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IFR Flight to Washington Dulles International

Flight log 5/22/2011 I am quite a bit behind on my write-ups lately. Work and family life has been beyond crazy lately. I assure you I have been flying 🙂

This weekend’s mission was a visit to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport in Chantilly, Virginia with the Princeton Flying Tigers. Stephen T, his friend Nadeem and I would be flying our Cessna 172sp during this trip. 0TH isn’t the fastest bird in the fleet but she is the best equipped with a moving map MFD an HSI and two-axis Autopilot the only thing we are missing is on-board weather.

The plan:
Stephen T would fly us down and I would fly back. As it turned out the weather was bad for most of the trip so the rest of the group didn’t make it. I had some concern regarding a forecast for CBs (cumulonimbus a.k.a. thunderstorms) in the southern area of our route later in the afternoon but I have come to the conclusion that we better get used to this weather or we would spend a lot of time on the ground. We were all flexible with our return times so it wouldn’t be a big deal to wait out the storms if need be.

Video of both legs:

A busy day for the 172sp!
150TH must have felt like a regional jet this weekend. First she flew from MMU to HYA with another club member the previous day. The pilot was in contact with us during the previous evening just to confirm that we were really going to make our trip. When he got the final word that we were going he filed his IFR flight plan and flew back to Morristown in what I would consider pretty hard IFR conditions. That was really cool of him and will make sure I thank him the next time I see him!

This was my first time flying with Stephen in IMC so I was a little anxious. I knew that he had a good deal of IMC time during his IFR training, but I wasn’t sure how practiced he was at his scan. As it turned out, he did really well. All turns were at standard rate with smooth rollouts to the proper headings with good pitch control. He stayed ahead of the airplane and after a few seconds I felt comfortable enough to sit back and look out the window at the wing. We were soon on top of the overcast layer cruising along in the sunshine that our friends in the Northeast wouldn’t see on this day (operation sunshine complete!)

The flight time was a bit long due to the headwind but the air was smooth and ATC did their best to keep us as direct as possible.

As we approached the Washington area the weather started to look further and further from what was predicted just an hour and a half earlier. Instead of clear skies or even the predicted 5000 foot scattered CBs (predicted after 14:00) we had a solid overcast layer at about 6000 with deteriorating conditions to the south west. This was welcome news to me as I knew something was different, and in this case different was better! Maybe the overcast would stick around just long enough to keep the CB’s from forming? Stephen was vectored for the ILS19 right and than given the visual (we flew the ILS anyway). There is a cool clip in the video of us in formation with an airliner landing on runway 19 center. Stephen flew a great ILS and ended it with a nice landing.

After landing “hiccup”:
The only hiccup of the entire flight was after landing. I made the mistake of trying to “help” with the radios. Looking back, I think it would have been better to let the flying / taxing pilot do the talking. We had a bit of a blow up that sounded just like an old couple arguing over directions. The tension was pretty high until I made fun of the situation using my old couple voices.

Old Lady: “He told you to monitor the tower
Old Man: “Aw screw you Ethel!”
Old lady: “You never listen to directions”
Old Man: “Then why don’t you do the f-ing driving!”

At that point I turned around to our passenger and said:
“Can you tell that we fly together allot?”

We all had a good laugh and most importantly, we learned something.

After landing we instructed the linemen to “fill it to the tabs”. When he came back with “you taking Jet A?” we were… Let’s say a little concerned. We went into the FBO and confirmed that we want to only fill to the tabs with 100LL. They confirmed and soon we were on our way to the museum. The FBO offers a free shuttle to the museum which eliminates the only cost normally charged by the museum (the parking). So for the cost of the landing and facility fees (less than $40.00 total) you get to go to the museum for free! Not that bad.

The museum was awesome but I wish we had more time to take a tour of the entire place. We ended up having lunch and walking around for a hour or so. After that, we went up to the observation deck. What a difference a few hours made! The weather was now clear! Not a cloud in sight. I guess the front moved up from the south quicker than predicted.

We were soon on our way back to the airport. I brought up ForeFlight on my iPhone and checked out the radar. It looked good for the most part but there were a few areas of concern. After a call to flight service I felt much better. The moderate rain showers I was looking at (yellow on the radar) were only rain and weren’t convective in nature, so they wouldn’t pose a threat to our flight. In about 20 minutes we were ready to go… Or so we thought. Stephen went to pay the bill.. 40 gallons! What happened to “fill it to the tabs?

Well you guessed it..
We were FULL and in 150TH with three adults that equals over max gross weight! It wasn’t like we could fly around the pattern a few times to burn off the extra fuel. We were at Washington Dulles not Morristown we were also under the SFRA (restricted airspace). After discussing our options we asked the linemen to call the supervisor. The supervisor (I forget his name) was a really nice guy. He offered to help drain the extra fuel using the sump ports under the wings. I made it a point to make sure this was okay with the airport (we had a member drain fuel without first asking airport management and that got him into a heap of trouble). We worked on it for what must have been an hour and a half. After washing the 100LL off my arms we started up and picked up our clearance in the nick of time.


The flight home is pretty well captured in the video so I won’t spent too much time on it.
I was assigned the Capital 8 Departure. I am used to a departure procedure with… How should I say.. A procedure? Maybe it’s just me. I thought I was missing something. The DP for runway 30 is “Climb heading 301 or as assigned expect vectors to filed / assigned route or depicted fix. Maintain 3000… Okay. That’s it. I was assigned a new heading right after departure (to make room for the fast guy behind me).

Not much to say except according to flight aware I fly straighter than my autopilot. 🙂

My fourth approach in IMC I know that’s nuts. All of my IFR flying and only 4 approaches in IMC? Well it’s taken me this long to get comfortable with flying IMC. It’s a work in progress. The approach went pretty well. I almost overshot the localizer but I salvaged it and flew the approach pretty much on the ball. The landing on the other hand could have been better. I had a crosswind off my left that I didn’t compensate for very well. It was a long day. 🙂

Flight description: Morristown NJ – Washington Dulles International
Aircraft: Cessna 172sp N150th
Pilot: Stephen T (KMMU > KIAD) Mike B (KIAD  > KMMU)
Flight rules: IFR
Weather conditions: IMC / VMC.
Ceiling: MMU departure 600. IAD Landing 6000. Landing MMU 1100
Flight time: 2:00 KMMU to KIAD /1:47 KIAD to KMMU.

Until next time; happy safe flying everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to read about our latest adventure. Please feel free to add your comments below.

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Amanda Michelle (Younkin) Franklin 3/14/1986 – 5/27/2011 Click for information on Amanda