Monday, April 2, 2012

And The Thunderstorms Parted........

I flat out refuse to allow myself to get into a situation where we NEED to get somewhere in the plane when conditions aren't right.  I'll drive, fly commercially, or just delay till the conditions are safe.  We planned to come home on Saturday which left us at least an extra day if needed.  The forecasts for Saturday were perfect for us to get from Treasure Cay (MYAT) to Fort Pierce, FL (KFPR) to clear Customs.  On the other hand, the forecast for home was showing 50% or greater chances of thunderstorms associated with a cold front moving in from the northwest.

If we waited an extra day in Treasure Cay the weather may have been better, but I would have to contend with the remnants of the front and forecasted high winds.  I decided to go ahead and leave Saturday and if need be we would stay the night in Florida somewhere and finish the leg home on Sunday.  I filed my IACO Flight Plan and eAPIS manifest in the morning.  I was a little worried about the eAPIS manifest since the Internet went out the night before.  I can always file my flight plan over the phone or in the air, but I have no other options for the manifest.  Luckily the Internet was back up in the morning and Sydney picked us up at 10:30 am and we were loaded up and wheels up around noon.

When we flew down I had a lot of static on the last frequency with Miami Center.  I thought it was them, but it was me!  I had this happen before in the Arrow as well.  With a certain active frequency dialed into Com 1, and a different one dialed in to the active side of Com 2, that combination causes static on my Com 1.  It is by far not a common event and this time it just so happened when I had 134.2 dialed in to Com 1 and 122.8 dialed in to Com 2.  When we departed Treasure Cay and I turned back to Com 1 to pick up my clearance from Miami Center, the static was still there.  That led me to recall  that previous experience with the Arrow and as soon as I hit the "flip-flop" button on Com 2 and took 122.8 out of the active slot, the static disappeared!

Anyway, we got our usual clearance to Fort Pierce (KFPR) :  ZFP Angee Direct at 8000 feet.  About an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving Treasure Cay, we were shut down on the US Customs & Border Patrol ramp at Fort Pierce (KFPR).  During the flight I kept panning the Garmin 496with XM Weather to check out the conditions at home.  Sure enough a huge thunderstorm was building west of Jacksonville and moving east.  The one thing I did notice was that nothing yet was developing south and there was a huge gap between that cell and the line of thunderstorms behind it.  I told Kristi that instead of having lunch at the Airport Tiki like we usually did, we would make this a quick turn.  Clear Customs, get gas, and get back in the air for the hour and a half flight home.  I figured we could at least get closer to home and still have numerous "outs" along the way like Daytona Beach and St Augustine to stay the night if need be.

With one last check of the radar at the FBO, the weather was cooperating so we launched for home.  We climbed to 11,000 feet to remain well above most of the weather.  We dodged a few build ups here and there, but for the most part we stayed in the clear.  As we progressed north, the huge cell was right over our home airport, KCRG, but moving east at 16 knots.  The gap behind it was still there and holding which was great.  As we flew over Daytona I could pick up the ATIS for KCRG which had now issued as special weather update for thunderstorms and heavy rain.  No worries, we were 30 plus minutes out so things were looking great.

We could see a nice cell building over Palatka to the west as we passed, but we were nowhere near it.   Once we we got handed off to the Jacksonville Approach controllers, they reported that the thunderstorm was now moving offshore and to expect a visual approach at home.  I told them I visually agreed with what their  radar showed and thanked them for the perfect timing!  A few minutes later we touched down on Runway 32 in clear, dry skies.  We unloaded and secured the plane, went to the grocery store and McDonald's, and got home about 15 minutes before the rest of the front and thunderstorms arrived!

Spring Break was unfortunately over, but we had an awesome time.  The storms had parted perfectly for us and we were glad to be home.  The price of the XM Weather subscription, in my opinion, is worth every penny.  I don't use it to to allow me to push the envelope, but to keep us safe and always aware of our outs when needed.  That's the key: ALWAYS LEAVE YOURSELF AN OUT!



    Amen to that. Welcome home!

  2. Geoff, great writeup! I agree with your assessment on XM Weather. I hate paying $60 a month but I'd never even think about flying without it anymore. Your blog is great! You have inspired me to take a trip to the Bahamas at some point.

  3. Thanks Jeff! Flying to the Bahamas is so easy and so rewarding. My main suggestion would be to go sooner than later! Enjoy and let me know if I can be of any help.

  4. Perfect timing! I love it when a plan comes together. I deal with Florida storms every time we fly to Clearwater, so I really understand your thought process and decision making on this one.


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