I departed about 11AM Saturday and picked up my clearance in the air over Ellwood City, just to the west of Zelienople. Our Archer which has a 2 axis autopilot with both heading and altitude hold, helpful in the clouds as well. Luckily I was cleared by Pittsburgh Approach as filed so I did not have to worry about deciphering a new clearance route in the air. The cloud bases were about 2000' agl and ATC instructed me to climb to my filed altitude of 6000', I was soon in the murk. Flying in clouds is incredibly different than VFR flying but this was a good day to break the single pilot IFR ice as the clouds were not solid all the way to Sandusky, rather I would be in the clouds for a few minutes,
then out for a minute or two. I'm not sure if it really makes a difference but it was easier on the nerves. The whole trip was rather uneventful as ATC was friendly and easy to deal with. The great part about flying IFR is, well for one, I was able to make the trip at all, but two, I did not have to concern myself with the Class D, C and B airspace that my route took me through.
Just west of Cleveland I was finally out of the clouds and the sky opened to a crystal clear, albeit very windy, day. One I was past Cleveland and about 10 miles away from the Griffing Sandusky Airport (KSKY), I cancelled IFR with the controller and started my position calls on the CTAF. I lined up for a straight in approach the runway 27. The airport is right on the shore of lake Erie with the final approach right over the water. KSKY did not have weather reporting on the airport but Port Clinton AWOS was reporting 15 knots gusting to 22 from the NW. I was a bit surprised how much rudder I needed to keep the airplane aligned with the centerline, but the crosswind technique worked and I managed to touch down and keep the airplane reusable. I taxied to the FBO, along with a
helicopter who had just landed for fuel. In talking with the chopper pilot, she explained she was handling the news coverage of the race.
After paying for the fuel and shuttle service to Cedar Point, the lineman met me at the door with the shuttle van and gave me a lift over the park. After he dropped me off I was able to find Alex, Jill's husband, her friend Christine and my Mom and Dad. We cheered Jill on as she transitioned from the bike race (112 miles...) to her... marathon! Unreal, I was winded just crossing the parking lot.
I hung out with my little nephews under the All3Sports tent (Alex's business) while Jill plugged away on the course. Before we knew it, Jill was coming back in through the "chute" and was joined by her sons, having completed her first
IronMan in 11 hours 26 minutes. Way to go Jill!
After seeing Jill a bit and talking, Dad and Mom gave me a lift back to the airport as it was now getting dark. I wanted to at least do the preflight with a little bit of daylight left. I settled into the
airplane, and the winds had completely died off at this hour. I departed KSKY and picked up my IFR clearance in the air from Cleveland Approach. I climbed to 6,000 (after a brief chat with Cleveland, he "let me know" that if I stayed at 6,000 vs my filed 7,000 I would avoid vectoring), and settled in for a smooth ride on a clear moonlight night. It was one of the more serene rides and the radio was very quiet, so much so, I was able to have get in a few words with the Cleveland Controller letting him know was a great evening it was up there. He said, "much better than sitting in here sir" and we had a laugh. I also was able to witness fireworks going off at a distance that had to have been over 50 miles. I was once again reminded of why I fly.
Cleveland at night