22 March 1991

A little scare then fast and high!

Almost a week had passed since I left my airplane at North Platte, Nebraska. The mechanics evaluated the engine as thoroughly as possible, and found nothing wrong with it. They postulated that intake icing had developed after flying in very cold clouds for more than an hour. That ice may have melted and evaporated once on the ground. I flew commercial from Middletown to retrieve the airplane. After a thorough preflight, I threw some snacks in the back seat, jumped in, did my run up and launched. Passing through 13,000 feet, even with my headsets on, I heard a loud POP. I thought, "Oh no, at least I've got some altitude."

But the engine continued to run smoothly and climb well. There was no change on any engine gauges. I turned around and looked in the back seat. A bag of chips had exploded because of the pressure difference between the ground and 13,000 feet.

After a sigh of relief I continued at climb to 25,000 feet. I had originally planned an en route stop, but my ground speed was 250 knots. So I decided to go non-stop to Davenport, Iowa. A line of thunderstorms associated with a cold front forced me to divert fifty miles south of course. I found a break in the line, and flew between buildups with almost no turbulence.

After negotiating the line of storms, I turned my attention to navigation. The loran indicated I only had thirty minutes until I got to Davenport. I thought, "That's not possible. I'm nearly 150 miles away." The ground speed readout of the loran indicated 300 knots. I called Kansas City Center to verify my ground speed. They answered, "That's affirmative, Citation 400WB. We show you at 300 knots." (A Citation is a jet, controller humor.)

At that speed, I was already too high for a normal descent to Davenport. On the initial part of the descent, my ground speed hit 327 knots (376 mph). That was and still is my fastest ground speed.

I arrived over the Davenport area still at 6,000 feet. I asked the controller if I could fly a holding pattern until I broke out of the clouds. He said, "Sure, do whatever you want. You should break out of the clouds before you get to 2,400 feet." (That was their minimum vectoring altitude.) I broke out of the clouds at 2,700 feet, directly on top of the airport, and landed into a 35-knot headwind.

No comments:

Post a Comment