Saturday, December 5, 2009

Meat Rockets--December 5, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  Grabbed some breakfast, headed for the airport.  Pre-flighted the airplane, then came back inside the FBO to a. warm up and b. wait until the flight window opened.  I never thought I'd say it, but it's nice having a partner that is eager to get to the airport.  Drank some coffee, read the paper, and waited about 15 minutes before going out to fly.  I like this pace.

The day itself was beautiful for flying.  Visibility was fantastic, and the air was crisp.  Still ridiculously cold, but compared to yesterday, this morning's 30-degree temps literally felt like a heat-wave.  Even at altitude, it was a balmy 24 degrees.  My heater could keep up today!!!  So 20 degrees must be the breaking point.  Note to self.

I was flying northeast of Dallas today.  I didn't get on radar coverage, but I decided to monitor it.  That's when I heard a Cessna Caravan (identified as "SkyDive 3") climbing up to 14,500 feet.  Traffic was me, 5400 feet, unverified.  Oh boy.  I saw the traffic.  I pulled out my sectional chart and verified that I was flying right by the airport that the meat rockets were falling into.  Sure enough, I was literally mapping out that exact airport in my plans.  Wonderful.  I called up Fort Worth Center to get on their radar...and at least give them the ability to move me if deemed necessary for these falling projectiles.

Now I'll be honest.  It is actually sometimes very difficult to spot an airplane from 1 mile away.  It would be no different than finding an airplane on the ground, hopping in a car, then driving a mile away and looking back at it.  That is the size that I am looking for...amidst the backdrop of lakes, fields, houses, cars, etc.  It's not always easy.  Now if the airplane itself is hard to find, imagine for me looking for the pilot!!!  Falling at 120 MPH!  In all honesty, it's nothing short of impossible.  I heard the call that the meat rockets had jumped out, and I looked.  Nothing.  A few minutes later I was over the field, and I saw two parachutes WAY down below.  So tiny.  Just red dots above the earth.  Granted, from the moment they jump out of the plane at 14,500 to the moment they are below me at 5400, it's probably a minute.  But still, I would lie to say I didn't imagine my right wing suddenly dropping down with the sound of a loud noise.  And while I was at it, I started picturing them all over my airplane!  Coming through the windshield.  Me making an incredibly landing after being hit by a human missile.  What I would feel like if I killed seven people but saved myself.  And on and on.  I'm telling you, a human mind is an amazing thing when it's left to think.  I simply CANNOT plan for what's going to happen in my head...I often surprise even myself!

Well, no bodies hit me.  And I hit no bodies, so I guess I'd say it was a fairly productive day.

Later on, Fort Worth Center was making calls to jet traffic about a "High Ball Advisory."  Some would respond "negative contact" while others just repeated it back with obvious confusion in their voices.  Almost comical even.  But negative contact?  Surely this was a mistaken radio call.

Finally, the fourth jet boldly spoke.  "Center, we have no idea what a "high ball advisory" is."  Ha!  I wasn't as inexperienced as I thought!  The controller quickly explained that four weather balloons were being released on the 225 at 15 radial of the Bonham VOR at 1700.  Hmm.  That's not too far from me!  After a couple of negative contact reports by the jets (flying over me at 11,000), he queried me to see if I had seen anything (I was mapping southwest of the VOR).  Negative, I said.  But I did look for the next several minutes!  And then I started thinking about me hitting a huge balloon and taking it on down to landing with me...dangling far back behind my airplane!  Or maybe even stuck to the rudder!  How mad the weather reporters would be!  How much money would I have taken away from them?!  Silly mind!!!  What was fascinating, however, was the actual report.  He said these balloons were going up to 90,000 feet!!!  I love everything about aviation!  How neat!

I landed at McKinney Field for fuel.  It's a nice little airport.  I was #3 on final...such a beautiful sight.  Ate my can o' soup, drank my V-8, then headed back for more flying.  Matt had to quit early due to his 100-hour coming due.  He headed back to Gainesville.

I flew up until 2:33, then headed back for Gainesville myself.  It really was a great day.  I am madly in love with flying.  It's almost ridiculous...but I was just having a ball today.  And the time was flying by (no pun intended).  I love days like today.  I'm always amazed how some days just streeeeeeeeeeetch on and on, while others are gone in the blink of an eye.  Today was a flash.  Fun flying, smooth flying, enjoyable flying.  I love it.

Did the paperwork but stayed in for supper.  I had left-over BBQ from last night, so I finished that off.  Watched some football on TV, then got stir-crazy in the hotel, so I headed out to Starbuck's to read.  I begrudgingly paid $4.49 for a coffee (I foolishly asked him to choose one for me...I am NOT a coffee connoisseur) and sat down to read more of the Lindbergh biography.  This book is becoming an absolute delight for me.  I am enthralled with his story.

Came back to the hotel, piddled around on the internet, then headed for bed at 11:00.  Matt is ferrying back to Cleburne for a 100-hour inspection tomorrow.  But he has to pick up our mechanic at DFW at 9:00.  Logistics have forced something upon me that I am really not looking forward to!  I have to wake up at 5:30 to take Matt to the airport here so he can fly to Cleburne, grab a car, then drive to DFW to pick up the mechanic.  Bleh.  5:30.

I so don't do 5:30.

Forecast is lookin' grim tomorrow.  2200 broken in the morning, then gradually becoming worse as the day goes on.  Looks like I won't be flying.  But I'll at least give it a shot.  We'll see!

The idea of 5:30 still sounds disgusting.  Grr.

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