AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 18

WAYPOINTS

Thanks for the delay

BY THOMAS B. HAINES
Editor in Chief

ATC saturation dampens the Sun 'n Fun weather drama

Editor in Chief
TOM HAINES has
attended Sun 'n
Fun more than 30
times in more than
40 years of flying.

18 | AOPA PILOT June 2021

WHILE THERE WAS MUCH DIFFERENT about the Sun 'n
Fun Aerospace Expo this year, the one constant was the
usual springtime weather potpourri that occurs in the
East and Southeast, no matter which week the Lakeland,
Florida, event occurs. This year we were spared the tornadoes we endured a decade ago when a twister ripped
across the campus. Thunderstorms didn't dampen the
show this year, but there were still plenty around to the
north that hindered those attempting to fly in or depart.
My arrival the day before the show opened was
uneventful, with the efficient staff at Skyport Aviation at
Tampa Executive Airport welcoming me and my passengers to their mostly vacant ramp on that April Monday.
Typically, on the day before the show, there would be
dozens of airplanes already in place. But this year, my
Bonanza doubled the number on the ramp. I wondered
if this was a signal that the show was going to be a bust.
But it was not.
Attendance was good throughout the week-
greater than many of the exhibitors had anticipated.
The number of exhibitors was down as some larger
companies dealt with corporate travel bans thanks to
COVID-19 concerns. Still, the number of exhibitors
was respectable and those I spoke with were satisfied
with the crowds (see " Briefing: Airshows, " p. 43).
Sunday's weather at the end of the show didn't look
promising, so Elizabeth Tennyson, executive director
of the AOPA You Can Fly program, joined me for a
Saturday departure, which presented its own weather
challenges. A stationary front stretched across the
northern Gulf of Mexico and all the way across Florida
from just north of Tampa to the Atlantic Ocean.
My usual plan is to depart early in the morning
ahead of when the thunderstorms crop up, but in this
case, they raged all night. Early on Saturday, a series
of strong storms was shuttling along the front as we
attempted to pick up an IFR clearance from Tampa
approach control for our trip north to Maryland.
The weather was vacillating between marginal VFR
and IFR at Tampa Executive, worse to the north,
so departing VFR was not an option. The Tampa
Approach frequency was jammed, with the overwhelmed controller telling everyone particularly at
Executive to use the phone to call in for a clearance.
Of course, the phone line was also busy, but eventually we got our clearance and taxied out, number five
in line for takeoff. After a time, we figured out that

the phone was also the way to pick up the IFR release
when number one and ready to go.
With the SiriusXM weather off the satellite, we
could watch the storms progressing up north. As we
waited, the line of storms began to split apart. What
had looked like a difficult flight was beginning to look
easier. But then a series of dots began trailing behind
the first storms-dots that soon went from green to yellow and then a few to red. It was a thin line, but seemed
to be growing quickly, threatening to fill the gap.
After about an hour we got our release and off
we went. As we headed north, the controllers were
masterful in providing guidance, assuring that a gap
was still open in the line. We passed through at 7,000
feet, hardly touching a cloud. Once on the other side,
though, we saw another large area of green and yellow
in our path. Again, the controller assured it would be
to the east by the time we got there, and sure enough,
she was right. We motored northeastward without
encountering any rain. By the time we got to Savannah,
the skies had cleared, and we were enjoying a beautiful
view of the coast and a few knots of tailwind.
Over the decades, I've flown the route between
Maryland and Florida probably 100 times, with
Florence, South Carolina, often the fuel stop in the middle. I've come to expect wind and bumps on the way
down, and this flight didn't disappoint. We taxied in
behind the same Cirrus that had left just ahead of us at
Tampa. They were headed to Manassas, Virginia, just
southwest of Washington.
With the tanks full, we headed northeastward
where the clouds cropped up again and soon at 9,000
feet, we were on top of an overcast that stretched up to
about 8,500 feet. As we approached the descent point,
I flipped on the pitot heat. Good thing, because as soon
as we entered the cloud tops, rime ice began forming on
the windshield. We exited the layer at about 7,000 feet
with just a little frosting on the wings. It dissipated as
we continued the descent, touching down in Frederick
to a chilly northwesterly breeze, quite a change from the
nearly 90-degree temperatures in Lakeland.
Despite COVID, Sun 'n Fun was, well, fun, and
as always, Mother Nature didn't disappoint with the
usual springtime weather buffet.
AOPA
EMAIL thomas.haines@aopa.org

@tomhaines29



AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - 4
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - June 2021 - Cover4
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