Sunday, August 19, 2007

The ALMOST Homer trip from hell ...

We went down to Homer the other day for a day trip. Going down was awesome - CAVU and not a single bump - really, really nice.

The first thing that forebode trouble was that my flaps decided to retract from 40Deg to 0 on final - a huge bang... so I was pretty sure we hit something (after taking out the bird last month I'm paranoid anyway...), so we flew over the threshold with the throttle crammed open and me gingerly rocking the ailerons to see what still worked. I figured out it was the flaps soon enough - it's slipped a notch before (but not the whole 40!). I have a new spring for the latch I think will help. I may have bumped it with my elbow, too.

We made a real nice landing on the pavement which has not been a sure thing lately, but I was wide awake!

We spent the day messing around - took the kids to the beach and then ate at Olives. It was great. Leaving the restaurant, I saw some fog over the inlet so I called FS and hustled to the airport. FS told me that no fog was forecast and then said it would stay over the water if there was any. I dropped the rental car keys in the drop box and while I was walking back to the plane Homer went from CAVU to 100VV - hopelessly zeroed out. You couldn't see the runway from transient. The fog blew in like cotton candy rolling over the treetops. I've never seen anything like it. I called Homer FSS and they said it would likely blow over (which seemed unlikely to me) and sure enough it was solid socked in for the next hour or so we waited.

So, we went back the rental car counter where luckily they had not locked the key drop box... no one was around so we unofficially "re-rented" the car. Sweet. A bunch of ERA pax were stranded at the airport so we started calling hotels and finally managed to find a B&B that would take us. The lady was nice but we beat out some other people by just minutes. I felt like we got the last beds in town.

In the morning we got the usual FSS updated forecasts where they call for the fog to burn off in the next couple hours - the same forecast with the time changed out 2 hours every time you call. So we parked at Safeway and went for a short hike to the community gardens and up on Pioneer Ave. The weather was perfectly clear if you stayed above the Sterling hwy - it was just a low fog layer.

When we got back to the car there were a few people standing around... Uh Oh...So, get THIS - the guy that does the body work for the rental car agency had backed into our rental car. Go figure THAT one... One of the guys that was hanging around asking questions (and didn't seem to have any legitimate involvement) turned out to be the owner of the rental car agency who was completely cool - he said I had to go talk to the cops since they'd been called but not to worry about it -- they already had it scheduled into the shop for the body work. Before we knew who he was, Julie had said "Who cares - it' s just rented..." which made him laugh. So I had to go to the police station and now I have a bunch of paperwork to fill out.

After the cop shop we go out to airport - fog all around but the airport and everything to the North is fine. We load up the plane, return the dented car... and the fog comes rolling in again... while we're walking back from the rental car return counter... deja vu all over again. The FSS guy says he'll give me a special but I really can't even see across the runway. I ask him if I can taxi down and look at it. If the wind hadn't been blowing I could have just punched it going N and had a clear shot, but it's over 15 Kts on the tail, gusty, I've never tried that much tailwind on takeoff and the plane is pretty loaded so I can't count on horsing it off if directional control becomes a problem… probably would have been fine if I used the gravel taxiway though.

So I tell the guy I'll take the special and head down to takeoff to the south, towards the fog. We have to wait for some twin on final and meantime the fog is rolling down the RW like a 100 ft wall. The twin touches down and disappears. I told FSS I was going as soon as the twin called clear of the runway, so I was already rolling by the time I got my 'clearance'. Oops. He asked me if I was 'ready to copy' when he gave the special which I thought was pretty funny. Yeah I copied - maintain 1 mi and clear of clouds - better write that down. I cranked it around and went out North. It couldn't have been more than 100 ft thick but I had decided not to climb through it regardless and it was too close to climb over. Although I'm convinced (like everyone else!) that I could easily fly on the gauges.

I checked the GPS later and we took off and made the 180 degree turn in 1000 ft. It was pretty tight. That max performance horn thingy was beeping a lot ;-) I told the guy I was in the clear and he gave me the whole "So I understand you are maintaining VFR in our CL E airspace" thing since I never know what to say... Anyway, after he had me confirm I was VFR he announced that the airport had just gone IFR... he was pretty cool and waited to call it until I was off the ground. As soon as I turned around it was CAVU and I could see 200 miles to the North but by the time we got over the ridge the entire bay was fogged in behind us. The FSS guy was trying to help people get in - telling them he was issuing specials (which he is not allowed to offer without being asked).

Then, an uneventful easy cruise back, again no clouds (other than the entire inlet being fogged in), no bumps, not even any noticeable wind at 8K, sunny and 70F in Palmer and we'd brought back a growler of China Poot Porter from Homer Brewing.... so it all ended well.