Well, I didn’t get to fly to Atlanta this weekend.
It wasn’t for lack of trying, of course; I actually got up at about 5’15 this morning, took a shower, had breakfast. I’d already packed so I was in the car and headed for Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Island by 6’05. At the airport I checked the weather reports, which come across the internet as METARs and TAFs, which are encoded weather observation and forecast reports, respectively. Things did not look too awful. I called up the weather briefer at Flight Services.
Now, this fellow does not have the authority to tell me I can’t fly to Atlanta VFR (VFR means visual flight rules, meaning I have to stay out of clouds and fly visual approaches to land), unless there’s a center NOTAM (notice to airmen) saying the conditions are too bad. There was no such NOTAM—but there was a recommendation against VFR flight running from about Jacksonville all the way up to Atlanta. Hmm.
The briefer saw a lot of low ceilings in Georgia—I wanted to fly at 6,500 feet to save fuel—and rain, thunderstorms, and the like marching south from the north Atlanta suburbs. He couldn’t tell me not to fly there—but he could sure tell me it wasn’t a very good idea. He closed the briefing by saying I’d be hard pressed not to fly on instruments.
This is fine and dandy except I didn’t get my instrument rating recurrent. So… so I called my friend in Atlanta and told him I wouldn’t be able to make it.
But I’d already rented the airplane for the whole day (and Sunday), so I figured I’d go ahead and fly somewhere. I took off around 7’30. What fun! I headed south toward Wauchula, thinking I’d do some touch ‘n goes there, but there was heavy ultralight traffic around the airport and I decided to leave. Ultralights seem like they’d be great fun, but most of them have no radio and the pilots don’t always pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in the immediate area. I didn’t want to be in their way.
Instead I flew back west, over the Skyway bridge, and up toward St. Petersburg. I flew a few circles over the Stetson Law campus, but I forgot my camera so I couldn’t take any pictures. Then I headed on north up the coast, as far as Anclote Key (where I’ve thought about taking the kayak sometime), and turned back in toward Tampa. It was about nine by that time and as the ground warmed up in the sun I was started to get bumped around a bit by updrafts. Time to head home.
I went east across New Port Richey, to Odessa, flew over the abandoned Tampa Bay Executive airport (the runway and parking area are still there, but given the neighborhood I’ll be surprised if any trace of that airport remains ten years from now), and turned south toward downtown.
I had hoped to fly right near downtown, but there was a lot of traffic in the pattern and I decided to hang out east of the airport and see what was going on. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job; there were three aircraft in the pattern, myself included, but I never got eyes on one of them and eventually decided I must be between two of them. Since I couldn’t see where one was, I broke out of the pattern and went east again to look for the traffic. Once I found it I got back on downwind. I wanted to be well clear of the airplane in front of me so I flew quite a ways north of the field, turned base, and was treated to a great view of all the Channelside construction as I flew up an extend final approach.
And I can now officially say, wow, that Towers at Channelside project is really going to mess up the Peter O. Knight pattern for runway 17. I can’t imagine flying the line I took this morning when there’s a 30-some story building right there in the middle of it. Now I understand why there’ve been such strict height limits in parts of downtown for so long. I’m probably going to go fly again on Sunday; this time I’ll have to actually bring my camera.
It kills me how nice the weather is here today, knowing I cancelled a flight because of weather. So back home I decided to check the current weather observations in Atlanta, since it was right about landing time.
I’m glad I didn’t go. There were no thunderstorm reports, but most local airports were reporting rain and mist. Hartsfield had a ceiling at 700 feet, and the other local airports all had ceilings under 1500. Even further south, around Albany and Talbotton, ceilings were reported between 1900 and 5000 feet—so there’s no way I could have flown at 6500. I really wanted to go visit this weekend (it’s Scanime’s last weekend as a bachelor), and I’ll miss seeing everybody, but safety is important, too. I just have to come up with an excuse to fly up there another time.