blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trip south: fifth day

It is the trip north again, now; we are stopping at a Holiday Inn in State College (Penn State University town) for the night, on our way home. This was a cloudy day because a cold front is coming through tonight and ahead of it were many clouds producing a 2000ft ceiling over most of the eastern states.

We breakfasted at the sunny Doubletree Hilton restaurant, overlooking the yachts and motorboats docked on the river outside, and said goodbye to our elegant southern mansion, its pillars and covered walkways, as a courtesy van took us to the Tidewater FBO at KEWN airport. Before we set off, the driver was interrupted by a phonecall from his wife who wanted a particular birthday gift from him. "Jesus!" he complained, and then to our amusement told us that his wife was "A Minister" who, he'd thought, ought to be happy with a lobster dinner for her present, but he was obviously in awe of her. He was going to drive her to Greensboro for her birthday treat. Once again, we were also dealt with in a most friendly way at the FBO, but it upset me to see so much right wing election propaganda lying around. Someone must have brought it in on purpose. I spent a while reading a National Rifle Association publication with its repeated excuses for shooting animals and humans dead at will --- and getting away with it scot free, because the law is apparently on their side --- its glorification of the Trump-Pence ticket and vilification of their opposition, then I filed that magazine in an appropriate receptacle in the ladies' room. Hours later, I still felt disturbed by what I'd read and by the fact I'd found this in the pilots' lounge. I gather the partisan nature of the American judiciary stems from the fact that judges in some states are elected by the citizens of whatever municipality, like MPs, the ballot papers showing their politcal allegiance. We'd seen a few posters advertising [so and so] for Judge, in New Bern. Another worrisome feature of western democracy.

New Bern looked good from the air. I managed to snap the roadbridge over the sparkling Neuse and with a backward glance at the town, we headed towards the low-lying thin layer of white cloud. Once over it, of course, we could see no ground features, just the fluff. I said that a game of I-Spy wouldn't be of much use for passing the time and Chris replied, "I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with C." Which was the end of that conversation. We followed the GPS screen, the electronic charts on our laps and the instrument panel, as we flew to the west of Chesapeake Bay. Our first destination was Charlottesville in Virginia (not to be confused with Charlotte NC, Charleston SA, Charleston WV, etc) which lay northwest of Richmond. An air traffic controller eventually gave us a direct heading to KCHO, so that we could bypass the waypoints in a straigher line, thus gaining a few minutes en route time. But then Chris had to do the full RNAV Zulu approach to Rwy 21 which took us 16 miles or so beyond the airport and then back again. Never mind; we avoided an encounter with the steep hillside by that means. We broke out of the cloud at 2000ft ASL, which Chris reported by request to the Tower controller, who would then have to relay the information to Potomac Approach.

No food available on the field, but no matter; yet again, we got a car key and a car and so could drive to the nearest cluster of eateries near a Harris-Teeter grocery store. I had a gigantic five-bean salad at an Italian place, after which I felt decidedly sleepy. Our next leg was to be shorter, but rather unnerving, because we were flying towards a slowly approaching line of "Weather", as the aviation community calls it. We could have aborted the flight at Winchester or Hagerstown that lay beneath our flight-planned route, had the "Weather" become too threatening. Giving it some thought, my pilot decided to complete the planned leg, while on the airways we heard other, more westerly pilots broadcasting requests to deviate around the Weather (i.e. big clouds) they were seeing. Washington Center and then New York Center looked after us, the latter controller repeatedly telling his charges to "take care" as he sent them on their way. He told us that he was "painting some weather" (i.e. seeing radar images of heavy rain) just 20 miles to the west of University Park where we were going to land, so he promised us a vectored approach to ensure we stayed clear of it. They do their best to help. As we descended to intecept the localiser and follow the glideslope down to runway 24, we had three Piedmont jets on our tail. Everyone was making a (vectored) run for University Park! We landed a minute or two before the rain began.

Again, an admirable welcome from the ground staff. We only had to mention that we needed an hotel room for the night when the receptionist was on the phone to the Holiday Inn booking us a room at a corporate rate and ordering the shuttle bus to fetch us there in comfort. In the evening we ate at the next door Outback Steakhouse, one of a a mock-Australian chain with Australian scenes on the walls and Aboriginal paintings decorating the (Blokes' and Sheilas') washrooms ... which isn't the most respectful place for them, IMHO. The food was good, though. We digested it by going for a there-and-back walk along a neatly landscaped road in the damp, lamplit dark, through a residential area beyond the grandiose hotel grounds / carparks with their tinkling water features. This "village" has a regular public bus service.

It would have been nice to see downtown State College again (we were there with George and his astronomical cronies in 2006 or so), but it's raining tonight, we don't have a vehicle, and we are too sleepy to explore further.

Chris says that from an aeronautical point of view, the most interesting occurrence of the day happened at Charlottesville. We had been cleared to taxi to runway 21 for departure, and had started that taxi, when ATC asked whether we would be willing to use Runway 3 instead, even though this would mean taking off downwind. The reason for this was that the only ILS at Charlottesville was to Runway 3, and two jets were coming in that were less equipped than PTN, being unable to fly the RNAV (i.e. GPS) approach to Runway 21, as we had done. We acquiesced, and gained the gratitude of the controller.

Chris dictated that last paragraph.

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