We had planned to leave bright and early Wednesday morning, July 27, 2011, on our trip to Nashville, TN, for our annual business meeting. I checked Weathermeister.com to find that Columbia had some low clouds that were expected to lift after 10:00 a.m. so we took our time getting to the airport.
At the airport, I looked Betsy over, checked the fuel and oil, loaded our bags inside, and departed Columbia (KCUB) at 10:00 a.m. A low scattered layer around 1600 feet kept us weaving around under the Columbia Metro (KCAE) Class C veil until we cleared their airspace. It was clear blue sky above, so we climbed out and got above the scattered layer. We climbed on up to 4500 feet as we passed over the length of Lake Murray. Below us to the south, the scattered layer thickened and to the north it was clearer as we approached Greenwood (KGND). We stayed a bit north of our GPS track towards Greenwood. It was nice and smooth so we stayed at 4500 on past Elberton, Franklin, and Jackson airports in Georgia. We saw our waypoint, Gainesville, to the south and headed on to Dalton Airport. There was a ridge line that came up so we climbed to 6500 feet. At 6500 feet we were dodging occassional clouds. It was a pretty flight so far.
Our flight time was looking great so I keyed in Shelbyville Airport (KSYI) into the Garmin GPS 496. Our original plan was to land at Dalton for our one fuel stop. It looked as though we could make it on past Chattanooga to Shelbyville, TN, at a little over an hour away, so I considered it. Dalton was on our path and after considering the change in plan we opted to go with our original plan and not push the fuel limit.
We started climbing from 4500 feet to 6500 feet as we approached the ridges at Amicalola Falls State Park. As we passed over the valley area a few miles south of Ellija I looked at the altimeter I saw it suddenly begin to show us loosing altitute. We were at around 6600 feet and were dropped 600, over a period of about a minute. That was a weird sensation. I check the airspeed – nothing had changed there. I checked engine instruments – all good. Tachometer showed around 2600 rpms – nothing different there, and the engine sounded good. Not sure what was happening. Looking out the window, everything seemed normal. But the altimeter was dropping and finally stopped around 6000 feet. A downdraft? A change in barometric pressure? I don’t know. We were still plenty high enough to clear the next ridges south of Tatum Mountain.
Shortly after that interesting episode, I plugged Dalton back into the GPS and we saw it to our south, so we descended and dropped in for fuel. I hated to give up our altitude as Betsy takes her sweet time getting up there, but we decided to stick with our original plan and fuel up in Dalton. There were reporting 2700 density altitude and we had already passed a few airports that were reporting 3000 and 3100. Dalton has a 5400 foot runway at around 700 feet elevation, so it looked ideal for the fuel stop as the day was heating up rapidly.
We announced our downwind and the fellow on the radio warned us to be mindful of the “moors” on the field. “Moors?” Were they some kind of bird or something. Pam thought he said “boars”. I radioed back for him to please repeat his transmission and he said that there were mowers cutting grass. Ah! We had a laugh over that.
As we pulled up to the FBO, a gentleman parked us, greeted us and fueled us up. We were there for about 30 minutes – long enough to used the restroom, check weather, pay for fuel and then we were on our way. Thanks to Bob for his kind hospitality! Dalton was great.
Back in the air, we climbed out to 4500 feet heading straight for Chattanooga. I contacted Chattanooga approach so we could fly straight over the top of their airspace. They handed us off to Memphis Center for several miles. We climbed to 6500 to get over some occassional clouds we were dodging at 4500. We weaved around a few clouds and flew in between some up there. It was very beautiful. Memphis handed us off to Nashville as we got to within 30 or so miles. As we got closer to Nashville, approach told us to descend to 3000 feet and diverte us to stay clear of their airspace. We hated to give up our cool spot up there, so we set up for a very slow descent and headed 290 degrees as told. Nashville gave us a frequency change and that lady kept us clear of their airspace. We flew to the west of it until about 10 miles from Tune (KJWN), our destination. The approach gave us direct to the airport. We announced we had Tune in sight and approach gave us “sqawk VFR” and “have a nice day.”
We contacted Tune to find the winds not a factor, but it got bumpier as we descended to pattern altitude as we arrived on downwind for runway 20. It was hot as we taxied to the ramp. A nice fellow parked us and help carry our baggage into the FBO. They called a cab and about 20 minutes later we were on our way to the hotel, the Marriott at Vanderbilt University.