As I have discussed in prior blog posts, we are slowly but surely moving HoundPilot forward into an organized full fledged non-profit charitable organization. Our LLC and IRS paperwork has been filed and accepted and we are finishing up our state filings which will complete the process. However there is still so much work to be done and Laura and I work on it as time allows after our full time jobs and general life stuff allows. Our goal is to compliment and serve several organizations we already volunteer with and use that work to share aviation with young people providing them with aviation experiences, opportunities to serve and volunteer, and if they wish avenues to flight training.
In order to accomplish these ultimate goals we have had to make some tough decisions. I could be conducting many more hound rescue flights; however in doing so there would be little to no money left to gain the remaining flight training and pilot certificates that will make our ultimate goals for HoundPilot possible. In order to work in the flight training field or offer flight training to young people I must gain my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) pilot certificate. To do so means I must first obtain my commercial pilot certificate and in doing so will add my multi-engine rating in the process of obtaining the required complex aircraft experience. All of this means I am spending thousands of dollars out of my pocket, comparable to several master degrees, which I happily do in hopes of making HoundPilot a reality. Unfortunately it also means that to accomplish this I have been able to conduct a limited number of rescue flight so far in 2018. I have recently consulted with the flight school and we have come up with a plan for me to finish the required certificates. Our hopes are that it can be done by the end of 2018 or soon thereafter. In the meantime we continue to volunteer with hound rescue organizations and seek to provide rescue flights in conjunction with training or personal trips and as stand alone rescue flights when time/money allows. I honestly feel in the long run it will all pay off and HoundPilot will greatly benefit hounds and young people alike; Saving hounds and introducing young people to aviation through volunteerism.
This past week we visited some friends from Raleigh NC who have formed and operated several non-profit organizations in their lifetime and whom recently retired. They offered to share their experiences with us and give us some insights and advice that might help us along in our journey to making HoundPilot a success. In doing so Laura and I were able to make it a 3+ day mini vacation since he had not been able to get away for awhile. It was also my first opportunity to fly the Cirrus SR22 high-performance airplane on a long cross-country trip for which it was designed to complete. As you can see in the video this aircraft is known for state of the art modern design and its avionics and performance prove this true. We left Carroll County Regional Airport around 7 p.m. May 25th landing in Raleigh NC about 1 1/2 hours later. We returned mid morning on May 28th.
After earning my instrument rating in October of 2017 I hadn’t really had a chance to use it to its full potential due to icing concerns Nov-April; during this time of the year even if it isn’t below freezing on the ground, it can be below freezing just a few thousand feet above and any moisture, aka clouds, rain, fog means possible icing on the airplane which is extremely dangerous. I have flown on instruments and on an instrument flight plan, practiced instrument approaches to stay current and proficient, but had not had the chance to get full use of my instrument rating to fly through extensive clouds and descend through them close to the ground in order to land. Doing so is something you smartly work towards as you become more and more capable and confident.
This was my 1st time flying into an airport with active parallel runways and thankfully the weather was clear once we got to our destination; however due to a late start we arrived after dark.
I knew I’d have to be careful and diligently plan the return. Storms were moving into Raleigh, NC RDU but ceilings were 300 feet above ground at home the morning of our return. I analyzed the weather and had a long discussion with the FAA flight briefer. I discussed keeping an eye on the radar near RDU and delaying my departure as long as possible to allow ceilings at home to rise. I had 3 alternates along the way I could divert to as I progressed in case Carroll County Regional Westminster MD DMW ceilings didn’t rise and we discussed the weather at those locations. I also carefully selected an airpot an hour west of DMW that would have clear conditions so I had an out in the worst case scenario and I ensured I would have enough fuel to get there.
Before every flight, even after researching everything on my own, I call an FAA briefer to get their expert opinion and confirm my findings. When you call the 800 briefing number you are routed to one of many locations across the country depending on which location has an available briefer. On the return flight I happened to be connected to a briefer located at the last remaining call center on an airport. The FAA contracts out the briefing duties and most call centers have been consolidated and located off airport.
After we discussed my flight in detail the briefer stated that he was in the last old school FAA type Flight Service Station aka briefing call center located a few hundred feet across a parking lot from where I was sitting and that it would be closing in July to be combined with others in Leesburg VA. He said if I was going to delay my flight a bit I could walk across the parking lot and he would give us a tour.
Dan the briefer was AWESOME. He sat down with us at his desk and explained the entire process they use screen by screen. Very interesting. We are fortunate to have such people to call and consult. His explanation of the process they use along with the data screens and imagery they are looking at was insightful and educational. I will forever have a greater appreciation and perspective when I pick up the phone to call prior to each flight.
After the tour we departed RDU northbound in light rain with bad storms heading into the area from the south. We climbed to 9000 feet through several thousand feet of clouds and flew between several cloud layers. We got to bust through several bumpy cumulus cloud tops and experience mod/heavy rain for a short period! Quite smooth though.
I continuously evaluated the weather along the route and at our destination and alternates while ensuring we had enough fuel to reach them and our location of last resort that had clear conditions. I ultimately decided to try to land at our destination but would only give it one try. If I failed I would go to Frederick MD nearby that was reporting slightly better weather conditions. If I failed to land there I would divert to an airport an hour west that had clear skies. I constantly ensured I had enough fuel to execute this plan.
ATC was great and we did a RNAV GPS LPV approach with precision like minimums to 200 ft above ground. That means it is an approach designed by the FAA that uses high precision GPS equipment in the aircraft to guide me through the clouds and down to the runway threshold where I will be 200 feet above the ground as I cross the beginning of the runway.
Once we climbed to 9000 feet I pulled the power back to 50% and cruised at 135 kts. Doing so meant our flight would take longer allowing time for the clouds at our destination to rise as forecasted. They were forecasted to rise just high enough to land sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 2 p.m. I was counting on earlier than later.
As we neared home DMW the clouds were being reported at 900 above the ground and we broke out 3 miles from the runway though it was not visible until we were 2 miles out.
After a well executed instrument approach the runway was right where it was supposed to be!!!!!!!!
After training and working so hard the past 2 years accomplishing this in real world conditions was extremely fulfilling.
What a rush!
VIDEO TIMELINE: 18 minutes
It was a busy weekend, lots of radio traffic.
Our call sign is 284LM or 4LM for short.
Closing hangar door, taxiing.
The approach plate I will be following landing at Raleigh Durham International RDU.
The controller is vectoring me and tells me the next turn will be onto the final heading towards the runway, but then he comes back and tells me I will pass the runway, localizer, and be vectored back around for spacing due to multiple airline passenger flights landing on the same runway.
Cleared to land at Raleigh Durham International.
When instrument flying you always try to anticipate what is going to happen, what route you will take, what runway you will use, what instrument approach you will use. However, in the end you do what ATC instructs and on this night it was the one approach to the runway I did not think I would be assigned. We land on the main runway used by all of the passenger flights; the close parallel runway was being used for all departing flights.
Once we land we are on the opposite side of the airport than I had anticipated. We are also taxiing after dark due to the late start and all of the lights and signage can be very disorientating; The controller was very helpful and we made our way to the opposite side of the airport through a maze of taxiways.
Pictures of the excellent facilities at this airport.
Taxiing to depart Raleigh Durham International.
Cleared for takeoff.
Initially the controller cleared me to a navigational beacon titled Flat Rock; and then a few moments later directed me to a waypoint to join an airway I had been previously cleared for in my routing; so I confirmed what he wanted me to do; always a wise choice.
Cleared to climb to 9000 ft; we enter the clouds and are in and out of them.
The clouds were too low to land in Carroll County the morning we departed. I analyzed the weather and spoke with a and spoke with an FAA Briefer and decided to wait to depart Raleigh as late as possible, watching the radar and approaching storms. The hope being that if we departed as late as possible and I flew the airplane slower than normal, by the time we reached Maryland the clouds would be high enough to land. I monitored the weather enroute and had several planned airports that I could land at to wait if necessary. I also had an airport and hour west of our destination that I could go to as a last resort that had no clouds and was in the clear.
ATC reports that the severe weather has hit Raleigh.
I get to experience my first moderate to heavy rain inside a cloud. You can see it if you look at the side of the aircraft.
Asked/Request RNAV GPS 34.
Expect direct to FOUST IF Vectors to final.
Descend 5000 to 4000.
Direct FOUST join final approach course.
I make common traffic channel announcements 12 miles from runway.
Left Direct FOUST, descend 2500.
Cleared for the approach.
We break out of the bottom of the clouds 3 miles out but runway is still not visible.
Runway becomes visible 2 miles away.
Beeping is alert that I disengaged the autopilot. 500 feet above ground alert.
Touchdown on Runway 34 Carroll County Regional Airport, Md.
We discuss my amazing pilot abilities.