TRIP TO SUN N FUN, 2011
March 31, 2011 - I attempted to take the RV to Sun N Fun this week. A persistent band of rain and very low ceilings in SC and GA, as well as bands of TS all across northern FLA, kept me from getting any further south than Duplin County, DPL, in southern NC. I left VSF, Springfield, Vermont at first light Monday. It was very cold and clear. I almost turned back, because the turbulence was so bad over VT & western MA, but then it smoothed out by the time I got to NYC Class B & did the Hudson River VFR corridor, which was great. The heater doesn't produce much heat, so I was shivering the whole way to the first fuel stop.
I refueled in Melfa, VA MFV (nice place, nice people), warmed up, and checked weather for about 3 hours. The weather to the south wasn't great, and the WX briefer made it sound undoable, but I made it to Duplin County DPL in southern NC, the southern-most VFR airport. Everything south of that was IFR, ceilings 400-1000' in SC & GA, and TS in FLA. The folks at Duplin County were great; they loaned me a car and I stayed in town overnight.
Tuesday, the METARs and TAFs to the south were the same, so I decided I'd better head back north while I still could, with bad weather predicted for the northeast later in the week. Before I could leave, I had to wait for the sun to burn a heavy frost off the plane. The air was smooth as silk south of NYC Class B going both ways.
I got back to VSF Wednesday morning, after another overnight in Columbia County, NY (1B1), due to falling ceilings over VT Tuesday afternoon. It was pretty rough air after the NYC Class B, too. Again, the good folks at Columbia County were kind enough to loan me a car to get to a motel. Wednesday morning, I again had to wait an hour or 2 for the sun to burn the frost off the plane before I could leave.
We still have lots of snow here, and "heavy" snow now predicted for Thur night & Friday. Oh well. I spent a bunch of money, both in prep and in travel, and I didn't get there, but it was a good experience anyway. I went 1500 miles in 10 flight hours, burning 80 gallons of fuel. My route was down the NJ and MD/VA peninsulas, with two 15-mile water crossings, avoiding the DC space. I had taken the course on the DC airspace, and the main thing I learned from the course was “avoid DC area if at all possible”. One of the weather planning tools I used was WEATHERMEISTER, and I highly recommend it. It’s much better and easier than any other weather planning tool I have tried.
As it turned out, I was very lucky I didn't make it to SNF, because Wednesday and Thursday, the band of thunderstorms was still over central Florida, then about noon Thursday, a tornado hit SNF and wreaked major havoc on everything. No major injuries, but many planes were damaged or destroyed. It's a good thing lots of people couldn’t make it to SNF, or damages would have been worse.
Here's a screen shot I took from AOPA Flight Planner about an hour and a half before the tornado hit Thursday at about noon. And you can see from what the northeast looks like, I got back just in time.
Even good tiedowns won't withstand a tornado. The tiedowns are still connected to this folded plane.
a pile of flipped planes
a field of nightmares. Bummer. Fortunately, no serious injuries.
More pics HERE.
Other trip reports HERE
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