Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day four hundred

Plane: Cessna 182 RG 
Weather - MGY: Clear, 81 degrees, wind light and variable
Weather - LBE: Scattered clouds, 80 degrees, wind 260 degrees at 8 knots
Weather - MGY: Scattered clouds, 91 degrees, wind light and variable

Today was Father's Day, which meant I had more sway than usual in deciding what to do. What better way to spend some time with the family than a $100 hamburger run? Even better, the increased speed and range of the new plane meant we had many more options to choose from.

Pilot friend Chris and I were talking last week and me a superb recommendation - DeNunzio's in Latrobe, PA. They have an absolutely great spread for brunch every Sunday and today was no exception. It would have taken ~10 hours round trip had we driven all the way there from home. But by plane it's only about 1.5 hours each way.

We arrived at Wright Brothers about 8:55 and got the plane ready. The propeller was providing much-needed airflow in the humid morning air around 9:10. After completing the pre-takeoff checks, I taxied onto Runway 20 and by 9:20 we were pointed eastward, climbing to 7,500 feet.

On our way to Pennsylvania for brunch

Once we leveled off, we let Mariella enjoy the view a bit

Remnants of yesterday's weather moving away to the south 

She was quite happy as usual this morning

The air was cool and smooth and traffic was light so I decided to not call ATC for flight following this morning. Instead, we just cruised along, enjoying the view and relative peace and quiet. Mariella does ok with the earplugs and headset but she does still rip them off from time to time. Thankfully Gina was in the back to tend to her and put them back on.

We skirted the south edge of Pittsburgh's Class B airspace

Crossing the Ohio River near Wheeling

Mariella appears to be fascinated by the view from above

I'd been checking the weather near Latrobe since before takeoff. It was originally IFR/MVFR but forecast to rapidly improve. As we got closer, there were still broken clouds in the area per both nearby AWOS and METARs from ADS-B. I had Gina put Mariella back in her car seat before we started descending.

By the time we were ~30 miles away I really wasn't sure where the clouds has broken up but there were fewer holes below us. I knew we would have clearance under them (and the skies were slowly clearing - we wouldn't be trapped under them later) so I made two 360 degree turns while descending to get through a large open area near Rostraver Airport (FWQ).

We were also near the edge of Pittsburgh's Class Bravo airspace until we descended below 4,000 feet so I made sure to remain just south as we circled down. I saw a few planes in the pattern at Rostraver but we were well above pattern altitude. Once below the clouds, it got more hazy and humid as expected but the ride was good.

Clouds beginning to form as we crossed into Pennsylvania

Below the scattered clouds about 10-15 miles from Latrobe

I turned back east toward Latrobe and within a minute or two it was clear the clouds were much more scattered in that direction. In hindsight, I could have easily flown another 5-10 miles and descended right through the large gaps between them. So it goes sometimes.

Having already listened to the ATIS, I called Palmer Tower about 12 miles out and was cleared to enter a right downwind for Runway 24. I lowered the flaps to 10 degrees (the approach setting in the 182 RG) and reduced power to slow to about 120 knots. It took a while to spot the airport as it was behind a low hill as we approached from the west.

Passing just south of Greenburg, PA

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA

As the airport came into sight, I slowed a bit more and made sure everything was secure. Turning right downwind, I called the tower and was cleared to land. Midfield, gear down, three green. Abeam the numbers, carb heat on, reduce to 1500 RPM, trim for 80.

Turning base I looked over my shoulder I thought I'd overshot final. Continuing the turn, I quickly realized I'd inadvertently looked back at the now-closed Runway 21 that sits just off of Runway 24. That reminded me of when I initially lined up for the wrong runway in Columbus, IN years ago. I immediately corrected by aligning myself back for Runway 24. Over the numbers, I reduced power to idle and landed on both mains then bounced slightly before settling down for the "real" landing. Not my best, but not terrible.

Tower cleared us to taxi to the ramp, where a golf cart was waiting to lead us to parking. I shut down, we all climbed out, and then the line guy asked where we were going. "Brunch," I said. "Do you have a reservation? They're usually sold out." Hmmm. Uh oh?

We had some good daddy-daughter time at DeNunzio's

Thankfully, despite the tables indeed being completely full and 100% reserved, they have some seating in the bar area. A high top isn't ideal for a toddler but we made it work. And the spread was indeed delicious - bacon, eggs, waffles, french toast, breakfast pizza, biscuits and gravy, shrimp scampi, pork chops, stuffed chicken, polenta with sausage, pierogies, and a whole pile of desserts. Plus numerous other things I didn't even mention!

Mariella absolutely downed the shrimp (she's a big fan these days) and we all stuffed our stomachs. Gina and I took turns getting up with Mariella to walk around the airport terminal since she understandably doesn't like to sit still now that she knows how to walk. In total, we were there about two hours by the time I paid the bill.

There were two Blackhawk helicopters on the ramp; their crews were also in the restaurant enjoying brunch. One of the pilots came over and said hi when they were leaving and asked where we were from. Turns out they were out of the ANG unit in Wilmington, DE. In my opinion, Latrobe has to be one of their more delicious training destinations!

I had the FBO add 5 gallons of 100LL while we were eating. We didn't need fuel (we had only consumed ~20 gallons of the 88 on board) but any fuel purchase waived the $10 landing fee. Well, in that case, go right ahead and add a little Avgas.

The sky had been clearing as we ate and the clouds were scattered by the time we departed. We were cleared for takeoff and rolling down Runway 24 at 1:33. As I turned on course as cleared, I found a nice large gap between the clouds and used it to climb direct to 8,500 feet.

Climbing through the scattered clouds after takeoff

Mariella was asleep within minutes

Gina was also pretty tired - she didn't last much longer ;-)

Level at 8,500 feet I could see a couple storm cells far, far ahead. Checking the animated radar via ADS-B I could see they were moving slowly southeast. There was a large gap between both of them so I debated flying slightly south to get ahead of them, then turning west northwest to go between. But I've never really liked the idea of flying in the direction where the weather is headed. Instead, I decided to fly northwest and come around behind the cells.

Storms east of Columbus from about 75 miles away

Checking the radar about 15 minutes after takeoff

Now about 50 miles away from the storm cells

As we got closer, I noticed some of the scattered clouds were continuing to develop vertically in the warm, humid air. I climbed to 10,500 feet to prevent having to fly between them and to maintain better forward visibility. The storm cells continued to grow in intensity, though they remained distinct cells. I started picking up some lightning strikes on the Stormscope, too.

Watching the radar as we flew north around the storms

One big advantage of having ADS-B onboard presented itself this afternoon - being able to see what's behind what you see out the windows. I certainly didn't need radar on my iPad to tell me there were a couple large storms out there to avoid. They're hard to miss. But what it did show were the additional cells developing behind the ones I could see. That let me plan ahead. I knew in advance we'd continue west after we passed the big cell before turning back on course.

A closer view of both cells we were avoiding

About 15 miles away from the largest cell

Passing north of the thunderstorm

The air was completely clear behind the large storm cell

We remained far enough away from the storm that the air remained calm. It was really cool to see how it had cleared out everything in its path - as soon as we passed behind the storm, all the clouds disappeared below. Looking ahead, I could see that additional, smaller cell that we needed to clear before turning back on course to Wright Brothers. I also spotted more scattered clouds rising up to our altitude.

It was hard to tell how far the clouds extended along our route and the METARs ahead were mixed (some said broken clouds) so I figured, once again, it was probably best to descend below them. That meant the final leg of the flight would be much warmer, but I knew we'd have no issues making it home. I initially descended to 6,500 feet but there were still a few clouds and I ended up descending all the way down to 4,500 feet.

Passing north of the smaller storm cell

Passing Ohio State University Airport northwest of Columbus

Mariella remained asleep almost the entire flight home

Other than dealing with more traffic (it's always a fun exercise to try and spot the traffic you see on ADS-B; it always points out more than you ever seem to notice with your own eyes!) and the increased humidity, the rest of the flight was uneventful. Gina was asleep until about when I made my initial radio call as we approached Wright Brothers. At that point, I was descending to 2,000 feet and we were about 5 miles away.

Greene County Airport - they just extended the runway 

I entered the pattern on a 45 for a left downwind to Runway 20. We had the airport to ourselves as I configured for landing and touched down softly (no bounce this time!) just past 3:20. Gina said Mariella woke up just before landing. I was sort of hoping I'd manage to land softly enough that she was still asleep when shut down in front of the hangar... maybe someday!

She wanted to help pack up after we landed

Even with the diversions around the weather the flight home was only about 1:45. We had a wonderful brunch and really took advantage of the 182's speed and range. As Chris mentioned, I'm thinking DeNunzio's may be the perfect meetup location for him, us, and Gary in his beautiful new bird. We're long-overdue for one.

I also hit yet another milestone today. On the way home, I logged my 400th hour. While I clearly haven't always maintained a steady pace filling up the logbook, I'm very happy to be continuing to fill it. Here's to the next 400 - hopefully I get there in under a decade this time!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File 
Today's Flight: 4.0 hours
Total Time: 401.1 hours


  1. Congrats on the 400!

    Glad DeNunzio's worked out for you! I didn't think about reservations when I recommended the place unreservedly, but it sounds like everything worked out well.