One of those flying experiences
Beautiful morning, I have a transport scheduled for the afternoon. Departing at 1h00pm for a 2 hour flight, standby at the airport, come back at 5:30pm with more passenger, fuel up and bring my last passenger 45 min away and come back. I should be done by 10:00 pm, stress free.
The weather is great all day, but at night a system will come over the Golf of St-Lawrence and bring a convectives clouds, heavy turbulence, low visibility, thunderstorm and rain. But that shouldn't affect the airport, I'm going to before 2am the next morning.
I got a call at 9:00am to show up at the airport as we might take off for a fire alert. So I grab myself an extra sandwich, my day might be longer than I thought. I get my airplane ready and at the end the alert is cancelled... Oh well it happens 3 times out of 4 so I'm use to it.
The first leg is pretty smooth, the air is calm. A lot of traffic on the airway I fly so I can't reach my target altitude of 21 000' feet, I'm stuck at 17 000' but it's fine I got a nice tailwind. Arriving at the destination I drop my 2 passengers and give them the show time for the return flight. The airport is in the middle of nowhere, further than Labrador territory, there is no cellular reception and no internet at the airport. I set myself with a few episodes I downloaded from Netflix. That's how glamours a pilot's life is.
They finally show up on time and we took off for the return trip. While descending to destination, we were clearly seen the weather system approaching, turbulence start from light to moderate from 8 000' to 2000'. The passengers got silence pretty quick during the final approach and the landing. While they're applauding the only thing I had in mind was ''let put some fuel and get out of here as soon as possible so I don't come back in worst then that tonight''.
I tried to reach the fuel man 4 times now, he doesn't answer the phone. I barely have enough fuel to go to the next airport but will I? I'm not gonna add another stress to my flight, so I called the fuel man from a nearby airport. Get him on the line, he can be there within 30 min, GREAT! I changed my flight plan, hop in the plane and just cross the Golf St-Lawrence, it's just a 10 minute flight away.
My plane is fueled, engines are running, let's bring my last passenger home. It's getting dark and we enter into the cloud at about 5000' climbing up to 14 000'. The system was coming from the south west with a slice turning to the north and I was heading south east. Knowing my destination was good enough for landing, in between was the unknown.
Climbing threw 8 000' mixed ice started to build on the leading edge of my wing. The temperature is slightly below 0 degrees and I started to doubt that climbing to 14 000 I will be on top of the cloud. At 14 000 ice is still building up and I'm still able to break it with my de-ice boot system, but barely. The turbulence gets heavier and my passenger way more quiet. The sounds of the ice breaking from the propeller de-ice system hitting the structure are more and more frequent. I look at the distance I'm from destination, I lost 20 knots of airspeed due to the ice building on the aircraft.
Ice can kill you
On an airplane ice building up increasing the weight and the drag, which is bad. The good new is that I knew it would all come off eventually during the phase of descent. Plus, the Beechcraft King air is and aircraft certified to fly into known icing, it can get a quite amount of ice, as long as you got airspeed, it's fine.
With all that in my mind, I might start my descent a little earlier to get out of this mess. I got cleared for lower, I prepared the descent and as I started the descent, we hit heavy chops of turbulence, I had to disconnect the auto-pilot, throttle back, the aircraft started to climb and bank to the right. My eyes are focused on the attitude indicator, my only goal is to keep the wing level, with a slightly nose down attitude, for 500' minute rate of descent, no more.
Those turbulence last 2 minutes, a really long 2 minutes. So focus I was not turning my head to check for worst icing, just cycling the dice will do the job. Has I descent to 10 000' air gets smoother, I was able to put the auto-pilot back and get ready for the approach. The temperature rose as we descended, my wing got cleared from iced around 8 000'. Weather condition to destination was fine, windy crosswind at night, but at least ceiling were at 6000' so a visual approach was doable.
We landed at the destination, I confess to my passenger that I didn't want to go back in there. He offered me a car so I can grab a hotel and stay until the weather cleared out, but I knew the weather wouldn't clear out for the next couple of days. So I called the flight planning and got a weather briefing. The system I went threw was still on my flight path, but the weather at the destination and to my alternate airport was still way over what I'm comfortable with. But it's getting late, at night, I'm flying single pilot, I'm hungry, the last leg and the fuel man that never showed up drained me a lot of energy. So I grab a few bites in my last sandwich and decide to take off.
Engines are running again, I received my clearance for destination and took off in this dark cloudy night heading back home. On this leg I will go a little higher, expecting to be on top of the convective cloud instead of being right in. But still, ice started to build around 10 000' and up to 18 000' I was still cycling the de-ice boot system. More clear ice this time, which is more dangerous than mixed ice as ice spread way more on the leading edge.
But this time is moderate instead of severe. Still a long 30 minute leg, alone in this cloudy night. Has I descent, I break through the cloud at 8 000', another visual approach, but still with a 25 knots gusting crosswind on the runway. At that point I was aware but didn't really care. the worst was behind. I landed it smoothly as usual, park the airplane and the relief was amazing. After 13 hours of duty and 7 hours of flight time I understood why regulation limit us to 14 hours of duty and 8 hours of flight time. I was draining, but still glad for the extra experience.