I was looking for someone to go flying with me last week. I had booked the 172R (this one, unlike the S model, has over a dozen fuel drains!) for a night flight at 7pm.
I couldn’t find anyone, so I decided to make the trek to Goderich solo. The forecast was looking great, light winds and clear skies.
This particular 172 is IFR rated. So not only does it have the standard equipment, it works too! When I filed my flight plan, I used the equipment suffix of “SG/C”. This was the first time I’ve ever used the “G” suffix. Here’s why:
I normally bring along my non aviation handheld GPS (its a Garmin eTrex Summit). I use it to double check my position as well as log my flights for later review. The AIM suggests that even with this “VFR” GPS unit, I can use the “G” suffix for my equipment list.
I’ve never done it in the past because I’m not sure how I would be able to handle a request from ATC like “proceed direct to someplace”.
Well, the aircraft I was flying had an IFR certified GPS (along with up to date databases). I felt more confident being able to handle a request such as “proceed direct to Goderich” with that particular avionic.
One of the great things about my route from CYKZ to CYGD was that it was almost exactly due west of the airport. Because I was flying at night, I didn’t have to worry about the numerous advisory airspace that dotted the landscape. All of them were parachute drop zones active only during the day.
I departed Buttonville and headed into the sunset. My flight plan called for flying westbound at 4500′, but right now I had an altitude restriction of 2000′ because of Pearsons Class C shelf above me.
Once cleared of Buttonvilles Control Zone I called up Toronto Terminal to ask for higher and flight following. I was asked what altitude I wanted and let the controller know that I would like 4500′.
He replied with “proceed direct to Goderich, climb to 2500, remain vfr at all times, I will have higher for you later”. This was the expected response, as I knew they would allow me to climb as I headed westward and past each concentric ring of Pearsons “upside down wedding cake”.
This is the first aircraft that I’ve flown that has an auto pilot. It’s just a basic 1 axis (heading) auto pilot, but I decided to use it for the first time anyways. I made sure my heading bug was on the appropriate heading and then engaged the auto pilot. It was hard to tell if it was actually doing anything since the air was so smooth.
I decided to turn the heading bug 10° to the right to see if the airplane would turn. It did! Neat-o. With the airplane fully trimmed, and the autopilot keeping me on a heading of 275° I could enjoy the sights.
During my planning, one thing did catch my eye. There was a NOTAM for runway 32 which stated that the threshold had been pushed forward 200′ because of tall trees protruding through the approach path. I had never been to this airport before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
If runway 32 was to be the active then I would do a low pass first (what you’d do for a precautionary landing) to inspect the approach path and to double check the windsock.
When I made my initial call on the ATF, there was someone else already at the airport entering the circuit for 28. Hmm.. thats odd. When I got the latest winds from London FSS, they were favoring runway 32. Plus it made more sense for me to use the longer runway (5000′ versus 3000′). I decided to stick to 28.
As I was on my downwind leg, I could see the windsock clearly. There wasn’t enough wind to make it move, it was limp. I continued my approach, did a touch and go and headed back. During this time, another aircraft from the south was entering the circuit. They were right behind me and also did a touch and go on 28. Later as I was heading east bound, they decided to switch to 32. Guess I wasn’t the only one who thought using 28 was odd.
Where I had the sun on the way there, the return leg had me staring at the moon. It was a clear night and visibility was unlimited (as far as I could tell). However I still had a hard time finding Buttonville at night. I could see the 404, and the 407, I knew the airport was there, but couldn’t find anything that would positively identify it. The controller gave me a heading to fly for my base leg, and just when you would normally have turned final, I saw the RILs of runway 15.
I was too high and too fast. I cut the power and and as soon as the airspeed indicator was in the white arc I put in full flaps. I’m normally used to 40° being full flaps, but this airplane only had 30°.
I was able to make it down safely.but had to roll it all the way down to the end of the runway to taxiway Bravo. I was cleared to taxi all the way back to the apron and logged another 2.4 hours (2.1 at night).