Sunday, August 5, 2007

Did I Say Headwind? I Meant Tailwind!

I finally spotted the airport (or at least what I hoped was the airport) off the left wing-- thank goodness for GPS and following the little pink line! I knew we didn't have much time if we wanted to make it out of there before the storm blocked our path to Cumberland. I was picking up Husband from Annapolis and we were on our way to Cumberland for a little weekend fun. I had been delayed out of JYO while I waited for a line of storms to clear through, so I knew Husband was already down there waiting for me.

There isn't an AWOS (automated weather observation service) for Annapolis, so I was hoping that the weather I had pulled from the College Park AWOS (a few miles from Annapolis) would be accurate. I entered a left downwind for the runway and got myself lined up. After turning base, and then final, I found myself high and trying to drop altitude fast because I knew runway was only 2600-- the shortest I've ever landed on by about 400 feet. Over the threshhold, still way high, and encountering a few unexpected gusts, I decided to go around. Power up, drag flap out, and I started climbing. There was a stand of trees right off the other end of the runway... so I had to really climb fast. Clearing the trees, I turned for another attempt.

I was still pretty high as I approached short final-- high enough that I decided to do a little forward slip to lose some altitude. To make matters worse, I encountered a few crazy wind gusts (a few minutes later that CTAF advisory noted windshear possible). But I kept coming, and managed to get it just above the runway. I felt my wheels touch, but they didn't grab the ground like I'm used to feeling. Instead, they seemed to skate above the surface. Somehow, I managed to get all of the wheels on the ground. As I skated closer and closer to the end of the runway, I thought... I know I'll be okay, but I really don't want to have one of those "I learned about flying from this" stories to tell after this landing! Thankfully, I managed to slow it down and come to a stop just as I reached the last turn off-- at the very end of the runway. Shaking, and soaking wet with sweat, I taxied to where I saw Husband waving at me. Later, I learned that I had landed with as much as a 6 knot tailwind. Wowsers.

I managed to get myself composed, and we loaded back up to try and make it between the two lines of storms that seemed to be converging over DC in a very short amount of time. With the exception of a very small deviation around a building cell right on the edge of the ADIZ, we didn't see a bit of rain-- and the air was nice and smooth. Strangely enough, my backtracing to Annapolis, and then our more northerly route to Cumberland let us sneak right through all of the bright colors on the radar.

We spent the weekend at an awesome lodge in western Maryland (Savage River Lodge), an early anniversary celebration. What an amazing place. We had our own cabin in the woods-- and even got to bring our dog, Flyer, along for the fun. Saturday was beautiful, and we did a 16 mile bike ride through the Great Allegheny Path (or something like that!). I especially enjoyed the last 7 miles as they were almost entirey downhill! We also played in the river with Flyer, and enjoyed wonderful food on the outside deck. We had so much fun that we didn't think to check the weather until around 8am on Sunday morning. We were a little shocked to find that a warm front was quickly closing in on the area. We had been planning one last hike and brunch before heading to the airport. But, with that kind of mess headed our way, we decided to forego the hike and the brunch, and head home. Luckily, we made it out about 30 minutes before the weather moved into Cumberland. We kept Nexrad up on the MFD (multi-function display) the whole way home. If we kept the map zoomed in tight on the little plane that symbolize us, then it looked great. If we zoomed out, even a little bit, we could see the whole front coming in behind us. But we made it back now worse for the wear... and we learned a few things along the way.

1) Always ask for an airport advisory if you don't have some key piece of information (like weather!) for an airport
2) Always call for an outlook briefing the night before your departure so you know what's coming.
3) Hurrah for XM weather that gives great satellite pictures to help with weather decision making!

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