Sorry I’ve been slow getting the text up on the ground school presentations. My wife Linda and I have been enroute Montreal to Palo Alto in our Bonanza, C-FQRV.
Flying at this time of year and over that route is always a challenge. After cancelling for forecast icing Monday and Tuesday, we departed Wednesday, December 16. As we drove up to Lachute I still wasn’t sure we were leaving – the forecast said the overcast would break up at 11 AM but if it didn’t it would be iffy.
By 11 there were a few breaks and you could see there were two layers. Montreal Departure were very helpful – thanks, J.C.! – when I called and co-ordinated my route and departure requests with them.
We had an arrival time we had to meet for Customs in Saginaw, Michigan (KMBS). The day was planned around a tongue of warm air reaching up from the eastern plains states into the great lakes. The warm air was there, but it was accompanied by a Low Level Jet – 65 knots on the nose – and a weak occluded front which arrived at Saginaw just as we did, bringing rain and turbulence. Even so, our arrival was almost VFR.
Then we flew on to Champaign, IL, where our son Pat teaches at the University of Illinois. The first hour was at 6000 feet between layers, the second solid IMC but temperature plus 4 C. Then the third hour of the two-hour flight (remember the 65 knots on the nose) between layers again and finally clear for our arrival into Champaign (KCMI).
Here is the sunset during hour three.
We stayed with Pat and family for three nights. Saturday we flew to Clayton, NM (KCAO) and stayed in the historic Eklund Hotel.
Sunday morning I knew I would have to re-plan the day because snow was forecast for central New Mexico and Arizona AND the winds over the mountains were going to be 45 knots, which spells turbulence and other hazards. The Eklund’s WIFI wasn’t working, which made me realize how much I depend on the net these days for everything to do with aviation.
But we found WIFI and re-planned a south route through Truth or Consequences, NM (KTCS). The town is named after an ancient TV quiz show, and is in the Rio Grande Valley in the south part of the state. I consider diverting – the wind is 250/22G28, an almost direct crosswind – but the alternatives are not much better. It is one of the most challenging landings I have done in my career. Fortunately, the runway is long, and I can wait in ground effect and touch down only between gusts when I am aligned properly.
Here we are. Somehow it reminded us of Maui. Not the temperature, but the wind and the light.
The next leg to Tucson, AZ (KTUS) was, if anything, more challenging than the one we had just flown. Skies were clear all the way, but that wind over the mountain ridges was still blowing. At top of climb (12,000 feet) we ran into the most powerful mountain wave I have ever experienced. It was glass-smooth but to hold altitude at full power the True Airspeed (at full power) came back and back and back. At the bottom of the drag curve (100 knots) I told the controller I couldn’t hold altitude and was providing my own terrain clearance visually. (Normal TAS at cruise is 160 knots).
She gave us a block from 12,000 to 13,000 feet , which made it a lot easier to fly in wave conditions. Even so, if we had been in IMC I would have had to turn back to the Rio Grande Valley.
An hour later my headset went dead. My own fault – I had forgotten to change the batteries I knew were low. We got that sorted out and were beginning to relax. the descent was very pretty over several low mountain ridges. Then we were cleared to land on runway 29R at Tucson. Something was wrong – the rhythm wasn’t right. The landing gear hadn’t come down. I told the tower our problem and set up for an overflight of the runway. The emergency extension drill involves turning a crank 51 turns counter-clockwise, so the highest priority – flying the airplane – gets even more important. I set the power for level flight at 100 knots with the gear down (20 inches MP) and cranked with my right hand (the crank is behind the front seats) while I flew with my left and kept my eyes outside and on the panel.
The gear did come down and we landed, escorted by fire trucks. The beer tasted really good that night.
The next day we rented a car and drove thirteen hours over two days to Palo Alto, reaching our western home and family in time for Christmas.
The airplane has been repaired (new battery and gear motor) and I fly (commercial) back to Tucson on Tuesday to pick it up.
Happy New Year to you all!