Woke up at 7:10 A.M. Showered, then grabbed some breakfast. I packed up my stuff (5 minutes), dropped a very painful poop, then we checked out of the hotel. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky anywhere. Back to like it was a few weeks ago! We grabbed subs at Subway, then drove to the airport where I dropped more kids off at the pool, then hopped in the airplanes.
I had 95 miles to go to get to my flight plan. It was up at 12,700 feet, so I went ahead and put some oxygen on. It was an absolutely beautiful day to fly. It was almost totally smooth, and it was certainly a refreshing change!!! The visibility was almost endless, although there was a haze at the bottom half of the horizon. A stable atmosphere for sure, holding down all of the “stuff” in the air! It created what looked like smog all around. A brown haze just compressed right above the earth!
I arrived on station and did my first west-bound line. I missed too many pictures for it to complete! GRR! I turned east-bound and was flying too fast. Another line missed! GRR! I was NOT off to a good start. I turned back around to try to grab my first missed line. And I missed hitting the entry point. Oh boy. It was smooth, too…for the most part. The western portion of my lines had some unforeseen bumps, but for the most part, it was fine. I should NOT be flying this terribly!
But I kept at it. I was finally able to get my flying under control. To be honest, though, I just wasn’t feeling very well. My stomach was just a mess. Food poisoning? Just bad food? I’m not sure. But I was feeling pretty blah. I checked the oxygen. It was fine. I was a bit nervous for awhile, but sometimes my body honestly just takes a while to get used to flying. I’ve noticed that. After an hour or two, it’s not a problem. I think it’s just not used to the numerous sideways motions thrown at it! Who knows.
I started to see clouds popping up. They would appear, then disappear. Some were white and off in the distance, while others were grey and closer. But they were causing a bit of turbulence. To this day, I just don’t get it. Clouds are so pretty to look at it, but they are often nasty to fly around! But I will admit I was pretty stinking excited to see ‘em pop up. From experience, I was pretty confident they would start popping up all around sooner or later. Perfect! Enough to fly, get some work done, AND fly to Denver without making it a crazy-long 10-hour day.
I finished a flight plan, then moved on to another. By now , the couple of clouds were certainly more. They were not disappearing, either. I had to climb up to 13,700, and I had to fly 35 miles west deeper into them. Hmm. I wasn’t even sure if I could get any more work done, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could. And it was smoother up here above them. I finished another flight plan and then tried to do another. But there just wasn’t hardly anywhere to go anymore. The several clouds were now hundreds if not a thousand. They were everywhere. I was able to fine ONE more flight plan that was barely without clouds…by about ½ mile. But that didn’t last long. I was only able to finish three lines on it. And that was all I could do! The day was over. I was thrilled!!! No 8-hour day like I had expected!!! This was going to be perfect. I had logged 3.1 hours thus far.
I pointed the Aztec back towards KGJT. I was doing around 150 knots heading back. Two flight plans completed. Very nice. I was flying back at 12,500 feet. It was pretty smooth except for a stretch of about 20 miles over the mountains. AND all bets were off below 11,500. It was bumpy there! And then once below 7,500, it was just silly! I landed back at Grand Junction with 4.0 hours on the Hobbs. Now THAT is a good day.
I said good-bye to one of the desk girls, then drove to drop Pete off at his new hotel. I ate my Subway sandwich in the car. I then drove to my old hotel from a week and a half ago. I had essentially borrowed a blanket in order to not die at altitude. It was a life-saver. I used it every day I was up high. I wanted to return it now that I was done with it. Then I headed to Enterprise to return the car. I was eager to get back in the sky, though. I knew the turbulence would only increase as the day went on, and I was wanting to have as little as possible!
I had the Enterprise guy drive me back to the airport, and I hopped back in, ready to go east to Denver. I loaded up KAPA on my old-school GPS, and off I went. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about the trip. I have never really flown over the entire Rocky Mountains before…as in the range. I’ve flown over mountains, I’ve done circles over mountains, but I’ve never really crossed a ridge by myself. And off to the east I could see some pretty big build-ups of cumulous clouds. I just wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was expecting the worst.
I headed west for a bit off of Runway 29 in order to gain altitude before I flew over the bluffs. I made a gradual turn and had some bumps as I passed over. Uh oh!!! But I continued the climb. About 30 miles northeast of Grand Junction, I called up Denver Center and grabbed some flight-following. I was basically on a heading of 070. The GPS had told me 068 from the ground, but it had since lost reception (a common theme with this old thing). Since I had turned north, that’s what I went for. I just pointed east!!! And I kept the climb going…12,000. 13,000. 14,000. 15,000. I stayed there for awhile, not climbing too fast!!! But I eventually made it up to 15,500. And let me tell you, it was nearly perfect. It was just as smooth as could be!!!
It is SO nice flying an Aztec.
I just took it all in. I was cruising around 150 knots, just pointing the nose east-bound. I didn’t really know where I was exactly, but I dialed in a VOR to help out. I had a ballpark idea. Up ahead, I could see clouds at my altitude. But they were pretty far up there and looked to be scarce enough to be able to manage. But I took note.
I was flying a little bit on edge…just wondering when the turbulence from hell was going to happen. I waited…and waited…and waited. I figured it would come when I had to fly above the mountains but below the clouds. But outside of some very manageable bumps and downdrafts, it never really happened!!! The flight was just perfect!!!
And that’s what made me sad!!! I was having the time of my life up there. I had views that people would pay for. I was flying over snow-capped peaks in the middle of June. Just absolutely perfect views. And I was getting paid to do it. I knew it would be my last flight, too. And I’m tellin’ ya, I was sad! I am really going to miss this. It’s bittersweet. This job certainly has some pretty amazing perks. And flying over the Rockies in a twin-engine is definitely one of them. I had the best view in the world.
About 40 miles west of Centennial, I started recognizing some stuff. I could see Pike’s Peak down to the south, and I realized that I was almost done with my flight! As soon as I passed over the last peak, I began a descent from 15,000 feet (I was pushed down by the downdrafts). And even the descent wasn’t too bad!!! I cringed thinking about passing over that last ridge, because that was always the place where it was the worst when I was here a month and a half ago. But it was just fine. Not a problem at all.
Winds on the ground were minimal, and outside of the normal bumps, below 10,000 was a pleasure, too. I was cleared to land on Runway 17L. I landed, turned off the engines, and thought I had flown my last flight in the Aztec for the season. I had logged another 1.7 hours. I headed inside, said hi to familiar faces, then called up Pete. Basically, I wasn’t really wanting to do a calibration field. I tried to get out of it, but he said it was necessary. So I hopped back in, loaded up the plans, and went at it.
Frankly, I’m glad I did. I had some fun flying for another hour. It was surprisingly smooth, and I was just 3,000 feet above the ground at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon. It’s unheard of here. I just wanted to fly around some more!!! But I knew I couldn’t. I should also mention that I busted Class B airspace, too. I was talking with Tower, and on one of my turns, I went a bit too far east. They were nice about it, but after that, I went ahead and talked with Approach and got clearance into it. It’s the small mistakes that can get ya sometimes.
I landed for the final time this time in a parallel approach with a Lear. Man, that is just downright fun!!! It’s pretty enjoyable flying that close to another airplane! I had logged another 1.1 hours.
It was just a perfect day. 4.0 hours of “work” flying. Then 1.7 hours of vacation flying. Followed by 1.1 hours of just relaxed flying. I’ll take it.
I took about 45 minutes to unpack the airplane, say my good-bye to her, and get packed up in the car. I wanted to make sure I had everything. The last day of the season is kind of crazy. I’m so excited about the summer, but I just know I’ll miss flying in just a couple of short weeks!!! Oh, the tug-of-war we go through!
I headed to my favorite BBQ place for supper. Then I started to head towards Denver International to pick up Kenton. But as I was getting on the highway, I received a text from a friend in town. So I made a slight detour and went and spent a few hours with her. Someone else heard I was in town, so LATE tonight, I went over to see her!!! It was getting late, though. And I knew I had to wake up early tomorrow morning. But at the same time, I didn’t want to miss out on seeing these folks!!!
I finally made my way towards the hotel at 2:00 A.M. I was a bit bummed about “standing up” Kenton, but it was also nice to see friends. I had the hardest time finding the hotel, though, and I didn’t get checked in until 2:45. I went to sign up for a shuttle to the airport tomorrow, but the slots were full. I couldn’t believe it. I had a 6:15 flight, and I was planning on being there an hour earlier. But the ONLY slots available before my flight were 3:45 and 5:45. The latter was obviously too late, and the earlier one was, well…horrendous.
But I had to do it.
I went upstairs, dropped the airplane keys, car keys, and credit cards off at the bathroom sink, brushed my teeth, then went right back outside the hotel. It was 3:00. I had to be downstairs in a half-hour. I just knew that trying to sleep would probably be detrimental to my health. As tired as I was, I would probably sleep through any alarm. I walked downstairs back to the car and sat in the driver’s seat. I DID set my alarm, though, just in case I fell asleep. And I about did. The alarm went off at 3:30, and I JUMPED!!! I was so out of it.
I walked over to the shuttle, got a very suspicious interrogation from the driver as to whether I had paid for a room in the hotel since I just walked out of the parking lot, then headed for the airport. The lines weren’t even open at the airport yet, so I sat on a chair and tried to sleep. I covered my eyes with my Aviators and hoped for the best. I did fall asleep because I remember opening up my eyes and being surprised to see about 50 more people in front of me than when I shut them! Maybe 15-20 minutes? Who knew. But it certainly was NOT enough.
I grabbed all my tickets and headed back for my 6:15 flight to Minneapolis. As soon as I was on the plane, I put the glasses on and tried to sleep. I managed to again, but it wasn’t great sleep. Maybe an hour? Who knows.
We did have a fun arrival, though. We had clouds at 2,000 feet, and I assumed the pilots were shooting the ILS. Well, we were the in the clouds, and then I heard the jet engines roar back to life. And we were on top of the clouds! I figured they were getting low on the glide-slope, but we kept climbing! The Captain came on and said that the airplane in front of us had had a bird-strike. We were next in line for the runway, but the airport had closed down the runway to check for any damage. Ha! Always have to be ready for the unexpected.
I grabbed my connecting flight in Minni after a terribly long walk through the terminal and went through the routine again. Glasses on, eyes closed. I honestly don’t even remember the take-offs. The only reason I knew we were airborne was the announcement that it was ok to use portable electronic devices again. I was just absolutely out of it.
I slept for maybe another hour. So I was up to a little over two hours for the night/day. Not good. It was going on noon. Mom and Dad were there to pick me up at the airport. And it’s kind of weird. I knew I was done with the season hours ago. But until I was actually back home, with my parents, with my luggage…well, I still felt like I wasn’t done. But now? I am totally done. It’s a crazy feeling.
TWO SEASONS. 1114 hours. Wow. I flew 564 hours last season from October 13-June 6. And this season I ended up with 550.3 hours from November 1-June 15. With 178.9 hours of MULTI!!! Woo hoo!!! But here's the crazy/AMAZING part...I made $46,670 last season in just under 8 months. And this season I made a whopping $49,004.20 in just 7 1/2 months. This job has really been great in terms of paying off loans! I mean, seriously!!! I made a miniscule $1200.00 in my first month of flight instructing...and $500.00 of that was for relocation expenses!!! So I definitely know the pain that some go through.
In reference to pilot jobs, the top two questions are ALWAYS...1. Pay and 2. Quality of Life. This one is DEFINITELY strong on #1, and just OK on #2. Looking back, I've made a ridiculous $95,674.20 in two seasons (but only working 15 1/2 months out of a possible 24!!!). It's just crazy. I mean, crazy! A huge blessing, for sure. I'll certainly take it. And I'll admit that I liked this season better than last year. I don't know that there is just one reason why, but I enjoyed the people, I enjoyed most of the flying, and I think I just had a better outlook. Hmm...I really can't pinpoint one exact thing.
We grabbed a bite to eat in Bloomington, then I drove us south to Springfield. As soon as I arrived at home, I went straight for bed. It was 2:00 o’clock. I set my alarm for 4:30 in order to get ready for a friend’s concert that night.
“HEY!” “HEY!!!” “HEY!”
What is going on? I woke up to find my Dad in the doorway. “Your mom and sister are waiting on you. What should I tell them”? I had NO idea what was going on. I just came out of a DEEP sleep. Terribly deep. It was 6:17. Oh boy.
I grabbed a quick shower, then headed to my sister’s house. We then all drove over to the Sangamon County Fair to watch my friend play in his first “big” concert. It was a pretty good time. He’s a very gifted musician, although his transitions between songs need some attention! But it’s a huge day for him. He was opening up for Bomshel, who we also stayed to watch.
We left around 10:15. I saw several friends from the past there, and it was good to see them. But it’s crazy, too. We just haven’t had contact in a couple of years. I’ve been gone.
We stayed at my sister’s house for 20 minutes to hang out with Baby, then finally called it a night. Mom dropped me off at my house at 11:15. I was pretty tired.
Ended up going to bed at 12:30 A.M. What a day/two.
Won’t wake up until 9:00 o’clock tomorrow. But I’ve got so much work to do. Tomorrow’s goals? Fix a weedeater, fix a lawn mower, and mow my yard. I have SEVERAL items that certainly need attention.