had fallen out. He said no, we didn’t lose any the liquor store bag or any board games! Oh good. I gave quick reassurances that we would just return to secure the door and my passengers were not alarmed.

Nashua tower asked me to squawk VFR on downwind. I probably should have said “standby” or “unable” since the extra workload delayed my gear extension and it was when I did my turning final gear check that I actually put the gear down. Typically I put it down midfield downwind. With flaps 20 I made a perfectly good landing and asked to taxi to the ramp. I just parked on the corner of the ramp where I could pull through and shut off the engine then got out and securely closed the baggage door moving some things away from it. Nothing fell out but the Royalite plastic panel on the back of the door was quite chewed up (it was already somewhat cracked as the 35 year old stuff is very brittle). A replacement baggage latch has been ordered as well as a replacement plastic panel!

The delay was only about 15 minutes and we were assigned a new squawk code for Boston Approach. Fortunately my passengers were totally unconcerned. The second time around everything went smoothly. Our desired cruising altitude of 5500 was modified by Boston approach upon clearance to enter the Bravo at 3500 and that would be our final altitude (of course we could climb higher after leaving the bravo but there was little point). The controllers gave a few vectors 10 degrees left or right as the direct path between Nashua and Hyannis goes right over the heart of Boston and right over the approach end of Runway 04L/R at Logan Airport. It was very cool to watch jets on short final and taking off beneath us!

After exiting the Bravo Boston Approach passed us off to Cape Approach who sounded a bit more bored than the rapid fire instructions everyone was getting from Boston Approach. He told me to contact tower 15 miles out and I made a straight in for runway 15. This was almost exactly aligned with my course line. It was a few minutes after sunset and I made an excellent greaser landing and held the nosewheel off for quite a good distance.

I had previously contacted Rectrix (FBO at Hyannis) to ask about the charges to stay two nights. The email response was that all fees including the two nights would be waived with a modest fuel purchase. Plus the fuel price was better than it is at home! With them expecting us they parked the Cardinal right out front and brought out a baggage card, even helped unload all of the board games. I highly recommend this FBO if you are going to the Cape.

My original plan was to take some friends from the Relaxacon on Saturday and do a sightseeing tour of Cape Cod. Alas, mother nature did not approve and Friday night a fairly strong Nor’easter weather event began to hit the Cape. I knew this was coming and the weather was forecast to improve for at least a period on Sunday. I don’t have work this week so worst case I would get stuck on the Cape for longer than expect, oh no!

The weather was indeed wild on Saturday with gusts to 30 knots and constant IFR conditions, heavy rain, and our beachfront spot was getting pounded with surf all day Saturday. Fortunately there was plenty of board gaming, chatting, and all sorts of fun stuff. By Sunday morning it was remarkably calm with low ceilings. I suspect the calm winds were because the low pressure center was almost exactly on top of us and this appeared to be corroborated by looking at the HPC surface analysis chart. As the day went on and I nervously checked TAFs it did improve to MVFR then VFR conditions but winds picked up more than expected and it appeared that the ride back would be quite bumpy and might not take me all the way back to Nashua. So my passengers for the way back decided to hitch a ride by car which worked perfectly well and eliminated external pressures on me which was good.

I hitched a ride back to Rectrix and asked them to top off the tank. Unfortunately the fueler who also handles another FBO on the field was quite busy and it took a little while. No matter, the conditions were still improving slowly and although the winds were quite gusty at Hyannis they were straight down the runway and the winds at Nashua were reasonable. Looking at METARs and satellite photos revealed that it would be best to climb through some of the now reasonable large holes in a scattered layer of clouds and travel above the deck in the environment of the Cape Code canal and southeast Massachusetts because it cleared up almost completely around the I-495 belt.

It was quite tricky to do the preflight because the winds were so strong. Finally I had completed it and taxied out for takeoff. ATIS reported winds at 16 gusting to 26 knots, straight down the runway! This was a very short takeoff roll followed by a bucking bronco climb!! When I started my flight training this would have had me puking before reaching pattern altitude (slight exaggeration). Now I just go “woohoo!” and hang on.

There was a nice big hole to climb through off the departure end of the runway which was also basically the heading directly to Nashua (winds had shifted 180 degrees after the passage of the low). So I pitched up into a Vx climb with a few small turns to slip through the hole. Maintaining Class E legal VFR was no problem. I climbed to 6500 and headed left of the direct course to avoid the Boston Class Bravo. Since I was not guaranteed the ability to get back down below the layer closer to Nashua my plan was to turn more towards the west where I knew it was clear (from the satellite photo as well as an informal PIREP from a pilot arriving into Hyannis in a Beech Baron from NJ).

Climbing to 6500 was good, plenty of clearance above the layer. It was smooth there and clear enough to see where there were a few anvil shaped Cb clouds far west, over western Massachusetts. Soon I was to the point where I wanted to descend again and found a suitable hole to duck through the scattered layer. The area I had flown over was a complete overcast at times but on my northwest heading it was clearing up completely. At this point I descent below the clouds and began to follow the I495 corridor around to maintain clear of the Boston Class Bravo. Since I had to get pretty low to maintain VFR below this scattered/broken layer around 2500-3000 feet I decided to pick my way around the Bravo instead of needing to deviate a lot for clouds. Unfortunately below the deck it was pretty turbulent and at times I was getting beat up pretty hard – definitely moderate. I rolled the prop RPM back to reduce power and fly a few knots slower. Thanks to the low’s passage I also got to enjoy headwinds both ways, ugh!

The route I took picking around clouds and Boston's Class Bravo.

Once passing the western point of the Bravo around Framingham I proceeding on course direct to Nashua with a few sprinkles on the windshield, no factor. Arriving in to Nashua on a left base for Runway 32 I found that the crosswind from about 30 degrees off the runway was quite gusty. On my first approach I didn’t carry enough extra speed and the winds died down considerable as I was flaring leading to a sudden drop and a bounce and a drift in the bounce as I wasn’t fast enough to get the correction out. I decided to cram it and do a go-around, full throttle, flaps to 10, climbing again. Following the advice of my transition training instructor I specifically did not raise the gear for this go-around. The rationale here is that the gear cycle time is long, the time going around the pattern is short, and the likelihood of forgetting the gear while stressed about the conditions that warranted the go-around is high.

The second approach was better. I carried a bit of extra speed. Of course this time the wind picked up as I flared to land and I drifted left a bit. I corrected in time to stop any side load as the wheels touched down but I didn’t make it back to the centerline and landed on the left half of the runway (it’s also normal for a gust to move the wind farther to the right). I need to do some good crosswind practice, these are probably the highest winds I have flown in the Cardinal and the aileron response is different enough to require some training away from what I’m used to for the 172.

The whole trip was 2.4 hours logged. This trip ended up being a great motivation to get my instrument rating. While I was able to make the trip back VFR an instrument rating would have significantly decreased my stress level and need to constantly refresh weather information and forecaster discussions on Saturday. It would also have allowed me to remain at a cruising altitude in smooth air above the clouds on Sunday and would likely have shortened the trip by eliminating the need to find clearer areas. I’ve updated the Jepp database in my 430 and I am doing some background studying so I can launch into instrument training soon.