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XXX Flight: 2011-0605-1 in N37148 (BlueBird) for $193
KCNI - D73 - KMDQ (flying time 2:44)
Flight Notes:
Got to fly Poncho the papillon (see to a foster home near Huntsville, Alabama. Woo hoo! We had a lovely trip -- but, in retrospect, this experience was exactly the reason pilots have two radios aboard, and I wish we had had and even might have canceled the trip otherwise. But, hey, I learned about flying from that. (David Thorburn-Gundlach)

From KCNI (Cherokee County Municipal Airport) 2011-06-05 17:59:34 to D73 (Monroe - Walton County Airport) 2011-06-05 18:43:34 [00:44:11] with 1 day and 0 night landings.
David Thorburn-Gundlach (pilot-L) / Laura Thorburn-Gundlach (copilot) /
Leg Notes:
Had an easy, if hazy, flight over to Monroe, and actually arrived slightly ahead of schedule after having gotten out of Cherokee early. Yay! Didn't make our expected speed, though, and the trend would continue through the day; we were to find that we would generally make only about 85 KIAS in level flight at full throttle. That will be useful information for planning our Boston trip later this month, as will the fact that we burned a measured 7 GPH over the whole trip. (David Thorburn-Gundlach)

From D73 (Monroe - Walton County Airport) 2011-06-05 19:43:22 to KMDQ (Madison County Executive Airport) 2011-06-05 21:43:30 [02:00:08] with 1 day and 0 night landings.
David Thorburn-Gundlach (pilot-L) / Laura Thorburn-Gundlach (copilot) /
Leg Notes:
We made up :-) for our early arrival with a late departure after a few false starts confirming Poncho's pickup at the far end. Then the difficulties began.
First, we had a questionable weather outlook for the trip; still VFR, but with an active storm area to the west of our destination creeping toward us. Not terrible, but at only one radio we didn't have the right equipment to effectively stay informed.
Second, our attempt to open our VFR flight plan in the air was a complete and utter failure; between naivete (calling "Flight Services" as directed during filing on the phone rather than "Macon Radio") and technical difficulties (when we finally *did* get a response, it was entirely garbled), we got nowhere.
Third, thanks to all of that keeping us tuned away from radar services to have heard warnings, plus the hazy and bumpy air requiring full concentration for actual flying and taking away from dead reckoning, plus a north wind pushing us off course as we proceeded, I violated Atlanta's class B airspace at the 125/60 corner near KPDK (see the dip from NW to W on the GPS track). ARRRRGH! How embarrassing (and dangerous, and stupid, and ...). I've gotten to file my first ASRS card :-( This is not my first failure to reach flight services; from now on we're opening on the ground before departure to avoid these problems and, as a bonus, have one less thing to do other than FLY when we're in the air.
So, then, we're finally on our way and not embroiled in airspace adventures, right? Well, yes, but it's still not over. Thanks to my overly helpful nature, I kept trying to do Laura's job for her, when *she* was the one on the radios and the chart. Arrrgh! I finally got to the point where I was just flying, I think, but I need to work on that; imagine what it would have been like with REAL problems to handle. Worse yet, we used more fuel than I had estimated and we were definitely past my comfort zone. Just because I know I plan with 90-120 minutes of fuel as a reserve doesn't mean I need to use it! :-) So this was expected to be a 1:47 flight, but it came in right at 2:00. That's not a problem, but we also had to make the trip almost entirely at full throttle just to maintain a good airspeed (our usual 90, or sometimes not even) rather than pulling back, and that really hurt us. We landed with 45-60 min left, but that's a lot less than I like! We'll definitely take that information into our flight to Boston, too. And whenever that little voice asks "Hey, how is our fuel doing?" we will stop and get some rather than going even just 20 minutes farther.
And why did we press on even for just that last 20 minutes? Because we let ourselves be driven by the weather. Yes, all of the storm activity was on the far side; yes, movement was expected but also slowly; yes, as we were approaching the ceiling was thickening but still high; yes, someone else was flying into a storm but 80 nm away. We didn't want to be stuck there and leave the kids home alone, though, so we really wanted to finish -- and that's never a good position, even if we were by even pessimistic calculation within safety margins.
[As an aside, on Laura's flight on the way home we did check in with FlightWatch for a weather update and, even though everything still looked good, heard frantic reports that where we were going was socked in with thunder and that we were in the middle of lots of storms and oh, gosh, can't we see them on all sides?? We couldn't, but we made a quick turn and stopped over at Rome for an hour -- and watched everything dissipate, which was expected but could not be guaranteed. Yay. We took the wiser, safer alternative, enjoyed a break, and got home in plenty of time, which is exactly the way it should be and positively reinforces a good choice.]
So, then, you might ask, what went right? Well, our flight planning was generally good, we knew where we were going, and we didn't get lost; we *did* have plenty of margin, and so had no actual fuel worries on the trip; we had a successful delivery and sent Poncho on to the good hands of his foster family; we had an efficient turnaround at Madison County; most importantly, we had a great time and a lovely flight together; and, finally, I learned about flying from that. Yay!
(David Thorburn-Gundlach)