Van's RV-9A in Aurora

The Big Picture

The Big Picture
Flying! 8/28/2011

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Return from Virginia, or Stuck in Shreveport again

And now a post on the return flight. As I type this I'm stuck in the Hilton in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana. It's raining, and will all day, so I can't even go walking anywhere.

So while I was deleting old browser favorites (sort of like cleaning out the sock drawer), I realized I needed to write up a trip report. What a great way to kill a few minutes! With what looks like a whole day to kill, I'm going to use a lot of words!

As soon as I arrived in Virgnia, I started keeping an eye on the weather to see when a return might be possible. As much as I would like to stay out there for a couple of weeks, I still need to get some work-work done so I can pay for Avgas. I was shooting for returning for the weekend, and the forecast hinted that Sunday might be a good day.

I wasn't paying attention, Friday would have been OK, if windy, but I didn't want to go home that soon anyway. But by Friday evening, the situation was shaping up to be problematic. The weather in Austin would be clear on Saturday morning, and Monday, but lousy every other day in the 10 day forecast. There would be no way, after Friday, of making it home in one day. And it got worse. A slow moving low was forming over south Texas, forecast to grow and cover the entire central US. There was no way to avoid it by flying around to the north.

Saturday morning I woke up and hit the weather pages. It turned out to be clear all the way to east Texas, but was already marginal in Austin. It was either go now and get part way, or be in Virginia for another week. I quickly decided to go, got packed and ready, and Dad drove me to the airport in Culpepper.

My initial plan was to get to southern Arkansas, and I called the number at KLLQ, Monticello, and talked to the manager who was very helpful. Fuel and hotels were available, a car, and he allowed the use of a partially enclosed T hangar.

The wind had been howling for three days, but the plane was in good shape. The control locks all worked as designed. I got fuel, preflighted, paid the tie down tab, and said goodbye to Dad. It took a few tries to start up the cold engine, but it came alive without running the battery down.

There were other people in the pattern so the CTAF was a little busy. I did my warm up and runup, then launched. Climbing out of pattern altitude (1000 ft above the ground), I smelled fuel. This used to happen with full tanks when I first started flying, but I had found the issue and solved it. I hadn't smelled any fuel since then, so this was unusual. I decided to return to the field to see what was going on. I wondered if Dad had seen me return and it turned out he did.

On the ground I found no evidence of the problem, chocked it up to full tanks and the vent lines interacting with airflow at high angles of attack. I departed again and once in a more level attitude there was no more fuel smell. The smell returned at that next fuel stop, but the story was the same, it was only there for the initial steep climb, then went away. I will look at this closely when I get home, I'm betting there is a loose nut on the vent lines somewhere.

My route of flight was KCJR, 8A3, KLLQ. The flight over the mountains was reasonbly smooth at 8500 feet, but a bit nerve wracking. For two hours there are few decent places to put down if needed. But the fan kept turning and then soon the mountains were behind me and I was descending for Livingston Muni, a non-controlled airport. They had fuel, a bathroom, and a computer with internet service, everything a transient pilot needs.

Soon I was on my way again, funky fuel smell problem and all. The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. As I got to Memphis, there was a big fire. From a distance I thought it was clouds, but soon realized it was smoke. It looked to be higher than my 8500 ft so I started to deviate, but I flew over the top with plenty to spare. It was the topic conversation with Memphis Approach and other pilots.

Once past the smoke, it was obviously VFR as far as I could see. I informed Memphis Center that my destination was changing to Minden, LA. I had once run a triathlon there. The sky started to darken approaching Minden, but I could see Shreveport, so I made my final change to Shreveport Downtown. The landing was smooth, and I taxied up Millen Aire. The line guy met me and he quickly found a hangar for the plane.

There were a few people on the ramp and they asked if they could look at the plane. Of course I said yes. They were sponsoring a Boy Scount merit badge event, and I was happy to have one of the boys look at the plane and ask questions. He was just about to get his turn in a 172 they were flying. I hope my plane served as a bit of inspiration for him.

Then I followed the line guy to the other side of the field to the hangar. We had move one plane to get Cav in, but there she was, a nice cozy place to wait out the storm. While we were putting the plane the hangar, one of the locals went up for some practice in his Extra 300. So we got to watch an air show act for free!

Back at the FBO office, the guys called around to find a room for me. The casinos might have been OK, but since it was spring break, they were booked solid. They found a room at the Hilton, which was pricey, but acceptable. I was really happy with the service at Millen Aire, this is an FBO worth supporting.

So here I am sitting in the Hilton. I've been watching the weather all day and it looked like it would just clear enough for a return just as my launch window would close. I would need to be calling tower for departure at 5:30 to make it home to Lakeway before sunset.

This system had started to move, and a rough calculation showed the edge would be very close to DTN by 5:30.

And here the rain is nearly over in Shreveport

Sure enough, right on queue. It had been VFR here in Shreveport for almost 2 hours already, but with marginal and IFR to the east. I was very tempted to go wait at the airport for it to clear and then launch as soon as the METARS showed suitable weather. But it turned out to be a false window. These METARS reveal that there was still bad conditions on the route.