30 August 2004:
Yesterday, I attempted to fly to Nantucket, an island off the south east coast of Massachusetts. I expected the hard part to be near the beginning of the flight; but it turned out the difficulty was at the end. We finally reached Nantucket today.-->
Yesterday, I attempted to fly to Nantucket, an island off the south east coast of Massachusetts. I expected the hard part to be near the beginning of the flight; but it turned out the difficulty was at the end.
The plan was to fly with my friend Anne from my home base in Pittsfield, MA, to Lebanon, NH, pick up Peg, another friend, and then to fly on to Nantucket. The anticipated problem was a forecast for scattered rain and thundershowers around Lebanon. Nantucket was forecast clear.
Indeed, the forecast for the first part of the flight was right. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Nantucket was wrong. We ended up spending the night in New Bedford.
(My airplane is a Cessna 172, a single engine, four seat, high wing aircraft.)
As before this week, I took off from Pittsfield into haze with reasonable visibility. A cloud north of Pittsfield scared me a bit, since it looked like a towering cumulus that would turn into a thunderstrom. But it was small and I was easily able to fly by it.
Then it grew darker, the clouds over me closed up, and it began raining. It was not bad; but I wanted to avoid a thunderstorm, which packs violent and gusty winds. So I turned slightly from my course towards lighter areas I knew these would have less rain, and I was right. Once we saw a distant flash to the northwest. It was clear at Lebanon and I landed without trouble, picked up Peg, and flew on to the south. Except for a patch of very slight rain, the first part of the flight was hazy but easy. I wanted to avoid talking on the radio to anyone and carefully angled around Worcester and Boston. For a period, I flew beside Route 128. Then across the New Bedford airport airspace, where I did have to talk with their tower; then to Woods Hole. We could see Cape Cod. The visiblity was better than before. A few clouds spread over Martha's Vinyard, an island just to the west of Nantucket.
But then we saw a fog bank over the ocean. We could not see Nantucket at all. I kept flying above the fog, at 3000 feet (900 m). First I called `Cape Approach', to ask for an IFR let down (an instrument flight plan to descend through clouds to land) but was told to call the `Bridgeport Flight Service Station' for an IFR clearance. So I did, and got one. I kept on flying towards Nantucket. I called Cape Approach every so often, but they did not hear me, or pretended not to. They were very busy, and not gracious I heard another pilot saying `You should not shout at people.' (Normally, Air Traffic Control people are as gracious and helpful as can be, although sometimes they are very busy and cannot do much.) Eventually, Cape Approach answered me and told me that if I activated my flight plan, I would have to hold for an hour.
That was too much for me, so I decided to fly back to Martha's Vinyard, go to the bathroom and refuel. Martha's Vinyard was fogged in. So was Hyanis. So was another airport near the elbow of Cape Cod. So I flew to Falmouth, which is nearer the mainland, and just south of a large air base. That is a very small airport, only open during the day. It is actually a development, with each of the families in it having an airplane and their own hanger. This is not unlike developments around a golf course.
We landed, took care of necessities and purchased fuel. Sunset was coming on and I did not want to stay there overnight; moreover, clouds were coming in. So, I took off from Falmouth, found the clouds lower than I anticipated, and flew happily and low over the water towards New Bedford.
But as I went `around the corner' past Woods Hole, I ran into solid fog. So I turned around and flew back towards Falmouth. I considered going north, just to the east of the airbase, but saw a big hole in the cloud deck above me and flew up through it. The clouds were not very thick. And so I flew over the clouds, with the sun ahead of me, to New Bedford. There I landed. First I checked whether the weather at Nantucket was clearing we could try again. It was not clearing enough. So I decided to stay. Fortunately, Peg has a friend who lives near the airport and she and her son came to use quickly.
Today, I flew out of New Bedford to Nantucket on an instrument flight plan. At takeoff, Nantucket was still fogged in. During the first part of the flight, we went through beautiful clouds. Then, over the water, the air cleared up. In the distance we could see the fog bank over Nantucket. Air traffic control took me a long ways around, for timing, since many other airplanes were also flying in. Then, near the end, the fog drifted away from the airport, although parts still covered some of the island, and I was able to land visually.
On Nantucket, we were met by another friend whose family have lived there since the early 1700s.
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