Cedar Key

The idea for today’s flight came from the flight school. Each month, they plan a “fly-out” to a restaurant somewhere about an hour’s flight from F45. I haven’t been flying to any of them this year, because I have been saving my flying money for working on my instrument rating. This month, the school planned to fly to Cedar Key, which is more like two hours away. Since I have been flying with a safety pilot lately, I figured I could use this as one of those flights, and maybe get my last four hours of safety pilot time. Winston agreed to be my safety pilot for this trip, so I signed us up on the list. Unfortunately, we were the only ones who signed up, so the trip was cancelled.

I talked to Winston, and he was still up for it, so we decided to go anyway. I told a couple of my friends in the Cessna 150-152 Club, and they agreed to meet us for lunch. So we had a plan, anyway.

Winston sent me a text message late last night asking if I could pick him up at his house in the morning. He doesn’t live too far from me, so I told him I could. He has been having some minor car trouble lately, so I figured that was the problem. Well, it turned out that he needed me to pick him up because he left his car in a parking lot last night after drinking too much. When I picked him up this morning, it was clear he had the “cocktail flu.” He still wanted to go, so we headed to the airport.

After I pre-flighted the plane, we got in and I started the engine. Then Winston said he didn’t feel too well, and I told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to puke in my plane. I shut down the engine and he jumped out just in time to puke all over the ramp. It didn’t bother me because, like I said, it wasn’t in my plane. In any case, that delayed our departure a little bit since he had to make sure he wasn’t going to puke again, and he needed to retrieve a plastic bag to make sure he didn’t spend the rest of the day cleaning the inside of my plane. Not surprisingly, he started feeling better after that, and we eventually took off.

My flight plan was to try and fly as much of the route as possible on airways, since I needed practice with the VORs (for some reason), and I haven’t done much airway flying yet. As it turns out, it is really difficult to fly airways in Florida. Even though I could pick out an airway route that got us fairly close to Cedar Key, many times the airways were just too far from the VORs to work really well. We climbed up to 6500 feet to see if that was better, and it was a little bit, but there really aren’t enough VORs in the middle of the state to make it work. The VORs in Florida are clustered around the coast, so flying up the coast is possible, but it is not easy up the middle. It was good practice, anyway.

We arrived at Cedar Key around 12:30, even though we had planned on meeting everyone at noon. Judy, that taxi driver, picked us up and took us to the restaurant everyone was waiting at. They had just ordered when we arrived, so we weren’t as late as I feared. We had a good time visiting, even though I had just seen everyone last weekend at the Triple Tree Fly-in. We wandered up and down the two-block “strip” on Cedar Key, and then called Judy for a pick-up back to the airport.

After leaving Cedar Key, we needed gas so we headed over to Dunellion Airport (X35). They have a VOR approach there, so for practice I decided to fly the approach. The approach starts at the Ocala VOR where you do a procedure turn and then follow a radial to X35. Ocala has a control tower, so we called them up to request a transition through their airspace to do the approach. They were not busy at all, so it was approved.

While overflying Ocala, we had one of those odd flying experiences you run into every now and then. As we were approaching the airport, another “plane” called into for a low pass over the airport to “survey” it for landing. We thought that was odd, until the “plane” identified itself as the Goodyear Blimp! It’s registration number was the unbelievably short N2A. It was headed south, so I think this is the one based in Pompano. We were flying at 2500 feet, and it was at 1000 feet, so after we did our procedure turn, we flew directly over it. Of course, I didn’t see it because I had the hood on and was concentrating on flying the approach. Winston saw it, but didn’t have a camera with him, so no pictures.

I flew the rest of the approach (which wasn’t too bad) into Dunellion, and we fueled up the plane. Then when we departed, we heard the blimp calling into Dunellion. I guess the survey wasn’t acceptable at Ocala, so they were trying the next airport. They were on the radio trying to find a phone number for the airport manager so that someone could let their ground crew into the airport. We looked up what was listed on the AirNav web site, but that was the same thing they already had. I hope they found a safe place for the night.

I’m sure the reason they were looking to stop was because there were a lot of storms around Tampa. We found a way to pick through them, but it pretty much meant we weren’t flying the airways home, as planned. Winston used the GPS to give me headings around the storms. Once we were south of Bartow, we could turn more east and away from the storms.

Coming into F45, I flew the new ILS 8R approach. I am starting to get used to it now. It’s really not too different from how it was before, but it is different, and you have to be aware of the changes. I flew a pretty good approach, and when I took off the hood I was lined up with the end of the runway. Always nice when that happens. Here’s today’s track:

At the end of the day, I had flown a total of 4.5 hours, but had three ground stops so I had to subtract 0.9 hours from the total (0.3 x 3), for a loggable total of 3.6 instrument hours. Not quite what I was looking for, but close enough. That brings me to a grand total of 36.7 instrument hours out of the 40 total I need, or 3.3 remaining. I’m pretty much done with the safety pilot flying now, and will pick up the rest of the hours from flying with my instructor.

Which, by the way, is a little more bad news. My instructor, Joel, took a job in Seattle (and left this week), so now I have to find a new instructor to finish off my training and sign me off for the checkride.

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