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Old 07-04-2018, 06:58 AM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is online now
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 739
Default Summertime IFR in the RV-9A

So the plan was to fly from Savannah, GA, to Cedar Rapids, IA, to visit old (and getting older) friends before change made it impossible. Summer weather in the southeast makes such trips easier to cancel than to actually fly.

Surprisingly, the weather on the first leg was forecast to be pretty good, although I waited for some very low IFR to burn off a bit -- a Gulfstream pilot friend doesn’t fly his single engine plane over ceilings less than 1,000 feet in case the engine quits. I went IFR at 6,000 on the first leg, as that let me climb through the clouds without looking for a big enough hole, and it got me into cooler air.

Although it was early, I got a really good burger at Shifters near D73 in north Georgia. When I told the lady I was flying to Iowa, she asked if I was going to drive down to Atlanta and catch a flight. Oh. As the conversation evolved, she said that she had once flown on a thirty seat plane which she described as a “crop duster.” Ahem.

For the next leg, I filed IFR direct at 8,000. My physiology, for whatever reason, wants oxygen much lower than other folks’, but I was ready, and had everything plugged in and tested before takeoff. As the picture shows, the second leg was not direct in any real sense of the word. At 8,000 feet, I was mostly skimming the tops of the cumulus clouds (bases around 3,500 feet), and could usually see the ground somewhere around me.

When I did go through a cloud, tops at nine or ten, it was a ride, but doable. I would usually turn off the autopilot to get additional experience in hand flying. Each bump was a minor upset, and being able to change frequencies while doing that was a minor, a very minor, triumph. The workload was high enough hand-flying the plane that there weren’t very many brain cycles left over for anything else.

On the second leg, there were a few serious storms directly on my route, tops in the mid-forties (really serious storms) so the question was whether to zig around them to the north or to the south. The radar showed a number of measles splotches forming on the southern zig, with great potential for forming an impenetrable line, so I zagged to the north.

On that northern zag, there I went through a few buildups, maybe to ten thou or so, that gave me a >ride<. The workload was high and although the bumps weren’t that bad, the up and downdrafts were beyond my ability to hold altitude within 100 feet.

Then came another cloud, with friskiness that I didn’t see coming, updrafts and downdrafts, bumps being the least of my concerns. It was beyond my ability to keep the plane anywhere near where I wanted it to be, so I turned on the autopilot. To my surprise, the Garmin G3X autopilot did an excellent, incredible, unbelievably good job of holding altitude and, at one point, recovering seemingly immediately from a gust-induced 30 degree bank. (Having given credit were credit is due, there are other things that the autopilot doesn’t do nearly as well as I can do hand-flying, annoyances that I think would be easy to fix. Then again, talk is cheap…)

And when time finally came to descend to the airport, IFR made it easy as I didn’t have to find a big enough hole.

So what’s the takeaway, at least for me:
• IFR in cumulus clouds of any size can be challenging;
• The autopilot is a go/no-go item for me, even though I will not attempt a flight that I think I can’t hand-fly;
• Even the seemingly large deviations added little flight time. And the least fuel reserve I had on any leg was two hours;
• Don’t fly IFR around cumulus clouds if you can’t see what you might be going through. On the third leg, I started the diversion maybe 50 miles away, based on what I could see. And a visual picture is worth so much more than uplinked NEXRAD or center advisories on what their radar sees.

Could I have made this trip VFR? Probably, bouncing along in hot, humid weather under the clouds, avoiding rain shafts and ugly looking clouds. And with GPS, it would be relatively easy to find a nearby airport in case I needed to land right away.

As they used to say on TV, be careful out there…

The second leg. Not too bad: (No idea why it won't show the URL for this one... still working on it.)


The third leg, with gusts that I let the autopilot handle:
https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1Q...dkQ9QEIKjAAUAE
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RV-8 (steam gauges), RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual screen G3X with autopilot, GTN 650)
Previously RV-4, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
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Last edited by Ed_Wischmeyer : 07-04-2018 at 08:42 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-04-2018, 01:21 PM
Dugaru's Avatar
Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Richmond VA, USA
Posts: 211
Default This was a really educational description

Thanks for posting. This is exactly the kind of IFR flying I do this time of year, and it doubtless describes some portion of my planned trip to OSH.

My observations:

1. Based on observing pulse oximeters on a number of flights in my buddy's Bonanza, I also seem to need O2 before a lot of other people. No known reason why that would be the case, my doc says it's a very esoteric thing. I have an O2D2 and just let it come on automatically above 5000. O2 is cheap when you convince the scuba shop guy to fill it.

2. The Gulfstream guy's 1,000-foot "flyover" personal minimum makes a lot of sense to me. I've canceled trips before where the departure and destination airports were in the clear, but there was very low IFR in between, for just that reason. But I never applied a minimum to it, which seems like a good idea.

3. It's definitely tough holding altitude in a 9A by hand in any kind of cumulus. Noticeably harder than with my old Warrior. I think RVs derive a lot of their performance from being lightweight, and if you've ever seen a butterfly on a windy day..... My autopilot unexpectedly took a nap on me a while back in healthy cumulus and the workload absolutely skyrocketed. I got it done without drama, and I train to not need it, but I'm with you on a working autopilot being required equipment as a personal minimum.

4. The point you make about deviations is true, and it surprised me when I first started flying IFR. You really can avoid huge swaths of real estate without adding much time to a trip.

5. I agree that staying visual is the key. Intentionally plunging into a cumulus cloud and then blindly stumbling into something worse strikes me as a real nightmare. I'm trying to formulate a good minimum to avoid embedded nastiness. Something like: if there's cumulus precip on NEXRAD within X miles, I need to be able to see it (with lots of blue sky around it), or be VFR and in visual contact with the ground (no doubt experiencing the "bouncing along" scenario).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed_Wischmeyer View Post
So the plan was to fly from Savannah, GA, to Cedar Rapids, IA, to visit old (and getting older) friends before change made it impossible. Summer weather in the southeast makes such trips easier to cancel than to actually fly.

Surprisingly, the weather on the first leg was forecast to be pretty good, although I waited for some very low IFR to burn off a bit -- a Gulfstream pilot friend doesnít fly his single engine plane over ceilings less than 1,000 feet in case the engine quits. I went IFR at 6,000 on the first leg, as that let me climb through the clouds without looking for a big enough hole, and it got me into cooler air.

Although it was early, I got a really good burger at Shifters near D73 in north Georgia. When I told the lady I was flying to Iowa, she asked if I was going to drive down to Atlanta and catch a flight. Oh. As the conversation evolved, she said that she had once flown on a thirty seat plane which she described as a ďcrop duster.Ē Ahem.

For the next leg, I filed IFR direct at 8,000. My physiology, for whatever reason, wants oxygen much lower than other folksí, but I was ready, and had everything plugged in and tested before takeoff. As the picture shows, the second leg was not direct in any real sense of the word. At 8,000 feet, I was mostly skimming the tops of the cumulus clouds (bases around 3,500 feet), and could usually see the ground somewhere around me.

When I did go through a cloud, tops at nine or ten, it was a ride, but doable. I would usually turn off the autopilot to get additional experience in hand flying. Each bump was a minor upset, and being able to change frequencies while doing that was a minor, a very minor, triumph. The workload was high enough hand-flying the plane that there werenít very many brain cycles left over for anything else.

On the second leg, there were a few serious storms directly on my route, tops in the mid-forties (really serious storms) so the question was whether to zig around them to the north or to the south. The radar showed a number of measles splotches forming on the southern zig, with great potential for forming an impenetrable line, so I zagged to the north.

On that northern zag, there I went through a few buildups, maybe to ten thou or so, that gave me a >ride<. The workload was high and although the bumps werenít that bad, the up and downdrafts were beyond my ability to hold altitude within 100 feet.

Then came another cloud, with friskiness that I didnít see coming, updrafts and downdrafts, bumps being the least of my concerns. It was beyond my ability to keep the plane anywhere near where I wanted it to be, so I turned on the autopilot. To my surprise, the Garmin G3X autopilot did an excellent, incredible, unbelievably good job of holding altitude and, at one point, recovering seemingly immediately from a gust-induced 30 degree bank. (Having given credit were credit is due, there are other things that the autopilot doesnít do nearly as well as I can do hand-flying, annoyances that I think would be easy to fix. Then again, talk is cheapÖ)

And when time finally came to descend to the airport, IFR made it easy as I didnít have to find a big enough hole.

So whatís the takeaway, at least for me:
ē IFR in cumulus clouds of any size can be challenging;
ē The autopilot is a go/no-go item for me, even though I will not attempt a flight that I think I canít hand-fly;
ē Even the seemingly large deviations added little flight time. And the least fuel reserve I had on any leg was two hours;
ē Donít fly IFR around cumulus clouds if you canít see what you might be going through. On the third leg, I started the diversion maybe 50 miles away, based on what I could see. And a visual picture is worth so much more than uplinked NEXRAD or center advisories on what there radar sees.

Could I have made this trip VFR? Probably, bouncing along in hot, humid weather under the clouds, avoiding rain shafts and ugly looking clouds. And with GPS, it would be relatively easy to find a nearby airport in case I needed to land right away.

As they used to say on TV, be careful out thereÖ

The second leg. Not too bad: (No idea why it won't show the URL for this one... still working on it.)


The third leg, with gusts that I let the autopilot handle:
https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1Q...dkQ9QEIKjAAUAE
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  #3  
Old 07-04-2018, 01:49 PM
BobTurner BobTurner is offline
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Livermore, CA
Posts: 5,270
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The usual recommendation used to be to disconnect the autopilot in severe turbulence - the arguement being that George would fight hard to maintain altitude, harder than myself, and might overstress the airframe. Iím not sure if that still applies with modern autopilots, with built in g-limits. I once hit some CAT (we went from level at 10,500í to level at 10,450í seemingly instantaneously) and the Trio did disconnect.
I think of myself as relatively conservative, but I donít follow the Ďno flying on top if ceilings below are less than 1000 ftí rule. If I followed that logic, I would never fly in the dark, either. Or, in the mountains, etc. The risk is not zero, but itís small. So small that it doesnít show up in statistics, where the fatal accident rate in light twins is worse than that for singles (for varied and complicated reasons).
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  #4  
Old 07-06-2018, 12:17 AM
Paul 5r4 Paul 5r4 is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Foley, Al
Posts: 307
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Not IFR but I encountered clear air turbulence south of Birmingham, AL a couple years ago in my 7A. It was already a little choppy and everybody was really complaining about the ride. My seat belts was already cinched really tight. I was hand flying and out of the blue.... literally.... I hit turbulence that was so violent that my headset hit the canopy HARD. I thought it had cracked the canopy!!! Thankfully it had left only a small gouge which had to be polished out when I got home! Another thought I had when it happened was maybe I had had a mid-air collision. Not finding any evidence of a collision, I had to conclude it was CAT. By far the worst ever turbulence I've experienced. I'll leave that flying through cumulus clouds to you more experienced aces!

Regarding autopilots. I have around 1400 hours flight time. Maybe 100 hours ago I installed my Dynon AP in the 7A. I had NO IDEA how hard I had been working flying airplanes. Wouldn't be without one now. I'm VFR only and if I were to end up accidentally in IMC the first thing would be to engage the AP.
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Last edited by Paul 5r4 : 07-06-2018 at 08:24 AM.
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  #5  
Old 07-06-2018, 05:37 AM
flyinhood flyinhood is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: 52F
Posts: 35
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Very good write up. I was just posting my opinion on what a great asset an autopilot can be.

A few months ago I was flying a 90lb rot from Dallas to KC in a bonanza. I got on top at 9,000. The wx beneath me went down to 800 ovc and rain. Than the alternator failed.

I decided to let ATC know that I was going to continue to my class D destination where marginal VFR existed even if the battery was done by then. Told them if they lost comm with me than to assume my battery had died and please track my primary target to my class D destination where I already decided on what runway I was going to land on with no comm. I reasoned that decision was safer than trying to descend from 9k to TUL international with no electricity and having to crank the gear down...oh than I get to rent a car with a 90 lb Rototiller.

Long story short...I'll loudly echo the idea of flyover minimums in single engine IFR...ditto for night.
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Last edited by flyinhood : 07-06-2018 at 06:13 AM.
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  #6  
Old 07-06-2018, 10:57 AM
RV74ME RV74ME is offline
 
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If you do fly thru those puffy cumulus clouds, Iíd at least slow to Va before doing so. Avoid them if you can. Even as airline pilots we try to avoid flying thru them as much as possible...

Also, iím a big believer in personal ifr mins in SE airplanes. 500í and 1 mile vis are mine, and even that makes me just a little uneasy.
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  #7  
Old 07-07-2018, 05:58 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is online now
 
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Location: Savannah, GA
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Default Coming Home Today

It wasn't feasible to fly home to Savannah yesterday because the radar picture of the entire southeast, everywhere south of the Smokies, had a bad case of the measles, numerous red splotches with an occasional red rash between. So the plan was to go to Michigan, have a great visit (accomplished!) and head home relatively early this morning before the thunderstorms in Georgia had their second cup of coffee and got going for the day. Almost worked.

So I left Iowa yesterday and went to Michigan to spend the night with an old friend and twice RV offender, both of his planes gorgeous. I almost felt guilty flying VFR, but the weather was great -- except for a 24 knot headwind at 3,000, negated by a slight tailwind at 7,500. I wanted to get to Michigan before the gliders started launching for their contest, but it was obvious that with the smooth air starting at 5,000 feet and not a cloud in the sky, the gliders weren't going to be doing much.

The first leg home this morning, 90 minutes, was in severe clear over the gorgeous summer midwest. I almost felt guilty being at 6,500 and neglecting the view. But I did.

After a fill-up and a weather briefing enjoyed in the massaging recliner at KFGX, the decision was made to head west around Chattanooga rather that go through near Asheville where mountain obscuration and building storms were not promising.

Heading towards the Chattanooga area, the clouds were building but mostly smooth, not much cumulus. The view ahead was scary, but with the ADS-B, I got the tail number of a Cirrus coming the other way and asked ATC to ask him what the weather was like ahead. VFR was the report. Really? Yup, VFR, smooth, good visibility but really scary looking, with numerous but bogus warning signs that would have turned me around if I were limited to VFR.

Once past that area, I turned the corner towards Savannah was surprised to see that cumulus was building just ahead of me, and there was a big block of yellow that popped up out of nowhere all of a sudden. I managed to get a smooth ride with lots of little diversions around cumulus and pulling the power back before going through those that I had to.

Coming into Covington, GA, ATC couldn't give me an altitude low enough to see under the clouds, so I cancelled in a cloud gap, got low enough for legal cloud separation, and went in VFR, no problem.

After a pleasant stop at the old terminal and then taxiing to the new terminal, I got another weather briefing and was very surprised that there was a thunderstorm building at Savannah. Really? Yup. Much earlier than forecast, apparently these storms had not only had their second cup of coffee, they'd hit the bars early and were out looking for trouble. Lots of minor deviations on the last leg, lots of looking up through the windshield at big old thunderbumpers, lots of concern, but no problems. Hard to think what this leg would have been like forty years ago when I started flying...

Savannah was surrounded by red splotches on the weather display, and I finally got under the clouds so I could see what was going on, to see if I really wanted to continue or land short. ATC had been keeping me at altitude for a plane landing at Statesboro but that plane never showed up on the ADS-B. (I don't think that the ADS-B traffic uplink works at Savannah, even after I've reported it several times. Anybody else know of areas where the ADS-B uplink doesn't work?)

As I was trying to figure out what to do, it didn't help that when I punched the buttons for the uplinked METAR at KSAV, I got the METAR for KSNV next door. Not helpful!

But at 10 miles on final, I could see the runway and the rain over it. Winds were 14 knots with 45 degrees of crosswind, very doable, and on short final, I watched the water plume from a departing airliner trail behind at a 45 degree angle.

What worked? Avoid the cumulus, slow down when you have to go through, have lots of outs and be ready to exploit them. Take all that you can get, but no more than that.
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RV-8 (steam gauges), RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual screen G3X with autopilot, GTN 650)
Previously RV-4, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
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  #8  
Old 07-07-2018, 06:23 PM
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Mark Dickens Mark Dickens is offline
 
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I'll be heading your way on Monday morning and I plan to be wheels up early and on the ground early about two hours later. I plan to land LHW if the winds cooperate. We'll see how that shapes up.

I too have found that I have had to modify my flying habits now that I'm tooling around in the -8 instead of a Bonanza or Cirrus. In those planes, I thought nothing of busting through the cumulus (up to the yellow variety), but I've found that doing that in the -8 just isn't any fun at all, even with the five point harness cinched down. It's time to start flying like I did in the old 172, around and under those puffy clouds. The autopilot is nice, but it doesn't have the oomph that the servos in the larger planes had to successfully control the plane in turbulence. A lot of servo slippage with these Dynon units, so avoidance is the best policy. I'm thinking a lot more defensively than I used to!
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  #9  
Old 07-07-2018, 07:41 PM
YellowJacket RV9 YellowJacket RV9 is offline
 
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Made it all the way from TPA to 40 miles shy of our destination in Raleigh yesterday, before being completely stopped by a line of pink on the radar, and fuel approaching my minimums after numerous deviations on the way. Landed, rented a car, drove the last hour, and made it to dinner with the parents on time. Never worth pushing your luck.

Chris
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  #10  
Old 07-08-2018, 06:48 AM
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Dugaru Dugaru is offline
 
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Location: Richmond VA, USA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RV74ME View Post
Also, iím a big believer in personal ifr mins in SE airplanes. 500í and 1 mile vis are mine, and even that makes me just a little uneasy.
Iím 1000í and 3. Iím also looking for relatively stable or improving weather at the destination.

So my IFR minimums are basically VFR..... . But the older I get, the more I think that single pilot, single engine IFR for me is about going through clouds en route, not 200 feet above the runway, hoping the forecasted worse weather holds off as promised.

I certainly understand and respect different judgments about that sort of thing. And Iím not sure Iím consistent myself. The amount of night flying I do would probably scandalize some people.
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