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Fly High and Fast – Vol. II Chapter 9 – Chicago, IL and Detroit, MI USA – Flying around weather.

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JJ Meehan
The Meehan Family

I have flown though and around a lot of weather in my years of flying.  You might say that weather is like a woman – Unpredictable.  You think you understand what they want and they prove you wrong every time.  You can never know what weather will bring or what punch it will deliver.  You should always plan to fly at least 20 miles around most bad ceils.  Later when I cover my time as a Charter Pilot, I’ll cover the weather in much more detail, including updrafts, downdrafts, icing and turbulence.

In this chapter, I’m going to tell you about two very exciting trips that I made in N8682Q.  N8682Q is a Beechcraft Bonanza Model S-35.  I used it for several trips including the one in Chapter 8 to Michigan and then Niagara Falls, NY.  N8682Q is a very clean and fast plane with a cruise speed of 165 KTS.  The V Tail gives you less drag and more speed.  It also gives you less stability.  When you are flying near, through and around weather, stability is very important.  Speed becomes less important.

I decided to fly back to Detroit, MI USA for my Aunt Jo and Uncle Jack Matson’s 50 Anniversary Party.  When  you are flying around Chicago they will always take you south of Joliet in order to keep you away from O’Hare Traffic.  In addition to the traffic going into Chicago O’Hare, there was a storm over southwestern Michigan which was also causing delays.  Normally Chicago Center will give you weather advisors and also help you avoid the bad areas but on this day they were so busy they did not have time to assist.

The estimated flight time between Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Detroit (Troy Airport), Michigan was 2.2 hours.  N8682Q did not have radar or any other type of weather avoidance capability.   After analyzing the data from Flight Service I decided to plan my route over Pontiac, IL USA with the hope of going south around the worse part of the weather and also traffic into O’Hare.  This added another .3 of an hour to my flight plan.  As it turned out this also gave me the added bonus of being handed off to Indianapolis Approach in eastern Illinois.  Once airborne, I was in smooth air until north of Peoria, IL USA.  Then it became more turbulent and by the time I was over Pontiac I was IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) in clouds.  Shortly after pasting Pontiac, I was handed off to Indianapolis Approach.  They recommended that I fly east from Pontiac to Fort Wayne, IN, USA before trying to head towards Detroit.  This added another .4 hr to my flight plan but it was worth it.  The following picture will give you and idea of the weather.

With the help of Indianapolis Approach I was able to miss the worst part of the storm.  As I approached Ft. Wayne, you could see the front edge of the storm and as I expected, the turbulence increased dramatically.   At one point, my head was bouncing off the ceiling.  This lasted about 10 minutes and then I was in clear air with the front to my left.  I picked up a tail wind and was now cruising at 220 KTS.  This reduced my total flight time by .3 hr.   The following is what I saw and what you would see as you approach the front edge of the storm.  It is really beautiful.

For the rest of my trip it looked like the picture below to my left.

I had just flown though the southern edge of the storm that you see on the left above.  Thanks to the help of Indianapolis Approach I was able to get though the storm safely.    The rest of my flight was very smooth and my return flight on Sunday was very normal.  Based on the tailwind that I picked up at Ft. Wayne, IN, we had a total flight time of 2.5 hrs.

A couple of years later, a friend and fellow pilot, Gene Knoernschild asked me to Fly him into Chicago on a Sunday so that he could catch a plane to Europe.  He was a Director at Rockwell Collins and was going to the Paris Air Show.  He need to be in Decorah, Iowa USA for his son’s graduation from college on Sunday and needed to get from Decorah to O’Hare.  I was more than glad to help.  Again we took 8682Q since it was the only plane available at the time.  I’ve been flying charters into O’Hare Airport for several years and I was not concerned about the traffic.  The O’Hare Tower, Approach and Ground Control are very professional and are use to handling large amounts of traffic.  All approaches are instrument since this allows them to sequence the traffic.  In my case they also had to sequence my speed with the speed of a Boeing 747.  They just ask you to keep your speed up until short final.  Which means about 1/2 mile from the runway.  On this day, my daughter joined us for the flight.  If I remember correctly we landed on 27 right (now Center) and taxied via the Outter to Signature Aviation on the south cargo ramp, reference the red line in the chart to the left.

We paid our landing fee and said Good Bye to Gene and then headed out for the return flight.  It was Sunday afternoon and the traffic was really building up.  The procedure was always the same at O’Hare, you would listen to ATIS (Air Traffic Information System).  Call Clearance Delivery Control to let them know you were ready and your location.  They would give you your clearance and you would then tune in Ground Control and just listen for them to call you for taxi.  After about 4 minutes we were given our taxi clearance to runway 27 Left.  As we approached the runway we tuned in the tower and waited for take off clearance.  Again it was a very short wait – 5 minutes maybe.  Remember that the airlines were lined up for as far as you could see on the taxi way.  I’ve inserted a photo below to show you an example of traffic at a busy airport.   The lead plane on this day was a 747.  When the Captain hear the tower give me take-off clearance he questioned the Controller.  The Controller said it was simple the Big Guy waits and the Little Guy goes.  I’m sure he was sequencing traffic for Chicago Center but it was nice to get out quickly.

On another trip to O’Hare on business, we were in the exact situation and Chicago Center lost their radar capability.  The captain in a 757 suggested that the Tower give us clearance since we would be staying in Chicago Approach Airspace (below 10,000 ft).  The tower agreed but they had to move an 747 off the runway so that we could take off.  The 747 was taxied clear of the runway and we took off.  As I said they have really been helpful to me on many occasions.   We were home in Cedar Rapids before Chicago Center was operational.

On this day we also had to fly through weather south of Rockford, IL USA.  Rockford Approach was helping us and other than a few updrafts and downdrafts we experienced no turbulence.

Please visit my other blogs on Flying at ‘FLY HIGH AND FAST”.


Written by jjmeehan13

January 12, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Flying

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