Go or No Go: game time

As a devoted Baltimore Ravens fan, you were thrilled to see your team make the Super Bowl. Things only got better when a friend called up with tickets to the big game. To make an adventure out of it, you’ve decided to fly your 1995 A36 Bonanza to New Orleans, stopping in Chattanooga, TN  to visit family on the way southwest from Maryland. Now it’s Super Bowl Sunday and it’s time to head for the Big Easy. Your route is from KCHA to KNEW, where your friend will meet you and take you to the game.

Read the pre-flight briefing below, then decide if you’re going or canceling.

flight path

Weather

Your Bonanza is fairly well equipped, with a Garmin 430 GPS/NAV/COM, a KFC 200 autopilot and Stormscope. You are quite proficient in this airplane, with over 3,500 hours total time and 1,500 in type. Your instrument rating is used often, so you’re both legal and comfortable in the IFR system.

It looks like you’ll be IFR today, but the weather isn’t bad–the surface analysis shows pretty quiet conditions across your route of flight:

Surface analysis

The radar shows no significant precipitation today either:

Radar

The satellite picture indicates you might be in the clouds for a bit, but there doesn’t appear to be anything nasty:

Visible Satellite

While there is no ice protection on the airplane, it looks like you won’t need it today. The icing forecast and the PIREPs are clear:

Icing forecast

PIREPs

Weather reports at both your departure and destination are marginal VFR to IFR, but are perfectly fine for you and your airplane:

KCHA 17011KT 10SM BKN028 OVC100 15/09 A3025

KNEW 13010KT 10SM BKN025 BKN033 26/17 A3016

NOTAMs

It’s always a good idea to read the NOTAMs before any flight, but when you’re flying to the Super Bowl it’s absolutely essential. Sure enough, there’s a big one over New Orleans–two actually:

TFR map

FDC 3/4082 details all the restrictions around New Orleans, and it shows the two TFRs: an inner ring extends to 10nm, and an outer ring extends out to 30nm. Both go from the surface to 18,000 ft. You would be allowed to fly into the outer ring, as long as you’re on a flight plan and squawking a code. But only law enforcement and air carriers are allowed in the inner ring. Unfortunately, your destination airport is inside that inner ring, so KNEW will be shut down from 4:30pm local until midnight.

Schedule

Your plan was to be in the air by 8am, which would have put you on the ground in New Orleans by 10am local. That would have given you plenty of time to get to the stadium and enjoy the pre-game festivities with your friend.

Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned. After takeoff from CHA, the departure controller informed you that your transponder (the one you were going to replace at your next annual) was not working. This would usually be a minor nuisance, but headed to a major event like the Super Bowl means this is a no-go item. So you wisely turned around and landed back at CHA.

There is an avionics shop on the field, so you still have hopes of making the game. Since it’s 8am on a Sunday morning, the folks at Star Aviation Services are not in yet. But a desperate call to the 24-hour number gets an answer, and they kindly agree to come out and look at your airplane. After a few hours of trouble-shooting and work, the transponder is fixed. While the technician tells you to still replace it an annual, he signs it off and releases the airplane.

The good news is your airplane is fixed now. The bad news is time is running out. It’s now almost 2:30pm EST. Your flight plan says it will take 2:45 to get to New Orleans. That would put you on the ground at KNEW around 4:15 local, just 15 minutes before the TFR takes effect–if everything goes right.

You make the call

So is it a go or a no go? The weather is pretty good and your airplane is back in business, but there’s a nasty TFR staring you down. There’s no time for the airline option–you either blast off in the Bonanza or you head back to Aunt Flo’s house to watch the game on TV.

Time is of the essence and your friend is waiting for you in New Orleans–what would you do?

9 Comments

  • If you don’t mind the possibility that you’ll get down there, have spent the money to get there, and don’t get to the game after all, then Launch. Keep the power up as best you can & check the winds on the way and be sure you’re at the optimum altitude. Double check on the way down that ATC is receiving your transponder clearly. When you get close, you have two choices. If it’s CLEAR you can get in, then go on. This also means that you have to have a crystal clear notion that you won’t be delayed by ATC at the last minute. If it is NOT clear, then you change the plan and land at MSY outside the inner ring and catch a taxi. Or if you decide you don’t have complete faith in your transponder, then you land at MJD and try to rent a car … which may fail … oh well.

  • The weather isn’t bad and you’re rated, experienced, and equipped. You’re on an IFR flight plan and you’ll know immediately whether your transponder isn’t working or not. There are plenty of places to land and watch the game at the FBO or nearest bar should the transponder fail or some other significant delay occur along the way. And since KMSY is outside the ring, should you be late, just take vectors around the ring and land at KMSY. Easy taxi ride to the stadium. Might even be a faster ride from KMSY than from KNEW.

    Now, having said all that, what is YOUR demeanor? How’s YOUR head? Are YOU OK doing this flight after messing around with the transponder? Are YOU up for this adventure?

    Personally, I’d do it. If you’re up for the challenge and adventure – sure. If not, that’s OK too. Stay where you are and watch it on TV. In the end, it’s just a football game (you can tell I’m not a Ravens or 49er fan)!

  • There’s an old time-honored axiom (courtesy of Aldo Clausen) that says “Never get in a hurry with an airplane.” Do yourself and your friend (who is out big bucks for your ticket) a favor and call him/her and advise that you’ll not be able to make it in time with any sort of reasonable margins and that your ticket should be made available to someone else, all the while giving thanks for setting it up in the first place and hoping that you haven’t destroyed a friendship with your selfishness and lack of proper planning!

    If and when similar opportunities arise in the future, plan to arrive the previous day and avoid these types of situations. To do otherwise would be very inconsiderate to your friend and would ensure all sorts of distractions while you race about to beat the clock.

    How many items would be overlooked or skipped on the preflight inspection and pre-takeoff checklist? What would be the anxiety level enroute? What might be overlooked in preparing the aircraft for arrival and approach, and do you really not expect any delays on the approach or on the ground after arrival so close to the closing bell?

  • Assuming you are willing to divert and possibility of missing the kick off:
    Go.
    The flight will be flown under Instrument Flight Rules, which takes care of any worries about busting the TFR, either you’ll make it or ATC won’t let you in.
    Plan on taking a cab from where ever you end up.
    Fly the trip like any other trip.

    IF the pressure of wanting to get to your destination is going to result in your cutting corners and taking unnecessary chances than stay in Chattanooga and watch the game on TV, and Monday morning, list the plane on Trade A Plane.
    (If wanting to get to your destination makes you an unsafe pilot, the only safe flights are going to be around the pattern, or to visit your mother-in-law.)

  • If every thing had worked, you would have made your reservation slot. Most big events have the event reservation system in place to control the large volume of traffic.. You have already missed your landing slot so must plan to land at an airport outside the TFR and possibly well away from the city.

    Your phone is now your best friend to find an airport that still has room and a car.

    I think finding a nice place to watch the game where you are is your only chance to see the game.

  • Go for it! Wx no issue, transponder working fine, you’re legal and ready to head into the Bravo! If the forecast winds enroute are stronger than forecast and it looks like you’ll be entering the MSY Bravo after it closes at 1630L, then you can always land right away, call your buddy and explain that things just didn’t work out.

    I’m not a TFR expert, but in my flying within them, once you’re in positive communication within the Bravo with the arriving and control TFR guys, and are getting set up to land, they won’t STOP you from continuing inbound and landing. I was doign about the same thing into MSP last year when the President was making his thrice-weekly midwest stops, and landed without and problem or delay even after the TFR was active.

    Maybe I’m wrong here but at least I’ve never had that happen.

  • I’d just file to KMSY and pick another alternate. My friend can meet me there and that removes the time window. Additionally, I don’t want to find that when I get down to KNEW, I can’t land – and then ceilings drop at KMSY and then I’m looking for a second alternate. This allows me to land in the city and still gives me a buffer in the event that the weather takes a dump (pardon my eloquence). Things change all the time and if we’re talking about thinking ahead- then it’s better to be two steps ahead than one.

    By the way – GO RAVENS!

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