Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tough Go/No Go Decision

I flew up to Napa this past week with my buddy and his Comanche. We flew in to a private strip (Pope Valley, 05CL) that's in a vineyard. I've been there several times and it never gets less spectacular. We flew over Lake Berryessa and then a bit west to the landing strip. We flew over a lot of clouds on the way there but (just as our XM weather told us) it was clear where we needed to go.

Got picked up by Ron's brother who owns a vineyard and B&B (Rust Ridge in the Chiles Valley). We made an awesome meal of New Mexico style green chile with homemade tortillas. Lots of wine of course.

Got up the next day and had a great breakfast with the guests, fixed the ranch's powered gate, and a few other little maintenance items. All the while keeping an eye on the weather. The fog was supposed to burn off by 10 a.m. but by noon it was still not looking good.

After studying every weather site I know on the internet, we finally called the weather briefer. Icing at 6000 feet all down the valley. Winds gusting to 31 knots over the Gorman pass. Rain expected in about 3 hours. Conditions expected to be okay back at the home drome...and it looked like maybe we could get out of Pope Valley and then get up above all the nastiness. It was tempting.

But, we didn't get fuel on the way up and were planning to get fuel at Modesto on the way home. Ron was sure that we could make it back on what we had. But with IFR conditions most of the way down the valley I wasn't real comfortable with the idea. What if we got home and couldn't land and had to divert a long way away? And 31 knot winds aren't my favorite.

We really needed to get home though. I was supposed to pick up my daughter at school that day in the shiny new RV (it's a test one I'm doing a story on for a magazine) and go camping for her very first time. Ron had work to do at home.

Ron's brother and sister-in-law were leaving in an hour to go to San Francisco to visit her mother and attend some wine industry gala thing. We were either going to fly out of there or be stuck there for a couple of days. Oh, but there was one more option....the one we took. We hitched a ride to SFO and got on a Virgin flight home.

We'll go back to get the airplane this coming week.