21. Hachinohe to Hakodate - 19 June 2004

 
  Flying north at 6,000 ft
 
  Mutsu Bay, in the
very north of Honshu
 
  Crossing over to Hokkaido
 
  Descending over Hokodate
 
  Looking north on final approach

When I downloaded the current weather, it was terrible: only one mile of visibility. Of course the airport was closed to VFR traffic, so I filed IFR and took off.

After 1,000 ft or so, I cleared the first vapor layer, but my assigned altitude for the trip of 6,000 ft sandwiched me between two layers of thick clouds. This meant that I needed to work a bit harder to level out and maintain a steady course, and I didn't see so much down below. But some flights are like that, and since I am more than comfortable flying by instruments, I decided to go ahead.

Things cleared up some when I got to Mutsu Bay (pictured at right), just before crossing over the Tsuruga Channel to Hokkaido. But clouds there were dense, as well. Tokyo control routed me inland until I was lined up with the runway facing southeast, then turned me over to Hakodate for final approach and descent.

Visibility was genuinely terrible, so ILS was vital. Could see better as I descended closer to the city, and hope that the weather is better when I take off so I can have a better look at the topography. As usual on these controlled approaches, there's a lot of time to set up the landing, so when I finally did touch down it was very close to perfect: airspeed, rate of descent, everything but the centerline.

And I was not far off of that, either. I don't mean to sound so boastful, but switching to more realistic controllers really did shake my confidence, and it really is more fun to fly when you're not worried about whether you can handle the landing.