This flight came about after I was contacted by Dave from AMAAR Rescue. We have worked together in the past and I can rely on him, knowing if he has arranged for a hound to go to a family that he has taken due diligence that it is what’s best for the hound. Just like people, not all situations are best for all people. However hounds can only react to their environment and we must be attentive to them. This is especially true as hounds grow from puppy to adulthood; we have experienced this with our Blue-tick Buddy. He is still the same sweet loving dog but has developed a strong pack instinct along with his “song” aka howling pack herd call! As he grows from puppy to adult male parts of his personality have also grown. Thankfully our neighborhood is full of dogs and understanding neighbors. That and we try our best to make Buddy’s outbursts short and to the point, often without success I might add.
In this case Lady is an energetic growing hound and when it comes to the hound their is often an instinctive need to sing and explore. Left unsatisfied the energy just continues to grow. For Lady everyone involved realized she needed more room to explore and sing in an environment where others wouldn’t be disturbed and to everyone’s credit they got together and placed Lady in a family where she could grow and be Lady.
We looked at the weather and there was a short window of opportunity prior to a nasty winter storm arriving; however, Lady wasn’t quite ready to travel. Also with this trip covering 1400 nm it presented challenges in avoiding winter weather. There had been a lot of icing in the clouds north and west of our home airport and in the region of Scranton, PA due to the Great Lakes and winter weather patterns. Even aircraft certified as FIKI (Flight Into Known Icing) avoid the icing greater than light or moderate and exit as soon a possible. I decided after looking over the Prog Charts, GFA, Icing Products, and a bunch of other acronyms that we could do the trip in 3 days after the winter storm passed. It would still be challenging but doable and a good application of all my learning.
A straight flight to/from location to location would have cut a lot of time and challenge from the trip but it was not to be. As you can see from the video there was dangerous icing and low ceilings along a line running from NE to SW and stretching as far north as Wisconsin and into Canada. I love flying in the clouds and exercising my instrument privileges but this is the type of icing you avoid at all costs. The morning of the flight I reevaluated the conditions and determined that if I could initially take a southern route upon departure and climb above the clouds/ice I could safely turn westbound and make it TN. I filed a plan with ATC and called to negotiate the routing.
Getting to Scranton, PA from TN proved a bit more difficult. The actual reported weather conditions and reports from pilots flying in the Scranton area revealed that the icing and poor conditions had not moved east and dissipated as quickly as the forecasts indicated they would. I could climb out and fly above everything but descending into Scranton had me concerned as PIREPs (pilot reports) showed moderate and greater icing; I couldn’t risk getting trapped in those conditions during approach. That is a risk I could not accept. It might clear during the flight, but if not, I wouldn’t be able to descend and that would require diverting some distance.
Therefore I filed a route that took me back to the East and SE of Baltimore/DC and up the coast to Cape May airport. I knew I could safely make it that far and I was familiar with the airport and approaches. Nearing Cape May I would evaluate the weather in PA and my fuel reserves and make some decisions. I could land at Cape May as filed and top off the fuel, evaluate and/or wait out the weather, grab food, and devise a plan. Alternatively with adequate weather and ATC cooperation I could get a descent through the clouds and below icing conditions and since I would be below IFR altitudes I would cancel IFR (instrument flight rules) and continue VFR (visual flight rules) with advisory flight following ATC services. All of the restrictive military and DC SFRA airspace would be behind me at that point anyhow and I could pick my way to Scranton, PA below the clouds. As we approached Cape May we were able to negotiate Plan B with ATC and were rewarded with a great view of Philadelphia International Airport and a crazy wild sunset (picture does not do it justice)!
The flight back home to the hangar was much the same, having to negotiate a safe route via phone call to ATC Clearance Delivery whom were great to work with. The route wasn’t direct but it was safe. This type of flying isn’t for everyone. I understand that. I do not accept unmitigated or unacceptable risks; however, flying inherently involves evaluation of risks, decision making, and application of knowledge I have hopefully learned well and applied through acceptable ADM (aeronautical decision making). This type of flying for me is immensely rewarding and I learn with each of these flights lessons I apply thereafter.
Also Chris joined me for this flight. He is an up and coming pilot who just obtained his Flight Instructor Certificate and doing these flights helps him again experience and hours he hopes to apply in flying for the airlines one day. Pilots like Chris are important to these HoundPilot flights because the days often run long especially when dealing with weather and having a co-pilot greatly increases safety when workload increases.
In the end another hound safely home, doin what hounds do!
For all the pictures see the Gallery.