After having a record number of cancelations so far this year, we finally had 49Bravo rolling down runway 22 at 7:00am sharp heading for Greenville SC. We lifted off into an overcast sky with bases of about 5000 feet and a temperature of around 32 degrees. As we climbed up to 8000 feet we passed thru the clouds and came out on top into the beautiful morning sun, while climbing thru the clouds we picked up a very small amount of ice. Our flight down to Greenville was close to three hours with a considerable amount of mountain wave action requiring us to obtain a block altitude of 7-9 thousand feet. Major wave action makes it difficult if not impossible to maintain altitude, at one moment you can be in a very strong updraft requiring you to pitch down, then the next moment you can be in a very strong downdraft requiring you to pitch up…. during this time your airspeed can go from very extreme to very slow, even to the point of stall (at one point our ground speed fell below 40 knots)…….. this was all taken care of by having a block altitude were we did not have to maintain 8000, we could rise and fall between 9000 and 7000. The wave action was due to very strong winds coming from the west flowing over the mountain tops, at our altitude the winds were probably 50+ knots. The winds were coming at us from the side and not on our nose so fortunately our headwind component was not that extreme, but due to the winds trying to push us sideways we had to maintain around a 30 degree wind correction angle …..which had us flying sideways across the ground (otherwise we would have been quickly pushed off course) All of this is fairly typical of the type flying we do and we are always well aware of these type conditions (if they exist) before we take off, we do not consider them a danger as long as they are handled properly. Oftentimes strong mountain wave action is accompanied by strong turbulence, but on this flight our turbulence was generally minor. We stayed over the clouds thru most of Virginia and part of North Carolina occasionally going thru some clouds that were rising due to the waves. As we moved along further south the clouds cleared away but the wave action continued. As we looked west to the high mountains of NC we noticed snow still covering the peaks! Nearing Greenville Downtown Airport in SC we were cleared for a visual approach to runway 19, as we got closer we were cleared to land number 2 following another aircraft in front of us. Our total Hobbs time down to Greenville was 3 hours covering 295 nautical miles.
As we walked into Jet Center (FBO) we were greeted with a great big smile by Jacob, our awaiting passenger. We found out that Jacob loves to fly and has a lot of airtime accumulated, but he had never flown in a small airplane such as 49Bravo, so he was really looking forward to this experience. We would be flying Jacob back north to Culpeper VA where another Angel Flight Pilot would continue him on to Teterboro NJ. After spending a little time talking with Jacob and of course a trip to the restroom (Something a Pilot should never walk by without using) we loaded up for our flight to Culpeper.
We departed Greenville SC from runway 19 and climbed up into clear skies. Our clearance had us climb up to a final altitude of 7000 feet after which we decided to request 9000 feet for a little smother air. We were still getting wave action with very slight turbulence with no clouds. As we neared Virginia we could see out in distance the cloud cover that we had been over earlier in the morning and soon we were over a deck of clouds that continued all the way to Culpeper. The wave action did not seem as strong as earlier, but at one point we had to break altitude and request a block of 8-10 thousand. We kept this block until about 40 miles out from Culpeper at which time the controller ask if we would like to begin our descent….. We had the cloud deck below us that now seemed to be a little more dense than before so we answered yes…… if you can clear us to 6000 feet or lower to be beneath the clouds (These clouds still contained a little ice and we did not intend spending any more time in them then needed) The controller responded, no problem, descend at Pilots discretion to 3000 feet and just let him know if we decide to level off any were on the way down. So down we headed , thru the clouds, breaking out at about 5500 feet. We continued to 5000 feet were we leveled off (letting ATC know)…. on the way down, we picked up only a trace of ice. We had been cleared for an RNAV Instrument Approach to runway 4, planning to circle to runway 22 due to the strong gusty winds, but after getting beneath the clouds we were able to proceed visually and at around 10 miles out we canceled our IFR flight plan and continued by entering a downwind for runway 22, announcing to local traffic of our intentions. We made a close-in base to final, landing on 22 with a fairly strong gusting crosswind. We were right on schedule and a little ahead of Jacobs incoming flight for his ride to Teterboro. The weather on the ground at Culpeper was overcast, cold and windy. Our total Flight (Hobbs) time to from Greensboro SC was 2.8 hours covering 329 nautical miles.
As we waited for Brian (Angel Flight Pilot Number 2) to arrive we enjoyed talking with our passenger Jacob. Even though Jacob is dealing with some pretty heavy medical issues, you would never know it by being around him…. he has such a great, positive feeling attitude that just radiates around him, something we could all learn from as we journey through life’s ups and downs. Soon, Brain arrived along with his co-pilot and after our greetings, goodbyes, and a few pictures, we all headed out on our way (Jacob with Brian and his co-pilot to Teterboro NJ, and Captain John and I on our way home….. which by the way was basically only a short hop across the Blue Ridge on about a 20 minute flight)
We departed Culpeper on runway 22 quickly turning towards home (we decided not to file a flight plan due to the short distance, and going visual was not a problem). We climbed up and leveled off at 4500 feet with a pretty good headwind, along with more wave action and a little more turbulence as we crossed over the Blue Ridge. The cloud deck was about 500 feet above us. Once at home base Luray, we crossed over mid-field and entered a downwind for runway 22, keeping it and base to final leg close in, touching down on 22 with slight bit of wind.
After tucking 49Bravo snugly back into her hanger we enjoyed a very nice cup of hot hanger coffee while discussing things of much importance….. we both had really been looking forward to this coffee, the first of the day! Then, after thanking 49Bravo for allowing us to be in the air, we headed off on one of our most dangerous parts of the day….. our drive home!
Our total Flight (Hobbs) time for the day was 6.2 hours covering 663 nautical miles over 3 States. This was Angel Flight Mission Number 422 for Captain John and Angel Flight Mission Number 292 for myself (Nevin). Due to being over a cloud deck much of the day, our following pictures are limited. Thanks so much for following our flights, and if the situation arises, please help us to share the word about Angel Flights!