Sunday, January 31, 2010
Woke up at 11:15 A.M. To the sound of tires spinning in the parking lot. Someone was stuck. And they didn't have a clue how to get out. I watched out the window for a bit, chuckling out loud. Oh, these southerners. After a few minutes of watching, I couldn't do it anymore. I threw on some clothes and walked down to help. He wasn't there when I got there. So I came back upstairs. I heard the tires again. This time he had a large pole and was chipping the ice away from the rear tires! ha! I walked back down, went outside, and gave him a push. That's all it took. After 20 minutes of fighting it on his own, all he needed was an extra hand.
It felt good.
Came back upstairs, grabbed a shower, then we headed for Waffle House for lunch. I LOVE their prices. The snow/sleet/freezing rain mess is just that...a huge mess. All of it froze together into a solid chunk of ice last night. It's slick to walk on, slick to drive on.
We decided we were going flying. I wasn't too keen on the idea. We would make an extra $20, but IF anything happened, I would have to explain to the FAA WHY I chose to go.
"So you were aware of the large amounts of ice on the runway"?
"And you still decided to go."
Sigh. I was happy with staying on the ground. But admittedly, I did think we could fly just fine. Airlines were taking off, and on the drive to the airport, I saw a Citation, King Air, and Falcon all in line for departure. So it was possible. I still needed to see the ramp, though.
It was TERRIBLE. The ramp was one solid piece of ice. No pavement visible anywhere. Oh boy. But I decided to go for it anyway. I did a thorough pre-flight and started 'er up. Grabbed the weather and was told to taxi out to 4L, the only runway being used. I heard the phrase "Braking Advisory" on the METAR today...that was a first!!! And the Tower repeatedly told us to use extreme caution on the taxiway. Obviously. It was one solid chunk!
I taxied out slowly and stopped before Runway 36. As I applied the brakes, I noticed I kept on moving!!! I looked outside, and my tire wasn't spinning at all, but the ice was moving underneath it. I was sliding forward on the ice! ha! What a mess. I was slow enough to know I was going to stop, but I was most certainly sliding across the ice. Oh boy.
I was cleared to take off (number three in our fleet), and I lined up on the centerline. I was heading up to North Little Rock, just a short 8 miles away. I took off with no problems. I climbed to 1500 feet MSL and headed for North Little Rock. As I came closer, I could see the runway was covered. I had NO chance of landing, although admittedly again, I wanted to try. Macho. You have to fight it sometimes.
I flew over the field, snapped a picture, and continued north. Frankly, the scenery was nothing short of beautiful. The entire landscape was white. It was fairly windy out of the north, but the flying itself was pretty smooth. It seemed "brisk," and I'm not even sure what I mean by that, but that's how I would describe the plane's handling today. It just felt "brisk."
I flew about 14 miles north, then cut west, then made my way back in. I was told to maintain best forward speed to the numbers, as a jet was on a 5-mile final to the ILS Runway 4L. I suggested that I extend my downwind, but I was refused...for just a second!!! He thought about it, and (rightfully) told me to fly OVER the field and enter a right downwind behind the jet. There is just no need for a jet to have to wait on me. Especially when I am going to be VERY slow today on my landing...especially when they have a schedule to keep and I don't...especially when they burn more fuel than me...especially when I still had 2 miles to go vs. his 4 miles...and especially when my taxiway exit was more than halfway down the runway...it just made sense!!! The last thing we needed was him going around. He had already been told to slow to 190 knots...then to 170. C'mon, Tower! Just put me behind him! Sheesh.
I was doing 129 knots across the ground, though. At 1500 feet! :)
I took some pictures of the city, the airport, my landing, and the taxiway as I came in. And I later sent them to a local news station who used them on their website...and I think in their news! An entire article was essentially wrapped around my pictures even! And I quote from Fox 16 news...
"The recent round of winter weather makes it uncomfortable, if not impossible, for many people to get around. It puts a major strain on travelers looking to get into town and out of town. Saturday, more people braved roads and highways attempting to get from one point to the next. There were difference scenarios with airplane, bus, and taxi travel.
An aerial look of Little Rock on ice explains the tough travel over the past couple of days. Another photo of the Little Rock airport, taken from the skies, shows why airport officials halted all travel Friday."
ha! Another one in the books for me. I did like the pictures, though...I thought they were a good capture of the city! Obviously they did, too. Those two pictures they referred to were taken by me...and were on their website!
Had a pretty slow night. Talked to the chick from Little Rock again. We were supposed to get together, but she was scared on the highway, so she turned back around. Amateurs. So I had a night by myself as I had already said no to eating with the guys. I ate down at our small hotel restaurant and read another chapter of "Stick and Rudder." It's getting detailed now (kind of!), and I have to read some of the paragraphs a couple of times before it clicks. But what he writes just makes sense!!! It's hard to believe that a "novel" can make you a better pilot. But this one is sure making everything about as clear as day!
All in all, a nice, slow night. Went to bed at 12:30 A.M.
The snow is still on the ground. We'll have a high of 40 tomorrow...so it will start going. But I don't expect any mapping until Tuesday.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Sure enough, it was pretty nasty outside. Actually, I was surprised at how little precipitation we had after all of the crazy news reports about it, but I guess it was just the beginning of the storm. I was expecting ice all over. There was BARELY a trace out there. At least from my window.
But we went over to the airport to get our receipts, and on the way to the car, yeah, it was pretty yucky out there. The cars all had a 1/8" of ice on them, and we had to break the seal just to get our doors open. Just like back home!
Grabbed the receipts out of our planes, then ate some lunch at the airport. No flights going or coming. The last flight out was at 10:53 A.M. All of the rest had been canceled. While at our hotel, EVERYONE was running around the lobby. All from canceled flights. At 12:25 P.M., our hotel was sold out. The airlines were expecting the worst.
I shopped around for home owner's insurance this afternoon...it doesn't appear to be too expensive. Although it was frustrating with one company. They wouldn't insure my rental until they first insured my house. I told them I didn't own one. "Well, surely, you have to live somewhere." I live out of hotels, I told him. He still asked if I had an apartment or a house. No, sir, I do not. Then he tried to sell me renter's insurance FIRST before he would sell me rental insurance. No, thanks. It's the whole battle against much of society when we don't meet their molds. It gets frustrating after awhile. Because we don't fit the cookie cutter molds, we often don't get to enjoy some perks (like buying a house, for example). It took me a couple of years at this job before I was even considered. Whatever.
Well, the weather became worse. Freezing rain. Then it changed to sleet. Then back to freezing rain. And then some snow during the evening. It was pretty nasty. Not crippling. But certainly something to be dealt with. Stan ended up in the ditch on his way to mail the receipts. The car was covered in mud.
We went out to eat at Boston's for supper...just a mile away. The entrance was full of people waiting. We were told it would be a 30-minute wait. About 45 minutes later, we were seated...and the people just kept coming in. They only had two cooks...and a full restaurant. It took 15-20 minutes to get the appetizers, another 20 minutes to get our food, and then another 15-20 minutes to get the desserts. Eating is enjoyable...but we had been waiting so long, that I was just ready to go after all of it. In the middle of it, even. It was such slow service. We spent over a couple of hours there. Mostly waiting.
Came back to the hotel, went out for a walk in the stupid temps. I froze on the way back. It was ridiculous.
I read the second chapter of "Stick and Rudder." I really love this book.
Talked to a chick from here in town, then went to bed at 2:00 A.M. We have sleet and ice and snow all over the ground. We won't be flying for awhile.
Woke up at 8:45 A.M. Went down and grabbed some breakfast before they closed at 9. 4-9. Seriously, who does that?!
Clouds were at 3900 feet overcast. Matt and I can't fly. We ended up goin' out for a scouting flight today, though. Five of us flew up to North Little Rock...had a fun time. At one point, we had all five of us in the traffic pattern at once...doin' touch-and-go's. Kind of silly, I suppose, but it was fun, nonetheless. It's a welcome change to the monotony of flying lines anyway.
We all stopped there at the new FBO where I had stopped yesterday. A man greeted us as we walked inside, and he was just as eager as could be to find out who we were! He had been sitting there listening to the inside radio...we were lighting it up!!! He saw us doin' our touch-and-go's, and he was just silly about it. Pretty fun. They couldn't believe that a couple of our guys had made the turn at Echo!!!
Well, I grabbed some coffee from the very nice old lady again, and then we went out to visit Presley and Jim and the aircraft. I hoped the guys would appreciate it just as much as I did, and from the looks on their faces, it was a definitely a huge success!!! The airplane is just simply beautiful, and anyone that appreciates aviation can see that. The guys just ate it up. We all talked in the hangar for 25-30 minutes or so. It was pretty enjoyable. I LOVE general aviation!!! Nothing compares to it.
While there in the hangar, I also received a phone call. From my realtor. I AM A NEW HOME OWNER!!! It was pretty comical to me. I heard him say it, and I just wasn't too surprised. Not really a ton of emotion, either! It was just like a normal phone call. He told me something, I said ok. Easy as that! I guess I was ready to have it. I just laugh at the whole situation, though. I really just took it in stride!!! Pretty funny.
It was nice talkin' with Jim and Presley again, though. I like those guys. I also took note of the fact that Presley owned a building downtown...and he now has this huge airplane. And the thoughts of my dad are in my head, too. "You'll never get ahead if you're always workin' for someone else." It was just fitting that this was the day I bought my first house.
We all flew back to Little Rock Adams Field. I had logged 0.7 hours. Of fun flying.
We went out to eat at Waffle House for lunch.
I shared the news with Mom and Dad, and they seemed pretty excited. About my house, not the Waffle House. I own a home!!! ha! I, of course, started tweaking my money spreadsheet to see how quickly I can pay it off, I checked out other homes in Chatham to see how much to charge for rent, and I started making up a rental description. ha! I'm not goin' to lie, I'm havin' fun!
For supper, we went downtown to The Flying Saucer. A nice lil' bar/restaurant...it seems that a prerequisite was being ridiculously skinny and attractive...and wearing a tiny, tiny Irish kilt. Hmm. The world we live in. We stayed there for a couple of hours. Came back around 8:45.
I spent the rest of the night talking to some friends, hanging out on the internet, and I started a new book. I'm now reading "Stick and Rudder." In the first chapter alone, I'm already excited about the rest of it. He makes the aerodynamics of flying so easy to understand. In a different light than I've ever learned. I love it.
Went to bed at midnight.
Some really nasty weather is moving in. Supposed to be getting freezing rain. We definitely won't be flying tomorrow.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I wasn't too thrilled last night about being back for work. But once I got rolling this morning, I was pretty much ready. I won't say eager to fly the whole day...but at least ready to do it. I faxed over our maps to the Tower this morning, and then I headed for the skies.
I took a plan right over top of Little Rock's main airport...it's a fairly busy little place. So that was fun. Most of the traffic wasn't called out to me since I was at 4900 feet, but it was still fun to listen to and watch the jets and other traffic take off and land. I had one King Air level out at 4500 feet because of me...and at the time, I was at 4800 feet. That was pretty close! I had him in sight for quite awhile, but it's one of my favorite things to fly close to other airplanes!!! I love it!
My second flight plan put me in the departure end of both 22 runways...so the jets were asked to level off at 4500 feet. Pretty fun to watch Southwest and the other guys lookin' for me. I, of course, had them in sight well before they had me, but it's just a welcome change to actually HAVE to listen to the radio. The day goes by so much quicker.
I landed just before 1:00 at North Little Rock Airport and taxied up to a very empty ramp outside a nice FBO. All of the other traffic was parked down the ramp, but this facility looked nice, so I tried it out. I walked in and was welcomed into an office. "C'mon in!" Ok, I thought!
"You are the very first customer in our brand new FBO!!!" No kiddin'! How about that. I instantly asked to have my picture put on the wall! No joke! The three old men invited me to pull up a chair and sit down. And we talked for the next 20 minutes about my flying! They were just as eager as could be. I was given coffee (and then later some cake!). I was absolutely catered to...in small-airport fashion. I loved it. I can definitely see myself running an airport someday. But...as with anything in life, there is always the other side to the story. The line guy that fueled me up told me what a waste it was to spend $3 ($30?) million dollars on this new FBO. Granted, it WAS nice, but it's always been a relatively unspoken current in me at the waste that goes on with taxpayers' money...especially in aviation. But I didn't say anything. I just let him talk. He said they tore down a perfectly usable building to build this one. And that he (insert the taxpayers) were paying for it in "more ways than one." Whatever that meant!
Oh, well, I still liked it. And two of the guys from inside invited me to their hangar to check out an airplane they were working in. It was a 1943 Howard. Up until today, I had never even heard of this airplane, but let me tell you, it was love at first sight. The attention to detail, the beauty, the aesthetics. The owner pretty much asked me to get inside! I didn't hesitate. I only wish I had had my camera! It was a picture-perfect restoration...nothing was left untouched. I was simpy amazed...and the thought of getting my A&P surfaced again!!! How fun that would be to do work like this. It was just beautiful.
I couldn't stay long because I still had work to do. Plus I had a phone call to make, too! To my realtor! The bank had come back and said that two offers had been made on the house. They asked us both for our final offer. I decided to go for asking price plus $100. I really want the house. I just feel good about it. I told my realtor and then turned the phone off and hit the sky.
I flew another hour, had a spit of rain, and then landed back at Little Rock. A total of 5.2 hours on my first day back. Not too shabby.
We went to the famous Whole Hog BBQ where I ordered a way-too-big platter. Granted, it was GREAT, but I left feeling fat. Blah. Food coma. I hate doing that, and I was pretty mad at myself!!! It was good, but c'mon.
Spent the rest of the night in the hotel. Didn't do a whole lot.
My mind is on the house, of course. I should find out tomorrow whether I am home-owner or not. Pretty exciting.
Because of my sweet tea, I went to bed at 1:00 A.M.
Oh, and we won't be flying for quite awhile. We have a very nasty winter storm coming in. Lots of rain, then freezing rain, then snow. Tomorrow and Friday. I should be grounded for awhile. So it was good to get some time in today.
We'll see what happens!
Monday, January 18, 2010
My vacation is right around the corner. And I am more and more ready every day. Frankly, I am a bit sick of flying!!! Yup, I said it. Well, at least the type of flying that we do.
I had another 5.6 hours in the airplane today. 69.8 hours on the month ALREADY. There were a couple of months last year where I didn't even get that the entire month!!! So it's nice to have, but it also means that I've been flying a lot. And it can be cumbersome.
I started taking pictures up in Longview, but we had clouds roll in pretty quickly. I was only able to get two lines done. So Matt and I headed 75 miles south for Lufkin, Texas, where we had another flight plan. We had some clouds on the northern portion of the project, but we were able to get far enough away from them in the southern plans. North, south, north south. Same ol', same ol'.
I landed for lunch and fuel at 12:30 at Lufkin. I knew they had a restaurant on the field, but it was closed seeing as it was Sunday. I can respect that. Actually, I was a bit bummed that we were even flying today at all. I thought I'd have the day off, and I've been cravin' goin' to church. And we had a church right across from the hotel, too. I was lookin' forward to that. But it just didn't happen. I sure do miss goin' regularly.
It was a quick turn-around with fuel, and I skimped on lunch. Two granola bars, one banana, and a lot of BBQ potato chips. Not exactly the lunch I would have liked. I also downed some apple juice.
Then I went back up in the skies for 2 more hours of flying.
Landed back at Longview. My head hurt. The loud noise just got to me today, and different power settings didn't really help. I had a headache coming on, and I knew it. Talked to the unbelievably attractive woman at the front desk for a few minutes. Actually, it was just a nice talk. I'm always leery of these types, as it's not always a blessing to be hot, but I think we enjoyed each other. She actually had a personality. Imagine that.
Went back to the hotel. I had a yucky headache by now. I needed food. But the rest of the guys weren't ready to go yet.
Came back to the hotel, shot off an e-mail to my friend who I plan on visiting in New York in a couple of days. Said I would be there in just over 48 hours! So excited!!! Then I got a call from one of the bosses. He wanted to set up my flight out of Longview.
The options? Flying out on Wednesday...and not arriving in New York until late afternoon Wednesday. Crap. I couldn't believe it.
Crap, crap, crap. Not good.
I was planning on leaving Tuesday night. I NEEDED to leave Tuesday night...for everything up in New York to go smoothly. Getting in on Wednesday was goin' to screw up dinner and concert plans. Oh, this was not the news I needed. Not now. So frustrating. I told him I'd look it over and call him back. But the guys were ready to go to the restaurant now...
Ended up goin' around 5:45. Headed to a lil' burger bakery joint. Not too bad. It was nice havin' six of us. But halfway through the eating, I had the worst pain in my head. I NEVER get headaches, but this one hurt. I wasn't sure if I was goin' to make it through supper. Man, it sucked.
Came back to the hotel, grabbed some aspirin. And spent the next few hours trying to get my flight out of here arranged. I'm really stuck between a rock and a hard place. It sucks.
I have my 100-hour inspection coming up in 9.5 hours...or 2 full day's worth of work away. Monday AND all of Tuesday.
The cheap flights out of this airport leave at 7:20 A.M. on Tuesday. Well before I would be done with flying.
There are flights out of this airport later in the afternoon...but the cost is $650. $450 more than the morning flights.
The next airport over (an hour away) has a flight that leaves at 12:10 P.M. I couldn't work on Tuesday if I had to drive there.
The mechanic and the returning vacation pilot are being flown into THIS airport...the tickets were purchased tonight already. Which screws me out of going to another airport with my plane and having the returning pilot fly it back. Kind of frustrated about that.
Called the friend and spilled the news. I was pretty much told not to even come. Just not worth it. <sigh>
So I literally spent the entire night trying to figure out how to make this work out.
My only option that I have found: Grab a one-way rental to Dallas after flying as close to my 100-hour as possible on Tuesday, and try to make a 5:20 P.M. flight. That would cost me an extra $120 for the 3-hour car rental. STUPID. And it would involve a lot of things working out. Me leaving on time. The car being at the airport. The return going smoothly. Getting close to my 100-hour. And on and on.
Agh, what to do.
I'm really not too thrilled. What a night. I spent a few hours in front of this stupid computer trying to get things worked out. Not the pre-vacation I was hoping for. Not the night I had planned. I had wanted to read and work out. Things don't always go as planned, that's for sure.
Went to bed at 11:45. Just to put it behind me. Tomorrow is another day.
Too bad I know it's goin' to have the same issues.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Grabbed breakfast...I guess the cook had walked out...it was terrible. I had a choice of cereal and biscuits and gravy, more or less. I grabbed Rice Krispies. And then two pieces of toast. I tried not to complain, as Haiti was on my mind. It's been there a lot lately.
Ate, then finished the packing I began last night. It takes about 5 minutes anymore. A life on the road makes you pretty good at it. We checked the weather, and it was descent there in Texarkana...clouds were around 5000 feet. But down in Longview, the clouds were forecast at 1300 overcast. And we had rain from Texarkana all the way down. It would be an IFR day.
Headed to the airport, filed a flight plan, printed off my charts, and prepared for the flight. It was going to be a short 40-minute flight...and I was flying direct. Not too difficult. But an IMC day necessitates extreme concentration...you simply can't fly poorly. Your own life is at stake.
I was cleared as filed to Longview, Texas...just 74 miles away. I took off Runway 4 and headed southwest.
Although it was rainy and misty the entire flight, I didn't actually enter the clouds for a few miles. But it didn't take long. I was "in the soup" pretty quickly after departure...just a few short miles south of the field. The controller advised me of an area of moderate rain along my route of flight. "151, I'll expect that." He was just giving me a heads-up...there wasn't much to do but just prepare for some rain! But the flight wasn't too bad. I was in heavy overcast and couldn't see anything, but at least it was smooth. And I made the decision to hand-fly this whole flight just for good practice.
There are days when I love flying IFR, and there are days where I just hate it. This leaned more towards the hate side of it. And I'm not sure why. I think it's because it just requires 100% attention at all times. All times. You literally can't get distracted for anything. You can't take your eyes off of your gauges for more than a few seconds at a time. When you read something in your lap (like the approach plate), you have to keep looking up, looking down, looking up, looking down. Plus my eyes kind of burned from the brightness (I put on my sunglasses), and my body was playing tricks with my head. Most of the time I'm fine in IFR conditions, but today was just kind of discomforting...I won't lie...I had some fear. I trusted the instruments, but it seems like every time I fly in hard IMC, I have to build that confidence back up again. And it was back and forth, constantly adjusting to stay on course, watching my altitude...nose up, nose down, turn left, turn right. It's amazing just how unstraight you can fly when you just fly by the instruments. Subtle changes is all it takes, but you just have to keep doing them ALL the time.
I got the ATIS Foxtrot at Longview, and landings were being done on Runway 36...the approach chart that I chose not to print off. <sigh> I had the ILS to 31 and the VOR-A approach. So I requested the ILS. The controller gave me vectors for the approach. I was cruising at 131 knots down there, so I was moving at a pretty good clip. He gave me a heading of 220. Then 230 as I got closer.
Then he said I was 5 miles from the outer marker, and I could turn to a heading of 160 and descend to 2300 feet as I intercepted the localizer (I had started at 4000 feet but was given 3000 20 miles out). I started my turn and watched my localizer needle swing QUICKLY over. Crap. He gave me a late turn with these northern winds. Grr! I stayed in my turn until 110 degrees. My approach course was 131 degrees. I was able to keep the needle just a couple of dots off center after that turn...then brought it center...but I had to maintain a 110-degree heading! Those northern winds were strong!
Then I hit the outer marker, and I began my descent down to 860 feet. And that is when my flight just fell apart. All of a sudden, I lost my northern winds. My 110-degree heading put me way to the left of the centerline...crap. The needle swung out. I tried to correct. The controller even saw me off-center and advised me that I was north of course. I acknowledged. A little embarassing, but I was definitely BEHIND the airplane. Not a good place to be. I turned to 150. The needle came back. I turned for 131. But I was just all over the place...literally chasing the needle like a student pilot. Agh! I was switched over to Tower and cleared to land on Runway 36 after circling from the ILS 31 approach. I even waited a few seconds to call Tower as I focused on getting on that centerline.
And all the while, I was descending. 2000. 1500. 1000. And I was still thick in the soup. Hmm. The latest ATIS said clouds were 1300 overcast. That would mean breaking out around 1700 feet MSL. But I sure wasn't.
Dang it, Andy, FOCUS!!! Get on the centerline! I had to almost yell at myself in my head. I was low, and I was flying very poorly. Never a good combination. I glanced down at my circling minimums. I could drop down to 860.
1000. 900. 890. 880. 870. Nothing. Still in the clouds...no airport in sight. 860. And my needle was still swinging pretty badly. 860. 860. 860. NO sight of the airport.
Then it hit me. "Shit." It just came out. I was NOT in a good position. You see, I very rarely cuss. VERY rarely. But that word has surprised me and come out at the most unopportune of times...most notoriously about 1 second before I crashed my motorcycle into the back of a minivan. But there it was. The word shot out. I was in a situation that I just didn't prepare myself for. Looking back now, I never really even considered it. And that was TERRIBLE pilot decision-making. I needed to get out of there and fast.
Legally, this would be the point where I would quicky initiate a Missed Approach. Since I didn't see the airport at the necessary altitude (860 feet in this case), I would immediately climb and try the approach again or head to another airport. I mean, it's not like I didn't think about it. After all, I HAD filed an alternate, I did have that alternate's approach plate on my lap, and before flying the approach, I did read the Missed Approach instructions. But I literally just got behind the airplane. And I fully expected to break out of the clouds. Sadly, a Missed Approach just wasn't an option for whatever reason. I knew that it was possible, but looking back now, I guess I never really even believed it. I was certain that I was going to pop out. But I was wrong.
I did see the earth real quick. For just a split second. Then it disappeared. And it's amazing what the mind does. I glanced at the altimeter, and I began to wonder what was out there around me. I envisioned me blazing through pine trees, or maybe clipping a tower somewhere just off of the approach course. It only took a split second, but that thought crossed my mind.
800 feet. And then I don't even remember. I made a quick glance at my GPS, made a slight turn to get that extended course line pointed to the airport and looked outside. I honestly don't even know how low I dropped. It didn't take much more, but it was illegal. And very unsafe. But I BARELY saw the first portion of Runway 31. I certainly couldn't make out the rest of the airport, though...it was hidden behind clouds.
What a nightmare.
I kept that Runway 31 in my view and started a gentle turn to the south for a downwind to 36. Then I could see the 18 on the runway. Then I saw the length of the runway. This was getting better. But man, was I low. Just 400 feet above the ground. Maybe a little less. Then CRAP!!! The runway disappeared to my left. I had clouds here at 400 feet. I lost the runway for a bit, saw the buildings below me...man, so close. I kept looking over...then I saw the runway again. And I just now realized that I wasn't set up for a landing, so I quickly slowed up, put the first notch of flaps in, and kept flying out my left window. I was NOT going to lose this runway. What would I do for a missed approach anyway now?! I was now 50 degrees off course from my approach.
I added the 2nd notch on base. Man, was I low!!! I turned tight, kept my airspeed up, and lined up for final. And just like that, I landed with no problems on Runway 36. It was over before I knew it. It was pretty stinkin' good to be on the ground.
I taxied over and shut down the airplane. It was still misting and raining. I had flown just 1.0 hour exactly.
I almost just needed some time in my airplane by myself! I had made a stupid move that many a pilot has not walked away from. It was just unsafe on all accounts. But the line guy walked up, and I had to get out. Life was moving on. I talked to Matt, and he was ecstatic from a beautiful VOR approach. His confidence shot up 300% after a perfectly-executed approach...breaking out of the clouds at 1000 feet with the runway directly in front of him.
I was just pretty silent. I let him know about my experience, but there just wasn't much to say. I was pretty somber. Just in thought. This would have to be a learning experience, and frankly, I awaited the time to write about it. I needed to relive it moment by moment, figuring out where I was ill-prepared. Figuring out what I did right...and wrong. What was smart...and stupid. What was safe...and illegal. What could have gotten me killed.
Yeah, I did a lot of reflection today.
A lot of thoughts, too. Just the realization that I can die. In flying. Shoot, the thought crosses my mind more often than not...especially since I fly by myself all the time. I am the only one responsible for me living. But today it hit me pretty hard. I can be just another statistic. And the world would go on without me. It would be sad, people would miss me, but I could be dead. It's very possible. And also the regret, frustration, and anger at a perhaps poor instrument training experience. I know a lot, but the more I fly, the more I realize there is so much I don't know. Stuff that I really need to know. Stuff that I wasn't taught. Stuff that can keep me alive. I really, really, really wish I was more proficient at flying IFR. And then there were thoughts about how could I have had an absolutely awesome execution on my last ILS approach (in Ft. Lauderdale) followed by such a terrible one today? Yeah, just a lot of thinking and reflection. Hopefully for the better. I know I'm not the only pilot who has dropped below minimums. I know I'm not the only pilot who has made a mistake. But frankly, it's no excuse. And it's just terribly stupid and unsafe.
I was just very, very unprepared.
Learn from this, Andy.
The afternoon was leisurely. Grabbed the rental car (Enterprise chose to give us a different price than what we reserved it at...AGAIN). This happens a good 80% of the time...which is why I print off my confirmations now. I showed them the paperwork, questioned them as a company, and was told it was my fault. I'm sure they make hundreds of thousands of dollars off of it, but it's really starting to tick me off. I need to start video-taping every experience.
Grabbed some lunch at Jack in the Box. Grabbed a hotel, caught up on my finances, went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse, and then worked out a little.
Also found out tonight that one of my brother's classmates died in fire tonight. Today was the funeral of my friends' dad back home, too. Death all around. And I think about Haiti quite a bit, too.
Forecast is for mist tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock. But clouds at 5000 feet. Who knows if we'll be able to work or not. Clouds are high enough. But we can't have moisture.
Went to bed too late...at 12:45.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Woke up at 8:50 A.M. I was NOT awake. But I had to get this financial situation resolved. I called my broker, and they couldn't do anything. Not good. I called my bank, and they couldn't do anything. Not good! I had made a mistake, and I had to bear the consequences. But I asked to be switched over to my credit card department, and because of a few credits, I was goin' to have enough to make the payment. Phew. It was close. Very close. But I was goin' to be able to do it. I went back to bed. Relieved! I am incredibly good with finances, but this was just stupid!!! Glad it worked out.
I didn't set my alarm.
I finally woke back up at 11:54. Wow!!! And I had some amazing dreams, too!!! I loved 'em! I was playin' in a Major League Baseball game...it was so fun!!!
I took a shower. And I was eager for food since I had missed breakfast. I came out of the shower, and Matt said, "You won't believe it."
Without missing a beat, I said, "Skies are clear."
He nodded. You have got to be kidding me!!! I opened up the curtain, and sure enough, the 2500-foot clouds were nowhere to be seen. There was a very thin overcast layer, but it wasn't what I was used to seeing. It looked so thin!
We quickly arranged for the shuttle, had the planes pulled out, and headed for the airport. Lunch would have to be out of my airplane today.
Arrived at the airport, fired up the cameras and airplane, and was in the skies. I arrived on station at 1:09 in the afternoon, a full 3 hours late!!! Agh!!! Matt and I only 2 1/2 flight plans to finish up, but because of our stupid move, it was going to be close.
I just flew the lines. Thinking about whether we would finish in time or not was not healthy...excuses would pop up into my head...I would try to rationalize them. We had just messed up. Neither one of us set an alarm, and we trusted the weather man. STUPID moves. Well, the lines and hours passed by, and thanks to a high overcast layer, we were able to finish the entire project. Phew. I honestly wasn't sure what I was going to say if we didn't finish. It simply wasn't an option!!! A bullet had been dodged...just barely. And it worked out in our favor, too, because our next project had rain develop in the afternoon...so we couldn't have gotten much work done there anyway.
Barely squeezed by on that one. We'll set alarms from now on...and at least wake up and check the weather. Yikes!
I logged 3.3 hours.
We came back and ate at Denny's, and I was pretty stinkin' hungry. No breakfast, no lunch. Just ONE granola bar, a few sips of apple juice, and some BBQ potato chips at altitude. Not too nice on the tummy. I gorged myself on a huge burger and fries....enough to completely obliterate any progression from yesterday's exercise.
I read a lot this evening. Just powered through Sully's book. I'm so interested in his preciseness. His purposefulness. His flights are serious business. Frankly, I don't always carry myself that way. It's pretty easy not to after flying every day...in an easy-to-fly airplane. It's nothing short of complacency, and I realize I need to fight it.
Got word on something exciting tonight. Hopefully more later.
Oh, and I once again saw the gorgeous woman that I had met over a month ago here at the hotel. I was reading my book in the lobby, and she walked right by...surprised even me. And I usually look for and anticipate these moments!!! We had small talk, and I asked if she would like to go out later that night. She said she would love to. She asked what room number I was in and let me know when she was getting off. 10 o'clock. Perfect.
Well, I believed her. And I didn't. I just trust people (why shouldn't I?) and I just don't. All in the same breath. 10 o'clock rolled by, and I waited. Even brushed my teeth!!! Then 10:15. I heard what I would later swear was her so methodical footsteps. I waited. No knock. 10:30. I figured I would go check. She was gone.
I had been stood up. For the second time. By the same girl. I'm not goin' to lie, I was pretty disappointed. But yet, I literally just didn't have much emotion. I'm so numb to it anymore. It's just more of the same. Really, I'm not, and I wanted to punch a wall later. But it was short-lived. I really really just don't expect much from people...especially women. I am quickly learning to not trust anyone. And it really sucks.
She couldn't even let me know.
I really have no room for that in my life.
Matt and I are relocating tomorrow. We're headin' down to Longview, Texas. A very short flight...under an hour. But it looks like it's goin' to be IFR. Forecast is for ceilings at 1000 feet. With rain.
I'll believe it when I see it.
Went to bed at a respectable 12:15 A.M.
Grabbed some breakfast, took a shower, and just chilled in the hotel. We finally had a weather day!!! Light rain, low clouds at 2000 feet. Perfect! I finally had a day off...after flying more than 20 days in a row. I was pretty excited.
And I did absolutely nothing!!!! Which made it even better.
Matt finally woke up around 10:30, and we ended up goin' to Waffle House for lunch. I grabbed a bowl of chili for 3 bucks. Hard to beat. A couple of people came in with applications...not necessarily the most savvy of lookers, and it just made me think. I am just incredibly grateful to have this job. I have to be. It's such a blessing.
We came back to the hotel and had nothing but time on our hands. I checked out some stocks, moved some money around, and just enjoyed not being a in a tiny chair a mile above the earth. You have to learn to appreciate these times off. You never know when you'll get another.
Later in the afternoon, I worked out for about an hour. I finally weighed myself (in the fitness room) for the first time this season. I have already gained 10 pounds!!! In just a lil' over two months!!! It made working out that much easier. It's so easy to gain weight. GRR!!! I ran a couple of miles, did some push-ups, and powered up the stair climber. I honestly can't even remember the last time I sweated. Needless to say, it felt good. Incredibly painful. But good.
I went for the hot tub and then the pool...and then the hot tub again after my exercise.
For supper, Matt and I headed back over to IHOP. I managed to spend nearly $15 there. I wasn't too excited about that.
I read a little more in Sully's book...I'm enjoying it. Finally went to bed around 1:15 A.M. My three or four cups of sweet tea (with one AFTER 8:00!) were runnin' through my veins. Just before bed, though, I realized that I had transferred too much money over to my stocks...I wasn't goin' to have enough to pay my credit card due on Monday. I was so mad! A bone-headed move on my part. I called both my bank and the broker, but they were both closed. GRR!
Tomorrow is goin' to be another non-flying day. Forecast is for 2500 here...and overcast 1500 with rain down around Longview in our next project.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Did the normal everyday flying. I think this is around Day 20 of flying in a row. Somewhere around there anyway.
I flew a few hours, listened to some music, but found myself unbelievably bored up there today. This stuff just wears on ya sometimes. Today was one of those days. One day is perfect, another day drags on. This one dragged on!!!
I landed for fuel around 1:30 in Mout Pleasant, Texas. A very nice little FBO. Shoot, everything was nice at this airport! The runway, the guys that fueled me up, the facilites. A top-notch general aviation airport. I only wished I could've stayed longer! But it was a quick turn-around...
The winds were minimal today, so I landed on 17 and took off on 35. I can get used to that!
Flew another hour or so and head back in to Texarkana. Matt and I still have 2 1/2 plans left. About 4 hours worth of work total!!!
But we checked the weather, and the low pressure system is moving in. We went from 30.61 at the beginning of the day to 30.34 when I landed! We had high clouds already, but the forecast is for rain and low clouds tomorrow early. Looks like we're goin' to have to stay here for a few more days!
Went and got a haircut at Wal-Mart tonight. Had to walk over there...a little over a mile. The stylist and I had a very easy conversation, so I asked her if she would like to grab a drink later. She told me she was pregnant. Awkwardness ensued, and that was the end of that. Story of my life.
Matt and I walked over to a little Italian restaurant for supper. A pretty fancy set-up...with cheap prices! I can handle that. I downed my spaghetti in just a few minutes. That was my lunch and supper. I only had three granola bars (100 calories each!) up until that point. I was hungry. A cute owner with an interesting accent...she said it was Macedonian and Italian. Macedonian, huh?! I thought that disappeared like 1000 years ago.
Tonight was painfully slow. The minutes just dragged on. I was so bored in the hotel, and I hate that. We are quite limited without a car. Didn't feel like swimming...or reading...or working out. I found Days of Thunder on TV but couldn't even finish that. Just a blah night.
No flying tomorrow. Goin' to have more time on my hands. <sigh>
Went to bed at 12:20 A.M.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Woke up at 8:30.
Another great day for flying. We have been under an absolutely absurd high pressure system. I've seen 30.71 in the past week!!! And we had 30.61 today. Winds were variable throughout most of the day. And blue skies everywhere. Just perfect.
Same routine again. Fly for a few hours in the morning, land around 12:30, grab a quick soup-can and potato chip lunch, hit the skies for two hours more, then land. But I decided to change it up a little bit today...
With music!!! I rocked out to some tunes for a lil' over an hour. Man, what a difference that makes! I never usually listen to music in cars, trucks, OR airplanes, but today I decided I needed some. And it was fantastic!!! Everything under the sun. Garth Brooks, Journey, The Steve Miller Band, Johnny Cash, and on and on. It sure made the time pass by so much quicker. I might have to do this more often!
Flew through an active MOA for awhile today. Never saw anything, though. Although the controller made sure I knew it WAS active. Twice. They vector all of the other traffic AROUND this particular MOA. I decided to fly through it. <sigh> The work has to get done!
On my way back in this afternoon, I decided to do a stall. Haven't done one of those in over a year! I was a bit timid, but I felt the buffet. Corrected too soon. Never went into the full break. I need to do these maneuvers again! Been way too long.
Landed with 5.1 hours on the Hobbs.
Went to IHOP for supper again. First time I ordered something besides breakfast.
Came back to the hotel and worked for a couple of hours on finances. Made sure I had everybody billed out and updated some missed transactions. It's a fiasco with so many receipts and people all the time! But I'm stayin' on it pretty well. Now anyway. I was a bit behind before tonight! I'm averaging $29.01 on my hotel for each night. And $13.64 on food every day. I can live with those numbers.
Read a little bit more of Sullenberger's book tonight. It's more a personal biography than a description of the flight, but I'm sure that story will come soon enough. A hard marriage being a pilot. I think about that pretty often!
Went to Waffle House with Matt at 9:00. Only had a Coke.
Ended up being wired. Didn't go to bed until 1:00 A.M.!!!
Had a pretty normal day. Headed to the airport, headed for the skies, flew my lines, landed for lunch, went back up, flew some more, landed again! I recognized some of the same areas from when we flew this project just over a month ago. Kind of silly that we're doin' this again, but obviously someone wasn't too happy with our final product last time. Oh well. I still get paid to fly.
Thought about my students' dad dying again. I started going through a list in my head of people I know that have died. People that I have shook hands with. Or been relatively close to. I'm only 27 years old, but my list is fairly decent. Grows longer and longer every year. It just sucks. So sad for the kids. I can't imagine.
Went out to IHOP for supper. At 4:45. So early, but it works out well for us. We land, and we're pretty hungry! Saw some familiar faces there. Even had the same waitress. Don't think she remembered us at all.
Ended up doing laundry tonight. FINALLY. I was more than a week overdue. My jeans more than smelled. I was pretty glad to get that done. They only had one washer and dryer, so it took me a few hours to get it all done, but I now have clean clothes. Can't wait to put on fresh boxers tomorrow.
A pretty slow night. I LOVE these shorts days. Wake up late, fly several hours, then have the whole night free. Perfect. I ended up flying 5.6 hours today. I can handle that.
Went to bed a little before midnight. Skies look clear tomorrow...
Monday, January 11, 2010
Woke up at 8:00. I was still pretty deep in sleep. Not cool.
Headed to the airport, but not before a long 45-minute wait for a taxi.
Ended up getting on site around 10:35 this morning. I only had four flight plans to finish up, so I wasn't too worried. I wrapped them up around 1:25 in the afternoon. I landed at Baton Rouge with Jeremy, and we went out and grabbed some Popeye's Chicken. It was pretty rough around the restaurant...I don't always understand it. It just needs to be leveled...all around.
We headed back to the airport, and Jeremy took off for Alexandria. I waited in the FBO. I wanted to get some more night time flying, so I had a few hours to kill. And talk about crazy...there was a wedding going on AT the airport!!! A man and woman were being married inside the hangar!!! I so need to find me one of those types of wives!!! Unbelievable!
I read a magazine, just sat there, and let the time pass by. Finally, around 5:30-ish, I headed out the door. The sun had set just a few minutes earlier. I started up, taxied out, and headed for the skies at 4500 feet. The weather was perfect. A light headwind from the north, but amazingly beautiful skies.
I had a delightful 2-hour flight. Just had some good time to think. And think you do when it's night-time. Not much radio chatter, nothin' to look at, and just you and the night. My mind never stopped. The first 30 minutes I was pretty tired, and even wondered if it was possible that I could fall asleep! But I was better after that...I felt like I could fly seven hours!
I landed at Texarkana, greeted the familiar faces, and then waited for Matt to roll in. He was 40 minutes behind. We headed to the hotel, met Stan, then headed for Waffle House for a 9:45 supper.
Came back to the hotel and just chilled.
Found out that two of my students' dad died suddenly yesterday. He was shoveling snow and had a heart attack. TOTALLY unexpected. I knew the guy, too. Have talked to him several times. I used to ride four-wheelers with his son. I even have a sweatshirt of his still in my suitcase!!! Needless to say, we hung out. And I know his daughter really well, too. She used to come to a lot of our youth activities. I was pretty floored to hear it. Just a shock all around. 50 years old. The part that gets me is just thinking about the two kids. It tears me up. More than I know. I just can't think about it too long. It's certainly one of my biggest fears. Their dad has a heart attack and dies. My dad had one and lived. But I know that it could be me different at any time. I can't bear the thought.
I flew 6.5 hours today.
Tomorrow looks like another full day of flying.
Went to bed at midnight.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
The story continues.
Woke up at 7:30 A.M. We had a bunch of logistical items to take care off this morning...check out of the hotel, return the rental car, drop off a box for shipping, get to the airport, and get out! After all was said and done, we didn't get airborne until 10:15 A.M. About an hour late.
I headed for our last four flight plans with Matt. But I could see the writing on the wall. The forecast was skies clear all day...over pretty much all of Louisiana. The problem? From the ground, I could see clouds...lots and lots of clouds off to the east. And right over the airport, we had clouds literally appearing before our very eyes. Crap.
Well, we still had to scout. I had all of my luggage crammed into the 172, and I took off for the 60-mile trip to my project. About 15 miles into it, though, I was over clouds. Hundreds of 'em. Thousands of 'em. As far as I could see, too. About 25 miles from my project, I even suggested we turn back. But Matt insisted we at least go over and land in Baton Rouge. Ok.
And good thing, too. I arrived at my project...literally ONE MILE away from the edge of the cloud line. On my turns on the west side, I was literally over the clouds. But I was able to get an entire plan done...and Matt finished 80% of his. But sure enough, the clouds remained. Matt and I landed, grabbed some lunch in that crazy Mercedez-Benz SUV, and wished the clouds away.
That didn't happen. They were still there.
So we came back to Alexandria...I grabbed a hotel and waited for another pilot to come in. Matt and Jeff are off to Texas to get their 100-hours done.
I had the hotel room to myself for about two hours. So nice just to have quiet. Minus the loud kids next door. But it's nice just to relax.
I plan to finish the project tomorrow on my own...then head to Texarkana.
Oh, the joys. I had to cancel my hotel and rental car up in Texarkana. Oh, well...if that's the worst of my problems, I'd say I have it pretty well. A crazy day. A long day. But really not too bad.
Flew 3.6 hours today.
Went to bed at midnight.
Woke up at 7:30 A.M. Forced myself to start moving. I knew it would be too easy to stay in bed. Last night was just weird for me. I woke up numerous times...and I never do that. I remember waking up and shutting the blinds all the way...I remember waking up and hearing someone grinding their teeth...I just never wake up at night. Not sure why last night was rough.
Headed out to the airport. It is still unbelievably cold. Around 15 degrees. I hate it.
I quickly hopped into my airplane and started it up. My plans were just northwest of Baton Rouge. Matt and I only had 10 1/2 plans left...we wanted to get an early start so that we could knock it out in two days. And sure enough, I ended up getting to my first line a whole 20 minutes EARLY!!! That never happens! Of course, it helps that I was doing 130 knots across the ground, but still. So I circled around until the window opened.
And then it was more of the same. But it was so cold. It was 16 degrees on the way over, but thankfully, I had a temperature inversion over my plans, so it bumped up to 24 degrees. It's not much, but the 16 was just painful. My fingers were tingling even through my gloves. And without an adequate jacket, it's just too much. I reached in the back and pulled out the fleece blanket given to me from the Cleburne Airport. Oh how that proved to be a blessing!!! I wore it the rest of the day.
It was a pretty routine day. Flying-wise. I had clouds moving in quickly from the north. And we did have a strong northern wind. On my south-bound turns, I would hit 142 knots. And I had a consistent 16-degree crab ALL day long. I landed at Baton Rouge for fuel around 1:00. That proved to be a frustrating 30 minutes.
So I had called a hotel back in Titusville, Florida, about a charge on my credit card. I had purchased 3 nights, but we finished our project in just 2. I asked if it would be possible to get out of my third night, and they said no problem. I was given a receipt with the adjustment on my credit card, and all was done. Or so I thought. Well, I watch my credit card statement online, and sure enough, the charge was taken away. But it was ALSO put back on. For the exact amount. Hmm. So I called and talked to the manager this morning. She said she would investigate it and get back to me. Well, she called back at 10:30 this morning and left me a message. In essence..."Our employee was wrong in her credit back to you, your purchase was non-refundable, and just so you know, we fired that employee." I couldn't believe it. She actually mentioned twice in the voicemail that she had fired the employee...thinking I would take solace in that.
I quickly called her back and let her know that I thought she should reconsider her decision. I was appalled. The manager said this wasn't the only reason for the decision, but I just felt sick!!! I was looking into a $40 charge, and now here a young woman was out of a job. I wish I had never called. I really think the money is rightfully mine, but I would give it up so that she could keep her job. I was sick over the matter!!! She said she couldn't do anything...so I called the corporate office. We'll see what happens with that. <sigh>
Went back out and flew about another hour. I don't know what it was, but I was just having a hard time focusing that last hour. And I hate it. I get that sometimes...and I can never pinpoint why I feel how I feel. Sometimes I think it's the high winds, sometimes I think it's the unfocusable overcast and horizon, and sometimes I think it's a lack of food. But I had food this time!!!! So who knew. But I just didn't have clarity of thought...and I never like flying like that. I hate it.
Matt and I ended up finishing quite a bit of our plans. We only have four left. Should finish tomorrow.
I flew the 45 minutes back to Alexandria.
Matt and I went out to Applebee's tonight...then I began all the logistics for tomorrow. I'm heading back up to Texarkana...it looks like we're doing the EXACT same project again. It's called "Take 2." Hmm. Who knows. But I reserved a rental car and a week's worth of hotel.
And I spent the rest of the night catching up on receipts. And billing people for using my money!!! A productive night.
Oh, and I received my coat today. Plus a couple of Christmas gifts. So I was excited about that. I am actually really, really excited about the coat. It's just bitterly cold here. Very unpleasant. I also have another book to read. Mom and Dad bought me Sullenberger's biography...I think that will be a quick read...excited about that.
Went to bed at 11:45.
I hope I sleep all the way through.
Outside was a "lovely" 600-foot overcast sky. The parking lot was soaked...rain had passed through overnight.
So we took the day slow!!! Reaaaaaal slow!!!
I talked to my brother for a little bit online...trying to get him set up to start investing. I'm pretty excited about that. We had high ambitions of eating around 12:30...but that didn't happen, either! We finally left the hotel at 2:00-ish. yikes! My coat still hasn't come in yet...but I wish it would. It is unbelievably frigid here. Very unpleasant. I think we had 25 degrees today.
We drove around looking for a nice "mom and pop" diner, but we didn't find much. We stopped at a gas-station-converted-into-a-lounge, and I was quickly suffocated by the heavy smoke. It was full of old skinny people drinking and smoking. At 2:00 in the afternoon. Hmm. This town is crazy. We drove around lookin' for other places, but we found nothing. So we headed towards the airport. We stopped at a resaurant on the way out...but they closed at 2:00...25 minutes earlier. I asked what they recommended...the pointed me towards a restaurant 10 miles down the road. So I pointed the car out of town...into the abyss. And after 10 miles, I came to the restaurant...it, too, was closed. Didn't open until 5:00 P.M. I took a ride towards a small town...and I found myself in the middle of the woods. Dense forest. <sigh>
Then I received a phone call from John. More on him later. He said to get back in town...that there was absolutely NOTHING out this way. Crap. I drove the 12 miles back into town...and we stopped at a lil' cozy restaurant. Open less than a year. Grabbed a sandwich and some gumbo. Very good. I do love the southern cajun food. That is about the only thing they have going for them. No, I'm not kidding. Even the locals say this town is worthless. The owner told us about the businesses that have left town in the past couple of decades...and weeks. It's not pretty.
From there we went to the airport for our "scouting" flight. Frankly, we knew we couldn't take pictures, but our parent company loves when we at least make an effort. Gladly. The clouds were at 600 feet still, but we didn't care. We were hoppin' over to an airport just 4.5 miles away. An Army helicopter had landed on the ramp...overheard what we were plannin'...and said "good luck." We couldn't even get up to 1000 feet, he said. They had a hard time staying at 400. ha!
So we talked it over...planned some more...and then made a call to the Tower to even see if we could get a special VFR out of there for three airplanes. He said we could! ha! Perfect. We headed out for our planes. And, oh, what a FAST pre-flight you do when it is this cold outside!!!!! I HATE cold!!! And the wind was painful! Not even fun. I jumped into the plane as fast as I could.
I was the first to get airborne, and a few hundred feet up, I had one of the biggest "drops" in my seat I've ever had! Quite abrupt and painful! My airspeed dropped 20 knots in the blink of an eye, and I felt my bowels trying to come out from places they shouldn't! ouch! And just like that, it was over. <sigh> Stinkin' gusts. So this is how it's goin' to be, huh?
Well, I made the quick jump over to Pineville and lined myself up for Runway 36. It was a pretty uneventful landing, though it was fun to have a crosswind to deal with. I think we had 330 at 11 gusting to 20. Not terrible, but certainly different than the calm you can grow accustomed to. I landed and went inside. Jeff came over and did a touch-and-go and was off again. He simply loves flying...can't get enough of it. Matt came in behind him.
We chilled over at Pineville for about a half hour...then came on back. Of course, I did a touch-and-go before I came back, which was enjoyable. We had all three of us in the pattern...Jeff, me, then Matt. I landed with 20 degrees of flaps, then quickly pulled back 10 degrees, and gave it full throttle! 3000 feet of runway. And these Cessna's don't even need half of it. Pretty fun.
Landed back to Alexandria. I had logged 0.7. ha!
But I had a date!!! Well, kind of. I had found a couch-surfing host here in town, and they had invited me over for supper. So I quickly took Matt and Jeff back to the hotel, found the address, then took them back to the airport, then headed for couples' house. It was out in the middle of nowhere!!!
But what a fun night it was. John and Diane greeted me with a glass of wine, then we just started talking. It was definitely a get-to-know-you type deal! Which was fine by me! He is a lawyer in town...used to be an electrical engineer, but changed his mind...started a new career at age 30. They love to travel and just returned from 3 weeks in Australia. I'm the third couch-surfer they've hosted, and they said each experience has been grand!
We talked about everything. John has some aviation in him, and he was asking me questions about my flying that even I was impressed with. He definitely knew the aviation lingo pretty well. He had spent 7 years in the service, and he had told me about the old method of taking pictures on one continous reel. It's crazy how much we've progressed...and yet not much at all.
We watched the Rose Bowl a bit, although that was in the background. We really, really just enjoyed talking. They had a beautiful double-wide wrapped up in a log cabin. It was kind of crazy!!! They offered me a bed, but I had to refuse. At one point in the conversation, John said he had one piece of advice for me..."Save your money." As simple as that. If I could save 10% of my income, then do it. If 20, fantastic. I interjected and asked about 75%! ha! I let him know that I am madly in love with investing...with saving...with working with money. I just love it.
The night was just enjoyable. We all had a great time together. It certainly was enjoyable to get a home-cooked meal (pork chops, potatoes with cheese, and corn...2 servings!) and wonderful to sit down in a living room. I know they appreciated the conversation, too. We just had a great time. I left around 9:45.
I headed back to the airport, picked the guys up from where they had been playing Xbox...but not before I watched the last six minutes of the Rose Bowl. Great game...was going to come down to the wire until the fumble. Another game in the books.
Came back to the hotel, ended up going to bed at midnight. Set my alarm for 7:30 A.M. I have a long flight tomorrow in order to get to my flight plans...
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Woke up at 8:00 A.M. My alarm was going off...though for some reason, I just didn't feel like it was mine. But sure enough, I recognized that sound. Wow, I was moving slow...here we go again...
Did the morning routine.
Headed for the airport. It was another beautiful day...blue skies with not a cloud to be seen! I tell you, I just never pictured LOUISIANA as being a hot-spot for flying. But here we are, six days into January, and I've flown every day so far! And only one of those was a weather day!!! Headed for the skies...
But not before I received a phone call. It turns out my mechanic back in Daytona Beach was worried. He couldn't sleep last night because he had lost his oil pan from his shop...the one he uses to catch oil from our airplanes. Well, I had just had an oil change while another airplane had a 100-hour inspection. He was positive he had left it in one of our cowlings...and he couldn't sleep because of that. Frankly, an oil pan left in a cowling really isn't going to do that much damage, so I wasn't too worried or upset. But I certainly looked inside the cowling for him but saw nothing. It wasn't in my airplane anyway!!! It did put a little thought in my head, though...not a new one. It's always there. My safety in the skies always comes back to my mechanics on the ground. I am totally dependent upon them for my safety. It's nothing short of beautiful...and a bit scary! But I guess that is all of life. Whether I trust an engineer to make a bridge correctly...or whether I trust a factory to make food correctly...or whether I trust a mechanic to put my aileron cables in correctly...it all comes down to, "It's out of my hands." Ah, what a feeling. I really have no control over this life. I realized that two years ago in Europe.
More lines. Matt finished one plan, then headed for Texas for a control field. I stayed here and kept flying. I was kind of bummed that he had to leave...we are getting pretty close to finishing...and having his help today would just get us that much closer! But the company asked him to...not much I can do.
I ended up landing at a fun lil' airport. Its runway is just 30 feet from some water...and even has a water runway! Pretty neat. And on top of that, it's only 3000 feet long. Plenty of room for a 172, but certainly different than these huge runways I've been landing on. I enjoyed it. I also met a nice young woman there...workin' on her CFI. Not hot but certainly cute. Pleasant. I would land there later in the day...
For oil. I promise. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Oh, the second part of the day was just blah. More lines. I was ready to be down. The long days, the loud noise, the lack of lunch today...I just wasn't feeling too stellar. In the last 45 minutes, I was having a hard time focusing!!! I would stare at everything, but I just couldn't focus. I hate that. I need a better routine. I need lunch. I had downed several small candy bar snacks at the FBO, a couple of granola bars in the sky, and two muffins that I took from the hotel this morning. And a little Gatorade. But it just wasn't doin' it. I need something substantial.
Well, the window finally closed. I actually flew one more line under the high overcast but was eager to head back. But not before that extra stop...I mean, we DID need some oil for the 100-hours coming up. But I had other reasons for the stop, too. No worries, though...she wasn't there. I was left out to dry!!! I did buy some oil, though.
Made the short 5-mile hop over to Alexandria from Pineville. Too funny. I landed right behind Matt on a short final.
We went to a Chinese place for supper. Not too good. I need to stop eating unhealthy. I can certainly see it in my gut. I feel fat. Grr. But I downed two plates plus dessert.
I did walk three miles tonight, though, on the treadmill. Also did some sit-ups and push-ups. Good to do that again. It has been WAY too long. I feel fat!!! I hate it!
Tomorrow is calling for 1500 overcast. I'll take it. I'm eager for a day off. I've flown 26.5 hours in 6 days. And 51.1 hours in 10 days. It's great for the wallet...but I'm just tired. A day outside of an airplane is fine by me.
Went to bed at 12:30 A.M. I plan on sleeping in...
Woke up at 8:00. Did the morning routine.
Headed out for the airport...did the routine out there. And I was off for my lines.
And that was pretty much my day. I flew east, I flew west. I rinsed and repeated. Today was just not too exciting!!! We had nothing but blue skies again. A massive high-pressure system has been giving us nothing but clear skies! Today the pressure was 30.51. That is sooooooo high!!!
Around 12:30, I ended up landing at Opelousas, Louisians (KOPL). I had to pump my own fuel, surprise, surprise. I really don't know where we are, but I think there is only one airport within 50 miles that has full-service fuel!!! It's kind of crazy...I'm certainly not used to it! I am admittedly use to having a line guy come out, ask what I want, I tell him, and then I go inside and eat! Now it's land, park in front of the tanks, attach ground wire, insert credit card, move ladder over to wing, pull out hose, top off one side, move ladder, top off other side, reverse the above. I'm not goin' to lie, I'm just not a big fan!!!
I ate my can of soup and headed back up for the skies.
I had about an hour and a half left of window, and I was able to knock out another whole plan...bringing my total up to 3 today. Frankly, with these 1 1/2 hour plans, that is just a good, solid day. I was pleased. I headed back for Alexandria.
All in all, I flew another 5.6 hours today. Oh, and I'll be the first to admit that I was pretty bored today. This job is so crazy...it's just a roller-coaster ride. A week ago I was flying across the country in some challenging weather and beautiful scenery. Now I am "mowing" in the sky. I even thought of other jobs I could do...which allowed me to buy an airplane. I'd take a wife, grab a plane, and just fly across the country when I felt like it. Yup, I was bored.
Landed, then waited for our fuel receipts, although they were much faster today.
As I shut down, I saw some vans pull up to a 737 that we park next to on the ramp. We are told that this jets flies almost daily...carrying illegal immigrants back to their home countries. Unbelievable. Mostly South America and Central America. It was just surreal to me. Here I am, living my life. And just a few hundred feet away, some person is being shackled and sent back to what they chose to leave. Frankly, a great deal of me is angry at them for coming over. And for thinking about me (us) having to pay for them to get back. I'm sure it's our tax money. But then another part of me is just sad and compassionate...what did they leave? Poverty? Injustice? What did they come for? Freedom? A husband? Money? They obviously felt the need to abandon their homeland and illegally come here...and it wasn't for no reason. It was just a powerful thought. Life was happening just a few feet away from me.
For supper, Matt and I headed to Outback Steakhouse...Jeff decided to stay in. He had just purchased an Xbox from some guy down south, and he was eager to get that all set up. Frankly, Outback was pretty blah. I was ridiculously worn out from a long, boring day...and I think I showed up. Neither Matt nor I talked very much. Food was strictly for function this evening.
Came back to the hotel...talked to Dani for a little bit. She pretty much blew up at me...whatever. She's just having a bad day...month...year...decade. She told me some stuff, though, that just lay pretty heavy on my heart. Stuff I'll never forget. I really, really, really have come to hate this world we live in. I really do. I talked to Sandy for a bit, too...she has surgery tomorrow. Anyway, that conversation was not good, either. I was just sad/angry at life. At the injustice, at the unfairness. I pretty much made her say that she wouldn't date me because I believed in God...which she willingly said. Perfect. That's all I need. Just one more who says that.
I went to be pretty stinkin' sad. At this life. For others, for me. It's just unfair. Went to bed at 11:00 A.M.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
To think this day was almost doomed from the beginning.
Woke up at 8:00 A.M. Did the typical routine...pee, shower, breakfast, out the door.
We were at the airport ready to go...when a line lady told us we couldn't leave our car where it was parked. Ummm...we were told we could park it here. "By whom?" That guy! And I pointed to a line guy!!! But she insisted...we couldn't park it on the ramp. We'd have to move it. I was seriously getting into my airplane at the time...having pre-flighted already...but neither of the other two seemed too eager to deal with her. <sigh> I hopped in the car and moved it back to the FBO.
While there, I figured I would ask the Manager if we could park it on the ramp. He's a shorter fella, and I walked in and introduced myself. I told him that we were told we could park there, and he coldly told me it wasn't allowed. Um, ok. He had no expression of care. While there, I figured I'd ask him about hangar rates, too. The line girls had told me to wait until Monday (today) to ask this guy about what rate we'd be receiving. As if I was stupid, he told me it was the normal rate that the FBO gives. The girls at the desk know it. Go ask them. If we stayed more than 3 days, we'd get the monthly rate. The girls know it. At the desk. Go to them. Huh. This guy was pretty annoying. And I don't really get annoyed with people. Then he proceeded to tell me that we absolutely had to sign our receipts before we left each day. He could not understood why we had any notion of leaving before they were signed. Sign them EVERY day, before you leave. I was absolutely and totally in awe. This was unbelievable. I wiped EVERY expression off of my face. I let him know I could care less about his words. I proceeded to walk out. I had no room for this guy.
We arrived January 31, 2009.
3 things we were told.
#1--You can park your car on the ramp. Here, I'll even show you exactly where to park. Right there, on the ramp, in front of the hangar.
#2--You need to talk with the Manager about hangar rates. We don't know what to charge you. You'll have to wait until after this holiday weekend to speak to the manager...he's the guy to talk to.
#3--Hey, don't worry about signing your receipts each day. You can simply sign them before you leave the next day. We had been doing this for a few days by this point...no problems, no worries.
Then I meet this guy. And he tells me THREE OPPOSITE things. I literally just turned him off. And he knew it. My face showed the least bit of concern. Whatever. Get me to my airplane.
I was obviously late for the window, but that wasn't goin' to be a problem. We had overcast clouds at 3000 feet in Alexandria. We headed for our Baton Rouge flight plans where the forecast was 5000 feet. But as we came closer, we realized that even these were not going to be possible! I had flown over there at 2000 feet...just barely below the clouds. It was freezing outside, and the mist hanging down from some of the clouds left a thin layer of ice on my leading edges...and on some of my windshield. Two things that don't mix: Cessna 172's and ice. I was watching my wings like a hawk. I simply do not play with ice. Around Baton Rouge, I could climb to 3500 feet, but that was it. We weren't goin' to be able to do any work today. So we landed at Baton Rouge. After landing, my wings had a line of water drops all along the ground. The ice had melted on the descent. Jeff had the same thing...Matt, however, still had ice on the wings!!! I really called it stupid, but he said it was all fine. I just don't play with this stuff!
We grabbed a courtesy vehicle...which ended up being some $65,000 Mercedes Benz SUV. Stupid crazy if you ask me. But they gave it to me! Went out to eat at Jack in the Box. I found that picture comical...a cheap meal from a luxury vehicle. Whatever.
Headed back to the airport, then headed back for Alexandria. The clouds were very low, and the controller let us know of SEVERAL PIREP's of icing within 20 miles of Baton Rouge. Um, yeah, we know. !!!! I climbed to 2000 feet. That worked well for about 10 miles, but then I had to descend for clouds. 1500 feet. That only lasted for awhile, too. I literally had to drop down to 1000 feet!!!! We had low clouds everywhere!!!! There was simply no way of getting on top of them. And we couldn't fly through them, or we would be coated in ice. So there I was, flying the 80 miles back at 1000 feet! I loved it!!! And all I could think about was dive-bombing something! The river, the cows below, I didn't care! I am absolutely addicted to low-level flying. I mean, it was still 1000 feet, but it's so much lower than I normally get! I ate it up!
It was simply some of the most enjoyable flying I've had. I just love flying point to point and looking at scenery. I could read the names of towns on the water towers!!! So much fun.
Well, we landed back at Alexandria, and then came back to the FBO to wait for our fuel tickets. I kid you not, we had to wait 45 minutes. This was ridiculous!!! We have 45 minutes added on to our day just because this guy wants us to sign our receipts. NO OTHER FBO has us do this. Some even wait an entire week or an entire month before giving us our receipts! They already had our credit cards on file, so c'mon!!!
Well, I figured it would be wise to let the manager know our situation. Waiting for 45 minutes every day was simply not an option. Plus I wanted to let him know that his business had no fluidity from top to bottom. So I walked in there and told him just that. I let him know that what he said was way different than what his employees had told us. He barked back that his line gal (from this morning) had told us that we couldn't park out on the ramp just like he had. He had talked to her this afternoon. Unbelievable. He seemed to think he had gained the upper hand on me. So I let it all go.
#1--She told us that. Which is why I came up here this morning. The problem? We have been here for 3 days already. Your other guy told us something the exact opposite.
#2--I was asked to ask you on Monday (today) what the hangar rates are. Here I am. You said I needed to talk to the girls, not you. Again, the opposite.
#3--You say I need to sign receipts every day. Your desk girl told me I didn't have to. Again, the opposite.
I let him know that if just one thing was different, we could let it slide. But here we are, told 3 things by HIS very own employees, only to be told the EXACT opposite by him. Simply unacceptable.
And so he went off into a long spiel about how he has employees that do this, do that. How he lost a few, how he had some "heroes" that want to run the business, blah blah blah. After he was over, I simply said, "Sir, frankly, with no disrespect, I could care less about your business problems. That simply doesn't address the problem here. I am a customer, and I was told such and such by your employees, and yet management tells me differently. THAT is unacceptable." I have no room in my life for being walked over. I wasn't goin' to let him "talk" me over.
I asked about the receipts, told him we had waited for 45 minutes today already, and he told me he legally had to have us sign the receipts before we left. I let him know he was the only FBO that has demanded such a request, but that was it. Did we have to sign or no? I put my hand on my bag to let him know I was ready to go. I didn't need more "talk." Did we or didn't we have to sign the receipts. He insisted that we had to. Crap. I grabbed my bag and stood up. Ok, then. He apologized and said that they would make it right. "Welcome to Alexandria, and we will make it right."
I felt it would be honorable to shake his hand, though I didn't want to. But I did. And with that, I was out the door.
I don't like this guy. I am not a customer to him.
Oh, I should also mention that this morning the line guy that drove me over made the comment that if he owned the company, he would operate it differently. He knew or felt my frustration with the manager. And he said Million Air was ONLY there for the military. That is their #1 goal. "The military supercedes everything else." I still had no emotion on my face. And I responded, "I don't care if I'm in a Cessna 172, a Citation, or a military C-130, I am a customer, and I expect to be treated as such." I opened up the door and headed for the plane.
It's just annoying.
Anyway, we headed back to Texas Roadhouse for supper. We had a very attractive waitress, but she simply gave us NO time of day. I called it from the moment she walked up. I could tell she would have nothing to do with us. It was nothing short of...amusing? Although she did let us know that we needed to try boudin while we're in Louisiana. Oh, and that she loved crawfish and couldn't believe we hadn't ever had any. A hot chick that loves crawfish. I can get used to that.
Went to the FBO to watch Rambo in their $50,000 private theater room. Crazy. Received a phone call from Dani, though, just a little bit into the movie. I ended up talking with her for an hour and 42 minutes. Sweet.
Went to bed at a too-late 1:15 A.M. Looks like it's a nice day tomorrow...
Woke up at 8:30. Did the typical routine: pee, shower, breakfast, out the door.
Headed for the airport...skies were lookin' good again! It's so cold here, though. Not my cup o' tea. I sure miss Florida strictly because of the weather! It's 30-ish in the morning. yuck. Headed to the airport, then flew to my flight plan.
Then began the same ol', same ol' routine. Everything was going fine...until I made a turn on one of my lines. My computer froze for a second...then I was deluged with a ton of error messages. Uh oh. I paused it. Then tried the line again. This was my FIRST computer problem all season! It had been going so well that I had even considered writing my parent company and thanking them for a nice "quiet" year. Last year I had numerous problems! This year has been great! But as the story goes, my time was over. For the next 45 minutes, I had numerous problems. I finally switched flight plans to try to change it...but I still received errors. I decided to land for fuel and lunch...about 45 minutes early...so that I could change out my drives. Hopefully that would fix the problem.
I ended up landing at KACP in Oakdale, Louisiana. Frankly, there is NOTHING to write home about. I was the only soul on the entire airport...I looked and couldn't find anyone. I fueled up my airplane (self-serve), then headed inside the single-wide trailer to see what it offered. Not much. I mean, it was seriously a trailer...easily livable...but just sitting empty. It had a couch, a couple of beds, the full kitchen, and on and on. A few old out-dated truck and motorcycle magazines, and that was it. I ate some lunch and left a gift for them...and I beheld perhaps the softest toilet paper I've ever experienced (next to my grandma's!). It was fantastic! A welcome relief to any hotel or FBO anywhere else. Thanks, Oakland!
I headed back up for the rest of the afternoon. East, west, east, west. Jeff and I talked about strip clubs and whatnot...an obvious continuation of last night's conversation over supper. You never know what you will get at 4500 feet up.
East, west, east, west. All told, I flew 5.6 hours today. A fine day.
We headed to a BBQ joint for supper. Frankly, it was pretty blah. I mean, it was decent...good food. Just too quiet. I enjoy seeing people...interacting with people...and this was just an order upfront, seat yourself, type of deal. Blah.
We came back to the hotel. I ended up staying in...the other guys headed out. It was nice to just have some me-time. I ended up finishing the Lindbergh biography...a great ending. Lindbergh died just like the rest of us. It's a very healthy reminder...someone so great, so influential, someone who has influenced my life more than I'll ever comprehend or understand...and yet gone. A quick death, a quick burial. Just like that. I also chewed on the whole relationship aspect of it, too. The book was well-written in the fact that it dealth with Mrs. Lindbergh just as much. It wasn't always healthy (very rare, actually!), but it was certainly neat to see how the two interacted...how Charles gained strength from a relationship...yet abused it so much. I see so much of me in him!!! Or vice versa! But yeah, having come off of Florida...it was definitely fodder for thought.
I also talked to Dani for the first time in a couple of months. Just chatted online. We picked it right back up, though. I'm eager to see where this goes!
Went to bed at 12:30 A.M.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Grabbed breakfast, then waited for 9:00 o'clock to roll around. We needed a rental car, but they didn't open until 9:00 o'clock. I had one reserved two days ago, but they wouldn't deliver it to the airport without me there...and yesterday was a holiday for them, so0ooo....
Called at 9:00, picked up at 9:15, out of their office at 9:35. They gave me a different rate than what I reserved it at. I HATE rental cars...Enterprise repeatedly does this to me. It's so frustrating. I have to take in my paperwork to them (for the umpteenth time) and show them that they are indeed at fault again. C'mon, guys. Why so shady?
Came back to the hotel, picked the guys and luggage up. Yeah, we're moving. Our hotel does NOT have the wireless internet they described. It's there, but we can only get it from the hallway. No thanks. Oh, well...I won't miss this place too much. A toilet that flushes poorly, a tub that leaves you with 4 inches of water at the end of a shower, a nasty smell of 40-year-old hotel when you walk in your room...not my cup o' tea.
Headed for the airport.
Was on station at 10:44...a full hour late. grr.
Flew the next 4 hours. Back and forth. East and west. A long day. Yesterday I actually hated flying. I just didn't like it. It was one of those days to put behind you. Today was...well, just ok. No real passion. Just going through the motions. Discipline. But I got another 4.6 hours. Of pine trees.
Came back, went to our new (and MUCH nicer hotel). Then went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse. The love of my life. I gorged myself on rolls, sweet tea, and the steak kabob. Cute waitress, too...kind of weird experience. She just kept on looking at me. Goofy. The other guys noticed. Anyway.
Came back, spent the rest of the night in the hotel.
Just a great night all around. A good day. Nice flight time, great conversation with the guys, and some time to myself at night.
Oh, while we're at it, we talked about strip clubs at one point tonight. How a guy's wife is ok with him going. Even wants to tag along. I said I feel that's shady...that it's encouraging a guy to want what he can't have...what isn't his...and the wife is supporting that. I said it only leads to lust. Anyway, it was surprising to me to hear a wife ok with that, although I know it exists. I think I'll be surprised the next time I hear it, too. That's the truth.
Looks like another full day of flying tomorrow...
Went to bed at midnight.
We had clouds at the airport. The forecast was calling for them to disappear at noon, but they were literally everywhere at the moment. At 1600 feet. Oh boy.
So we sat around at the airport for a couple of hours. Agh, I hate this. I hate sitting around, not knowing if I will work or not. But around 11:30, the clouds started getting thinner and thinner. I might actually believe the TAF this time. How 'bout that. That's a welcome change.
We headed out to the ramp...but I just sat in my airplane. The clouds weren't budging!!! GRR!!! Finally, they were almost gone...I headed for the skies.
I went west and had mostly clear skies. I had wheels-up at 12:30 P.M. We had sat around for a few hours. <sigh>
It was pretty nice, though. Smooth skies (above 3100 feet). But I was mapping trees. Lots of pine trees, a little bit of grass, and a river. That's it. No houses really anywhere. Oh, central Louisiana. The radio chatter was nice, though. And by that, I mean it was barely existent. Going from non-stop Fort Lauderdale nonsense to one or two radio calls an hour was nothing short of spectacular. It was pretty nice to enjoy quiet.
After 2.6 hours, I landed. A pretty short day.
And I was hungry. And I had that "I only ate two granola bars for lunch" headache. Not good. Jeff had gone to another airport for oil, so we had to wait on him. After a half hour, he called and said he was 100 miles out. See ya. I asked for a ride to the hotel. I needed to eat. And I didn't feel like waiting at least another hour for someone...especially after waiting so much already this morning. Get me out of the airport!
Headed to the hotel, had that headache, so I fell asleep (on accident, nonetheless). Woke up and needed food. Jeff still wasn't here, but we found out he was back. Ended up waiting for him for another 30 minutes. GRR. I need food.
Ended up eating around 7:30 P.M. I didn't feel good at all. Ate some Mexican. Lots of it.
But I felt like crap.
Came back and crashed. I did NOT feel good.
Went to bed around 8:30-ish. Headache and all.
Went back to the hotel and had to wait on a couple of packages. Matt was waiting for some discs for his computer that went kerplunk, and I had to wait on some drives for our company. So I just sat around and waited! The drives came in around 10:30, and Matt's package came in around 11:00. So at 11:05, I was headed for the airport!
I had wheels up around noon. Made the quick flight up to Daytona Beach to get my oil changed. I only logged 0.7 hours up there. Went out with the guys to grab some subs, then back to the airport. Turns out Jeff, Matt, and I were headed for Alexandria, Louisiana!!! It's so far away!
I put together an IFR flight plan, then headed west at 3:30. My first stop: Destin, Florida. AGAIN! This would be the third time I'd been there this season! But it's an awesome FBO, and they treat me with respect! It seriously may be my favorite one in the country. And the approach?! Agh, hard to beat!
The first hour or so was pretty easy. I was crusing at 5000 (the altitude they put me at for whatever reason...I had requested 6000). It was all VFR. About an hour in, though, I started having clouds right below me. They were gradually workin' their way up, and sure enough, I ended up "in the soup" for a good portion of the rest of the flight. So fun. Well, most of it, anyway. Some of the clouds were rather dark...
And one of the areas was pretty foreboding. It looked nasty from 40 miles out...and sure enough, as I got closer, it didn't get any prettier. I lost the sun setting behind this massive wall of cloud, and my course put me right into it. I kjnew it wasn't going to be fun! I turned off the auto-pilot and braced for the insides. Sure enough, it was pretty crazy. Not necessarily aggressively bumpy...but loads of updrafts and downdrafts. It had some hefty drafts. Nothin' too crazy, but still enough to make your heartrate shoot up. And just like that, I was out of it. It was probably only 5-10 miles wide...but it kept my attention!!! Focus on the six-pack, keep it level! My altitude was up and down, but that was fine by me. Just ride out the drafts.
Came out on the other side to a beautiful sun setting. With clear skies up ahead. Man, I love this job. I seriously can't believe some of the experiences I get to be a part of. The sites. The wow moments. And this was one of them. I had a beautiful flight up ahead. Some challenging flying just to make it interesting. But man, what a life. Hard to beat.
Landed at Destin, Florida. Taxied to my favorite FBO. It was night-time by now (the last 45 minutes were in the dark), and I did the approach to Runway 32. Out over the ocean, 300 feet above the resorts, runway. Ah, perfect!
I took a can of tomato soup inside to warm up and asked for a top-off. I had flown 3.5 hours already. (Yeah, I was only doing 75-85 knots across the ground...we had a pretty stiff headwind at altitude). I finally received 6000 feet about halfway through my trip but asked for 4000 the last half to get back in the clouds. In and out of the cumulus. I loved it!
The line guys saw I was eating and asked if I wanted some left-over catering food. Um, yeah!!! They brought out green beans, mashed potatoes, and ham. Perfect! I warmed up my soup, ate most of the rest of the potatoes, a few slices of ham, and about spit out the green beans (gross!). But it was a very welcomed meal! Thanks, guys!
I checked out the weather and really wasn't liking what I was seeing! Just west of Alexandria, Louisiana, was a massive cold front moving in...full of heavy rain. The radar was showing a huge green blob just west of the city. I called up a flight briefer, and he informed me of the same. The cold front was moving at 51 knots...and carrying a ton of rain. An advisory was out for mid-level turbulence all across the area...with freezing levels ranging from the surfact to 19,000 feet. I needed to get there!!! All of a sudden, I was eager to get back up in the air...I wanted to get as far as I could and possibly even squeeze in before the front. But I was disconnected with the briefer due to my cell phone losing signal...
So I called again and talked with another briefer. This time I was just trying to file my flight plan since I already had all of the NOTAM's and weather. But after he looked at my route, he felt it his duty to inform me of the weather again. The freezing levels, the radar, etc. I appreciated the concern, but I still already had that information! I did end up filing an alternate, though. There was a SIGMET out for the turbulence...and an advisory saying to expect "less than 1000, less than 3." Looks like we're going to get to shoot an ILS! Seeing as how I didn't have the approach plates, I printed several off for Alexandria, Baton Rouge, and even Nacogdoches. I wanted to be prepared!
I took off just 15 minutes later and climbed to 4000. The temperature was 49 degrees. So far, so good.
Matt was up in the air almost directly to my south...he had landed at Gulfport, Mississippi. And Jeff was heading in to Mobile, Alabama, just shortly after I reach my altitude. How fun!
I ended up taking the lead...Jeff came up about 40 miles behind me...and Matt was even behind that.
For most of the flight, I had smooth skies. And unbelievably clear. It was perfect. Again, I was paid to have this view. I don't get it!!! The moon was so bright (behind me...I couldn't see it) that I could literally see the earth from 4000 feet up! And all around, you could watch fireworks. Everyone else was celebrating New Year's Eve...it was pretty fun to watch. It makes you think, too. Everywhere there is a story occurring...a life happening. And I get to watch it all. It kind of gives you a "God-like" feeling. Not in the blasphemous way, but just in the..."Wow, life is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay bigger than any one person thinks it is." Here is a party, there is a party, here is a celebration, there, there, there. Kind of neat to watch and think about. Plus the colors were neat, too.
Then up ahead I could see a little bit of change. There was something, and I was pretty sure I knew what that something was.
"I see overcast up ahead!!!" I was pretty excited. By this time, we were all back in the air together...I was kind of the "scout" going ahead. And we had all seen the radar...and we all knew that we were flying into something. That made us all a bit nervous...but the excited nervous. Night IFR flying. You have to be on your "A" game.
And sure enough, right at 114.5 miles from Alexandria, I flew over a low layer of overcast. I myself was not in it, but I knew that from here on out, I was meeting the frontal system. Or at least this was going to usher me into the frontal system.
I watched as the overcast kept on creeping higher and higher. Funny thing about flying at night. Once you lose reference to the earth, you really have no clue how you are flying. I mean, in terms of straight-and-level. I wanted to believe the clouds, I wanted to think I was straight...but frankly, even though I was "out" of the clouds, I still had to fly only by instruments. I had an overcast layer above me...and one creeping up below me. I didn't know if its shape matched the curvature of the earth. I was flying IFR outside of the clouds! Oh, how those clouds can play tricks on you! But it was fun. The clouds never really came high enough, though...just a few hundred feet below me. But...
Around 50 (80?) miles out, I entered some clouds. It was go-time. By this time, I had already been studying the ILS approach. I wanted to be ready for it.
But then, around 40 miles out, I was given the RNAV Runway 36 approach. Hmm. I questioned the controller as the briefer in Destin had told me that the RNAV 36 approach was unavailable due to an active restricted area. The controller told me the restricted area was closed. All right then! RNAV approach it is. He cleared me to an intersection...and so began my quest of trying to figure out how to load up the approach in the GPS! I had no problem getting the approach in there, but I couldn't figure out how to make it go to the specific intersection for the longest time! 10 minutes?! Agh, I was getting frustrated! All the while trying to make sure I was level in the clouds. Thank you, aut0-pilot...but I still had to check frequently...it's amazing how quickly you can get off in just a few seconds! Plus the auto-pilot HAD disengaged earlier in the night...I was not taking anything for granted!
At one point, I thought I saw lightning up ahead. NOT cool. I told the other guys. NOT cool. But I definitely saw a glow in the clouds. I was nervous! At 75 miles, I had queried Flight Watch to ask about the weather. She told me there was convective activity 55 miles south of the field (though dissipating). She also said that I should expect rain on the way in...the front was moving over the field. All right. Game on.
Well, I finally figured out how to go direct to the intersection, and I prepared for the approach. But I could see lights up ahead. Hmm. There were clouds below me...and to the north of me...and to the west...but I also had plenty of open space, too...I could see lights on the earth. This is going to be interesting. I also saw another glow in the clouds and was VERY thankful to realize it was only fireworks. I had NO desire to tackle a thunderstorm. Frankly, that can mean death. Not my cup o' tea. But it certainly gets you thinking flying at night. It's just me making the decisions. That's it. Death is a very real reality if I make a stupid decision. It's just the fact of the matter. It's kind of neat to realize...I have a certain power...and I am the only one responsible for it.
Well, I could see the city at 10 miles out. The controller asked me if I wanted to do a visual. No, sir. First of all, I wanted to shoot a legitimate approach. I was incredibly disappointed that it wasn't going to be a challenging approach, but sometimes that's how it happens. I was certainly in quite a bit of rain, but I could see clearly. Second, though, who knew when I would get back in the clouds. This was a mess out here. On my way in, it was very possible to fly through some more soup. I needed to be on track with no questions.
The rain was still flying. The "one-minute-weather" was callin' 1100-foot broken. Light rain.
I lined up for the RNAV approach to 36 and carried it on in. I had rain the entire time the last 30 miles, but the visibility remained good. Tower asked me for a PIREP which I was glad to give. "Visual the entire approach, although clouds just off to my west."
I landed no problems at all. My long flight was over. And what a great one it was!!! VFR in Florida to IFR in Louisiana. Warm sunshine to cold rain. Halfway across the country. Ocean on my right to trees all around. High sun to darkness. And I was paid to do it. Unbelievable.
I waited for the other guys to land...and I watched the ball drop in Times Square. I had landed 20 minutes before New Year's. I'm not goin' to lie, I thought the coverage was terrible, and I was happy to be in the sky above it all. I feel at home up there. Although when they showed people kissing at midnight, I could think of one I wouldn't mind having close right at that moment.
The other guys landed, and we headed for our hotel. Ended up going to bed at 1:30 A.M. 2:30 Eastern time...what my body was used to. Looks like we work in the morning...
What a life.