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Fly-In to Cedar Key

   Almost 30 persons flew in 11 aircraft into Cedar Key on Saturday, June 24, to sight see, eat lunch, and have great conversation. The participants departed Sanford at about 11:00 a.m. with scattered and broken clouds. Alan was first to depart Sanford, because he conducted the preflight before taxiing over to Falcon Flight.

   As usual for this time of the year, the prediction included storms later in the day. But by the time of departure, about 4:00 p.m., a weather system was moving from Georgia southwest down the Florida peninsula. More on the return flight is below.

   Janet and Alan Hoffberg participated with N582SP. Early Saturday, Alan verified the group had not decided to cancel. During the past two years, the weather caused cancellation of the Falcon Flight planned events. So Alan filed IFR flight plans, because he expected a worst case scenario, based upon his experience flying missions for Angel Flight. Interestingly, most of the other aircraft flew VFR with and without flight following, typically "scud-running" to avoid the clouds.

   The flight to Cedar Key went according to plan, with a tail wind of about five knots, according to GPS calculations. During the flight, ATC requested a few course changes for separation and clearance, but nothing unusual. The flight was at 6,000 for most of the distance, which was just above the scattered clouds below and the broken cloud layer above. It provided a smooth ride.

   At the time of landing, there was a 10 knot cross wind on the runway, which later shifted to favor runway 24. Alan closed his flight plan on the ground and informed flight service of the weather conditions on Cedar Key and the vicinity since there were no pilot reports or weather observations available.

   The picture of runway 24 shows historical skid marks indicating poor aircraft control during landing at Cedar Key pretty scary!

   Since all of the paved tie-down spaces were taken by prior arrivals, Alan decided to tie-down on the hard gravel adjacent to the runway. He avoided the soft sand, which began about 10 feet from the runway, by taxiing diagonally off the runway and making a hard left turn until the plane was perpendicular to the runway. Subsequent arrivals did not fare so well, with most aircraft becoming stuck in sand because the pilots failed to take into consideration the condition of the runway shoulder. In each instance, the passengers unloaded from the aircraft and pushed the aircraft onto solid ground after they removed the sand in front of the wheels with their hands or feet.

   Many of the participants took a cab (van) into town, but several walked because the cab, to accommodate the group size, required multiple slow trips because of its limited but comfortable capacity.

  By about 12:30, everyone gathered at the Sea Breeze restaurant on the docks where the group had its reservation. The group had its own dining area overlooking the water. Lunch was great, and Janet and Alan pooled half of each of their lunches which they ate for dinner at home later that evening.

   After walking around town, Janet and Alan walked the scenic 30 minutes back to the airport;  the others eventually arrived by taxi. After discussing the weather with flight service, Alan filed an IFR flight plan back to Sanford. The routing was quite unusual: the flight plan was filed for DIRECT with comments requesting ATC to vector for weather avoidance.

   In discussing this strategy with Flight Service, and later ATC, ATC routed N582SP north of Gainesville, then east to the restricted area, and then southward to LEESE intersection (near Leesburg) with  entry into the ILS RWY 9L approach. This avoided the uncomfortable weather, and limited exposure to sporadic light rain and conditions ranging from overcast to scattered clouds.

   Most of the other pilots decided to scud run. Interestingly, and despite the collaborative discussions, no one except N582SP planned to travel north and avoid the weather, and add about .6 hours to the total time. Janet asked Alan why the others were not planning to go north. Although he did not actually know, he said it was most likely because the others were concerned about total flying cost (because they were using rented aircraft based upon Hobbs time), or certain people had to get back by a specific time. Alan was not concerned about the cost, since he enjoys the flying journey (as well as the destination), especially under conditions such as these. Perhaps more importantly, he did not want to expose the aircraft and its occupants to potential risks associated with scud running.

   Alan spoke with Megan at Falcon Flight on the following Monday to inquire about the other 10 aircraft. Megan confirmed they in fact did the scud run back to Sanford, by flying GPS direct with altitude between 2,500 and 3,500 feet, and manual changes to their courses to avoid the visible weather cells.

   Janet and Alan's flight back was interesting to them, because at 7,000 feet, it kept them busy with weather observation and reporting back actual conditions to ATC, who only had their horizontal radar returns. Because the sky was empty at their general location and altitude, ATC gave them considerable discretion to vary course to avoid unfavorable weather and favor better conditions. Such helped to confirm when they would alter their course to the south.

   Janet dislikes flights longer than 30 minutes, but she said she enjoyed the journey to Cedar Key because she could identify locations on the ground. During the return flight, Janet fell asleep for about 30 minutes, and then woke up as they began flying south, through and around scattered clouds with good visibility of the ground. They eventually descended to 5,000 and were switched to Orlando's sector from Jacksonville, and then decended to 3,000 until they reached LEESE intersection. Generally, there was no traffic until they were approximately 10 miles west of Sanford.

    Orlando ATC was very busy, with more than two people trying to talk at the same time. So Alan obtained the Sanford ATIS and waited until ATC had a break in the chatter. After what seemed was a long elapsed period of time, ATC made the invitation to check in, and Alan provided the essential information to obtain the ILS 9L instrument approach, for both practice and maintaining currency.

    After they fueled the aircraft and closed the hangar doors, it was almost 7:00 p.m. Upon arriving home, they reheated and ate their delicious lunch leftovers for dinner.

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Last modified: 01/23/11