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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Bonehead Move

Friday 6/16/23 was supposed to be a cloudy / rainy day. I wanted to take the day off, even though I didn't think I would be able to fly, in order to work on another project (more on that at a later date). When I got to the airport the weather turned out to be a lot better than expected. The clouds were high enough to fly, though they were supposed to come down briefly about 11:00, but then go back up to about 4,000' after 1:00.

I decided that I would go up to Friday Harbor and grab a slice of pizza. The Bakery San Juan is just outside the gate at the north end of the airport. From there it's an easy walk to the bakery. Their pizza is pretty good, thin crust that they make themselves, with toppings that are not piled on too high. They do have a lot of "artsy" pizzas, but they do a good pepperoni. One "slice" is actually a quarter of a pie that they cut in half for you and will throw it in the oven to warm it up if you want. I do.

Pre-pandemic they were open on Saturdays in the summer, but have not gone back to that schedule since, so I rarely get to go there since I am usually tied up on week days. Since this seemed like a good time, I headed out.

I had wanted to get gas before I left, which would have been convenient since we were using 16 at the moment and I had to taxi by the gas pumps anyway. Unfortunately, there was no room at the pumps and since I didn't want to wait and had about a 3/4 fuel load I decided to get it when I got back.

While I was waiting in the run-up area, Frank came back in with his new (to him) RV-3. Right behind him was a Howard that landed. After that, it was my turn.

I took off thinking that I would make the trip at 3,000' due to clouds. As I got away from the airport, there was a band of clouds in front of me more or less at my altitude. I had to go either over or under those clouds. Ordinarily, I prefer to go over clouds rather than under them, the air is often smoother above than below. Today there were several cloud layers at various altitudes, but it looked like I could get to 4,500' and be clear of all layers, so I did.

As I was passing the Skagit Airport, I could see it raining over Bellingham and the airport was obscured by rain. It looked pretty grim in that direction.

Before I left, Friday Harbor was calling 2,800' overcast as the ceiling, but looking in that direction, it looked better than that now.

As I approached Orcas Island, it was clear that I would have to descend below the clouds to remain clear. Not only that, there was a rain shower on the eastern edge of the island, so I deviated a little to the east to stay out of it.

Rain shower by Orcas Island.

Once I got under that cloud layer and past the rain shower, the ceiling went up a little. Since I was in no hurry and thought I would have plenty of time to get a bite to eat and still get back pretty early, I took the scenic route around the northern rim of the islands and around San Juan Island and approached Friday Harbor from the southwest.

I was surprised to see relatively little boat traffic at Sucia Island, usually there are a ton of boats there except for the dead of winter. There are relatively few weekends when there are no boats there at all.

Sucia Island with realtively few boats.

Going around San Juan Island is nice, but the Canadian border is right there. I made it around the island and entered the pattern at Friday Harbor. I made a landing that was passable, but certainly not anything to brag about. I taxied across the runway and parked in transient parking. I knew the first couple of spots were reserved for twins, so I parked in the third one down. After I gout out, I saw a faded sign on the fence that said "twin". Apparently, it is the first 3 spots that are reserved. Since none of them were in use, and I was only going to be there for about a half hour, I just left it there.

Right by the gate is a new(ish) pilot lounge that was built 5-10 years ago. I don't know who takes care of it, but it is pretty well maintained. There is a picnic table outside and a couple of benches right next to the building under an overhang. I have on several occasions used both, but today was a little too cool and windy for me to want to sit outside, so I went inside and used the table in the lounge.

I was surprised at how full the parking lot was in front of the bakery. I don't think that is all bakery traffic, but they were pretty busy inside, but it didn't take me long to get my pizza and back I went.

Once I finished eating, I wanted to use the restroom before I headed home. Even though there is a lock on the door to the pilot lounge, there was no guarantee that no one would come in while I was indisposed. I took all of my stuff in with me. It is often hard to find a good place to put my phone in a public restroom but I found an acceptable place to put it.

Once ready to go, I made sure I had my back pack and headed out the door. As I was getting ready to leave, a 172 pulled into the spot to my left. As I was taxiing out, I saw them go into the pilot lounge. Good thing I cleaned up after myself.

The trip home was relatively uneventful. The rain shower that I saw over Bellingham had moved north and the airport was visible again. I got beat up pretty bad coming back to the mainland. From about Lopez Island to Anacortes it was really bumpy at 3,000'. After Anacortes, the ceiling lifted some and I was able to get higher and the air was smoother.I had to start down by the time I got to I-5 to get below larger layers.

Getting back into Arlington should have been relatively easy. Should have been. There were a couple of airplanes shooting touch-and-goes in the pattern, but as I approached, they were leaving the area. There was an Aztec coming in from the east flying over the airport to enter the pattern. Shouldn't be a problem. There was someone else coming in behind him, but again, it should all be no problem.

Because of the other traffic, I kept a pretty tight pattern to get out of everyone's way as soon as I could. Just as I was bout to turn base to final, there was a Xenos motor glider that pulled onto the runway in front of me. He is slow enough that there is no way I could stay behind him. I got on the radio and announced that I was going around due to the motor glider. Someone got on the radio and said "I don't think he even looked'. I know he had his radio on because he called that he was departing.

That was a little irritating, but ordinarily wouldn't be that big a deal, I would just turn an early crosswind at mid field and come back around. About that time, however, that Aztec was over the middle of the field and I thought it would have me too close to him, so I flew a full pattern. When I turned cross wind, I saw him making a teardrop entry back to the 45 and he was a little too close. I probably could have gotten in front of him, but I am very nervous about doing that since I don't trust people to be looking for me, let alone to see me. Also, he would be going a little faster than me, so I got on the radio and said I would follow him.

If I had known how wide a pattern he'd fly, particularly how far south he would go before turning base, I would have gone in front of him. Anyway, I finally got on the ground, again not making a great landing, but not a terrible one either.

I was planning to get gas before I put the airplane away, but wouldn't you know, the guy in the Aztec pulled up to the pumps, once again so there wasn't room for anyone else. So, I went to put the airplane away and call it a day.

After I shut the engine down I reached for my phone to record the flight time. Phone. Where's my phone? OH NOOOOO! I left it in the bathroom of the pilot lounge at Friday Harbor!

I sat there for a few minutes contemplating what to do. I would have called the airport manager there to see if anyone had turned in a phone, but without a phone...

It soon became clear that I had no choice but to fly back up to Friday Harbor to get it.

By now I was down to 20 gallons of gas. I wanted to top off before I left, but wouldn't you know, there was no room at the pumps, and I really wanted to get there as soon as I could, so I went with the gas I had thinking I could get some at Friday Harbor before I came home.

I don't like to land with less than 10 gallons in the tanks. The FARs say that I have to land with 30 minutes worth of fuel (at normal cruising speed). In my case, that would be about 5.5 gallons. At night, the requirement is 45 minutes, which is about 8.5 gallons. 10 gallons is closer to an hour of fuel left.

This time I took the most direct route that I could to get back, well, not quite the most direct. The most direct would have been to go through the Whidbey Island Class C, but I don't like to talk to controllers, so I skirted the northern edge of the Class C. The whole time I was en route I was wondering if my phone was still there. I was less worried about someone stealing it, I was concerned about someone finding it and trying to help out by giving it to the airport manager or someone and then having a hard time trying to get it back from whomever it was turned in to.

When I got there, fortunately, my phone was right where I left it. Whew! Dodged a bullet on that one.

When I landed, I checked my fuel and saw that I had only used 4 gallons getting back up there. I figured with 6 gallons before I hit the 10 gallon limit, I should be able to get home OK, and gas at Friday Harbor is really expensive. So I took off hoping to get home as directly as possible.

Once again,someone else had a different idea. After I took off and cleared the golf course, for noise abatement, I turned east. As soon as I rolled out, the word disappeared in front of me. The rain from Bellingham had worked its way south and west and was now covering about half of the islands. It was clear over Lopez, but not very far beyond. I couldn't see the mainland and from about 2,000' couldn't see a clear path through. I couldn't really see anything to the south east either. All of Whidbey Island looked to be covered.

There was a lot of rain of the right side of the nose.

It had been clear over the strait, and I could see Port Angeles so I figured I would go across the strait and back that way.

A wall of clouds and rain to the east.

As I saw the clouds that way, I briefly considered my options. I could go back to Friday Harbor and try to wait it out. I didn't like that idea as I wasn't sure how long it would take to clear and I really needed to get home. So, I decided to take my chances crossing the strait and hope that things looked better on the south side.

When crossing the strait I really don't like to do it at less than about 8,500' so I only have a couple of minutes in the middle out of gliding distance of land. Port Angeles looked clear and if need be, I could head there and maybe get some gas (by this time I had 15 gallons left).

Once I got past Cattle Point I was able to climb to about 3,500' which was better, but well below my comfort range. If the engine quit on the way over I was in a world of hurt. I kept a very close watch on all engine parameters and had my ear tuned to every sound it made.

Getting rained on.

As I approached the other shore, there was a band of lower clouds that I had to descend below. Also as I approached the shore, I was able to see farther to the south and east. I turned a bit more easterly thinking I could get gas at Port Townsend if I had to. As I got close to Port Townsend, it was obvious that I was south of the rain and had a clear path home. I now had 13 gallons left and Mr. Garmin said that I had 13 minutes to my destination.

I decided to go ahead on. I had no trouble getting home from there, I was just hoping that I didn't have any problems landing like I did before. I didn't relish the thought of having to go around a couple of times before I could land.

To make a long story short (too late), I made it back in with no problems. When I pulled off the runway I had 11 gallons left. No problem, what were you so worried about?

I pulled up to the pumps and someone had left a 172 pretty much blocking all three pumps. Is someone had tried to find the one spot that denied anyone else use of the pumps, they couldn't have found a better position than the one they were in. In addition, there was no one in or near the airplane.

I didn't want to pull up to pump 3 behind him fearing that he would fire up and blast me as he left. I needn't have worried, he never did show up.

The Aztec, yes, that one, was parked at the north end of the pumps, kind of in the way, but not really. I pulled up to pump 1 basically blocking in the 172. Yeah, that's what you get! I got my gas, pushed back, fired up and left and the guy in the 172 never did show up.

Anyway, this ended up being a good chance to stretch my skill set and comfort level a little. With some careful calculations and making sure there was always at least one alternative, I was able to do something that was a little uncomfortable for me, but probably wouldn't have bothered others at all.

First leg track log here.

Since I never turned off the power between the second and third legs, ForeFlight logged it all as one flight. Anyway, the track log is here.

Final leg track log here.

The video is only of the first leg. Unfortunately, once again, my GoPro Hero 10 acted up on me and that is all that was recorded. It stopped recording just as I rolled onto the runway at Friday Harbor to head home (the first time). When I got back to Friday Harbor, the red light was on steady (it is supposed to be flashing when it is recording) and I couldn't get it to turn off or anything. I didn't have time to mess with it then, but when I got home I finally got it turned off, and it hadn't recorded anything after the beginning of the return trip. What video there is can be seen here.

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