Pinehurst, NC is the site of the Spring SE Section meeting ... but Wild Mama took a little detour 

May 2012: Fresh off of a successful CFII check ride Sunday afternoon,  Wild Mama and I departed for TN bright and early Monday morning, April 30th. The weather to the south towardSESS20121.jpg Miami was cluttered with severe storms and heavy rain but my path northward was relatively clear. I climbed back in to the left seat, filed my IFR flight plan and blasted off into the cloud-filled FL sky.
After spending the last 3 months in the right seat, I had to reacquaint myself with flying from the left. I reset the Voiceflight to the left and erroneously hit the storm scope clear button (where the push to talk button is located if flying from the right) and realized my mistake when no one answered me. My bad. Once in communication, I was cleared more or less as filed to KSRB.
I climbed out to 8,000' in the cool air - 55 degrees at altitude. Wild Mama flew very well and we quickly settled in with a smooth ride and a 10 kt tailwind. Looking at the smoke stacks below you could see the surface winds were whipping pretty good with the some blowing sideways almost immediately upon leaving the stacks. Fort Myers area was forecasting 30 mph today so I am glad to be off early.
By the time I reached Cedar Creek, FL about 1 hour into the trip, the FL sky had cleared of clouds but the traditional hazy skuzz obscured the 20+ miles of visibility. We had been enjoying some beautiful and brilliant blue skies in FL over the past few days before the rain and low ceilings came in yesterday.  I was thankful that the ceilings remained high enough for me to do the check ride.
As I passed TLH, the radio was crackling with pilots questioning if locations in southeast GA were VFR. Typically, TLH is one of the first locations to go white out but this morning TLH remained in the clear - as did the remainder of y flight path - by GA to the east was reporting anywhere from MVF to LIFR. Ouch! As for Wild Mama and I, we SESS20122.jpgare enjoying the sight of a small cloud or 2 widely scattered below us.  About that time, hunger set in: probably not because I was really hungry but because I just realized that I forgot to bring the salads that I had ready to eat for the trip. I scrounged around in the myriad bags laying about the plane to discover a small package with 3 granola bars and several packets of Sweet-n-Low.  Not exactly a gourmet treat but I will not starve to death in the remaining 2 hours of the fight. 
During my last trip in January, everything was brown and lifeless; but with Spring having sprung, the trees below have regained their green luster. I cannot wait to see the purple Red Bud Trees (I cannot figure that one either) one I gaze upon the hill sides of Spencer, TN.
Just outside of Albany, the baby bump machine was initiated. There was a distinct wind shift from the SE to the SW and my 174 kt ground speed dropped to 165 kts. I am not complaining, mind you but I certainly felt the disturbance in the force. It appears that those wispy clouds will disappear soon and all should be good in my world again.
Crossing the Columbus, GA area, the distinction between the clean weather and the not so clear weather became evident: off to the left, the visibility was extensive withSESS20123.jpg green trees and a cityscape below while off the right wing a heavy, almost smoke-like cloud enveloped the area with Wild Mama on the tightrope in between the two. The restricted area over Columbus was cold so I got to fly over the area for a change. Columbus is a beautiful sprawling city hat abruptly ends at the dam to the northwest end of the town. Following the dam farther to the north, we go back to the lush spring greenery and Lake District of central GA. It is apparent that there has been quite a bit of rain in the area. Not long ago, the shores of the lakes in this region were lined with a red clay like a child outlining a picture in a coloring book; but the water meets the trees now and the docks and boats are no longer precariously positioned in the middle of the ponds. ... Well, I spoke too soon as it appears that the area just west of Lagrange seems to be out of the rain zone, still showing evidence of kids coloring in their books.
SESS20124.jpgOut of the blue, while I am off daydreaming and admiring the scenery, ATC calls "N614WM, direct to Sparta." Well that is music to my ears. Funny: this time I filed HEFIN, an intersection west of Atlanta through which all traffic passes, and I do NOT pass through it! I was still 10 nm south when the direct call came through. I can pass off to the east of HEFIN and just waive bye-bye as I watch my ground speed climb back up to 172 kts. The turn was most helpful. Now, less than 1 hour to destination and feeling fine!
I am still on cloud 9 from yesterday (or should that be "in" cloud 9) but I get even more excited when I see the "bumps" off in the distance. I do so enjoy the trips to TN: to see the spectacular mountain scenery, to enjoy the signs of Spring and to see my friends. I will be doing a lot of work maintaining the cabins while I am here, but it is work that I enjoy and work that enhances the properties.
With less than 30 minutes to go and just SW of Chattanooga, the clouds start to build a bit below me but they are still no factor. I am humming along at 173 kts groundspeedSESS20125.jpg and will be beginning my descent into KSRB in about 10 minutes. I scoot through the thin cloud layer in short order and have the airport in sight.

With an uneventful landing I am greeted by my friends - I think they are looking for the cookies, but they are glad to see me too! I grab a bite to eat and make my way to the cabin to begin my weeks work.

Tennessee Time: Time spend in Tennessee has been productive: I wanted to build a hiking trail up the side of the mountain next to the house. While that does not seem like a monumentous task, it was fraught with issues. I thought it would be easiest to build the bridge at the house because it was supposed to rain. I could start it Monday evening then finish in the morning. Construction went quickly an it was finished in a couple of hours so I decided to slide it down the hill into place .... unfortunately, it weight far more than I and it would not budge. Plan B was wait for my lawn man in the morning and get assistance. With the help of Daniel,deck1.jpg the bridge was placed.

Part 2 was the trail. Although Daniel had weed whacked most of it, it was growing up and not a clear pathway. I hacked and whacked my way to the top on a trail that was relatively easy to negotiate. Daniel will come back Thursday to tidy up the trail, kill the weeds and remove the small stumps. Off to part 3 ... I headed up to the top of the hill and found my spot where an observation platform will be constructed. With measurements and material list in hand, I trekked off to the local Ace Hardware that recently opened in Specer on top of the mountain. What a time saver as the old option was a 45 minute drive to Lowe's in Cookeville. That usually killed most of the day.

Once the hard part of part 3 was done, it was a breeze; the hard part being schlepping all of the lumber and materials up the mountain. I was fortunate to have the help of Tony - the two of us huffed and puffed and managed to get everything up to the top before heat exhaustion set in. The initial beam was set was and the reaminder of the deck went up in about deck2.jpga day and a half. Part 4 was to build the yellow chord "hand rail" to show hikers the way to the top. Want to see more of the cabin: follow the link

With the project completed early Wednesday, I celebrated with a nice dinner and got to relax and do chores on Thursday - Wild Mama needs fuel and NAV data cards updated, I have the remainder of the yard to tidy and start cleaning the house in preparation for the next guests coming in after my departure Friday. Early Friday morning, I head out over the mountains in to Charlotte to fetch Lida Pizanni, our immediate past Governor of the SE Section, then we head on to Pinehurst for the 99s SE Section meeting. GIRLS WEEKEND!!!!

Go East, young lady: Friday morning I was up early to finish cleaning the house in anticipation of the next arriving guests then headed off to the airport. I was not in any particular hurry as there was a large areaSESS20126.jpg convective activity – a/k/a “thunderstorm” – over the TN/NC state line and it was forecast to dissipate. I thought it better to wait it out and see if the forecast held true.I hung out at the airport a bit with Dallas chatting about Aaron Tippin, who hangars his planes at Sparta, and how good his Sun-n-Fun concert was: so full of energy, a Dallas reported he is in real life too. When I saw the break in the weather, I said my good-byes, filed my flight plan to Charlotte and launched off into the clear blue skies.

Since it was so pretty, I thought I would pick up my clearance airborne since the ground clearance in a bit of a pain in that area. I climbed out heading east. Unfortunately, I could not get high enough before the cloud cover stopped b y further ascent and I was not high enough to raise Memphis Center. I continued trying to hail then until I found a break in the clouds and continued on upward and well outside of Memphis sector. SESS20127.jpgFortunately, I still had the Atlanta frequency in the stand-by box and reached them to get cleared to Charlotte Airport.
Charlotte is a big and very busy Class B airport. I did not want to attempt going in there alone on a VFR flight plan – I am sure that would not work at all. Besides that, the area over the TN/NC line was no longer convective but still disturbed and I would not be able to go over – it was going to be a bumpy ride for a while.

Not long after I got my clearance, I was in the soup – a nice thick, wet, juicy cloud. Wild Mama whistled away – she makes a unique sound in the clouds and the wetter the cloud, the louder the whistle - so much for viewing the scenery.
Just past Knoxville the clouds broke enough that I couldSESS20128.jpg see some of the northern lake district and some mountains. Mount Mitchell was completely obscured –no mountain flying today. I had filed the Shine 6 arrival into Charlotte and was heading to BURLS, my waypoint that was to turn me on the 314 radial into the airport. “Cleared direct SHINE,” came my heading assignment. But that vectored me right back in the clouds again – ARGH! There goes the view again. Well, it was time to concentrate on my arrival anyway. I had 2 approaches picked out based on the ATIS – ILS 23 and ILS 18L. There are 4 runways at Charlotte and they were using all 4 of the simultaneously.

It is now noon and the height of the traffic rush on a Friday afternoon.
ATC finally dropped me from 9,000’ to 5,000’ to vector me over top of the airport for a visual landing on runway 23. I still had more than 4,000’ to lose to land and requested lower. “Unable” was the reply. I was handed off SESS20129.jpgand tried again. “Unable until you cross to the east side of the airport.” OK, at least I know. I was vectored across the approach path to 18R, 18C and 18L. I watched the 747’s and all of the other “Big Boys” approach and land below me: what a thrill. Now it was my turn. I was instructed to descend to 4,000’ and given vectors for a strange turn from a downwind to a base leg about 10 miles out. I was still cruising along about 170 kts ground speed (did I mention a nice tailwind accompanied me on this trip?). I made the base turn an throttled back to get the needle in the green arc to drop the gear. “I see that gear going down 4WM, nice job.”  ATC seems very friendly here. I was cleared behind several jets and had several more cleared behind me. I felt very small and knew that one little plane could muck up the whole system at a big airport so I brought my “A game” with me. I had to make a rapid descent, keep my speed up and make the fastest turn off that I could to make everyone else’s life easier. I dumped the flaps on short final and headed for the very end of the runway. If I slowed enough I could turn off on Taxiway D before crossing runway 18L where the big jet was burning thousands of dollars of fuel waiting for me to land. I stuck the landing on target, jumped on the brakes, retracted the flaps and headed for D. “ExitSESS201210.jpg left on runway 18L if you cannot make Delta,” was the instruction but I had Delta! “Nice job 4WM. Switch to ground .9.” Whew! I made the long taxi to the ramp to deliver the last of my cookies to the line staff.

I was here to pick up Lisa Pizani, our past section Governor to carry her on to Pinehurst for the Spring Section meeting. Lisa arrived in short order; we filed our flight plan and headed back to Wild Mama. I got my clearance on Clearance Delivery and called ground for taxi clearance. “N614WM: was that you who landed here about an hour ago?” “Affirmative, 4WM,” I replied, wondering what happened that I would be queried. “Great job; outstanding job you did coming in here. Thank you, 4WM.”  “Hey, what about me, didn’t I do good too?”a male pilot shot back. “Yes, you did a nice job; but she did a really outstanding job!” I was thrilled to receive such kudos – Lisa and I roared with laughter as we taxied out for departure.
I was sure the departure would be the same as I peered out across to the commercial terminal to see a dozen “Big Boys” lined up on the other side. We SESS201211.jpgwaited out turn and got released with a quick turn out to the east to clear the airspace. That was really fun but the workload was quite high during my arrival and departure. Lisa and I made the final 30 flight to Pinehurst and landed safe and sound amid the lush green golf courses that surround the area.

We were tired but this is a business trip so off to business. Lisa headed to the Chapter Chairs meeting and I registered and prepared for the board meeting. We met and greeted our section sisters as they arrived, had a quick bit at the welcome reception and headed off to the board meeting until 10:00 pm. Tired but very happy after a long and exciting day, I drifted off into a deep sleep for the night. 

Pinehurst SE Section 99s Meeting: Lisa and I hit the ground running when we got to Pinehurst. The meeting for the Chapter Chairs was already in progress soSES201215.jpg Lisa dashed off there and I settled in for registration and preparation for the evening Board meeting which lasted until 10 p.m.

Saturday morning started off with a hearty breakfast and a safety seminary presented by Hanna Mari Salo (who, incidently, managed to come after just breaking her foot the night before). She talked about the IMSAFE and 3P model for safety anaylsis and presented some scenarios to give us the idea of application of the 3P's model. After the safety SES201216.jpgseminar was the annual business meeting for the 99s followed by a tour of local houses and plantations and a chocolate sampling. 

After a short afternoon break the Kitty Hawk Chapter put on a pig pickin' feast complete hush puppies, all the fixin's and even flying pigs. The final evening eventSES201217.jpg was the 'nanner puddin' bake-off where all in attendance got to sample the culinary skills of the 99s and vote to see who made the best Banana Pudding. Corbi Bulluck was the grand champion wither her creamy "Puddin' #1".

With bellies full, the 99s gathered an kibitzed well into the night with "hangarSES201218.jpg flying" all the way around before sacking out before the long trip home.

Homeward Bound: With a successful business meeting behine me, I filed for an 0800 departure out of KSOP. Jan and Patrick were taking Lisa back to SES201220.jpgCharlotte for her commercial flight home and they were ready for an early departure as well. Eilene and Barbara coordinate our departure and getting us to the airport. It was a low overcast bordering on IFR/MVFR but the ceiling lifted to  just at 1000' AGL upon our departure. I climbed to 4000', broke out of the clouds about 15 minutes later and settled n with a 158 kt ground speed. Life, once again, is good.
With the clouds only a few hundred feet blow me, I seems to be zipping along really fast, I had caught a glimpse of theSES201221.jpg ground momentarily but the overcast layer prevailed and I monitored the instruments over a sea of white. For the next half hour I flowed over the cloud tops and got a belly cleaning from the cloud. I was in and out quite a bit but I could feel the gentle rolls of the clouds blow me. As I was handed off to Shaw Approach, my 25 kt tail wind dropped to 8 kts but I was still scooting along quite well. Finally the clouds cleared and I could see the greenery below.

SES201222.jpgThe next phase of  the trip to Orlando was uneventful. The winds were smooth although I slowly watched my tailwind turn to a quartering headwind as anticipated. The haze made photography a poor option as the visibility was quite limited; so I listened to the XM radio along the route. Shortly before noon, I made the last turn for home with heat of the day just starting to make the ride a little bumpy. It was lunch time and time for food - I am glad to be back home!