Solo flight to Green Bay this morning. I did my flight plan last night, and check the weather at around 7:00 am. A lot of fog and haze in the Green Bay/Appleton area. The winds were steady from the south, and I would have a good tailwind on the way up. I estimated for the trip up I would average about 130 knots/hour (150 MPH, 241 km/h), and the return trip would be around 100 knots/hour (115 mph, 185 km/h). Using these speed I calculate at what times I should come across various cities and landmarks as well as when to expect to preform tasks such as switching fuel tanks, adjusting the heading indicator, and calling approach controllers.
I arrived at the Rock County airport at 8:30 and 63L was out front waiting for me. I went over my flight plan with my instructor, and we then checked weather. Winds were not too bad, but we had some gusting. Our biggest concern was fog and visibility. When we check right before I left, all the airports in route had at least 3 miles of visibility—enough for me to fly. One airport north west of Green Bay was down to 2 miles visibility. It was our opinion that as the sun came out and warmed things up the visibility would improve. I was told to keep an eye out for weather conditions, and if things looked like they were getting worse to just turn around for home.
My orignal plan was to meet up with a friend of mine in Green Bay, but I had not been able to get in touch with her. I don't like "there and back" routes, so I threw in a stop in Appleton and one in Middleton. These could be touch-and-goes, or full stops. I could have done lunch in Middleton is I was able to reach Tyson. So I decided my trip would be to Green Bay for a touch-and-go, Appleton for full stop and fuel, and Middleton for lunch if I could get in touch with Tyson.
After pre-flighting the airplane and unpacking all my papers and charts, I asked Ground if I could enter the pattern for a touch-and-go. My landings on Monday were so bad, I wanted to make sure I could still do a normal landing. The landing went by the numbers and I had a nice soft touchdown. So I took back off, turned to the north east and climbed to 5,500 feet.
The flight to Fond Du Lac went by the numbers. My ground speed was 130 knots as expected, and each city appeared right on the mark. Visibility was low however. I could see about 5 miles and there was no horizon—the ground and the sky just kind of blurred together. The ride was very smooth—no turbulence at all. I had 63L trimmed and only had to make tinny corrections to keep her at altitude and on course.
Once at Fond Du Lac I ignored my GPS course and followed the east shore of Lake Winnebago. With flying close to water I hit a bump ever now and then, but I would not even have called it light turbulence. At the northern shore of Lake Winnebago it was time to call Green Bay Approach. Green Bay is class C airspace, so I must have 2-way radio communications before I am allowed to enter the airspace. They request that pilots call 20 knots (23 miles, 37 km) out and the north east corner of Winnebago is right around that.
Green Bay is the busiest airport I've flown to alone, and one of the reasons I picked it for this solo. It has about twice the daily traffic as Rock County, and half the traffic as Milwaukee. There is a full terminal and commercial traffic. So I had to be able to do things correctly if I were going to land here.
Approach had me proceed on course and called me 10 miles form the airport. The controller told me the airport was 10 miles 12 o'clock (meaning directly in front of me). But I couldn't see an airport. I replied to Approach that it was hazy and I did not see the airport. The controller told me to continue and called me 5 miles out. Just as he called, I saw from the haze the airport. I reported the airport in sight and was handed off to Tower who had me make a right downwind for runway 18. I watched a small passenger jet land as I was turning base and looked at my timer. If I didn't have two minutes, I could to have wake turbulence
. Wake turbulence is bad when you are a little plane because it spins and could flip the plane. I could land after the jet's touch-down point to avoid it, or have two minutes of separation which is considered enough time for the turbulence to dissipate. I was hoping for the two minutes because it was hard to watch the jet's touch-down point and execute my landing procedure. I made my base leg a little slow and didn't have a problem getting my two minutes of separation. I got my touch and go clearance, turned finial and made a fairly smooth slight cross-wind landing.
After the landing, I pushed the throttle up and started to climb. Tower handed me off to Departure who I asked for Appleton. Departure had my fly on course at 2,500 feet and handed me off 5 miles from the airport. Appleton Tower had me come in for a left approach on runway 21. This put me in a good crosswind (about 5 knots) as the winds were 170 at around 9 knots. Flying crabbed into a crosswind just seems natural (for me anyway) so the approach on finial was pretty easy. The decrab and wing down landing is a little more tricky. However, I knew the procedure. Start the decrab over the runway number and drop the wind into the wind. Let one wheel touchdown first. I didn't quite get enough wing drop, but the landing was soft and without a side-load. I asked to taxi to fuel and Ground directed me to Platinum Flight Center.
When I arrived at Platinum Flight Center, there were two gentlemen outside to guide me into a parking spot. It was the first time I had someone do this. Although I had not worked with hand singles myself, I had watched people on the ground do this commercial jets when waiting for flight—so I knew the procedure. The Platinum Flight wasn't kidding: after guiding me in, the chocked the tires, and put out a red carpet just outside the door to the plane. I had them fuel up the plane and found I had a phone call.
The phone call was from Courtney in Green Bay—she was available for lunch. I thought it a waste to have come so far and be so close to not go back to Green Bay, so I told her to expect me in about 30 minutes. Platinum Flight finished my fuel, and I went out to do my preflight. I found a water drop in the take they topped off the first time, but nothing after that, and nothing in the other tank.
Ground had me taxi to 21 where I did my run up and asked tower for clearance. Tower cleared me and asked me to stay at or below 3,000. After takeoff I few for a few minutes without hearing anything else from Tower, so I asked for a frequency change so I could contract Approach. I think the Approach controller remembered me because he asked if I had just been in Green Bay. I was vectored to the airport this time, and then transferred to tower on a right downwind for 18. Tower told me to land 18, but didn't specify the pattern. So I asked for verification. In hindsight I should have paid more attention to the airport chart I printed out—runway 18 is always right traffic. My landing was again soft.
Tower had me turn on taxiway Delta (D) and I followed that all the way to Jet Air's FBO. It was on the other side of the airport, and as I taxied I watched some KC-135 make approaches. A man at the FBO said they had come up from Milwaukee to do training. Again I had someone guide me into a parking space—although they thankfully didn't get out the red carpet! Courtney had just walked into the FBO when I was parking, so our timing was about perfect. We did lunch at a little dinner where I looked at the time. I had reserved the plane for 5 hours, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. I didn't leave Janesville until about 9:00 am due to the flight check and touch-and-go. So between that and my fuel stop, and flying back to Green Bay I was way behind schedule.
After lunch I called the Janesville Jet Center and scared the lady at the desk. The first thing she asked is if something was wrong—she knew who was calling. I apologized and told her I was running behind, but it turned out to be just fine because I was the only person who had the plane for the day. I wouldn't need to rush right back home, and I could continue my flight plan with the remainder of my stops.
From Green Bay it was back to Appleton for a touch-and-go. I wanted to keep this as part of the trip so my landmark times still worked, and there was no reason not to touch-and-go if I was going to be right by Appleton. After my preflight I asked Ground for clearance to depart to the south east. Ground had me taxi to runway 24 which was right next to the FBO. It dawned on me at the hold-short line that maybe I should have done the run-up on the ramp at the FBO to avoid holding anyone up. I did my run-up pretty quick (they normally don't take long), but there wasn't anyone behind me waiting. I asked Tower for clearance and was asked to hold short for landing traffic. Sure enough a small passenger jet was coming in. After he landed, Tower asked me to taxi into position and hold. I told them I preferred to wait for wake turbulence to dissipate. While I may have sat in position for two minutes at the end of the runway, I really didn't want to risk it. I have never actually flown in wake turbulence, but a solo cross-country as a student I didn't feel was the best time to learn what it was like. Tower told me to wait at the hold short line, and wait I did. I was there for about 5 minutes when finally a Cessna came in for landing. After the Cessna was on the ground, I was cleared for takeoff.
Tower initially told me to fly a vector, then changed their minds and had me proceed on course to Appleton. They handed me off to Departure who really didn't have me to much. Once I was close to Appleton, Departure had me squawk
VFR and approved a frequency change meaning I could contact Appleton Tower. Appleton gave me a left approach for runway 21. I did an other soft landing. I had my flare high enough that right as my wheels hit the runway the stall horn went off. After take off, Tower had me turn south and fly 3,000 feet for awhile, and then let me fly at my discretion. I turned to get on course to Middleton and climbed to 4,500.
The flight to Middleton was slower then I had calculated. I was only getting a ground speed of about 80-90 knots, slower then the 100 knots I had calculated. So my times were a little off. The haze seemed like it had become worse. I am not sure if it did, or if it was just the fact I was flying into the sun and that made it seem worse. I was a little concerned Madison might be overcast. So I called Flight Watch and asked for the weather in Madison. They said there was just haze, but that it was clear below 1,200 feet.
This part of the trip had a few bumps. 20 knots from Madison I called Approach so I could get into their airspace. The Approach controller almost seemed happy to hear I was going to Middleton—I guess that meant I wouldn't be an issue for him. He gave me a squawk code and didn't say much until I was about 10 miles from Middleton. Around that time he told me I could descend in preparation for landing. Right about this time I started getting mild turbulence. By the time I got to pattern altitude (2,000 feet) I had to slow down as the turbulence was moderate. By the time I had the plane setup, I was right on top of the airport. I was actually setup to turn a downwind, but I hadn't made any radio communications yet. So I turned for a crosswind and announced my intentions. I could hear some broken radio traffic, but it didn't sound like any of it was for Middleton. Landing at airports without a tower seems strange after dealing with those that have a tower and approach. I lined up on finial for my touch-and-go coming in a little high. My landing wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.
When I took off again, I turned south. I had landed on runway 28, which pointed me directly toward Madison and Madison airspace. The turn to the south meant I had two massive T.V. towers to contend with. They are probably a couple miles apart from one an other so fairly easy to fly between, but I could tell I had a wind pushing me slightly to the west. I couldn't climb above 2,300 feet because I would be in Madison's airspace, and I really didn't want to look away for Madison's Approach frequency. So I held my course. Turbulence was kicking me around pretty good so I kept my speed down. I cleared the towers easily, but had to stay low to get out of Madison's airspace. The turbulence wasn't letting me make this quick, but in time I was clear.
Once out of Madison's airspace, it was up to 3,500 and as fast as 63L could manage. She was reading 120 knots for indicated airspeed, but my ground speed was about 95. The flight back to Rock County was uneventful and almost sad—my big flight was coming to an end. Janesville Tower had me fly straight in on 14. I had a bit of a crosswind on this landing, but the landing was very smooth. I touched down and had the plane stopped by the first taxiway. I took 63L home, gathered my things and called it a day.
I am pretty pleased with how the flight went. There was an unexpected change in plan—going back to Green Bay—but it worked out. When I plan I need to give myself more time for lunch meetings. An hour lunch time doesn't account for parking the plane, taxi time, preflight and run-up. It's a good thing to know, and I will make sure to keep that in mind for future trips.
Pictured is me in 63L, taken by Zam.