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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leg 1 - Low Down and Dirty

Tuesday November 22nd, the start of a long cross country trip to Phoenix, Arizona for thanksgiving.

I planned an IFR flight from T31 (McKinney, TX) to SWW (Sweetwater, TX), with the route T31 - TTT (Maverick VOR) - ABI (Abilene VOR) direct SWW, with an ETD of 9am.  But the day before, Sally decided that Douglas, our English Springer Spaniel would be happier with one less night in the pokey (the boarding vet), so she decided she would take him there on Tuesday morning instead.  So I had to replan for a 10am take off.

Tuesday morning dawned with overcast skies at 800 feet and occasional light rain - IFR without any doubt.  After loading up Sally, Things 1 and 2 and 70 lbs of baggage, we were well under max gross weight, but toying with the rearmost center of gravity (CG) limit for my 1969 V35A Bonanza.  A quick CG calculation showed we were within limits, but only just.  The Bonanza sat on the ground with a tail low attitude.....

After calling Clearance Delivery on my cell phone, I was given a routing of direct to TTT VOR, then via the 250 radial to the 081 radial for Milsap VOR (MQP), then V66 airway to Abilene VOR (ABI), then direct SWW.  Climb to 3000 ft after take off, on a heading of 320 and contact departure on 124.3.  On the runway and ready to go, the old problem of a jammed push-to-talk switch re-surfaced.  It seems to happen only when damp or actually raining.  I did some quick troubleshooting, and after almost deciding not to take off, I got it to work properly in the isolate intercom mode.  So off we went, climbing into the grey overcast almost immediately.

In the clouds, I engaged the autopilot in heading mode set to 320 degrees, and called departure.  Reaching 3,000 feet, we emerged just above a flat layer of white, with sharp blue skies above.  Regional departure cleared us to 4,000 feet, and asked me to turn left to 260, which we did.  After about 10 or 15 minutes on this westerly course, I was cleared direct to Milsap.  Selecting direct MQP on my Garmin 430W GPS, and engaging GPSS mode on the autopilot, 40D turned slightly left, and we were on our way at 170 kts, cleared to climb to 7,000 feet.

We continued to have radio issues, I could get it to work in "all" or "crew" modes temporarily, then the stick "mic" problem would resurface, annoying all, especially Sally, whose headset would stop working temporarily each time.  But I could always go back to "isolate" mode - all the problems were on the right side of the aircraft.  One more thing to fix at the next annual.......

The low overcast was still under us at Abilene, where the approach controller told me I could have my choice of approaches to SWW.  I chose the GPS 35 approach, selected it on my GPS, and activated the approach via the hold and procedure turn at WOGUG.  SWW was reporting 800 foot overcast, 7 mile visibility and winds from 330 at 8kts.  The amazing Bonanza autopilot with GPSS turned us direct to WOGUG, did the procedure turn with aplomb, and lined up on final approach at 4,000 feet, passing JOTRA I disengaged the altitude hold and flew the glideslope down to 3,400 feet when we popped out of the overcast with runway 35 straight ahead.  A smooth landing on a wet runway was followed by the short taxi to the fuel pump, and the Bonanza got full tanks while the passengers emptied theirs.

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