First IFR flight

Recently one of our friends invited us to a party. We gladly accepted the invitation but there was one catch – the party was happening in a small town called Lawrence, KS that is about five and a half hours away from our town. And while I was mentally preparing for exhausting 12h drive Iza proposed to fly there. That would turn 12h of driving into 4h of flight time. I didn’t need to be asked twice :-).

The flight was supposed to be my first IFR flight since I got my ticket. Under instrument flight rules that is because the weather was (mostly) clear skies and otherwise regular visual conditions. So I’ve prepared very carefully to that. On top of reglar XC planning I’ve checked weather about gazilion times and consulted flight path with my instructor. After much deliberation I’ve decided to file this route:

So this morning I filed the plan, readied the airplane and… found myself second guessing the decision to go. Updated weather forecast was showing relatively fast moving line of thunderstorms about 150 miles north west from our destination that was moving at about 25 mph south, south east. The front was expected to hit out intended flight path almost exactly at time of our return trip departure. But after carefully checking weather and keeping in mind that the line was only about 30 miles wide and we could always wait it down (that would be only about 1h delay) we’ve decided to go. Flight on our way down was completely uneventful. Except for relatively rough air that kept me second guessing altitude choice. But putting that aside it was almost regular XC flight. So after 2h10m we landed at Lawrence Municipal, took crew car and went to the party.

Here is where some juicy details start. Being at the party I was checking our return weather every few minutes and it started to look like the line of precipitation slows down and is going to stay in the area overnight. Considering all options, we’ve decided to cut our visit about 0.5h short and take off before the weather comes in. And it turned out to be good decision. Remembering not to rush things I did the preflight, got our departure clearance and took off.

Our flight plan was identical as shown above. Just after takeoff Kansas City controller wanted to save me some flying time and offered clearance direkt Kirksville, but considering what my onboard Mark I Eyeball Radar equipment was showing I’ve decided to stick to our intended route to stay about 10-15 miles from what looked like quite heavy precipitation. After passing Johnson County VOR I’ve realized that I will be unable to proceed on our course without going through the rain so I’ve asket ATC for deviation clearance and I’ve received ‘cleared to deviate as required, proceed back on course when able’. So I flew nice, round track around the rain cutting through very small portion of it (which presented itself at light rain) getting back on course just around Napoleon VOR. After that it was ‘almost’ piece of cake. Almost because for next hour we flew parallel to line of moderate precipitation which seemed like it wants to suck us in.

Here you can see it more nicely on FlightAware’s track:

After passing OTM VOR I’ve asked direct Cedar Rapids and we finished our flight uneventfully with nice landing exactly at the sun set (sorry for poor quality).

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