Sunday, October 7, 2012

Flying to Dulles

I recently flew to Dulles to pick up my spouse and children who were arriving from an international flight. I also arrived early and was able to spend a few hours in the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum. I thought I would write up the trip in the event the experience is helpful to other small aircraft operators who are thinking of flying into KIAD.

Being that I was coming in from Zelienople, I started looking through FlightAware for other cleared routes from the Pittsburgh area that other GA aircraft had used. It seems like ESL VOR and then the ROYIL2 arrival was frequently cleared so I went with that. Once airborne just south of Zeli, I was provided a new clearance from PIT approach to go direct Martinsburg VOR (MRB) then KIAD which was actually less mileage to fly and more straightforward. The weather for the flight was fine, save for the usual bumps over the Appalachians  and soon I was handed off to Potomac approach for the final 15 miles or so. they began vectoring me south and to the east of Dulles once I passed MRB. They told me to expect the visual approach to runway 19L. I setup the nav radios set up for the ILS approach regardless and briefed the plate, just in case (this turned out to be a good idea).

I could see the clouds and rain building as I got closer to Dulles, but I had the airport in sight about 2 miles to my right as they continued to vector me for the visual. Potomac did give me a heads up that they were showing some rather heavy precip just south of my position on their radar, I was seeing it as well thanks to the ADS-B broadcast on my iPad. Pretty much as soon as they said that, I entered a wall of rain and was no longer visual, in fact it felt like being inside a car wash. I told approach I was IFR and they told me to expect the ILS for 19R. At this point I was grateful for my instructors advice to always prepare and set up for the real approach even if approach control says it will be visual.

I got caught in that large yellow blob of rain to the south of KIAD
Approach control began vectoring me west now and soon gave me an intercept angle for the localizer. Here is where I learned a valuable lesson to tuck away for the future. I had not thought about the fact that they had vectored me on to the the ILS far inside the outer marker and much closer in than I am used to. Consequently I was not prepared to just blow right through the localizer needle on the HSI. In fact it went through so quickly, that while I was not intelligently looking at something else at that moment, I did not realize it had happened immediately and I sat there looking at the needle wondering why it was showing the opposite indication that I expected. As it was dawning on me, I got a call from Approach control giving me a vector back on to the localizer. Luckily, he was on his toes, saved my bacon, and I thanked him. As he said "not a problem", I was soon given over to the tower for the final approach.

I was back out of the rain about with about a half mile to go to the runway threshold. The Tower asked that I maintain speed which I complied with. Here was the second unusual thing I had to contend with, crossing the threshold at 130 miles per hour with a strong crosswind, you then have to slow down to  landing speed while skimming above the runway at high speed. In addition, I found myself drifting to the left, rather quickly, toward the terminal. Oh yeah, I need to keep that crosswind crab in while skimming the runway at high speed. Finally, nearing 70 knots, I switched from crab to wing low, and finally made a touchdown (with a bounce or two). I think I could hear the tower guys chuckling.

Luckily, with all of that runway skimming, there was not that much farther to taxi to the FBO. I chose Signature for no other reason than the positive comments on as well as the proximity to the landing runway, 19R. On approaching Signature, I saw the guy in the "Follow Me" golf cart, and, well, I followed him. I was parked between and among a bunch of private jets, and as Emel remarked later, the Archer looked like a little duckling among the eagles.

I had a few hours to spare before meeting Emel and the kids so I bummed a ride from Signature over to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. That place is simply stunning and if you are into aviation at all it is a must see. Here's some photos:

The actual Enola Gay!
F14 Tomcat - where's Maverick?
The F35 JSF - likely the last manned fighter
The ride that made Bob Hoover famous - The NA Rockwell Shrike Commander
Finally it was time to get back and meet Emel and the kids. They arrived and I rode with the Signature shuttle bus over to the main terminal. We spied them waiting on the curb pickup and in no time at all we had them and their bags loaded into the shuttle. Once arriving at Signature they then reloaded their bags on the small van to take us back to the Archer. I had performed careful weight and balance calculations and the bags fit fine into the luggage compartment.

Soon we all were jammed into the Archer and I received my IFR and taxi clearance from clearance delivery and ground respectively to depart runway 30. The taxi to 30 was fairly straightforward, but 30 was also all the way on the other side of the airport. We just kept bumping along and were handed off to at least three ground controllers. At one point we were taxing nose to nose with a Boeing 737 which the controller informed us would be turning out of our way and for us to keep going. Even so, Emel was getting a bit nervous about staring down the large airliner. Soon enough the 7-3 turned left and we were cleared all the way to the threshold. I did a quick run-up and the controller asked if we were ready to go. I informed him that we were and we were immediately cleared for departure and the turn on course once reaching 3,000 feet. The whole Dulles experience really could not have been more straight forward and the controllers were incredibly kind, helpful and accommodating.

The flight home was fine, and Emel snapped this amazing picture that I blogged about earlier

and another great one.

We had to fly through a bit of clouds and it was dark night by the time we landed but all in all the trip was a great flight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Go Felix

October 8th is showtime.