Monday, November 24, 2008

Go South

I'm supposed to take someone to Moose Jaw today. That's (ahem) Moose Jaw Municipal airport. It will be my first time into there as a pilot. It looked yesterday like it would be clear skies and tailwinds, so that's something to be glad of. The customer told me to keep the room (hotel rooms can be scarce in up here), so I packed what I would need for an overnight and put it near the door.

I woke up this morning and as I turned on the light I noticed something that struck me as odd. Over on the hotel desk were two glowing red LEDs. This was odd because the LEDs were on battery chargers for my cellphone and flashlight, and they should have become fully charged overnight, displaying their status with green LEDs. And no, I hadn't made the rookie mistake of plugging my chargers into a switched outlet. I learned that lesson at least a year ago. I got up and started to get ready to go. And then the power went out.

This was the explanation for the lack of battery charging. I got ready in the dark and headed downstairs to meet the client on schedule in the breakfast room. The emergency lighting in the stairs is very poor, with some sections in complete blackness. The power had been much more off than on all night so the batteries in the emergency lights had run flat. There was a little more light in the lobby, because it had lots of windows and, with a trace of snow on the ground, lights from streetlights and buildings with power on the other side of the street reflected in the glass doors. I find my customers and we graze on cold cereal and warm juice. I use the dim flashlight and the low battery cellphone to call flight services to confirm the weather.

The briefer is friendly and we joke a bit, with me admitting I'm in the dark on an almost dead cellphone. I tell him I'm planning Fort Nelson to Moose Jaw at 14Z, and he comes back with, "Well, let's see, got a three point harness?"

"Funny," I tell him. "You can't fool me. There's no convective activity."

"I'm serious," he says. "Low level jetstreams, you've got severe turbulence below 15,000' most of the way." Severe turbulence is, well, severe, not something I want to be flying this airplane in. I write down the information and tell the customers I'll be waiting an hour or so to get PIREPs because the turbulence may be enough to be dangerous to the flight. Meanwhile I go back to the room and look at my charts by daylight from the window. The airlines are flying but not reporting severe turbulence, and considering the wind direction I can fly well east and then due south without lost time. I tell them we're good to go.

I brief on the possible turbulence, secure all the baggage extra thoroughly, and launch into the wind. There is light turbulence as I make a quick one-eighty on course and then it smooths to nothing as I level at cruise altitude. Hmm, cool. I file a PIREP to let others know that life is good, and in no time at all I'm at Rainbow Lake, turning south, and the groundspeed is still increasing. There's a large area of military activity between Cold Lake and Edmonton, so I choose to fly right over Cold Lake. I'm above the control zone but because I'm in proximity to class F restricted airspace and the military controller below is handling high speed jet traffic, I call her and give a position report and my intentions. I don't need her clearance to fly above the control zone but she gives it, and continues to give me clearances as I give her the requested position reports and work my way around the military airspace. It was odd. I was thinking of asking her why, but meh, so long as she's happy.

After Meadow Lake it's a straight shot to Moose Jaw. Flight conditions continue to be smooth. If it weren't for the ground speed topping out at 227 knots I'd never know about the jetstream. As I race south there's a bit of a buildup and I duck underneath. Ah, so that's where the turbulence is. I climb back again and the cloud stays thin enough that I don't have to go back into the bumps. It's ten past the hour, so I pick up new weather. Winds are 22G30 on the ground at the military airport at Moose Jaw. There's no weather report available for the Muni, but it should be very similar.

The rest of the day in tomorrow's posting.


jinksto said...

getting stuck above severe turbulence seems a bit like being stuck above clouds as a VFR only pilot... Life is good so long as you don't try to get to the ground.

Blake said...

hmm.. with such an active military area around Cold Lake, you'd think they would have terminal airspace there.

Just like in Trenton, Ontario. There is the Trenton control zone, then extending approx 25nm on each side is the Trenton MTA.

Sarah said...

Winds are 22G30

Yikes. Sounds like fun... a 80 degree crosswind, Moosejaw Muni's sole runway is 12/30.

The bigger and faster the airplane the less work the x-wind is, but still that's a lot.

Sarah said...

Whoops. I misread 22G30 as implying wind direction of 220. Guess I'll wait for part 2.

Aviatrix said...

But you were almost right anyway. :-)