Flight Across America
Below are our flight tracks for most of the flying
days, along with NEXRAD weather RADAR.
1. 8/16/10: Palo Alto to Logan Utah
Our first leg was not captured by Flight Aware.
It involved an IFR departure out of Palo Alto to get through the
fog, but was clear the rest of the way to Logan. Our route of
flight was PAO-LLC-LGU at 11,500.
2. 8/16/10: Logan to Ft. Collins Colorado
The next leg, from Logan to Ft. Collins Colorado,
involved dealing with adverse weather the entire flight. The
planned route of flight was LGU-MBW-FNL but we had to divert well
north of that route to avoid a line of nasty thunderstorms.
About 30 minutes after we landed in Ft. Collins, a thunderstorm
swept through delivering heavy rains, small hail, and high winds!
3. 8/17/10: Ft. Collins to Tupelo Mississippi
The goal for today was to make it all the way to
Ft. Lauderdale with two fuel stops. We knew that goal was
pushing it and we were ready to abandon that goal if weather or
fatigue might have impacted safety. The first look at national
weather that morning dashed our hopes: there was a huge line of
thunderstorms stretching from central Texas up through Indiana,
requiring us to divert pretty far south of our original route.
We made it to El Reno Oklahoma before the line of thunderstorms and stopped
for lunch and fuel.
At this point, we realized we couldn't make it to
Ft. Lauderdale that day due to another line of thunderstorms
blocking us near northern Florida so we planned to spend the night
in Alabama. We departed IFR and made our way through a gap in
the thunderstorms using RADAR and ATC's help. As we got closer
to Alabama however, RADAR showed a group of thunderstorms moving over
our destination airport and so we elected to divert to Tupelo -
birthplace of Elvis!
4. 8/18/10: Tupelo to Ft. Lauderdale
We woke up to a rainy and overcast day in Tupelo
and thus departed IFR. There were thunderstorms in the
vicinity but we turned on course and away from them shortly.
We were in the clouds for only about 45 minutes before breaking into
clear air between layers. We were cleared direct to our fuel
stop in St. Augustine Florida.
We refueled and had lunch and were anxious to get
to Ft. Lauderdale before a presidential TFR went into effect, but
the vacuum pump chose that time to fail. Fortunately, I carry
a spare for just such occasions and had a local mechanic install it.
The IFR flight down the coast to Ft. Lauderdale was fairly routine.
We had to divert east of course to avoid some thunderstorms.
At another point, ATC rerouted us via Pahokee VOR. A glance at
the RADAR showed a massive thunderstorm parked over Pahokee, so I
replied "Unable Pahokee due to thunderstorms". I suggested
another route, but they eventually cleared us back on our original
5. 8/19/10: Ft. Lauderdale to Grand Turk
I filed two IFR flight plans - one from Ft.
Lauderdale to our fuel stop at Stella Maris in the Bahamas, and
another from Stella to Grand Turk. The first leg could have
been conducted VFR: partly cloudy with scattered towering cumulus.
The second leg gradually became IMC due to haze
and clouds as we got closer to Grand Turk, requiring us to shoot the
localizer approach. Glad we had approach plates! At
about midway through the flight, around Mayaguana, we lost contact
with ATC for about 30 minutes. The loss of contact and the
unusual hazy conditions combined with being in the middle of the
Bermuda Triangle made for a few uneasy laughs!
6. 8/22/10: Grand Turk to Providenciales
This was a quick 30-minute hop flown at 2500'.
Typical tropical weather: scattered cumulus and mostly sunny.
7. 8/23/10: Providenciales to Staniel Cay
Filing IFR in the islands is a bit different than
at home: you can't file online or via FSS - you fill out a flight
plan form and give it to the FBO, who then calls the tower and files
The flight from Provo
to Stella Maris, our fuel and customs stop, was beautiful and mostly
clear - and no communications problems this time!
The short hop from Stella to Staniel Cay was a
bit more cloudy, with clouds all along the Exuma island chain and
thunderstorms just past Staniel Cay.
8. 8/27/10: Staniel Cay to Bimini
More typical tropical weather today - scattered
towering cumulus with bases around 2000'. We flew VFR from
Staniel Cay to a fuel stop in Nassau. As we were approaching
Nassau, there were scattered thunderstorms around the island and an
incoming commuter plane reported a waterspout to our left. We
departed IFR for Bimini and had an uneventful flight aside from
minor deviations for weather.
9. 8/28/10: Bimini to Ft. Lauderdale
The flight home from the islands was quick and
easy. After departing from Bimini's uncontrolled strip, we
headed north in a VFR climb while I picked up our IFR clearance from
Miami Center. The weather was good - the usual cumulus clouds
and a few cells here and there.
10. 9/1/10: Ft. Lauderdale to Savannah
This was a pretty easy flying day. I filed
an IFR flight plan which pretty much followed the coastline to
Savannah: FXE-PBI-VRB-OMN-CRG-SAV. We were mostly above the
clouds on this leg.
The radar image above doesn't show the huge
hurricane off our right wing though!
11. 9/3/10: Savannah to Natchez Mississippi
Fortunately, the hurricane stayed well enough
offshore to not interfere with our visit to Savannah. The
flight to Natchez was uneventful, aside from the 20 knot headwinds!
12. 9/4/10: Natchez to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Another fine weather day. We flew from
Natchez to Frederick Oklahoma for lunch and fuel, then to Santa Fe
for an overnight stop. We were hounded by headwinds again
today. The first leg was pretty smooth, but the second half of
the second leg was quite turbulent.
13. 9/5/10: Santa Fe to Palo Alto - home!
The first leg from Santa Fe to our fuel stop was
gorgeous because of the incredible natural beauty of the high
deserts. However, it was exhausting because of the non-stop
turbulence! Approaching Nevada, one of the aerial tour pilots
asked ATC about other reports of turbulence, and mentioned that
several of his passengers had puked. I had planned to land in
Boulder City for lunch and fuel, but on final approach into Boulder,
the turbulence was so bad that I elected to abort and divert to
leg from Henderson to home was bumpy only for the first half hour
then thankfully smoothed out. We flew past Death Valley,
across China Lake and Lake Isabella then went direct home.