Protesters stormed the ASEAN summit in Thailand. Thais celebrated the big Songkran holiday, throwing pails of water and squirting Super Soakers at each other. In the Philippines, on Easter Week, we also had a wet, stormy story.
My last trip to Vigan. “Last” is a scary word.
This story will hog the Slow Learners page of this blog for a long time.
The haze was infernal that day.
The wind itself lost its way, shifting fitfully from east to south to west.
I held short at Omni while Clark Tower changed runways on a US Navy King Air doing touch and gos.
After takeoff, traffic in the landing pattern was easy to spot against the gray crud.
My planned route, in magenta below, was Omni to Tarlac to Pangasinan to San Fernando airport in La Union. In a Cessna 152. This is the aviation equivalent of driving to a beach 150 kilometers away in a golf cart.
Concepcion, Tarlac, the birthplace of Ninoy Aquino, is a VFR reporting point for Clark’s control zone. The haze looked especially bad out there.
Over Concepcion, I began to turn left (yellow track) to San Fabian, Pangasinan.
Then Clark Tower told me to avoid their runways’ climb/descent approach corridor until I was 15 miles out.
Balikatan military exercises were ongoing. US Marines were flying Harrier fighter jets and C-130 Hercules tranports nearby. I didn’t want to hurt their fragile airframes with my mighty Cessna 152’s wake turbulence.
So I turned back to the northeast, to avoid their approach path.
The planned route in magenta, the actual track in yellow. The gray feather is the ILS approach path to Clark.
In the 1970s, when Clark was a US Air Force Base, an F-4 Phantom buzzed a Cessna trainer, blowing away the Cessna’s wings. The student and instructor died. They had to dig down 40 feet to get to the bodies in the wingless Cessna.
Eighteen miles out, I turned back to the northwest to intercept my planned track to La Union. Into the worst of the haze. Except it wasn’t just haze.
A minute. Two minutes. Harder rain! The airplane started bouncing around.
Bouncing around? Am I in a thundersto… ?
The haze had veiled a cumulonimbus behind it.
Cb, or thunderstorms, are bad news. Dragons prowl around spewing out electrical bolts, roaring, as their huge scaly tails hammer your airplane.
As I flew deeper into the rain, the ground was still visible, but the dark dragons loomed ahead.
[Han Solo: “That’s no moon. That’s a space station!”]
I was at my target altitude, 3,500 feet, for the leg to San Fabian, but the VSI was still reported a 1,000-foot per minute climb.
Updraft! I knew what was coming next.
My whole world had shrunk into the 3-inch the artificial horizon on my instrument panel.
The airplane was rocking. What’s the definition of moderate turbulence? Butt lifting off seat? Oof! Head banging on ceiling? Ow!
I checked my seat belt.
It lasted less than 5 minutes. But even a minute in turbulence in a Cessna 152 is pure religion and eternal penitence. We’re not talking thermals or convective burbles from a sun-baked rice field here.
I was flying below a thunderstorm.
As expected, an increasing tailwind sheared me downward at the far side of the cell. I remembered the flight with Julio five years ago, and pushed the throttle all the way in.
The microburst spat me out, and I had blue skies above, and the same damn haze ahead.
The 5-minute fun ride is highlighted in blue, below. The Garmin 296 GPS records altitude and heading variations every 10-12 seconds. The cell was just east of Tarlac.
Behind me, the storm was hidden behind the haze again. The rear windshield plastic trim had popped loose, but the cargo net tie down straps were secure.
I’d had enough of the haze! I climbed to clear blue skies at 6,500 feet, where I would be able to spot thunderstorms 50 million miles away.
Half an hour later, I was at top of descent. The Garmin told me to head downward for San Fernando.
The sardine-can vents were still dripping.
An hour after takeoff, I was on short final to runway 01 at La Union.
Later, watching fishermen on a calm beach at Puerto de San Juan, La Union, I exchanged text messages with Kevin and Iyoy:
Kevin: Ever notice how lonely it gets inside a charlie bravo? 🙂
Iyoy: I had my share of dat at d old RPVI. Departed San Carlos vmc for 30 min flyt to old RPVB at 1730 and encountered squall line of summer TSes. 3 beers in 2mins at the first sarisari store I cud find.
Posted from Bangkok, April 27, 2009