In my original planning I had figured on just under 3 hours for us to get to our gas stop. After 3 hours at ground speed of around 75 knots we still has a ways to go to our gas stop. Frankly, by now nature was calling rather urgently. So we put down at a small airport in Northern Kentucky and took care of business. I then decided to call ahead to our gas stop to ensure they would still be open when we got there. Hmmm.. no answer. It turns out that a LOT of FBOs were closed on Thanksgiving day. This is something that I still canâ€™t get used to, the complete shut down of America on Thanksgiving.
So I diverted instead to my alternate airport, class C Tyson airport in West Virginia and refueled there instead. The FBO (Tac Air) was great and got me on my way in short order. It was dark by the time we landed. At that point I *should* have gotten an updated weather briefing to get the forecast for our destination airport, but I was still relying on my original briefing forecast plus my current in-cockpit weather which was telling me all was (and was going to be) well.
Lesson learned, while we were airborne on the first part of our flight, a dense fog advisory had been issued for the entire area South-East ofÂ Lake Erie. New personal rule, never pass up the chance to get an updated weather briefing while on the ground.
Our flight toward KIAG was relatively uneventful, the in-cockpit weather was a great boon to night flying as I could â€œseeâ€ cloud piecemeal cover that Iâ€™d otherwise have begun to fly into and then would have had to guess at the best diversions to make (go under, over or around).Â Approaching the Southern end of Lake Erie I could see the updated METAR for KIAG was showing marginal conditions for cloud cover but visibility was still OK. Not knowing about the fog advisory I figured this is something that would probably blow over soon and Iâ€™d just keep an eye on it. Shortly after that I saw the updated METARs for KIAG and the surrounding airports degrade into IFR and then low IFR conditions. Translation: we couldnâ€™t land at any of them.Â I could see the trend moving from the Eastern shore westward.
So we resigned ourselves to the fact that, whatever system was causing the poor visibility, it was not going away anytime soon. The best thing we could do was hunker down for the night and finish the trip in the morning. Looking inland we found an airport with fuel and an AOPA listing for decent hotel facilities and started heading that way. Calling ahead to let them know we were en-route, we got the bad news from them that they had neglected to update their METAR and that they too were socked in.
So I turned around and ended up heading to Tom Ridge airport in Erie, Pennsylvania. They turned up the landing lights to make their runway more visible to us and we landed there without incident. It was about 10:15 pm by this point. The guy at the GA FBO (North Coast Air) had heard us receiving clearance to land and had hung around to wait for us (Thank You!) as he was originally going to close an hour early due to Thanksgiving.
He got us a room at a local hotel and they sent a shuttle to come pick us up.
The next morning, the fog was as thick as pea soup. It had been forecast to lift by about Â 11 am so we made our way to the airport for then. Later the forecast was changed such that the fog was supposed to lift by 1:30 in the afternoon but when 1:00 rolled around and it was still 1/16 mile visibility and not improving at all we elected to rent a car and just leave the plane in Erie until our return trip.
Of course, while I was kicking the tires of our rental car after signing all the papers, the fog and clouds all dissipated leaving behind gorgeous blue skies. *sigh* câ€™est la vie.
The drive to Toronto from Erie was about 5 hours. Overall, had we driven from Atlanta we would have arrived at almost exactly the same time as we did on this trip.