by John Rafferty
Aircraft Ferry Service: Monroe/Flying F Ranch to Spanaway
As you stroll across the oil-stained concrete floor of the small, dusty hangar, you instinctively duck your head to pass beneath the wing of an old silver Luscombe and turn to look back. You cross your arms, lean your weight against the naked steel frame of a stripped-down J-3 Cub, and stand there admiring your work.
You've just finished laying another coat of wax on the smooth, doped-linen surfaces of your antique Stearman biplane. She sits there now in the center of the hangar like a proud yellow phoenix, glimmering in the dim incandescent lighting, looking so eager to burst through the hangar doors and leap into the air.
A glance toward the row of windows along the hangar wall tells you the Stearman won't fly today. It's a gray, dreary afternoon here at the Flying F Ranch in the state of Washington, with a low overcast and a cold drizzle—hardly the weather for an open cockpit and a minimal VFR panel.
The Stearman is your pride and joy, but her purpose is acrobatics: She doesn't even have a radio, never mind the other fancy avionics required for instrument flight, so she'll just have to wait for a better day.
You're an aeronautical engineer employed in the aerospace industry, but your real love is small airplanes, preferably older ones, and the kind of uncontrolled airports more common in the '30s than today.
As a result, you spend much of your time here at the Flying F at Monroe. If you're not flying the Stearman or puttering with it, you're at the coffee shop swapping hangar talk with the locals or taking on one of the various commercial side jobs that pop up from time to time. You hold a commercial pilot's rating, of course, and you're always available for an assignment from the airport FBO- such as the aircraft-ferry job you were asked to take just one-half hour ago.
It's a clean '83 Cessna Skylane just purchased by a physician over at Spanaway, and the FBO wants you to drop it off there today. The new owner, anxious to have the airplane on hand, isn't instrument rated yet—and the present IFR conditions could hang around for days.
You wash up, pull out your clipboard and chart in the pilot's lounge, and call for a weather briefing—knowing in advance what the conditions are likely to be. Then you file IFR by phone, call back later to copy the clearance, and contact Seattle Center as soon as you're in the air.
Pilot's Analysis of Preflight Weather
As expected, they're reporting a fairly low ceiling throughout the area, with light rain and drizzle reducing visibility below the clouds. Spanaway is small with no ATC facilities, but Olympia, as an alternate, is nearby. Other than watching the wing strut and wheel pants for airframe icing, it looks like a routine IFR flight. You'll probably have a crosswind from the west throughout the trip.
Pilot's Overview of Flight-Planned Route
The obvious route is direct to Paine, Victor 23 to Seattle, and then direct to McChord. Somewhere along that last leg to McChord you'll likely be cleared for an instrument approach to Spanaway.
You also note the winds aloft should be from the west at perhaps 15 knots, so after you turn south at Paine, you probably need about an 8- to 10-degree wind-correction angle. On the course of 160 degrees, for example, you probably need a heading of around 168.
On the Telephone to Copy Your Clearance
Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot
Cleared to the Spanaway Airport
Victor twenty-three to Seattle
Victor four ninety-five to Wirtt Intersection
Maintain three thousand
When airborne contact Seattle Center on one two eight point five
Clearance invalid if not off by seventeen hundred hours.
You note they've only changed the last leg. You had filed direct from Seattle to McChord—a course of about 180 degrees—but instead your course from Seattle is on V-495, or 165 degrees, to Wirtt Intersection.
You recall that Wirtt is the holding fix for the Spanaway VORA approach. Consult the Spanaway VOR-A approach plate to locate Wirtt and revise your log for the new course on the final leg, noting from the plate that the distance from the Seattle VOR to Wirtt is 26 miles.
On the Ramp at the Flying F
There's no ATC or Unicom facility here. The wind sock on the hangar indicates a breeze from the west, so you set up your Navs, taxi ahead, and take off on Runway 25.
On Climb, Homing on Paine After Contacting Seattle Center
Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot Seattle Center
Squawk three four three zero.
Four Six Foxtrot Seattle Center
Climb and maintain three thousand
10 Miles DME from Seattle on R-160
Four Six Foxtrot contact Tacoma Approach
On one twenty-six point five good day.
After Station Passage at Seattle
Four Six Foxtrot Tacoma
Descend and maintain twenty-five hundred
Expect the VOR approach to Runway 34.
10 Miles DME (Outbound) from Seattle
Cessna Three Zero Four Six Foxtrot
You're cleared for the VOR approach to Runway 34
The McChord Air Force Base altimeter is three zero point one zero.
- Set Nav 2 on Seattle R-165, to track outbound to Wirtt.
- Set Nav 1 on McChord R-314, inbound radial to the airport.
- At Wirtt, hold your heading for one minute.
- Make the sharp left turnaround onto R-314 inbound.
- While turning, descend gradually to 2200.
- When Nav 2 centers (at Wirtt), continue the descent on R-314.
On Final Approach with Airport in Sight
Report airport in sight and cancel IFR.
Airport wind sock indicates a breeze from the west, suggesting Runway 34.
After Touchdown, When Off the Runway
Near the airport's only hangar, you notice a well-dressed young woman waving at you—obviously the airplane's new owner. Perhaps she'll give you a lift into town so you can catch a bus back home.
The VOR-A Approach at Spanaway
The only instrument approach available for Spanaway is the VOR-A approach, so it would be prudent to look over that plate before departure. Put yourself mentally in the cockpit and think your way through the procedure.
Entry. The plate indicates southbound flights enter the approach from the Seattle VOR: You proceed outbound from Seattle on R-165 for 26 miles to Wirtt Intersection.
Nav setup. As you leave Seattle on R-165, use Nav 2 for tracking that radial outbound. Have Nav 1 set to McChord, for two reasons:
- First, the DME will give you the distance to McChord. This distance decreases until you pass the VOR, at which point it increases again until you reach Wirtt at 9.2 miles DME. Thus, having Nav 1 on McChord helps you keep track of where you are on that leg.
- Second, when you arrive at Wirtt you'll have plenty to think about, so it helps if you've set Nav 1 in advance for McChord R-314, the inbound radial to the airport.
Identifying Wirtt. As you proceed outbound from Seattle on R-165, monitor the DME to keep track of where you are in relation to McChord. When the DME distance starts increasing toward nine miles, monitor Nav 1 for the McChord R-314. Thus, when the Nav 1 needle centers, you arrive at Wirtt Intersection.
Turning inbound. As you approach Wirtt, use Nav 2 to track outbound on Seattle R-165. At Wirtt, when the Nav 1 needle centers, note the time and hold the same heading for one minute. Then start the long left turn to come around onto R-314. While turning, begin a gradual descent to 2200 feet. Try to time the turn so you arrive on the inbound course of 314 degrees just as the Nav 1 needle centers.
Final approach. As you arrive on R-314 inbound, keep Nav 1 centered and monitor Nav 2. When the Nav 2 needle centers, you're at Wirtt again, this time inbound on R-314.
You can now continue your descent to the airport.
Carburetor icing, which can develop almost any time the engine is at low RPM, has already been mentioned. In addition, when the temperature is close to freezing and moisture is present (as in clouds), a coating of ice can begin to build up on the wings and other outside surfaces of an aircraft. On a Cessna, it's noticeable first on the wing struts and wheel pants.
Such airframe icing not only adds weight to the airplane, it actually changes the shapes of the airfoils. The ice, in turn, affects the airplane's flight characteristics and can cause vibrations to develop. Airframe icing is always a cause for serious concern; when detected, you should request an immediate change of altitude.
Even though this program doesn't actually simulate icing effects, simulator pilots might want to be aware of this phenomenon.