I flew from Easterwood airport in College Station, Texas to Meacham airport in Fort Worth, Texas yesterday. There was a fairly low overcast ceiling at both airports at the time I wanted to leave, so an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight was in order. In general, I don’t fly IFR from College Station back to Fort Worth if I don’t have to. Fort Worth to College Station is OK, but not the other direction.
That’s because I never get a direct routing coming back into DFW. In order to fit into the busy traffic flow into the DFW area, I always get routed off to the east of Dallas and then northwest into Meacham. This is called the DODJE3 arrival, NAVYS transition. It usually adds 10-15 minutes to the flight, which is why I usually try to avoid it. Yesterday there was a pretty good westerly wind at my cruising altitude of 6,000 feet with even stronger winds up higher. That meant this routing added an extra 20 minutes onto the flight.
I could have waited another hour for the ceiling to lift, but there was another consideration. There was a cold front approaching, and the winds at Meacham were forecast to reach 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots later in the day. I wanted to make sure I was back and safe on the ground before that happened.
So, IFR it was. The ceiling at Easterwood had lifted to 800 feet by the time I departed. The clearance I got was KCLL V194 NAVYS DODJE3 KFTW. In English that means to takeoff from Easterwood, intercept airway Victor 194, follow Victor 194 to the NAVYS intersection, and then follow the instructions for the DODJE3 arrival to get the rest of the way to Meacham. I took off from runway 16 at Easterwood with the instruction to fly a heading of 190 after takeoff.
After takeoff, the control tower handed me off to Houston departure. The controller in Houston gave me a choice of a left turn or right turn to intercept V194, and I chose a right turn, so she gave me a right turn to a heading of 020. I chose a right turn because I figured that was the most direct way to get to V194 (the shaded line running north-northwest to the left of my initial track and eventually merging with it), but a heading of 020 was heading me slightly away from V194 and not on a course to intercept it.
I flew that direction for a couple of minutes then asked the controller to verify she really wanted me on a heading of 020. After a few seconds of silence she came on the radio laughing, saying she was used to vectoring jets with a larger turn radius and they normally end up to the left of V194, not on the right like me. She gave me a more northerly course to intercept V194, and we laughed again about my plane being so slow.
About a third of the way through the trip, I switched over to Fort Worth Center and the controller there was able to give me a shortcut, which was basically to fly directly to the endpoint of the DODJE3 arrival instead of having to follow all its turns.
By the time I got to Meacham the skies were clear, so I flew a visual approach to runway 16 . There was already a pretty good crosswind blowing at Meacham, so the landing was a good test of crosswind technique. The Cessna Cardinal RG handles crosswinds well, so it was no problem.
I am glad I got home when I did. As I was leaving the airport in my car, I could see a large dust cloud off to the west, and by the time I got home those 45 knot winds had arrived too – about an hour earlier than forecast. Landing in those winds would have been more of a skills test than I really want to take.