The next two hours were the most challenging of the entire trip since we left home almost two weeks ago. Here is what we wanted to do:
Weather along all parts of this route was mostly overcast with bases about 2300’ to 1200’ and tops around 6500’. There wasn’t any convection, some areas of visibility 3-4mi in mist. This was not a VFR trip for us with two instrument tickets aboard, however, if I had been solo this late in the day, I probably would have either skipped SAT and headed straight home, or left it on the ground there and called my support crew to come and get me D-> comfy bed. So, we lifted off and were able to climb to about 2400’, contacted approach and got a local IFR into San Antonio. The clouds were pretty dark and there was a little precip in them. Of course, it was bumpy too. We got a climb to 6000’ direct MARCS for the Rodeo 1 arrival. Great, smack dab in the middle of the bumps. Mmmmm… Right in here, we realized that with all of the IFR work that we’ve done in the past few years, neither of us had ever flown a published arrival in actual IMC. Now was as good a time as any. We were all spooled up and in our own back yard. One person flying the airplane with the other working charts, avionics, and radios. It is a very powerful combination that we use on almost all flights. Ask any of the recent wingmen, it is sometimes alarming at how well it works.
After CRISS, fly 295deg, expect vectors for the ILS runway 12R. Okey, dokey. Bumpdy, bumpdy, bumpdy through the clouds we went. Tanya said, “Wow, this San Antonio approach controller is Busy!” He was indeed working hard. “22C, for planning purposes, what will be your final approach speed?” … We hadn’t even been turned for the localizer yet. This was going to be interesting and we were both glad we weren’t thinking about fuel management. We got the turn for the localizer which we intercepted, only to get another turn out to the other side shortly thereafter, then back to the localizer and cleared for the approach. Clearly something wasn’t working out for his spacing. Yes, we’re still hard IMC.
We started down the glideslope. “N4822C, cancel approach clearance, turn heading…, climb maintain 6000’.” Power went in, and around we went. That was another first in the books for us. Tanya was flying this whole sequence since the fuel stop. She got some really great IMC time! I gave her a quick little bit of situational awareness with, “Cool, we’re right back exactly where we started from
.” I could tell that she had settled into the groove with the commitment required to just keep operating as we bounced along. Can you tell that I’m proud of her? I guess the sequencing came out better the second time around as we broke out at about 1300’. “San Antonio tower, 4822C has the field in sight, request a side step to land 12L for parking on the north side.” “4822C, Change runway to 12L, cleared to land 12L.”
We taxied to the new FBO Asertec which has been great to us. Tanya parked it right next to the huge hangar and shut down. Whew, another high five and smiles all around. My first comment was “We’re going to sit here at the FBO for a while before we launch for home.” I didn’t get any arguments. We went in and saw my Ma’ pulling into the parking lot with the reason we were here in the first place. Remember, I said this thing isn’t done until we’re all at home in our own bed? That includes our only child Watson (Beagle hound). In came his waggling tail with his sniffer firmly planted along the ground on the go.
One more leg. The weather still dictates an IFR run home. Clearly this was my leg. I got a local IFR from clearance delivery. With Watson loaded up, “4822C is cleared to the GTU airport via radar vectors, V550, Centex, Direct. Climb maintain 5000 feet. Departure frequency is 127.1. Squawk 1234.” Our new home airport is Breakaway 40XS and doesn’t have any approaches, so our local default is Georgetown just a few miles north. I learned on a previous trip from San Antonio clearance, “22C, I’m unable to input four character destinations, is there someplace else close to that?” So now I just ask for destination GTU when going home IFR.
Off we went, but I really didn’t want to bounce along in the muck at 5k’ all the way home for the 30 minute flight with the dog. Shortly after contacting departure, I asked for a climb to 8k’ which allowed us to pop out the top to smooth air. “22C contact Austin approach on 119.0, gooday.” We checked in and I asked how low he could get us over Breakaway as that would be our final destination. I was very clear about my intentions to shoot the approach into GTU and make the short hop home after cancelling IFR. He could get us down to 2500’ and GTU was reporting 2700’. I usually opt for the sure thing here, but this was high enough to go take a look-see, with the option to continue the planned approach. The approach controller was very happy to give me all the help in the world to make for a happy and successful outcome. “22C, decend maintain 2500’ turn left heading … vectors to put you on a close right downwind for Breakaway.” The sun is getting very low up top at this point and we’re decending through light rain in the darkish gray clouds. My mojo was flowing just fine. Tanya was feeding Watson continuous dog treats for the decent into the bumps. I swear that the controller must have been right there onboard with me, knowing that I fly the airplane from the right side. At about 2650’ Tanya commented “I can see the ground, but we’re still in it” as I’m starting to arrest my decent to 2500. We popped out the bottom of the clouds just below 2600’. The bottoms were smooth, not ragged, with visibility about four miles, no rain. I looked out the window to my right and right off the wing was home. I was on a perfect right downwind midfield. Amazing! “Approach, RV 4822C has the field in sight, we can cancel IFR at this time, Excellent show.” “22C, cancellation received, squawk VFR, frequency change approved, have a good evening.” I changed to CTAF and made my first call. Immediately I heard a friendly voice from good friend and resident, John, “Welcome home 22C, the runway is clear.” We have a deer problem in the evenings, which was the last thing on my mind this time. We have a good team though. Base, final, stopped by midfield.
And there you have it. Shortly thereafter, the final objective was achieved; everybody is happy, healthy, safe, and asleep in their own bed.
A few other return pictures here:
Just for quick reference, I’ve been writing today’s updates with picture processing for more than eight hours solid. Beware if you choose to fully share such an adventure
. I'll now sit back with everybody else and enjoy reading about the rest of Rosie's adventure.