Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dane's Trip to Washington Pt. III

We had a relatively uneventful departure from Boise. We had a fast climb up to FL180, and cruised towards Pasco. The most eventful part of the cruise portion of our flight was changing frequencies from one controller to another (i.e. not exciting). It was kind of cool that We pretty much flew right over the interstate route I take to drive home. It was a nice feeling to know that we were going more that twice the speed of the cars on the freeway.
This is what our flight looked like... pretty uneventful until the end. More on that to come...

When we were about 15 minute outside of Pendleton, ATC had us start descending at Pilot's discretion (as fast or slow as we wanted), so we started preparing for our approach in the Tri-Cities airport. Begin the funniest story of the trip: So there we were, descending on our arrival in Pasco. We were told to switch over to Chinook Approach, and did so. On the other end was a some what older sounding lady. It was obvious that the Tri-Cities area was not busy, and she gave us the weather info at the airport, and asked what we would like to do. We could have just accepted a visual approach (the easy way), but I was in the mood to shoot an approach. Remember the charted approach we flew into Boise? Well, I let the lady on Chinook Approach know we wanted to shoot and approach. She told us it was up to me, since it was so slow... we had a few options to choose from. I chose the RNAV (GPS) Y RWY 21R approach because (to my best recollection) the winds were 210 @ 8 knots... pretty much we would have a perfect 8 knot headwind on approach, which is pretty favorable. The thing I didn't think too hard about was that it would be no big deal to land with an 8 knot crosswind on the runway that was directly in front of us. Choosing the approach that I did would require us to fly to the exact opposite side of the airport, flip around, and then land. How much did this add to our flight? Oh, maybe, say... 25 minutes! Well maybe that doesn't sound like too much to you, but when you consider that the entire flight was only 1:36, the fact that I spent 1/5th of it touring the vast farmlands of eastern Washington is pretty pathetic, especially when I could have simply gone straight in to Runway 30.

This gives you a better idea of my stupidity. See how just before I get to the OR/WA border, I am heading directly toward the airport? Then I veer off to the right... yeah, I took the long way.
This story wouldn't be as funny if Matt and I didn't have to use the restroom so bad! As we are doing our part to contribute to global warming over the farms of Washington, I am thinking to myself "wow, I have to go to the bathroom really bad... why is this taking so long?"
Another funny story teaches all of us a lesson about Air Traffic Controllers. A pilot (and Controller of course) has to know what a controller sees when they are looking at their radar screen.

What ATC sees on their radar screen.

They see little targets, with the name of the airplane, airplane type, altitude, speed and direction. They use all of this information to separate traffic. While we were flying the aforementioned approach, the lady on Chinook Approach gave us some vectors (directions to fly) to keep away from some traffic. She told us to fly some heading like 350. Then, a few minutes later she asked why we weren't on the heading she gave us. This is where it get's tricky for you non-aviators. I explained to the controller that the nose of our plane was pointed in the direction of 350 just like she asked, but we had a direct left crosswind. This caused our plane to be moving over the ground (this is called ground track) in a direction closer to 360 or 010 instead of the direction our nose was pointing. Even I know that controllers only see an aircraft's ground track on their radar screen. We could be flying backwards for all this lady knew... the bottom line is that all this lady could see was our direction and speed over the ground. But as a controller, you have this extremely basic little piece of knowledge that the wind is blowing up where this plane is (she had just given us the weather info for crying out loud) and that that could be affecting them in a variety of ways. Bottom line, I felt like I knew more than this lady. Anyway, Matt and I had a good chuckle that this lady had to even ask us that question.
So, we landed at the airport, made our way over to the Local FBO (Fixed Base Operator, or flight center) to get topped off on fuel and oxygen. While we were waiting, one of the employees, about my age, approached me and asked if we were flying the Twin Star. I responded in the affirmative, to which he replied "I hate to tell you this, but your plane is ugly." What the...? I have no idea who this guy thought he was... after some more conversation, I found out he doesn't even have any pilot licenses and ratings. He is only a mechanic who works and planes and fills them up. Dirtbag... Matt and I spent the rest of the trip trash talking him.
Anyway, we took of from the Tri-Cities and did a quick 5-10 minute VFR flight to Prosser (S40). I was actually surprised that when we tuned into the CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency... this is a frequency assigned to an airport that doesn't have a control tower. All the pilot has to do is self-announce their position in relation to the airport, and keep an eye outside for other traffic) their were two other planes preparing to land at Prosser also. I didn't expect there to be too much action, but I later found out that Prosser actually has a bustling little community airport.

Another funny story was what transpired when we landed. We had a pretty uneventful landing, but when we parked the airplane, we had attracted quite the small crowd of admirers. We had 3 or 4 older men taking pictures with their phones, asking questions and saying things like "thanks for coming to Prosser!" It was pretty awesome to get some positive attention after talking to the jerk in Pasco.

Immediately after arrival into Prosser, letting the engines cool. 

Nice shot mom... walking off the plane.

Pushing the plane into the parking spot.

Using my Boy Scout skills to make sure the plane doesn't go anywhere, with an admirer in the background.

After we got the plane locked and secured, we went to my parents house (sometimes I call it home, at the risk of getting hassled by my wife) and had a delicious dinner made by my dad. Matt already wants to go back for the food. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset and views and took a small tour of Prosser. My parents spoiled us, and made us feel very special and welcome.

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