Weather - OZW: Few clouds, 64 degrees, wind 300 degrees at 7 knots
Weather - 40I: Overcast, 60 degrees, wind 330 degrees at 5 knots
After a couple days in Howell, it was time to head home this afternoon. I'd been tracking the forecast since I flew up and, with each update, the clouds in Ohio were expected to clear later and later. But the weather was still VFR and I knew I'd make it. The trip just required slightly more advance mental planning, which ended up working out great.
My sister dropped me off at Livingston County Airport just past 3:00. I wheeled my bag out to the 172, loaded everything in the baggage compartment, untied the tie-downs, and did a thorough preflight. All checked out so - since I'd topped off the tanks upon arrival - I started the engine and taxied down to the end of Runway 31.
You can definitely observe the changes in cloud cover at 8x actual speed
There were a few other planes inbound and one called a few miles out, planning to land on Runway 13. Traffic had been using 31 and I was sitting at that end, so I made my "taking off on Runway 31" call. He came back on the radio asking what runway was in use, I said the wind was mostly down 31 but I'd be out of there in a minute. In the end, he changed his mind and entered the pattern for 31.
The sky was nearly clear in Michigan so I decided to climb to 4,500 feet, knowing I'd likely have to descend partway home. I knew there was better radar coverage up there, which would facilitate the handoff from Toledo Approach to Indy Center - should I be able to remain high enough, long enough. On the way up at 3,500 feet, Columbus Approach couldn't hand me off to Indy and I had to call Toledo and restart flight following from scratch.
While there were some bumps, the air was smoother than Sunday. I hit some good pockets of rising and cooling air along the way but overall spent far less time correcting my heading and altitude. Visibility was again spectacular, easily 50+ miles for the first half of the flight.
Columbus vectored me east towards Springfield to avoid Dayton's arrivals/departures and C-17s practicing approaches at Wright-Patt. I got a nice view of the behemoths turning in the pattern as I made my way south. Roughly abeam the Air Force base they turned me back on course. Visibility was still fine, probably 20-30 miles, but the clouds had become a solid overcast. And that's why I descended earlier!
A familiar landmark for Dayton locals - Young's Jersey Dairy
I called Stewart in sight a bit over 10 miles out. Approach cut me loose, I squawked VFR, and made my final descent to pattern altitude. There was only a Cub in the pattern as I crossed midfield and turned downwind for Runway 26. The wind was light and I managed one of those awesome 172 landings where I had the yoke all the way back, stall horn blaring, right as the mains touched the grass. Not a bad way to end a trip.
Even factoring in my time on the ground in MI and my drive home, I still saved 45 minutes compared to driving. And there was far less traffic. On a related note, this was another good example of a flight where an instrument rating would've been quite handy. Instead of the mid-flight descent, I could've flown all the way at 8,500 feet to take advantage of a (slightly) better tailwind before descending through the clouds near Dayton. Oh well, it'll happen. In due time.
Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 2.0 hours
Total Time: 316.5 hours