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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Partly Cloudy Forks Run

Sitting on the ramp at Forks with the Forks Timber Museum in the background.

After the mini-heat wave we had over the Fourth of July week, by Saturday 7/8/23 we were back into a more typical pattern of morning clouds and afternoon sun. This is preferable since the clouds help to mitigate the high temperature. In general, the later the clouds burn off, the lower the high temperature will be, with the opposite also being true. One can often predict when the clouds will burn off by the forecasted high temperature. While this doesn't work in every case, it is generally true.

This Saturday, the high was forecasted to be in the mid-seventies, so the clouds should have burned off a little before noon. When I looked at the MOS in ForeFLight for Arlington (KAWO) in the morning, it showed VFR, broken at 4,000' by 10:00 AM. Since was after 9:00 when I saw this and the clouds were still pretty thick and fairly low, I didn't believe it. A couple of hours later, just after 11:00 it was predicting VFR by 12:00 noon. Looking at the considerable cloud cover that remained, I didn't really believe that either.

The extra time didn't go to waste though. I am once again paying around with a place to mount another camera inside to get a different perceptive than usual. I mounted my old GoPro Hero 8 on the spreader bar behind the front seat back pointing out a little to the right. It is a good thing that I did, as my wing mounted GoPro Here 10 once again decided that it didn't want to play. I managed to get footage from it to about Pt. Angeles on the outbound leg. I got the take off on the inside camera, but forgot to turn it back on before landing, so the rest of the outbound leg is from the Drift mounted to the roll bar.

The wing camera didn't get any of the trip home and I don't really know why. Fortunately, I remembered to use the inside camera more. Unfortunately, GoPro cameras have such crappy battery life that I can't just turn it on and leave it on because the battery won't last the length of a typical flight. Fortunately, I can control it with my phone, when I remember to do so.

We ended up taking off about 12:45 PM, an hour or so later than usual. At the time, the clouds were still 1,900' overcast at AWO. We could see that it was clearing up around Port Angeles, but there were still some pretty low clouds between us and Port Angeles, particularly around the Port Townsend area.

Since the wind was primarily out of the south we were using runway 16. As we headed west, I was able to climb to about 2,000' for a while and it looked good initially, but I couldn't see too far past about Camano Island.

In this area we have a lot of airspace to dodge. On most days it isn't much of an issue as we can just go over it, but with the clouds that wasn't possible. There is a relatively narrow gap between the western edge of the restricted area R-6701 and the National Security Area (NSA) over the reloading docks at Indian Island. Oh, did I mention the lowering clouds in the area of Pt. Townsend?

Route of flight around various types of airspace.

The sky was clearer to the north and it would have been easier to go through the airspace. Since it was Saturday it was very unlikely that it was active. Sure, we could have called Whidbey Approach and asked if the airspace was active, but where's the fun in that? Anyone can do it that way.

Protection Island is that island just below the course line at the middle of the image.

As we got past Pt. Townsend and into the area of Protection Island, there was an obvious cloud layer that was below us preventing us from seeing very far. It was obvious I was going to have to descend to get under it. Fortunately, I was over open water and didn't have to worry about obstacles much. I don't like going below 1,000' and fortunately about 1,100 ' got me clear of the clouds and I could then see to Pt. Angeles and beyond.

By the time I got to Dungeness Bay, the clouds were clearing and I was able to climb to 4,500'. It was clear from there all the way past Pt. Angeles. The Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) at Quilayute, the closest to Forks, was calling for a ceiling of 2,900' overcast. It didn't look like there was a way to get down near the airport, so I had to descend to get under the clouds near the mountain range nearest the strait.

Cutting through the hills to get over to highway 101.

There is a low spot in the hills that is at about 2,000', so usually if the clouds are above 2,500' we can get through there. It is a workable solution, but it can get really bumpy going through there. Today wasn't too bad, but I did hit some pretty sharp bumps.

As I got through the gap and headed for the airport I saw that there was another airplane in front of Carl headed into Forks. After we landed we saw that it was a guy there that has a C-182 that we have run into on many occasions. We stopped to talk a little bit on the way to the restaurant.

I was fairly surprised to see relatively few people at the restaurant, but it was an hour or so later than we are usually there. What was even more surprising was to see the parking lot at the Timber Museum almost full.

We headed home about 3:00 PM and the clouds were mostly gone. It was clear all the way home, in fact. We thought we might have to navigate the remnants of the low clouds between Pt. Townsend and Arlington, but by the time we got there they were all gone, so they burned off sometime between 1:00 and 3:00 PM. As a result, that actual high temperate was a bit lower than initially forecast.

We got lucky coming back in to Arlington and the airport wasn't too busy and we got in with ease.

It was quite a pleasant trip, though we did have to work for it a bit.

The outbound track log is here.

The return track log is here.

The video can be seen here.

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