Monday, June 28, 2010

Sold The Arrow - Looking To Move Up

When we found out last year that a new wee one would be joining our family, I had to wonder if our trusty Arrow would be able to continue to haul us around. I love flying 27D, but I knew that traveling with my soon to be 3 girls would require more room. We had a great trip to Treasure Cay last month and even though we made the trip fine, we were pretty well crammed in even with packing as little as possible. So I decided a while back that if I could sell our Arrow for a fair price and find a larger replacement within our budget, I would try to make it happen.

I settled on looking at Piper Lances for our next plane. They are basically larger, 6 seat versions of the Arrow. They are a bit wider with 2 baggage compartments and many of them have the aft four-place seating configured in the club seating arrangement; the aft four seats face each other.

Well the requirement of selling the Arrow is complete. She has been purchased by a gentleman in Council Bluffs, Iowa who bought her as his first plane just like I had. He is looking forward to making some very cool personal and business trips with 27D as well as completing his instrument rating. During our discussions about the sale of 27D, I agreed to deliver the plane to him at Council Bluffs Airport (KCBF). The new owner agreed to cover the delivery expenses and even though he thanked me for delivering the plane as a favor to him, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to part with her than to have one more cross-country flight together.

As most of you know, this is thunderstorm season so with looking at a 955 NM trip I planned to leave as early as possible in the day and to only have one fuel stop enroute. I got up Saturday morning at 4:30 am and by 6:00 am I was airborne and headed northwest. Shortly after taking off from Craig Filed, I picked up my IFR clearance from JAX Departure. Not a whole lot was going on in the air at 6 am so I was happy to get a clearance "direct" to my fuel stop in Camden located in northwest Tennessee.

Within 30 minutes after departure, I got to see the full moon set and the sun rise. They were beautiful sites to be had. As I watched the wavy layer of fog slip below me I flew in and out of some cloud layers, but for the most part remained in the clear. As I approached Atlanta, I could see a line of thunderstorms forming to the west of Birmingham, Alabama, but they were far enough away not to bother me. I also enjoyed a little shade from an overcast layer for a while. The shadows and sun rays formed by this layer made for some interesting views.

As I flew past Huntsville, Alabama, I noticed the Saturn V rocket display located at the US Space & Rocket Center. I managed to get a picture and noted to myself that we'll have to put Huntsville on our trip list to check it out. About this time I noticed some clouds dead ahead on the horizon showing some vertical development which match some NEXRAD images now indicating on the 496. It appeared to be about 50 miles north of my fuel stop, but moving south. Not knowing if the weather would remain VFR, Memphis Center offered and I accepted an instrument approach into Camden, Benton County Airport (0M4). As I began the approach, the clouds were well above me, but the visibility had been reduced in some precipitation and the humidity. Shortly after departing the FAF inbound, I had the runway in sight, cancelled IFR with Center, and made an uneventful landing on Runway 22. I taxied up to the self serve fuel island and topped off the tanks. I went inside the FBO to use the restroom and to get a drink and by that point the rain I had noticed earlier had arrived over top. It began to pour and I wondered how long I'd have to stay at before it cleared.

Luckily the rained stopped about 15 minutes later. I went back out to the plane to check the XM weather and even though the areas of rain were obviously closer it was pretty well localized and I decided to depart during the break in the showers and start heading for Iowa. I took off and was able to easily maintain VFR while I contacted Memphis Center again to pick up my IFR clearance for the last leg. I was cleared direct, but I asked to keep a westerly heading for a bit while I got around the weather. The controller and I agreed that if I flew about 50 miles to the west before proceeding on course, that should keep me clear of everything and then I would have no other weather across the rest of my route.

I cleared the weather and proceeded on track to Council Bluffs. I watch the farms of our heartland pass below as well as the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The center controllers kept putting out weather advisories for a line of thunderstorms near Springfield, Missouri. I could see them way off on the horizon to my left and was glad that I wouldn't have to worry about that kind of stuff for the rest of my flight. The only forecast weather for Council Bluffs I was keeping my eye on was the increasing and gusty winds.

As I descended for my destination, I quietly thank 27D for treating my family and I so well for the last 2 1/2 years and asked her to do the same for the new owner. We had a smooth last few minutes in the air together and even though the winds were up, my last landing in 27D was nice and easy. Her new owner was eagerly awaiting our arrival on the ramp as I shut down and greeting me with a refreshing bottle of water. If I remember right, his first comment was that she looked even better than the pictures. She drew a few admirers right off the bat and I knew she was going to be left in good hands.

We are in the process of buying our Lance so stay tuned for all the details and pictures.

Apparently they have had a bit of rain lately!!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Promise Kept - Back to Treasure Cay, Bahamas

I promised Abby we'd go back to the Bahamas as soon as her baby sister's passport arrived. I never dreamed I'd be able to make good on that promise so soon. After trading duty weekends with my boss we found ourselves looking for someplace to go for the Memorial Day weekend. It ended up being kind of last minute so we got on to see what was available in Treasure Cay. We found a condo available at the Bahama Beach Club and on Saturday morning we were on our way!
We took off just before 9:00 am and were cleared as filed with our now usual route down to Melbourne then to Freeport and on to Treasure Cay. I could see on the XM weather and visually that a thunderstorm was building down south of Melbourne and moving north so I asked for and received clearance to turn towards Freeport a little early. The new route took us right over the two shuttle launch pads and gave a real good view of the shuttle assembly building. The rest of the flight went great. Mary did really well and her ear muffs now fit her perfect. She did manage to grace us with a poopy diaper enroute. I'll have to remember a Ziploc next time. It's hard to get rid of stinky diaper in the middle of a flight! Abby was great as usual too and we were on the ground in the Bahamas after a 2 hr and 45 min flight. We secured the plane, cleared customs, got a taxi, and were in the condo by 12:30 pm.

We had a great time, but being this was our first vacation type trip with Mary, we had to obviously adjust our routines to her. For the most part she did really well and slept fine. The day would usually start with some Fruit Loops (a vacation treat) and then Abby and I would walk the beach in the mornings looking for shells and enjoying the peaceful serenity of it all. We would make sandwiches for lunch and then we'd all head to the pool together.

After we swam awhile, we'd go get dried off and would cruise around in the golf cart checking out the local homes. Some of the beachfront homes are awesome! These trips were usually pretty good for putting Mary to sleep! We ate at the club's pool grill a few times and usually got dinner to go since Mary would already be asleep. Their food is excellent. They also put on a BBQ buffet one night that was really tasty!

Abby's big accomplishment for this trip was learning to snorkel. It also helped her lose tooth number 6! And yes, the tooth fairy does come to the Bahamas and pays handsomely in Bahamian money! It was very special for me to snorkel with Abby and watch how well she did and how much fun she had. We did manage to get out to South Point and snorkel around some rocks together. We found a lot of pretty reef fish and Abby even saw fish like Dory in Nemo (a Tang).

It was a nice short visit and we left for home on Tuesday. Unfortunately Treasure Cay did not have Avgas this time so we had to make the 15 minute hop to Marsh Harbor to get fuel and clear customs before heading back to the States. This added about and hour to the travel time, but as always the folks were very nice to work with and the facilities were great. Abby took a few pictures on this hop.

The flight to Fort Pierce was uneventful. Had to deviate a few times for build-ups and one thunderstorm over Freeport, but the ride was smooth and comfortable. The CBP officer at Fort Pierce was nice to work with. Abby was excited to have her passport stamped again. After having some lunch at the Airport Tiki and getting some more fuel, we took off for home. More build-ups had us weaving our way home, but an hour and half later we were back in Jacksonville after a fun Memorial Day vacation.

Can someone get me another drink with an umbrella in it !?!?!?!?
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