The last 3 days have been all work and no play for me finishing up the annual conditional inspection and installing the "red cube" fuel flow sensor. The rush was all worth it for a trip to Lakeland, FL for 2017 Sun 'n Fun! Last year when we departed for SNF, the temps were much lower - 28 degrees OAT if I recall correctly. This year was much milder. My friend Peter and I originally planned to depart for SNF on Tuesday, however, the weather was not cooperating with that plan. That didn't phase us too much - a full week off of work (not that either of us work all that hard!), and since we were arriving on Monday and there is no airshow, we didn't have to leave at Dark-o-thirty to make it to KLAL before the field shut down. Neither of us are morning people, so this plan was working perfectly.
The RV loaded and ready to go.
The German and American will have good arguments over the next week over who is better (note, upon arrival there was a nice puddle of transmission fluid on the American side of the hangar!!).
Getting down to FL today wouldn't be a walk in the park. Headwinds were strong and there was a pretty large front working its way slowly across the entire easy coast.
The skull-and-crossbones on the cap of the Gatorade pee-bottle int he baggage area really completes this selfie.
Peter recently received his CFI. He is big on Flight Following, and he forced me to use it all the way down. We didn't have an exact destination for our first fuel stop on the way south as we didn't know where the weather would direct us. This was our initial route we relayed to ATC which would keep us clear of the muck. We knew we wanted to land north of Charleston, SC because the fuel was cheaper up there.
Add the overlay of the flight conditions and FIS-B radar imagery and you can get an idea of what we were dealing with.
In southern Virginia we lost the clear skies and picked up an overcast layer.
Peter is on his way to shortly get his CFII which will be most valuable to me to finally get my instrument ticket. We played around with VOR tracking via the GRT EFIS's while enroute.
The overcast layer became broken so we decided to hop above the cloud layer.
Our first stop was KCPC - Columbus County Airport about 15 miles north of the NC/SC state line. Reasonable gas prices at $3.80/G.
KCPC also had a nice spread of food for the Sun 'n Fun travelers. Drinks, Fruit, Subway Subs and Sweets. We stayed here for about 20 minutes looking for routes through the weather down south.
We met a nice couple in the MU2 on their way from New England to the Caribbean.
This was our decided route to make it to KLAL.
Out of KCPC we went up above the clouds again.
The winds were about the same no matter the altitude. 15 kts on the nost at 6,500'.
Well that didn't last long. We encountered a line of storms with no clear passage at 6,500' so we needed to turn around to find a hole and descend to 3,000'.
ADS-B paints a great picture of what we had to deal with. We were just a few miles behind Van's RV-14 (N914VA). We used it's position and altitude to let us know where the good holes were to get through this storm front.
My co-pilot comes well prepared with electronic gizmos. Peter was originally hesitant to try to find a hole through the storms around us, as this was his first time flying through weather in an RV. We settled on what our personal minimums were in terms of altitude and storm clearance and proceeded.
We made it through the thick stuff, now we needed to deal with a few scattered thunderstorms working themselves through northern FL.
ATC was great with giving us vectors to avoid the storms. I can't say enough good about how great all of the controllers were to us on the way down. On top of the extra layer of safety flight following offers, it also seemed to make the time go by faster with keeping up with their handoffs and listening to the other chatter. The enchanting accent of the young lady on Charleston Approach didn't hurt either!
This was the last cell we needed to work around before Lakeland.
How can you tell you're near Ocala, FL - horse rings galore!
The approach into Lakelake was interesting to say the least. The NOTAM clearly stated the SNF arrival procedures started today. However, our controller told us to fly direct KLAL. I questioned her and asked if we shouldn't fly to Lake Parker per the NOTAM. She advised that the NOTAM was not in affect today. We tuned into the ATIS information per the NOTAM and it directed us to tune into the KLAL ATIS. However, no mention of alternate procedures was mentioned on either frequency. We contacted the tower, as I not treated KLAL as a class D airport. They told us to start our arrival at the golf course, which while was on the NOTAM, wasn't easily found if you weren't flying the normal approach. I don't know why KLAL decided to not use the NOTAM arrival procedure today - it lead to a lot of pilot confusion, and a lot of people with their head down in their cockpit trying to figure out what's going on instead of looking outside. All of us in Homebuilt Camping (HBC) thought it was lucky there wasn't an accident due to the confusion.
Anyways, we made it to the HBC and were greeted by Mary Jane and her amazing team. Peter and I had media passes to SNF and we needed to get from the furthest east portion of the field to media center on the west side before 5pm to get our passes. Mary Jane without hesitation told us to feel free to use her golf carts, and if anyone asked how we got them, to tell them we stole them! You can't help but love that girl!
Once we got our camp setup, we settled in to a few adult beverages with our fellow HBC friends and enjoyed a nice sunset.
Last Modified: August 13, 2023