Today we departed home base Luray at 8:10am heading for Tazewell VA (located in the southwestern mountains of Virginia) Our flight conditions at 8000 feet were clear and smooth with a very slight tail wind component, the outside air temperature was 40 degrees. These conditions continued until we were about 40 miles out from Tazewell, at which point they quickly made an abrupt change….. the winds began to increase considerably from the southeast and the clear skies we had been flying thru now turned to cloud layers consisting of scattered, broken and solid. All of this was of no surprise, our preflight forecast had shown a large low pressure system moving towards Virginia from the southwest with a very impressive counter clockwise flow, and Tazewell would be near its leading edge around the time we would arrive. Prior to departing home base, the winds were already reported gusting to over 30knots at Tazewell while at the same time our wind conditions departing Luray were calm!
We requested and received an RNAV 25 approach into Tazewell to get down thru the clouds. Once on the approach and descending, we broke out of the clouds at around 2500 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) all the while experiencing fairly strong turbulence. With this system the winds at 3000 feet were very intense from the southeast, which had them flowing over the ridgetops and straight across the runway at Tazewell (Tazewell actually sits right on top of a mountain ridge)…. this combination of wind and terrain creates many erratic up and down drafts while at the same time the strong flow is trying to push you sideways, then to top it off, add in the gust factor and you have a perfect scenario to put your crosswind/power control piloting skills to good use …….. and Captain John done just that, bringing 49Bravo down on to runway 25 in a manor that kept us aligned without being pushed off in winds that would make a sailor hide! Captain John many times has commented that he is teaching me all his bad habits, and I quickly respond to that by saying that if you are referring to what I see as unbelievable experience from over 75 years of flying….. then I will gladly absorb them all!
Once we powered down and secured, it was even hard just to open the doors with the gusting wind. As we walked inside the FBO we were greeted by our passenger Alva (Lee) and his friend that had brought him to the airport. Of course one of the main topics of our conversation was the wind, and we reassured Lee and his friend that though the takeoff and climb out would be fairly rough, we had no safety concerns with leaving. We also mentioned that as bad as the conditions seemed to be here at Tazewell, they would quickly improve as we headed away from this system on our way to his destination of Charlottesville VA ….. where winds were being reported at less than 5 knots! We had flown Alva in the past and we felt sure that he valued and trusted our decision, so after our goodbyes to his friend and the FBO manager we loaded up for our flight to Charlottesville.
As we taxied out for departure, wind conditions remained the same (gusting over 30knots straight across the runway) we used runway 7 for departure and Captain John kept 49Bravo pinned to ground right up to the point of liftoff. It was beginning to rain lightly due to the weather system getting closer to Tazewell, but our visibility was plenty good enough to see all the surrounding terrain as we climbed on up receiving our IFR clearance on the way. The ride was rough, just as expected and Alva handled it very well. We continued our climb on up through the layered clouds to 9000 feet with conditions improving slightly on the way. Then, as promised, at a certain point away from Tazewell our flight conditions quickly turned to fairly smooth with only some mountain wave action to deal with. They improved even more as we got closer to Charlottesville with the clouds thinning out allowing us to do a visual approach to 3 at CHO with a reported wind of only 4 knots! We were cleared to land number 2 behind a regional jet…… needless to say, our work load with this approach and landing was considerably less than the one back at Tazewell. Once on the ground and inside we gave our goodbyes to Alva (Lee) and made sure he had his ride coming to pick him up, then we headed out and departed Charlottesville VFR heading for home (which was only about a 20 minute flight over the Blue Ridge)
At home base Luray we made a visual approach and landed on runway 22, the winds at Luray were still very light. After tucking 49Bravo snuggly back into her hanger, we enjoyed not only a nice hot cup of coffee, but also our lunch…. all the while discussing things of much importance. What a Great Day It Was to Fly!…… actually, any day that ends in “y” is a Great Day to Fly!
Our total flight time for todays mission was 4 hours covering 394 nautical miles. This was Angel Fight Mission number 423 for Captain John and Angel Flight Mission number 293 for me (Nevin).
This has certainly been a year thus far for a record number of flight cancellations……. just this month alone we have had a total of seven Missions canceled for various reasons, all of which were beyond our control. Many are multiple leg Missions requiring more than one airplane, and on these, if one pilot drops out it can cancel not only the entire mission for that day, it may also cancel the return flight days later. Others have been canceled by medical appointments being changed or the passenger not being able to go when the time comes. But, as always, we sign up for any mission that we can do and flight plan it from that point on as it being a go, then, go or not we are standing by and ready.
Thanks so much for interest in our flights! Hope you enjoy the following photos….. Have A Great Day!