As I studied the radar picture while parked at the Million Air KADS (Addison, Texas) ramp, I knew another plan was in order. My typical route to Gunnison, Colorado would take me through a developing area of precipitation near Amarillo.
“Ground, November 1865 Charlie, should I file another flight plan for weather or just negotiate a deviation with center?” I asked. “Either one is fine with us. We can just delete the old flight plan if you have two,” came the response. A few button pushes on the iPhone and I had a new route filed around the Sigmet area.
After departure, Ft. Worth Center, just trying to help, cleared me “direct destination”. Right through the weather! “1865 Charlie would like to continue flight plan route, due to weather,” I said. We were struggling to climb in the ISA + 17 temps, after a near gross weight takeoff, and it became clear that, even at FL400, further deviations south would be necessary. A new center controller said he was painting an area of moderate to extreme precipitation over Amarillo and that all the air carriers were deviating north or south. “How about wrong way 410 for 65 Charlie?” I asked. And, sure enough, the tops were poking above FL450 north of our route. Further south we went, and we finally cleared the stuff enough to go direct to destination.
A quick turn to drop off passengers and then it was off to Santa Fe, New Mexico (KSAF). Departing KGUC in calm winds, pilots were using both ends of runway 6/24. A Pilatus went missed when he got uncomfortable with a Baron approaching from the opposite direction. It’s always a challenge, picking up a clearance at non-towered airports, and at Gunnison I constantly monitor both Unicom and Center for any surprises.
A few minutes after leveling at FL290 came this from Albuquerque center: “November 1865 Charlie, cleared direct to POAKE intersection to hold north as published on the RNAV GPS 20 approach, expect further clearance at 1630.” Wow, that was 40 minutes from now! As I reduced power from max cruise speed, I was glad I added
a little extra fuel in Gunnison.
Santa Fe is a very popular spot. Popular enough to justify radar coverage all the way to the ground. But not this year or any of the 30+ years I have been landing there. It’s “one in and one out”, as the local controller later told me.
So, I was about to get some real IFR holding practice. And I had a lot of company. Six airplanes, to be exact. All six of us flew racetracks around and around, a thousand feet apart. The MFD depicting traffic looked like JFK on a busy weekend. Departures were backed up too, including the American flight. “One in and one out.” Finally, my turn came and I was cleared for the approach through the murk, breaking out about 1,900 feet above the ground in very light rain, surrounded by mountainous terrain.
The ramp at Landmark was bustling with airplanes, and passengers wondering why they flew in so many circles today. I told my passengers it was “one in and one out.”
They had no idea what I was talking about.