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!
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.