Thursday, April 23, 2009

Essex County - Martha's Vineyard / Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (N7365F) / IFR

I decided to retrace a famous, ill-fated flight again. I won't name the pilot of that flight, but a nearby VOR carries his dad's initials.

Anyway, I started out from Essex County (KCDW), filing IFR for Martha's Vineyard. This was a nighttime flight, and weather was IMC all the way. In my trusty Bonanza with its fancy avionics, I wasn't too worried. I worked out a route that would take me over Manhattan and JFK, then up Long Island to my destination, at 3000 feet. I was cleared into the Class B with no problem and departed to the north, turning promptly to head to the JFK VOR.

It was very misty and cloudy indeed. I could only catch a few misty glimpses of Manhattan as I passed over it, and then I briefly spotted JFK airport as I passed over that. For most of the rest of the way, visibility was so poor that I couldn't see anything outside the window.

I let the GPS and autopilot fly most of the flight, with me just monitoring to make sure that all was well. I consider this safer in heavy IMC. At some points, I could not tell which way was up or down, with clouds in every direction and no reference for the horizon; fortunately, I trust my instruments. The weather was a lot like it was on that fateful night, only I fully intended to survive this flight.

I asked for and received some modifications to my flight plan so that I could come around to Martha's Vineyard from the north, and then I was ultimately vectored onto the ILS. Terrain is very flat here on the East Coast, so I don't have to worry much about hitting anything, which is quite a change from the Great American Southwest.

I was soon established on the ILS. After some minutes of seeing nothing, I spotted runway lights far away in the mist, and I switched off the AP and flew the rest of the ILS approach by hand. The landing was gentle, but with a single light bounce, as winds were gusting a bit. Visibility was better at the surface, and I was able to taxi over to the ramp and park without any problems.

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