So there was a small weather window this morning to get out of Newport and over to Providence after the cloud lifted and before the winds started to blow too hard for my little Cessna 150. Later in the day the winds will ease but the visibility will be dreadful, then there will be thunderstorms and then the winds will slowly start to build as Hurricane Irene plods its way up the coast this weekend.
I shot into the airport but the cloud was looking pretty low over the field. The automated weather said 1200ft. Well that meant I was OK to 1,000ft and within a mile of the field but I could not set off to Providence in Visual Flight Rules. However this was really my only window to “get out of Dodge”. I dragged the bit out my training I said I would never use on a departure – I would need a “Special VFR clearance”.
I preflighted and fired up and while the engine warmed up I managed to tune the distant weather at Providence and catch part of it. Didn’t sound much better over the field there. I got out onto the runway and lined up and then took off. Thank goodness I practiced strong wind take offs and landings yesterday. As I got to the gap in the trees I was able to predict the puff from the left that would try and spin me on the runway and I held her and climbed out. I bucketed up through the turbulence while trying to tune for Providence Approach. It was hard to hold onto the radio control knobs in the bumps. At 800ft I met some wisps and if I carried on to 1,000ft I was definitely going to be in the bottom of the clouds. I turned an 800ft pattern and kept trying to get my fingers on the tuning for the radio – first to confirm the Providence weather and then to call approach. As I careened along on the downwind I eventually got it:
“Providence Approach – N6141G”
They acknowledged my call sign and I turned for the Class C airspace – definitely scud running at 1000ft with the wisps whipping over the wings.
“Providence Approach – N6141G is a Cessna 150 departed Newport for Providence to land with Lima – request a Special VFR clearance”. I had not called ahead – the local wisdom is that you are usually turned down on the phone but calling when in the air will nearly always get you SVFR from Providence.
Providence came straight back with “No Special VFR required – we are VFR here – set up for left base runway 23 – Squawk 0326”. Well it may be full VFR there now – but sure as heck I was running the bottoms of clouds and quite often in them at 1,000ft. I eased down to 900ft to see my way. Well at least the tapes would show I asked. Out over Prudence Island the clouds dropped astern and I could see all the way to Providence.
“N6141G – you are number 2 for the field behind the Embraer on a 4 mile final.” I started looking for the traffic. It was 20 miles plus visibility to the North and West. As soon as I announced I had the traffic I was switched over to tower.
“Providence Tower – N6141G on a left base for 23”. I was crabbing hard left to allow for the wind sliding me sideways. About a 40 degree crab into what would be 30+ knots of wind. This was just like the day my instructor brought me up to practice for this sort of thing. So I didn’t have any fears – just a need to stay on top of the aircraft, remember that going around was completely OK and valid in these conditions and that a “plant it firmly” landing was called for when over the runway in the correct spot.
“41G cleared to land 23, number 2, with caution for wake turbulence. For your information the previous landing reported moderate turbulence”.
The previous landing was a Boeing 737 – I was going to get thrown all over the sky! I would need a fast approach to punch through it and no flaps to create extra drag – the wind would stop me fast enough. I powered up and steep turned to final and nailed the centerline. I was high but making headway into the wind. I was flying at nearly 100 knots when I would normally be flying this part of the approach at 55. I was bouncing all over the place – but at least the wind was right down the runway. It was a surprisingly normal approach at this point – just fast – but the headwind was slowing me to the “normal” speed over the ground. I got over the runway and flew on down trying to get to the surface. The plane floated and hung in the flow on the surface – making perhaps 25 knots over the ground while flying along at 65 knots. I hung out – maintaining centerline and waited, and waited and waited till it was the right moment and I pulled the power. 41G touched down – the lightest greaser of a landing you could imagine. I actually made the first taxiway.
“41G- where do you want to go?” from Tower. I told them the NW ramp and I was told to “stay with them” and taxi up 34 all the way to the end. As I turned off I was caught with a beam wind. Sometimes from just ahead and sometimes on the quarter. It was a juggle to keep the plane from getting tipped over as I taxied up the runway to the end. I was flipping from the quartering set up, to the wind from ahead setup with each gust.
I pulled into the ramp next to PT Aero. Larry the AP was working on a plane and I opened my window – “Larry – will you be my badge please?” – for my security escort on the ramp. Larry came over to look at the plane. He hadn’t seen it before. A man from the TSA also showed up. There as part of the screening team for the President’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. He checked Larry knew me and turned away.
We then spent the rest of the morning re-arranging the hangar to get as many planes in as possible. The Civil Air Patrol had just left to move to Quonset and CVS Caremark had taken their quarter share of the hangar. Their team was scratching their heads trying to figure how to shoehorn two Citation 10’s into a space that had previously comfortably held two Cessna 172’s.
So for better or worse – N6141G is tucked under the wing of a Gulfstream till Monday in a steel framed, stone and brick ArtDeco hangar at KPVD.