Sunday, September 4, 2016

Meeting Emry: Day 3

Plane: Cessna 172
Route: OWD-ALB
Weather - OWD: Clear, 70 degrees, wind 060 degrees at 10 knots gusting to 18
Weather - ALB: Few clouds, 79 degrees, wind 350 degrees at 5 knots

Since arriving at Norwood yesterday afternoon, we've spent nearly every moment (besides sleeping at the hotel overnight) with Gina's brother, his wife, and our new nephew Emry. It's been a great visit with the new family - I cooked dinner and breakfast and we helped them with some projects around the house. They've been a little busy the past couple weeks, after all.

Gina was quite excited to meet her first nephew

I spent some time with the little dude myself

I've also been closely monitoring the weather. By mid-afternoon the forecast was still sufficiently uncertain that I felt the smart decision was to depart this evening. The hurricane's progress has slowed and appears it will remain farther offshore but the TAFs, GFS model, and NWS Forecast Discussions all still indicated a possibility of MVFR conditions by morning.

After looking at the charts and forecasts, I decided Albany was the right destination for tonight's impromptu overnight stop. Any weather moving up the east coast will remain well clear of the area and from there we'll have a clear, straight shot home tomorrow. The unusual easterly winds aloft were an added bonus; the roughly 125 nm flight would only take about an hour so we didn't have to leave for the airport until after dinner.

Our short flight from Boston - Albany Approach was surprisingly busy tonight

After a meal of delicious takeout from The Elephant Walk we said our goodbyes around 4:45 pm and climbed into the car; we'll have to make a return visit soon! It took about 25 minutes to drive back to the airport where I unloaded the rental car, which I was conveniently able to leave with FlightLevel Aviation, and paid the fuel bill. Gina helped load the plane while I did a thorough preflight. We were belted in and I had the propeller turning at 5:35 pm.

The winds were gusty in advance of the incoming weather; I'd noticed the leaves rustling outside all day and kept checking METARs. They were well within the crosswind limits of the airplane but I figured it might be sporty. This would be a good place to note I was happy to have chosen a destination airport with multiple runways! Just before takeoff I reminded Gina things might be bumpy and told her to tighten her seatbelt.

We took off on Runway 10 and, all things considered, the winds weren't even a factor. I did find myself weathervaning with the wind once we cleared the trees but the air was actually very smooth. Turning north as Tower handed us off to Boston Departure, I glanced down and noted our groundspeed in the climb already exceeded anything we saw in cruise on the way here! There may not have been any turbulence but there winds aloft were indeed quite strong.

Downtown Boston was off our right wing shortly after takeoff

We had a great view of the skyline before turning on course

By the time we leveled at 6,500 feet (I wanted to be well clear of the ridges we'd be crossing ahead) our groundspeed was stable at nearly 130 knots. Pretty good for an old 172! Boston handed us off to another Boston controller, who then handed us off to Albany Approach about halfway there. He must have been working multiple sectors because, after the frequency switch, the radio chatter was about as constant and rapid-fire as I've heard in a while.

Level with a rather respectable groundpeed

The controller called out opposite direction traffic ahead of us. ForeFlight and ADS-B helped me spot the one 1,000 feet below and I soon spotted the twin 1,000 feet above with the old Mark II eyeballs. In order to avoid a nearly direct overflight of the highest point in the area, Mt. Greylock, I planned and flew direct North Adams, MA before turning direct Albany; it added less than a mile to the total flight distance. Once clear of the tallest ridge, I was cleared to descend pilot's discretion and began a gradual descent as we crossed into New York.

Passing over Mt. Greylock before beginning our descent

The traffic had significantly calmed during our descent and Albany Approach handed us off to Tower, who told us to enter a right base for Runway 1 and cleared us to land about 8 miles from the field. It was a bit hard to spot while flying directly into the setting sun but I was able to make out the clearing amongst the trees, if not all the details. Descending towards the airport, we were treated to a beautiful golden view of the city and river with the Catskills off towards the horizon.

The golden hour over downtown Albany and the Hudson River

I landed very softly at 6:50 pm and we quickly taxied over to Million Air; everyone was very friendly and helpful in spite of our plane being the least-classiest thing on the ramp by a long shot. For context, as we taxied in, we passed by a custom 727 that serves as luxury horse transport, "Air Horse One." Who knew that was a thing? Thanks, Google! Anyway, a line guy very kindly drove us over to the airline terminal where I picked up our rental car from National.

We checked into the Holiday Inn Express downtown (free on points - one perk of all the travel I do these days!) and headed over to Druthers Brewing Company for tasty brews and an equally tasty evening snack. Then it was back to the hotel to rest in preparation for the long trip home.

It was unfortunate to have to bug out early but we need to get home tomorrow. You can always second-guess decisions with the benefit of hindsight but I'm glad I was proactive in essentially eliminating the get-there-itis risk. Whatever the weather does in Boston in the morning, it won't be a factor in us getting home safelty.

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 1.3 hours
Total Time: 366.4 hours

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