Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday--November 29, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  Overcast clouds at 900 feet.  Perfect!

Grabbed some breakfast, then hitched the shuttle to First Baptist Church in Texarkana.  I often appreciate the Sundays that I get off, as I (usually) enjoy heading to church.  I did a quick Google check online and picked this one...seemed to be pretty fancy.

Sure enough, the church was HUGE.  It seriously looked like a (windowless) hospital from the outside.  I was instantly greeted as I walked in the doors, and I said I needed a class.  The guy asked my age, then walked me the looooong distance to the Singles 30-35 class.  ha.  I was only the second guy in there.  Either everyone gets married before age 30, or like most other churches I visit, they have very little if any interest in meeting for church from age 22-35.

It was a bit awkward.  I sat in there silent for several minutes.  Another guy walked in, greeted me, and that was it, too.  The class itself was ok...kind of dry...but ok, I suppose.  Basic doctrine stuff.  We had five total people...all guys...until a chick walked in about 20 minutes late.  She also left 10 minutes early.  Anyway.  I don't know.  I am beyond the point of frustration in churches and being a 20-somethin'-year-old, but I'll not divulge into that.  Suffice it to say that I wish we had more people that loved Jesus.  My age.

Went into "big church" with one of the guys, and that was ok.  Pretty fancy really.  A fancy choir, a real fancy orchestra/band, and all the flashiness that goes with being a big church.  Stuff that I really didn't need, and I found myself with my head down most of the time...either listening to the preacher or the song leader but not needing to or wanting to see him or the screens.  A bit too much.

Had a sermon on prayer.  Not necessarily untrue but a bit misleading.  The preacher said pray in expectation, God answers prayers, and God will give us the "desires of our heart."  It's Biblical...I know this.  But it was pretty misleading, too...completely centered on the positive side of things.  Pray, believe, receive.  Pray in doubt, be without.  He seriously said that.  Anyway, really my ONLY beef with his sermon was that God DOES answer prayers...but that "NO" is an answer just as much as "YES" is.  He never mentioned receiving a "no."  Only a "later" or "not now."

I asked for a ride home from Dennis, one of the guys from class.  On the short 4-mile drive, I shared my beef with him.  And he agreed...and he went further.  My beef was because of some life circumstances I've been through...stuff that haunts me at the least-expected of times.  I kid you not, I was flying just yesterday, and I had a flashback, and my entire body jolted.  I HATE IT.  I never know when it's coming, and frankly, it just sucks.  But anyway, I realize I'm not the only one that's been through what seems like an old church friend told me..."there is always someone worse."

Well, maybe I met one of those someones.  4 miles.  And I learned that he had been engaged.  But he got cancer back in 2006...and his fiancee "left him on the bed."  He was obviously devastated.  He was told he'd be sterile from the chemo, but he chose not to freeze his sperm (yes, he said that!).  His family disagreed with his decision.  He wanted a wife so bad, and here he was, 30-something, trying to be faithful, trying to trust in God, committing himself to waiting for sex (he told me that, too), and yet not really receiving what he was anticipating.  He spent Thanksgiving alone...frying his own his family decided not to meet.  He was blown away thinking to himself that he's not even sure how many more Thanksgivings he'll get.  I listened, I responded, I listened.  It was pretty humbling to listen to.  He said he sees EVERY morning as a gift.  I can vaguely understand that.  I don't necessarily live it, but I sure plan to from here on out.  I know what it's like to be close to death, and man, it just happens so fast.  I want to live life hard.  Fill it up.  Savor it.  And dang it, I want to live in peace.  That's my new number one goal.  I imagine it's selfish, but I just want peace.  Anyway, 4 miles probably altered my life a bit today.  I'm thankful for it.

I told him I spent Thanksgiving at Cracker Barrel.  Hopefully it softened his blow a little bit.  My last words to him were, "Keep on keepin' on."

Walked over to IHOP for lunch with Matt and Dave.  Excellent food, easy conversation.

Came back to the hotel, then headed for the Tower.  I had called them this morning asking for a tour, and they said 2:30.  We went to the airport, then up into the Tower.  This was the third time that I have been in a tour...but Matt's first.  We had two controllers, and it was a pretty basic (but slick) set-up.  Because of the low overcast, traffic was pretty slow today.  They are a VFR tower, and they don't handle too much.  They showed us the radar screen, what they see, etc.  That was neat to know/see.  I kind of knew the basics of it, but it helps me out when I fly, too, knowing what they are seeing versus what I am seeing.  Other than that, we just sat and talked about our mapping jobs for about 20 minutes.  And then...

"Texarkana Tower, Fort Wort Center!"

"Texarkana Tower, go ahead."

"Texarkana Tower, we have an EMERGENCY, 5 miles northeast of Texarkana Airport.  PA-34 had lost an engine, needs ILS approach, negative vehicles."

WHAT?!!!  The Tower had been completely quiet up until that point!!!  An emergency?!  Amazing!  Kind of.  One of the guys quickly hurried us out...they had business to do.  FAA business!!!

We walked down the stairs and headed for the FBO...where we gazed intently out the window.  We went outside as the fire truck went over and prepared.  Crazy!  Every ounce of my being was just talking to the pilot...even out loud!  "It's just a simple ILS approach, boy.  It's all right.  Single engine will get you here.  No worries."  It's crazy!  You just feel for the guy!

Well, we waited about 10 minutes, and then we saw the landing lights.  "Come on, boy.  Nice and easy."  And sure enough, it was!!!  He brought it in no problems.  Very nice.  4 "souls" on board plus a dog.  We ended up talking to the pilot later...said he lost a ton of oil out of a new engine...only 10 hours on it.  They were only 85 miles (30 minutes) away from home.  But a smart decision.

We went back up in the Tower after that...talked for about 30 minutes more...and just had a good time.  These guys were a riot.  We saw an American Eagle RJ come in...that was pretty neat to watch.  But other than that, we just talked about our jobs and their jobs!  One had been a controller for 27 years...the other for 23 years!  Both were retired from the military.  And both liked it quiet!!!  Texarkana is the place for them, for sure.

Came back, went out to eat at the restaurant in the hotel...then read a little bit tonight before bed.

Unsure if we fly tomorrow.  The forecast only goes until 4:00 A.M.  They don't have a clue what the weather is going to do.  Imagine that.

If we do fly, it should be a BIG day for me!!!  I'm excited.

Routine Work--November 28, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  Grabbed some breakfast, was ready to go...but had to wait on a couple of the other pilots.  Ended up leaving at 8:45 for the airport.

Pre-flighted the airplane, then hopped in.  Got the weather, called up ground, taxied to Runway 22, and then hit the skies.  A perfectly smooth day.  AGAIN.  I'll take it.

I loaded up a flight plan to the west and began the 55-mile trek.  I ended up getting on station at 9:36 A.M.  Right on time.  And so began one of the normal days.  The simplicity, the monotony, the fun of work.  Fly south, fly north, turn, fly south, turn, fly north.  Repeat for five hours.

I really didn't have much to look at at all out here.  Just trees and open land.  Again, northeastern Texas is pretty bland.  But they want a map of it, so who am I to argue?!

About two hours into the flight, small clouds started popping up right at my altitude.  Quite literally.  Just to the west.  They were staying out of my way for awhile, but then they started getting in my flight plans.  I tried to avoid them as best I could, but they were getting pretty widespread.  I finished two plans, then headed back towards the airport.

The skies were much more clear back towards Texarkana, so that worked out well.  I flew above the city for the next hour.  I had considered landing for gas back around noon, but the closest airport was 20 miles the west.  Out of my way.  So I just continued flying.

Now, however, at 1:45 P.M., I was watching my fuel gauges pretty intently.  They still showed 15 gallons, but I still don't trust them completely.  I just don't know this airplane that well yet.  I only have about 85 hours in her.  I have 52-gallon tanks, and my fuel burn shows 7 gallons an hour, but even then, I don't trust it.  Sure enough, a little after 2:00, my anunciator light comes on telling me that the left tank is low.  The right tank still shows five gallons more than the right side, but I know that this needle doesn't move for the first hour.  So I don't trust it.

I opted to land...a full 30 minutes before the window closed...but a good 5 hours into flying.  As I prepared to shut down, my left fuel tank light was still on...and my right tank now showed only 3 gallons...not the 8 that it was showing in the sky.  The needle had settled.  I had no problem with my decision at all!

Well, scratch that.  I did have a problem with my decision...five hours in an airplane is a long time!!!  My body was sooooo sore when I got out.  I had to pee, I was hungry (four granola bars in the sky for lunch), and I had a little headache after I got out, too.  It's just not worth it!!!!  I'm definitely opting for landing in the middle of the day from now on.  I may lose 30 minutes, but I'll be more refreshed, full, and probably happier!!!

We headed back for the hotel, then went out to Texas Roadhouse for of my favorites!!!  So that was nice.

Came back to the hotel, and the guys decided to swim...I decided to read.  I'm reading the biography of Charles's long, but it's pretty interesting.  That man had so much to do with aviation.  I'm enjoyin' it so far.

Went to bed at 11:30.  Forecast is for dismal weather tomorrow...low overcast and possible rain.  We'll see...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crazy Day--November 27, 2009


Woke up at 7:00 this morning...30 minutes earlier than normal!  Grabbed some breakfast, then headed over to the airport by myself.  I was to fly back over to Parker County today to do some reflies...

I left the hotel around 7:45.  Another perfect day at the airport...the skies had some clouds, but they were way high.  The winds were pretty light, and the air was nice.  I loaded up the flight plans, then headed off.  I had originally requested 4500 feet, but once I got up there, I stopped at 2500 feet.  I wanted to be able to see the earth, and the air was just so smooth that the low altitude was fine!  2500 feet it was.

I threw on my auto-pilot which I rarely use, but man, it sure is nice.  Set a heading, set an altitude, and just sit back!  I grabbed the USA Today I had brought with me!  I was doing 96 knots over the ground, and I had 200 miles to go, so I was looking at a little over 2 hours.

Little known fact:  Northeast Texas has NOTHING.  I heard the other guys from another project on frequency this morning...they left Dallas EARLY in order to get to Fayetteville, AR, by window open.  Ambitious suckers.  I talked to them for quite awhile.  I joked that Texas had this 200-mile of forests in order to guard themselves from Arkansas...I think it's a valid argument.

About 20 miles   outside of the DFW Class B airspace, I was asked to stay clear...but I maintained my heading.  About 10 miles out, I was cleared DIRECT DFW at 3500 feet!!!  What?!  Seriously?!  I didn't hesitate!!!  This is a rarity, and I was more than happy to have it!  Woo hoo!

And sure enough, I flew right over the top of DFW.  Traffic was taking off and coming in...and I was just enjoying watching it!  Too fun!  Of course, I was taking pictures left and right, too.  Oh, and this was the day after Thanksgiving, so traffic was CRAZY!!!  Wal-Marts were packed.  Malls were even more packed.  And here I was, literally oblivious to it all...almost laughing inwardly at the silliness of it.  People were frantically shopping...and I was just smiling at my view.  I really really really really love this part about the job.  I get paid to fly.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I flew all the way across the Class B airspace at 3500 feet and then requested direct to my projects.  I had several lines to do there, and it took me a little over an hour, but all was smooth.  From there, I went direct to Cleburne...for the umpteenth time!!!

I was supposed to pick up transponders that were mailed there.  Well, I landed, and the FBO was closed.  Crap.  This was not good!  For two reasons.  One, I needed to pee.  And two, I didn't have the transponders.  Well, being who I am, I wasn't ok with I peed on the side of the FBO...and then searched around.  Well, across the airport, I saw our courtesy car that we had been given for the past three weeks!!!  Still in the same position where Jeff had left it outside of the maintenance hangar.  So I walked over.  Sure enough, the keys were hidden where we had left them!

Perfect!  I started it up and drove into town.  I headed for the UPS store and inquired about a package.  She said it wasn't possible without a tracking number.  Well, I made several phone calls that came up short...but she was able to track down her driver.  He was at the airport!  But he was moving on.  I was to meet him at the back of the hospital.  ha!

So I drove to the hospital and waited about 15 minutes.  Sure enough, we came, and I grabbed the package.  From there, I went out to Wendy's to eat.  I didn't have a chance of making it back to Texarkana to help out with the project there, so this was now going to be MY day!!!  I ate, then went to Tractor Home Supply.  I just looked around but bought nothing.  But I did want a winter coat, so I headed over to the Walls factory store...and sure enough, I bought a couple of coats...and overalls!!!!  Why not, right?!

I headed back to the airport, then headed back for Texarkana.  It was another smooth flight.  This time I was doing 130 knots across the was going to be about an hour and 20 minutes.  Smooth air, just a couple of aircraft calls, but very smooth.  I landed and waited for my shuttle.  I talked with a guy that landed behind me in a Tri-Pacer.  He told me to keep my job..."ride that horse until it dies."  I seem to get that advice more and more.  I have a pretty sweet job.  Man, I'm thankful for it.  I went to FedEx to drop off some packages, then headed for the hotel.

We went out to eat at Hooter's, then I came back and played some ping-pong, then went for a run.  Rested in the hotel at night.  Tomorrow is another flying day...before we get rain.

Went to bed at 11:00.

Gobble Gobble! November 26, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!  Those were the first words out of my mouth.

The morning was pretty hustle-bustle.  I had to eat, shower, finish packing, and check out.  I wanted to make absolutely positively sure that we finished our projects today before relocating, so I was ready to get to the airport...but if you know me, we ended up waiting on me!!!  I had an unexpected, um...loss of Golden Corral, to put it nicely.  That completely through off my plans!  But we were out the door only about 20 minutes later than planned.

Headed to the airport.  Loaded up the plane.  It's actually not too hard.  I had royally mispacked this time around, and I found that all of my clothes didn't fit in my suitcase like they did three weeks ago. I just threw some of them in the plane...along with the renegade shaving cream and mouthwash bottles.  It's actually fairly easy to fit it all in there...when you live out of one suitcase, you can pack up in a moment's notice...and you just throw it in the plane and head off!

I started up the airplane, taxied out to the ramp, loaded some files, and headed to the runway.  It was beautiful again.  These high-pressure systems are just pampering us...nothin' but blue skies again!  I was 58 miles away from my flight plan, and I had 24 minutes to get there.  I climbed to 5000 feet and was doing 138 knots across the ground!!!  woo hoo!

I made it to my plan at 9:34 A.M. and starting taking pictures.  My goal was to help Matt get a good start on this project, then I would break off and head down to Polk County, Texas, to do some reflies down there.  Then we would both meet up in Texarkana, AR...where our next project was.

I did two plans with Matt...then headed off!  The 130-knot groundspeed was fantastic.  I arrived at my destination in no time at all.  But there was a problem.  And a major one at that.  The winds were directly out of the north (northwest-ish) 35-40 knots!  This wasn't a problem on north-south lines...but the new lines were east and west.  I wondered how bad it would be.  Well, as it turned out, it WAS bad.  I was way outside the operational parameters for the lines.  GRR!!!

But I had made up my mind.  I was not going to fly down here and not finish this!  So I stuck at it.  I got creative.  I used rudder and ailerons.  I failed.  I started again.  A couple more pictures.  More fail.  This pattern repeated itself over and over and over again.  What should have literally taken 8 minutes ended up taking me a little over an hour.  I think I had to restart one of the lines around eight times...I was even yelling!!!  I grabbed a granola bar and CHOMPED on it.  I was getting perturbed!  But again, I was resilient.  I was NOT going to leave this pictures behind.  After finagling with the airplane a little bit, I was finally able to gather all of the shots.  It was seriously some decent piloting...mixed with some experience.  It was definitely challenging, and oddly enough, it was kind of a neat experience.  It certainly was not easy at all.  But I stuck at it.

From there I turned north and headed for Texarkana.  I had a heading of 025 degrees, and I flew 010 to keep that heading.  The problem?  Well, cars were keeping up with (if not passing) me.  I was doing anywhere from 68-74 knots.  Not cool!  I had a terribly strong headwind.  But I put it on auto-pilot and just coasted...looking out over the vast area of nothingness.  Eastern Texas really has nothing.  I passed due west of Nacogdoches, and that was about it.

I was within an hour of my destination, but I was getting low on fuel.  My left light was already on, and looking at the map (with FEW airports), knowing the headwinds, and knowing I had been airborne for 5 hours already...I decided to land.  I stopped over at Longview, Texas...I went to a jet center, and I was thoroughly impressed with the interior (and intrigued).  It was completely black and red...and very modern.  Kind of different!  I even asked if the owner was a just had that vibe!  But I was totally wrong.  Oops!!!

It was a nice stop.  I called the family and wished them a Happy Thanksgiving.  I talked to Mom, Dad, and Casey.  It was very much small talk, but it was good to at least talk with 'em.  I was a bit down (don't know why), and I kind of regret that on the phone, but it wasn't terrible.  I just wasn't spunky at all.  But I had been in an airplane for 5 hours already!  yikes!  There is probably some combination of me bein' disappointed that I didn't have a family (any family!) to go to for Thanksgiving, too.  I had a place lined up north of Fort Worth, and I had a guy (I thought) lined up at this airport.  I called him, but he didn't offer anything.  It was kind of an awkward conversation.  But he ended up calling me 15 minutes after I left...I wonder if he felt bad and was going to finally offer it?  I don't know.  Anyway.  But I was not (and am not) terribly sad.  It's kind of interesting/fun/crazy to be on the road for holidays.  They take on a whole new feeling...or lack thereof!

Speaking of's just an interesting perspective all around.  I am working.  And I talk with controllers who are working.  And I get fueled up by line guys who are working.  And I listen to other pilots who are working.  It's just a whole different side to what I grew up with.  It's kind of a brotherhood, I think.  By necessity.

I landed at Texarkana and waited for the other guys to show up.  We are going to have five airplanes here which is nice.  It was a couple of hours, but they all came.  We went to the hotel, then went out for our Thanksgiving meal.  We had a delightful and fun time at Cracker Barrel (with an awesome meal to boot!).  It was just plain fun.

Came back to the hotel and just talked.  Pretty relaxing night.  Very enjoyable.

I got word from the boss that I need to head back to Dallas tomorrow.  Yeah, right where I just came from.  Huh.  He was surprised that we had our two projects finished and had moved on already.  But we're just that good!  Anyway, I need to refly one of our projects back west of Fort Worth.

It's kind of silly, but I don't bat an eye at that anymore.  I just do what I'm told.  I flew from Fort Worth to here today...and I shall fly from here to Fort Worth tomorrow.  Whatever they say.

Talked with a good friend for 45 minutes on the phone.  Then went to bed at midnight.  Will wake up at 7:00.  yikes!!!

In all actuality, though...a pretty good day.  A happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy...--November 25, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  Another day of blue skies.

Ate breakfast, grabbed some donuts at the donut shop to show our thanks for last night's dinner, then headed to the airport.  Took some pictures with Miss Sarah and Gayla, said our good-byes (they are closed for Thanksgiving) and then we were off.

The visibility was perfect again.  So nice.  Flew over to my flight plans and started the routine again.  I flew a few hours, then landed at Corsicana again for fuel.  I again found myself mesmerized with the storied history of the produced the 2nd highest ace in World War well as the creator of "Star Trek"???  Or at least that's what I interpreted it as.  It's a pretty neat and authentic collection.  I was impressed with an actual 1929 advertisement for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company that featured Charles Lindbergh...since I am reading his biography right now.  I remember him promoting that company...essentially the first "airline" to go across the country.  Pretty neat to see an actual poster for it.  I'm not sure they know what they have!!!

I had a problem, though.  The fuel truck was JUST pumping fuel into the tanks...and it would take another 20 minutes after that to let the fuel settle.  I had to wait nearly 40 minutes.  I ate some lunch, sat for a bit, then decided I couldn't do it.  I had an hour and a half flight plan to finish before 3:00...and it was 1:15.  So I told them I would have to get fuel later...I headed back up.

I started the plan and realized that I probably wasn't going to have enough fuel to finish it.  Grr.  My left fuel tank light came on.  All right, that means I have less than 5 gallons on that side.  So I put the tank on the left side only.  I would fly 30 minutes on that side, then flip it over to the right side.  Once the light came on, I would have another 30 minutes roughly...and I was pretty close to the airport.  Well, after mulling it over on the lines, I decided I didn't want to risk it.  It just wasn't worth it.  So I flew 10 of the 19 lines and had Matt come over to finish the rest...

I landed for fuel with 30 minutes still left in our window.  I hate doing that.  But I needed petrol!!!

Matt ended up not being able to finish before the window was over, but that happens.  We figured out we only have six hours left to do on this project.  Which only means one thing.  WE ARE RELOCATING ON THANKSGIVING.  Grr!!!  I had already found a family that was willing to adopt us for Thanksgiving...and so how is it that we have to move on that day?!  Crazy.  Oh well.  That's life.  But it is a bit disappointing.  But I've learned to roll with the punches here.  You plan for the best, expect the worst, live with the middle.

Landed back at Cleburne and paid our 3-week tab.  The airport only charged us $3.28/night for hangars.  To put that in comparison, our other pilots at another field are paying $80/night.  No lie.  With two airplanes at three weeks, that is $4800 saved by us for our company.  Or lost by Cleburne for the airport.  However you look at it.  But that is just crazy.  Here we have the nicest airport with the nicest staff.  Coffee brought out to us, hangars given to us free and sometimes cheap, a free courtesy car, the manager taking us out to eat...and they want nothing in return.  It's unheard of these days.  But I'm madly in love with's one of the neatest traits to observe...and frankly receive.  It's really admirable.  I have nothing but GREAT things to say about this airport.  It's a little bittersweet to leave.  We'll sure miss it here.  They treated us like kings.  We even had the privilege of seeing Roland and Stu before we left...and they both just praised us for our company.  It's heartfelt and just good to hear.  I'll miss them.

Danny cleaned up his shop, then we went out to eat at Golden Corral with the new crew...Danny, Matt, Jimbo, Stephan, and myself.  We had a hilarious time eating...talking about our experiences last year...and just what we do.  We so laugh at ourselves...we are literally a training grounds for Part 135.  We have long days, we fly crazy lines and jobs, we get told what to do when to do it, and we fly a wide gamut of airplanes with various ailments from time to time.  We're simply destined for 135 ops...there's no way around it.

Went to the hotel, Danny packed, and then back to the airport.  We closed up the maintenance hangar for good...three airplanes had 100-hour inspections, and a couple others were worked on for other issues.  Danny, Jimbo, and Stephan flew back up to Dallas Love.  Matt, Jeff (just arrived), and I were off to the hotel.

We actually ended up doin' laundry.  MUCH-needed laundry.  I have been wearing Adidas shorts as my boxers for the past two days...I ran out.  I caught up with a good friend while my clothes was really good to hear that he is doing good.  I wish the best for him...he's in the music industry, and he just keeps plodding away at his dream.  I tell you, that is the best way of obtaining your goals.  Day-in-and-day-out drudgery.  "Just keep on keepin' on."  I really believe that with enough time and determination, you can achieve what you strive for.  Never ever give up.

Words of wisdom for a song writer.  A performer.  A pilot.  Anyone.

Came back to the hotel and started shopping for our next hotel in Texarkana.  I hate this part of the job!  It's so hard gauging a hotel on the hard.  But we're lined up for the HoJo tomorrow night.  So we'll see how that goes.

As it stands now, I'm fixin' to help Matt start the last six hours of the project here...then fly down towards Houston to finish up a refly project there...then fly up to Texarkana and meet Matt who should have finished this project here.  ha!  We'll see if it all goes as planned.  That's the plan anyway.

And if it goes as planned, I should have around 8 hours or so in an airplane tomorrow.  On Thanksgiving.  Not exactly what I was hopin' for, but hey, like I said, you roll with the punches.

We'll certainly make the most of it.

Went to bed at a late 12:30 A.M.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Perfect! November 24, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.

Walked outside to breakfast.  NO CLOUDS!!!  NO FOG!!!  I saw nothing but blue skies!  Woo hoo!

Showered, ate, then headed to the airport.  Fueled up, then headed off!  I don't always understand weather as much as I would like to...but the skies were soooooo crisp!  I mean, I could literally see forever.  Some days the haze is so heavy you lose the horizon.  Today I had a perfect horizon line...I could literally see probably 80 miles in every direction if not more...the only reason I couldn't go further was because my eyes wouldn't let me!

The winds were pretty strong, and on my way to my flight plan in Navarro County, I actually did 148 knots across the ground!  In a Cessna 172!  I'll take it!  It finally settled around 130 knots...but that is still great!  I was a little nervous about getting a crystal clear day like this but having too strong of winds at altitude...but once I got on station, it was perfect.  At 5500 feet, the winds were still strong but within limits...I was doing 130 south-bound and around 90 north-bound.  And it was just perfectly smooth.  I loved it!!!

No, seriously, the past few days I have just been thinking.  I have just had numerous moments in the past few days where I just realize I love my job.  I get paid to fly.  I hang out at airports.  I see the earth from up above.  I meet new people.  I get paid to fly!!!!!!!  It really is such a blessing.  I just love it.

I flew for a few hours, then landed at 12:30 in Corsicana.  The airport was pretty runway and a handful of buildings.  I taxied up to the fuel and headed inside.  A woman asked if she could fuel me up, and I was more than happy to oblige.  I heated up my can o' soup and drank my V-8 and just perused the airport.  They actually had a nice little museum telling about the history of the field.  Turns out this place cranked out hundreds of pilots back in World War II.  They had pictures of well over 100 Curtiss airplanes sitting on the ramp...this was a primary training facility back in the day.  I tell ya, the more I fly around the United States, the more I realize that soooooooooo much of our general aviation has its roots in war.  I really wonder how many airports (or pilots!) we would have if we didn't have a World War II.  But I was enthralled with the history of it...the pictures were awesome.  I instantly recognized the current hangars as the ones that they had back in 1940!  Pretty neat.

I ate...then paid for my fuel.  The woman was more than appreciative of my purchase...almost to the point of pleading.  Interesting.  I often wonder how airports like this survive.  It was owned/ran by the city from what I could tell...but do they get their money?  Fuel sales (which looked less than survivable), hangar rentals (quite a bit on field), and federal money (which I often wonder about, too).  I have been so interested in airports lately (contemplating being a manager someday), but when I look at daily activity, the numbers seem incredibly inflated.  This is what determines federal money, and it's often in the millions of dollars.  Someone signs a line, and a runway is extended or re-paved, and several millions of dollars are spent.  I don't always get it...or support it.  But it happens day-in, day-out.  It's a Catch love is definitely the small general aviation airports...but so much of me also sees such a waste of money in these, too.  I don't know where I stand!!!  We just have sooooooooooooooooooooo many in the United States.  It's great!!!  But almost crazy!

I flew until 3:00 when the window closed...then headed the 56 nautical miles back to Cleburne.

I was three miles behind Matt...two miles behind another airplane...and so I followed them in...#3 for Runway 33.

Landed, headed to the FBO, fueled up, then went to the hangar where Danny was still working.  We stayed about 45 minutes, then headed for the hotel.  Miss Sarah called us and invited us out for supper.  Well, of course!!!!

She drove us up to Babe's in Burleson, Texas.  Your choice of chicken...and then an unlimited supply of salad (incredibly sweet and good), corn (sweet and good), green beans (sweet and good), mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls.  Incredible!  This is almost blasphemy to say this, but it rivaled Lambert's!!!  The clincher, though?  I had to sweeten my tea.  Lambert's still holds my heart.  I tell you, though, if they served sweet tea, I just might have cheated on my former love!

The service at this airport is just crazy.  They won't charge us both for hangars...they cook us lunch...they treat us like friends...and now they take us out to eat!  It's just enjoyable.  I love it.  I had meant to do laundry tonight (as in I needed to!), but food definitely took priority.  It was so worth it, too.  Just an enjoyable night amongst friends.  Miss Sarah, Danny, Dave, Matt, and myself.

We drove back to Cleburne, then chilled in the hotel.  It's nice having a couple of others guys.  I was a bit nervous about taking this "new" job this year, but it has worked out great.  I've only been working for three weeks, and I have already seen several of the guys already.  I like that.

I also received two books in the mail today!  I ordered them last week, and they made it before we have to relocate.  Good!  I bought "Stick and Rudder" and "Lindbergh."  That should keep me busy for a couple of weeks.

Speaking of busy, the forecast is calling for the infamous "severe clear!"  We have a couple of high pressure systems coming through back-to-back...and we are getting real close to finishing.  Matt and I have 16 hours of work left here in this area.  As of right now, it looks like we will be re-locating on Thanksgiving!!!  How typical!  Oh, well, I'm excited.  And as always, I'm eager for the cross-country flight.  My favorite part.

Went to bed at 11:30.  I got 6.7 hours today.  Looks like I could get the same tomorrow.

All in all, just a perfect day.  Good flying, good food, good friends.  I can sure get used to that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That--November 23, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  And guess what?!  FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGGGGGGG!!!!  Surprise, surprise.  No, not really, I guess...this morning fog is beginning to become rather normal!  It was even thicker than yesterday...visibility was terrible!

I was fueled up at my hangar but couldn't go I walked over to the FBO.  I ended up hanging out there for a bit as I waited for the fog to lift.  You couldn't even see the edge of the airport.  Crazy.  Miss Sarah and Gayla were makin' us lunch (again!).  I guess they had made us some soup yesterday, but I missed it...old guys ate my share!  Oh well...I was promised some today!  This airport is crazy...the people are sooooo nice, it's almost unbelievable.

Around 10:40 the fog was lifting...quickly.  I walked over to my plane and hopped in.  It was clearin' up fast.  By the time I made it to the runway, the fog was now some scattered clouds.  On my flight over to my flight plan, I flew over some low clouds still hanging around...but on my flight plan it was clear.  Good!

I was able to fly for a while...and finish a couple of flight plans.  But the clouds were moving in from the south!!!  The winds were kickin' from the south, and the clouds were riding along rather nicely.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish one of my plans, as the clouds were soooo close to overtaking me from the south.  But I finished with the clouds just three miles away.  I moved north for another plan...barely able to finish this one, as the clouds were creepin' in from the west!

All in all, I only flew 3.2 hours...but was able to finish up two flight plans.  I had to end the window a half hour early due to the clouds, so I headed back to Cleburne.  On the way back, I saw 14 helicopters on the ramp at Midway Regional!  I wonder what was going on there!  I came back to land and prepared for a landing on Runway 15.  I was going to enter a left I called my intentions.  Some old guy came back over the radio telling me it was "right traffic."  Hmm.  I wasn't too interested on that.  I didn't care if everyone else was landing right traffic, I was going to enter it the "normal" way.  But I decided to check my sectional anyway...and what do ya know?!  Cleburne has right traffic for Runway 15!  I had been landing the "wrong" way for the past three weeks!!!  Who knew?!  I flew over the field and entered a right downwind.  Oops!!!

I taxied to the FBO and walked in eager for my soup!  And Miss Gayla had some set aside for me!  Awesome!  It was chicken tortilla soup, and it was DEE-LICIOUS!!!  I had two bowls!  I also had two of her cookies!  This service is simply amazing.  It has been a GREAT way to start out the season...but I am totally pampered!

I put my airplane away, then headed to the hangar where Danny was still doing maintenance on two airplanes.  We stayed for a little over an hour...and I was ready to be done with that!  Too much standing/sitting around in too few days!!!  But my airplane was part of it, so I lended a hand.  My fuel sender? was having issues, so we had to replace that.  We had to drain my right fuel tank, pull it out, put a new one in, and then replace the gas.  Not too difficult, just time-consuming.

From there, we headed back to the hotel, then out to eat.  We went to Cotton Patch Cafe...a nice little restaurant.  We came back...but I decided to go out again.  I ended up at a park with some pretty impressive Christmas lights...I think three-blocks' worth.  I guess the inmates do this every year.  Pretty neat.

Came back to the hotel at 11:30.  Supposed to be a little storm tonight...but tomorrow is supposed to be perfect.  Forecast is for nothin' but blue skies.

Can't wait.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Love Clouds!!! November 22, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  Checked the weather, and it was calling for IFR in most of the DFW area.  Hmm.  Opened up the door to head to breakfast, and WOW.  I sure wasn't expecting that!!!  We had dense FOG everywhere.  Thick fog!!!  I could barely see cars on the road outside the hotel.  You could literally see the particles of water dancing in the air...the air was completely and totally saturated.

We all went to the hangar to finish up Jeff's 100-hour.  The drive there was crazy!  The fog was so thick!!!  Visibility was 1/4 mile.  We ended up hanging out at the hangar most of the morning...the METAR at Cleburne was showing visibility as 1/4 mile and overcast at 100 feet.  You couldn't even get in here to land!!!  And sure enough, NOBODY was!  The airport was DEAD!!!

Jeff's airplane was finished, but he hung out for awhile for the fog to lift.  I remember stepping into a hangar with him and then stepping back out a couple of minutes later...and the fog was disappearing...quickly!  Trees were now visible across the runway!  I headed over to the FBO around noon to check the weather.  The clouds were still 300 foot overcast at the airport...but our flight plans were showing SKIES CLEAR!!!  I checked the satellite, and sure enough, there was this very thin line (almost like a ruler) of clouds about 80? miles wide...and it hung right over us!  But 40 miles to the east was perfectly clear!!!  10SM and skies clear!

I was ready to go.

I filed an IFR flight plan and headed to my airplane.  I bought an IFR chart and was ready to go.  I was so excited...I rarely get the opportunity to fly in actual IMC, and this was a perfect chance!!!  I started up the airplane, then called Approach from my cell phone in the airplane...

I was cleared to fly to 3000 feet on a heading of 240 after departure.  Perfect.

Everything looked good on the ground, so I throttled up, and off we went!  I hit the overcast around 400-500 feet off the ground.  And it was definitely overcast!!!  But I wasn't even looking outside...I was completely focused on the instruments.  Climb speed of 80 knots, turn right to 240 (Runway was 15), call Regional Approach, altitude of 3000 feet.  I ended up "breaking" out of the overcast at 3000 feet...kind of.  At that altitude, I was in and out, in and out...literally RIGHT on the top!!!  The sight was nothing short of amazing...the kind of sight that makes a pilot realize that every ounce of preparation and work is worth it.  Absolutely NOTHING compares to the overcast blanket.  Literally, the ENTIRE earth is one smooth, gorgeous cloud.  I was in awe.

But I couldn't admire it for too I was often back in it!  So I just focused on my scan...I ended up being on a heading of 240 for about 10 minutes...almost in the exact opposite direction I needed to go!!!  But they allowed me to turn east soon thereafter, and I was finally on my way.  I was in and out of the clouds for a good 40 miles...and I sure miss IFR flying!!!  It's nice to have a trusty, reliable airplane, just gives you added confidence.  I maintained my altitude and heading pretty easily.

I could hear the other guys already out working...they had been there for a couple of hours already...but they didn't have 100-foot ceilings at their airport, either!  I ended up getting on site at 12:25 P.M., a solid three hours after the window opened.  Oh well!

The skies were perfectly clear on the eastern side of the project...there was actually only one flight plan that I could do uninhibited, so I took that one.  I ended up flying two hours on it to get it done.  But I had a problem...


You see, about 10 minutes before I departed, I took a swig of sweet tea that Miss Sarah (the airport manager) had kindly bought for me the day before.  I didn't think anything of it at the time.  But man oh man, I HAD TO GO.

Now seriously, this isn't just an "I have to pee," moment.  This was nothing short of a panicked, "Holy crap, I may pee my pants" type of moment.  I was quite unsure if I was going to make it to the ground on time.  I was watching the hours pass in increments...if I could just make it to 1:30, then I'd only have three more hours.  Then it was two hours...

But it was HURTING!!!  I didn't want to land because I already started three hours later due to the fog.  And if I landed, I probably wouldn't finish a flight plan...AND the clouds were slowly overtaking me I might not get much done unless I stayed ahead of it!  But it became pretty bad...

I always, always, always wear a seat belt when flying.  But not today!!!  The air was smooth, the bumps were non-existent, but the G-forces (through TINY) were too much.  An altitude change or a tight turn put too much pressure on me.  I had to unbuckle.  And I became frantic.  I was looking for hold my pee.  I was frantically looking for an oil bottle...I didn't care if it was full or empty.  If it was full, I'd empty it, then fill it again.  If it was full, why then I'd just fill it.  I contemplated whether my flimsy cardboard granola bar box could hold my pee.  I thought about using the fuel tester...I was nothing short of desperate.

But I continued on.  I finished my flight plan and moved onto the next one...but I was only able to get one line before the clouds overtook me.  It was time to call it at day...a whole half-hour before the window closed.  But boy, was I excited!!!  I hopped on down to Lancaster Airport...just 13 miles away.

All I could think about was peeing.  I remember sitting there as my cameras and computer shut down, desperately wanting to just run out of the airplane.  Well, finally the time came...and I was out!!!  But it HURT so bad!!!  I remember swinging my feet out the door...and this was a pain I had never known before!!!  Three hours of sitting...and holding a more-than-full bladder.  Definitely not healthy.  I made a bee-line path for the bathroom...but it hurt to walk!!!  Seriously, it was painful to move my legs!!!  And I was more than cautious...I wasn't sure I had any control over my bladder muscles any longer!

Well, I made it to the bathroom, and I let 'er loose.  1 minute and 26 seconds worth of pee.  You better believe I counted...I knew it was going to be a long one.  Around the minute mark, it started to taper off...but little did I know, this guy had a second half planned.  It was nothing short of painful and exhilarating all at the same time.

And let me tell you, I never want to experience that again.  Ugh.

Well, now that that was done, I decided to grab a bite to eat.  I had only had two granola bars for lunch, so I stopped in at the restaurant on the field...a more than pleasant surprise!  They closed at 3:00, and it was 2:45 so I asked for something simple.

I ate, I was fueled, and I was off.  Almost!  The skies were CLEAR above the airport...but Cleburne was not.  So I filed another IFR flight plan.  I departed in VFR, picked up my clearance from the sky, and I was off to Cleburne.  The first 20 or so miles were clear...but I could see it coming...the low clouds were still hanging around...this time broken instead of overcast...but still there.

I was cleared for the RNAV Approach for 15 which I had to deny since I didn't have a capable GPS.  I asked for the Localizer 15 approach.  I got it.  Perfect.  They were giving me vectors, too, so that was nice.

Well, as I got closer, I was above the clouds...not overcast but I certainly couldn't see anything resembling earth out in the distance.  I was pretty excited to fly an actually needed approach!  Well, as I got closer, he gave me vectors to  CRAP.

He told me to descend to 2400 MSL.  Which I did.  Man, I love flying through this stuff!  At 2400 feet, I could see the earth...fuzzily.  I was in and out of the bottoms of the clouds.  He told me the airport was 12 o'clock and 8 miles.  Um, I'm still in the clouds, I told him...I needed to descend more or shoot an approach.  He gave me 2300 but no lower, he said.  That put me in VFR again with the field in sight, so I canceled IFR (he was busy).

GRRRR!!!  I wanted to shoot an approach!!!  And I should've demanded it...but he was busy...and he was eager to get me out of his hair.  But grr!!!!!

Well, I landed, hung out at the hangar for a bit (Bill and Stefan were there for 100-hours), and then we headed for the hotel.  We decided to get out of Cleburne tonight, so we headed up to Burleson for some Cracker Barrel.  Man, that breakfast hit the spot.

Got back around 9:15.  Looks like tomorrow is going to be a great day for flying.  We should get at least five hours of revenue time in...should.  But a forecast at night...and a visual in the morning...are often not one and the same.  But we shall see.  As of now, I'm banking on it being clouds at 30,000 feet as forecast.

Oh, and I got a response from another pilot on a pilot forum.  Last night I threw out a shameless plug that I needed a family for Thanksgiving.  No lie.  And certainly no shame!  A guy north of Fort Worth offered his family.  Boy, I tell ya...that almost makes me want Thanksgiving to be really cloudy!!!  The thought of deep-fried turkey is really just too good to pass up.  We'll see...

Goin' to bed at 11:30.  I have work to do tomorrow!!!

Blaaaaah--November 21, 2009

Woke up at the typical 7:30 alarm.  Today was almost an exact repeat of yesterday...

I spent nearly the ENTIRE day down at the hangars helping and watching the 100-hour work...only this time it was on Jeff's airplane.  We all drove to the airport and hung out in the hangar as Danny performed his work...

Around noon or so, I made my way over to the FBO.  Unbeknownst to me, I ended up falling asleep.  I was woke up only to a phone call from Danny...I was just absolutely wiped out...this cold was wreaking havoc on my energy.  But I woke up right at 1:00, and I felt sooooooo much better.  The tiny little power nap ended up restoring me...even after 11 hours of sleep the night before!!!

We went out to eat at a Chinese buffet for lunch...I ate probably (insert the word "definitely") more than I should have, but it was pretty good.  I hadn't had Chinese food in months.  We went back to the airport for more hangar time.  We ended up playing a game with empty oil bottles (I'm tellin' ya, we WERE pretty bored!!!).  The game was more or less horseshoes but with oil bottles and a trashcan...Matt won.

I meandered on down to one of the hangars that I had visited the week before...I ended up talking with Charlie for about 20 minutes.  He's a lawyer I met last week...and his son is working on an old 1946 Taylorcraft.  Anyway, Charlie needed some help unloading a truck engine into his hangar, so I was more than happy to oblige.  Well, inside another hangar, I found a couple of his old Cessna 195 and a BMW Isetta 300 (the car that Steve Urkel has on Family Matters!).  I instantly fell in love with the Cessna is polished aluminum, shiny, and gorgeous...for whatever reason, the engineers sure had a way with aesthetics back then.  It's the same frustration I have with cars nowadays...I LOVE old 1950's pick-ups...the curves, the side windows, the beauty!  Today's are boxy...simple...often boring.   Anyway, the Cessna 195 instantly leaped to my favorite aircraft in a flash.  I even spent the night looking at some for sale...most are in the $115,000 price range...although I found an unpainted one for $75,000.  Hmmmmm....

We went out to Applebee's for supper...and I ordered a steak.  Man, that was sure good.  It was pretty late when we went there...around 8:15 as we didn't get back from the airport until 7-somethin'...

I ended up goin' to bed around looks like we'll have some flying time tomorrow!!!  Forecast is for clear skies at 10 A.M.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Glooooomy--November 20, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  I suppose that's not technically fair, as I also woke up at 3:34 this morning, too.  I could've sworn we had THUNDER in our hotel room!!!  I am a very heavy sleeper, but this storm was angry!  But when I woke up to my alarm the second time, sure enough, it was still raining.

Ate breakfast, then headed over to the airport with Matt and Danny (the mechanic).  We started right away where we had left off with my airplane.  Actually, the process was pretty slow, as Danny was calling the FAA Inspector wondering when he would arrive.  Because the Inspector wants to actually see how our mechanic inspects the airplane, Danny didn't want to start putting my bird back together he worked admittedly slowly...

I was pretty wound up in the morning...needing to have something to do.  So I just paced around the hangar.  Jeff ended up showin' up later (he had flown over 9 hours yesterday, so we let him sleep in), and we just had the typical mechanic-pilot talk throughout the day!  Anything and everything was fair, airplanes, Carrie Underwood (my future wife)...

I actually tend to hate these days.  Every 100 hours we have to have our planes inspected (which I DO appreciate), but at the same time, it can be kind of boring.  It's just a LOT of hanging around the hangar.  And it didn't help that the weather was pretty crummy...we had loooooow clouds (200 feet?) in the morning....and the day just progressively became colder.  I think the thermometer finally settled on 56 degrees.  Not cool.

I actually became pretty cold in the middle of the afternoon and had to go warm up in the FBO.  My nose was running uncontrollably, I was sneezing more than is healthy, and I was feeling pretty blah.

I talked to a couple of Lear jet pilots who were waiting all day in the FBO...tried to fix an atomic clock that the others couldn't figure out...paid for some health insurance...and then headed back for the hangar.  So borderline cold!  As an Illinois boy, I'm not supposed to complain about 56 degrees just two weeks away from December, but I have been pampered as of late!  It was 70 yesterday!!!

Some flight magazines, a couple of cups of coffee, and some more waiting and watching...and we were off to supper.  My airplane was put back together...and the FAA NEVER showed up.  Actually, the guy never even called back after two messages being left for him.  What professionalism.  I told the guys about how I learned to be successful in only takes two things (the other one I forgot)...but the #1 rule is:  Call a person back when you say you are going to call them back.  I STILL have a hard time doing that sometimes.  I am way better than I was before I heard that, but even last week, I failed!!!  grr!

We went to grab some Mexican food...I ate like a king.  But I was still feeling pretty crappy.

I literally came home and went to bed at 8:30.  Hopefully I'll wake up feeling better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nice and Easy...--November 19, 2009

Woke up at 7:30.  Ate breakfast, then headed out to the airport.  Matt and I both went.  I grabbed an A/FD from the office, as one of our other pilots told me that the FAA was out in full force doing ramp checks on them!  They had already had two in just the first two weeks of the season!!!  I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed.

Since Matt's plane was down for maintenance, we both went up in mine.  The flight lasted all of about 30 minutes.  We went up, then hit clouds at 3000 feet...a good 2500 feet below our necessary altitude!  So we turned it around and came back in.  That was a pretty quick day.

I went to the FBO and made up a Weight and Balance sheet for my airplane.  If I was going to be ramp-checked, I wanted to make sure I had it all together!  We stayed at the airport for a bit...not in any hurry at all, then headed out for lunch.  We grabbed some Schlotsky's.  We went back to the hotel after that and just chilled.

Around 1:45 we headed back to the airport.  I was needing to head to Dallas Love Field to pick up our mechanic who was flying in to do my 100-hour inspection.  I headed out around 2:00...I flew at 3500 feet on the way there, direct Dallas Executive, then direct Dallas Love.  The clouds were juuuust above me...right around 4000 feet.  The flight in was pretty simple...I was doing a solid 120-130 knots across the ground.  Nice!

I was cleared to land on Runway 13L.  But as I was on my right base, Tower quickly changed my runway for 13R.  Southwest had a jet taking off, and there wasn't going to be enough time for wake turbulence clearance (I guess).  So I threw on an extra set of flaps, slipped the plane a little bit, and lined up for 13R...with a Southwest jet waiting on me!  Perfect!

I had a smooth landing...and a nice, easy taxi over to Business Jet Center.  This place is crazy...literally millions of dollars worth of jets coming in and out.  A very high-class jet center...kind of crazy, really.  But it's pretty sweet to see all of the corporate traffic.  I was the only piston airplane I could see when I taxied up!  I recognized the place, though, as I had come here last year on a flight from Kansas while in flight training.  Not much had changed!  I follow a guy who has me taken away from the the back where no one can see us!  ha!

When I get out, I'm greeted by three of the other imaging pilots who are based out of Dallas Love.  I hadn't seen them since we left Daytona Beach a few weeks was nice to chat with them for a bit.  They told me all about their FAA experience, being ramp-checked, blah blah blah...I shared stories of my couple of weeks so far, how the new guy is working out, blah blah blah.  Pretty fun, though.  We had some pretty nice laughs.

Bill and I went to pick up our mechanic from the terminal building on the other side of the field.  Once loaded, we headed back to my airplane, loaded up his stuff, and we were off!  Nothing fancy at was about a 40-mile flight back to Cleburne.  I actually goofed on the clearance...I had talked to clearance and he had said "I got your clearance."  Not thinking clearly, I switched over to ground...and said I had the clearance.  It went something like this...

"Nxxxx, at Business Jet Center, Information Oscar, ready for taxi."

"Nxxxx, do you have your clearance"?

"Nxxxx, affirmative."

"Nxxxx, you have your clearnance"?

"Nxxxx, we have our clearance, affirmative."

"Nxxxx, what is your squawk code"?

"Nxxxx, I'll get back with you."

"Um, yeah."

Oops!  Agh, I hate making those mistakes.  But once I heard the clearance say he had it, I just assumed I had it.  Not at all the case!  Totally my mistake.  I switched back over to Clearance, grabbed the info, then went back with ground.  No worries.  Taxied out to Runway 13L and took off with downtown Dallas right in front of us.  So picturesque.

We had a nice but slow flight back to Cleburne (around 80 knots).  Landed on Runway 15, taxied to the hangar, and started right away on the 100-hour inspection.  I took off panels while the mechanic started checking out the engine.

Around 6:00, we decided to call it a night.  Went out to eat, then back to the hotel.

I had a "date" with some people from Cleburne...I was invited to play volleyball by our waitress last I obliged.  The games themselves were kind of simple...pretty low-key score-keeping, not a lot of competition...but it was good to at least experience some form of "play!"  The girls invited me over to their house afterwards, and we had some small talk, but I was pretty tired.  I had one take me back to the hotel around 11:40 P.M.

Looks like rain and low overcast tomorrow.  Going to be a long day of 100-hour inspections!  Mine is up first (already half-way done), Jeff flew in from 3 hours away, and two of the guys from Dallas are due sometime in the next couple of days.  Oh, and while in the hangar tonight, our mechanic received a phone call...

It turns out the FAA is sending down an inspector to check out the mechanic's work.  How about that.  If the inspector couldn't get us in Dallas, well, why not make the drive down to Cleburne to find us.  ha!  This should be interesting...

Went to bed a little after midnight...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Severe Clear"--November 18, 2009

The Dallas Skyline

Woke up at 7:30.  A common theme in my life.  Walked outside...a bit chilly.  Went to breakfast...temps were in the 30's...this cold front was still hanging around!  But the man on the TV told me to expect 67 degrees today.  Sweet mother, I love this place called Texas.

Grabbed my gear and headed to the airport with Matt.  This time I called the DFW TraCon and told them what we would like to in their Class B airspace!  The guy had me fax in a map, and after lookin' at it, he said, "Uhhhh...hmm..." [yes, my friend, we literally ARE going to be hanging around in your airspace for awhile!] " know what, I tell you what, let's just give this a shot and see what happens."  ha!  I told him we would get out of their airspace if things didn't work out just to keep him happy.

The weather was BEAU-tiful!!!  I mean, wow.  Pilots salivate over days like these.  Winds are 4 knots, visibility is's almost too easy.  I started up the plane, taxied out, and took off.  After bumps and 40-knot winds yesterday, this was a walk in the park.  A MUCH welcomed walk in the park, I might add.

I flew out south of Fort Worth to get started.  I talked to Approach Control who had my map sitting in front of her.  GOOD!  Sometimes things actually do work out.  I started right at 9:22 on my first line.  And I could see forever!  I mean, literally!  The only reason why I couldn't make out things in the distance was because my eyes weren't made to see 100 miles...and the earth starts to curve!  But it was some of most crisp weather I've flown in...30 miles looked like six.

The day itself was pretty uneventful.  Matt had alternator problems to had to land just 30 minutes after taking off.  Poor guy.  I hate when maintenance issues take away a good day.  It just makes for a boring day on the ground.  I could've sure used his help, too, to finish all the plans in Class B airspace, but that's just the nature of the beast.  You can rarely plan on anything!

I had numerous traffic calls throughout the day, but most of it was general aviation traffic.  The approaches were being done on the north side of Dallas-Fort Worth, so I was kind of on my own all day!  Pretty nice.  A Pilatus, a Cessna, a Seneca...actually lots of Cessna's...but most were easy to spot.

I landed at 12:30 for lunch and fuel at Dallas Executive Field.  And let me tell you, I loooooooove coming in through smooth air!  Wow!  I was descending at over 1000 feet from 5500 feet.  It's so nice knowing that your bowels wouldn't either a. get yanked out of your butt or b. fly up through your mouth.  It was just a pleasant ride down...and gorgeous with the Dallas skyline on my right as I set up for Runway 17.

I was back up in the air after 20 minutes and started where I left off.  Outside of the city limits it gets pretty desolate.  As in real desolate.  Lots of cotton fields and country life.  Our next project is even further south, and I'm afraid we're going to see nothing but fields and oblivion for as far as we can see.  Enjoy the city sights while I can!

Landed back at Cleburne at 3:35.  All in all, a great day.  Another 6.3 hours in the logbook.

Went out to eat tonight...and ended up talking with our waitress.  She invited me to play volleyball with her tomorrow night!  I inquired further, and it's a group of folks from a Mennonite church here in town.  This ought to be interesting, to say the least!  But I'm lookin' forward to it, for sure!

I'm supposed to have my 100-hour inspection tomorrow, though, after I land, so we'll see if I even have time.  I'm down to 6.2 hours left before it's due...which gives me another solid day's worth of work.

I surpassed the 50-hour mark for the month of November already...and I just started flying less than two weeks ago!  I love Texas weather!

Looks to be a slow night...a few hours before bedtime...not a clue what I'll be doing...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hello, Southwest! November 17, 2009


Woke up at 7:30.  Skies were that blue that you can never, ever find in your crayon box.  The blue only God knows how to create.  It's flying time!

We have just 1 1/2 hours left on one project west of Fort Worth, and two more that we need to start south of Dallas.  One of those projects takes us in to the Class B airspace, and I thought about calling Traffic Control to let them know, but I opted not to.  A mistake as I found out later!

Went to the aiport and after a long warm-up (it was 36 degrees this morning!!!), I was off the ground.  It was kind of an amitious take-off, as (for whatever reason) Cleburne had a ridiculous amount of traffic.  A Piper Cherokee was shooting an approach in to 15 (opposite my 33 take-off), a Twin Comanche was coming in from the northwest, a helicopter was coming in from the east, and I was following a Cessna that had just departed.  And I was jumping into the mix of it all!  I ended up seeing ALL aircraft after I lifted off.  Crazy!

Winds were decent on the ground (15 knots), and they were even more playful at altitude.  I contacted Regional Approach, told them my intentions of mapping inside Bravo airspace, and with no little hesitation, I was denied.  It was a kind denial, but a denial, nonetheless.  She asked if I had faxed any information in (and I hadn't!), so I was refused.  Oh, well, I had PLENTY more work to do on other flight plans.  So I headed for the plans outside of Class B.

Matt went west of Fort Worth to finish that project.  Anyway, the winds were out of the northwest at 40 knots!  At 5500 feet!  When I flew south, I literally had to pull my throttle back to 2100 RPM's just to stay (barely) below 139 knots ground-speed.  Agh, why can't 172's do this EVERY day?!  On my turns to the north, I would push in to 2400 RPM's and only see 70 knots.  At one point, I kid you not, I saw a car overtaking me on a street down below.  I will proudly say that it never passed me, but the downside is that is only because I made a turn back to the south before it could!

I pushed my OAT gauge, and it read a balmy 41 degrees F.  5 C.  So for the next few hours, this was the pattern...

Turn south.  Throttle to 2100 RPM's before the turn.  Wide turn to the left before my turn to the right.  Hit the line.  Hang just below 139 groundspeed.  12 miles.  End of line.

Throttle to 2400 RPM's.  Turn north.  Watch groundspeed increase to 153 in the turn and then QUICKLY change to 69 once the turn was complete.  Freeze since the sun was now behind me.  Pull on heat to stay warm.  Adjust my left foot which was constantly on fire from the heater.  Watch Southwest traffic above...below...

Turn south...2100...heater off...

Turn north...2400...heater on...

You get the point.  I ended up being in the approach corridor for DFW traffic, so on the northernmost portion of the lines, I would see quite a bit of Southwest traffic anywhere from 500 to 1000 feet above or below me.  Pretty fun actually.

I landed for fuel at 12:45 at Midway Regional Airport in Midlothian, Texas.  Nice little airport.  Winds were 320 at 20 knots gusting to 25.  Runway was 36.  A nice fun approach...I was pretty sideways before the runway (winds stronger at altitude), but it wasn't too hard.  Ended up bein' a simple landing...I was more nervous than I should have been anyway.  That's how I felt as I was descending with a pretty hefty crab.  Over the runway was not too bad.  They had a nice DC-3 airplane on the ramp with another one under plastic in a hangar nearby.  I sure do love the sight of these old birds...the one I took a picture of said "United States of America" on the side.  Beautiful!

Went back up, started the same routine.  Ended at 3:00 o'clock.

Headed back to Cleburne at 4500 feet.  Passed by a Seneca 500 feet below me.  So fun to be that close.  I was still on radar, and I was passed from one controller to the next on a heading of 280.

Then I saw something DEAD AHEAD.  Hmm.  An airplane.  Landing lights.  Who is this?  It was fairly large.  I saw winglets.  DEAD AHEAD.  Staying level with me!  12 o'clock.  Crap.  Who is this?!  The airplane was only getting larger with no side movement.  DEAD ON.

I threw on my landing light and taxi light, and threw my right wing up, and dove down to the left.

"Approach, Skyhawk 151, has traffic at 1 mile, 12 o'clock."  I had that forceful "why in the world didn't you tell me about this" tone in my voice.

"Uh, yeah, traffic is a Southwest jet, level 5000 feet, won't descend any lower."

Hmmf.  Thanks for that.  And just like that, I get this BEAUTIFUL shot of a Southwest 737 right above me (and a bit to the right now!), passing 750 feet overhead.  I had dove only 250 feet for collision avoidance...he was right on me.  I couldn't believe the controller just kind of shrugged at it.  Frankly, I LOVE when huge jets pass 500 feet above or below me.  LOVE it!  It's a welcome change to the sometimes boring routine!  But I think I love it because I KNOW they are there!!!  Oh, well, it was pretty exciting anyway.  And I guess I was using some proper scanning techniques to have seen it in the first place.  It's just crazy, can't tell something like that is 500 feet above you in the huge sky.  It seriously looked dead on...only growing in size!

Anyway, landed back at Cleburne.  Filled out the paperwork, topped off, put the airplane away.  Sent in our forms, mailed our boxes, and went out to eat.

I'll head to a coffee shop tonight to pass the time...and tomorrow is looking nothing short of gorgeous.

Winds are forecast at 10 knots at 6000 feet.  Clear skies.  Texas winter weather as I have come to know it.

Looks like the next couple of days are going to be full, baby, fly.

November 16, 2009

Knew it was goin' to be a non-flying day.  The forecast was callin' for crappy weather, and well, what do ya know?!  They got it right.  We have a pretty slow low system hangin' over our heads here.  Clouds were low (1500 feet) and weren't expectin' to lift more than 4000 the rest of the day.  On this project, we need to fly at 5500 MSL...

So what does a guy do on a day off?  Well, today consisted of...

Waking up at 7:30.  Checking the weather.  My roomie and I headed out to the airport to do a little work on the airplanes.  And by a little, I mean A LITTLE.  I had purchased glass cleaner yesterday, and I was about two weeks overdue for my windshield.  I had seriously destroyed bugs from Daytona Beach to Fort Worth.  No prisoners taken.  I figured I might as well reduce the number of "airplanes" I see when Traffic Control calls one out to me...definitely not as much fun, but probably quite a bit safer.  Anyway, it took me all of about three minutes to wash the windshield...and it was cold, so I was ready to leave anyway.  Texas went from mid-60's down to the 40's.  Not cool.  Yes, it IS November, and this Illinois boy is more than used to cold temps in November, but what can I say, I'm a pansy now...I've tasted the south in the winter, and I'm lovin' it.

Went out to eat at some local restaurant.  I love doing those.  Actually, that's a fairly regular routine for me.  I do chains, but I try to do the local stuff first and most.  Nothin' but business folk on their lunch breaks.  Matt and I ate, then just sat and talked.  We had absolutely NOTHING to rush for.

Went back to the airport this afternoon.  Just to talk with other locals, really.  The only person there was the FBO lady, so we chatted for a bit.  Headed back to the hotel after that.  Stayed there a bit, almost went crazy, so we looked for somethin' else.  Well, it turns out that Walls has an outlet store across the street from us.  It's pretty much Carharrt-type we did that for a bit...and then...

Went out to eat at Golden Corral tonight.  We had no idea, but it was "Veterans Eat Free" night.  Needless to say, the place was packed.  It was pretty sweet, though...I hold those men up in a pretty big honor.  Most were old (all but one), but it was still pretty humbling to be amongst so many veterans.  Loved it.

Went back to the hotel, but again, I couldn't stand to be there.  So I went out tonight...stayed out for a few hours.  Came back to the hotel and goin' to bed at 11:30.  Tomorrow is looking promising for flying.

This marks Day 2 of not flying.  Really, that's not bad at all.  I've seen much, much worse.  As I tell the newbie, you learn to appreciate your days off.  Because when you do fly, you may never know when another break is coming.

And frankly, that type of flying kind of sounds nice right about now...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hard to Beat...

Well, I'm officially in Season Two.  I started exactly two weeks ago (November 1, 2009).  I spent the first few days at company headquarters in Daytona Beach.  I basically just hung out at the airport all day.  I did a couple of flights in the airplanes, made sure the cameras were up to specs, and trained the new guy that is going to be on the road with me.

Actually, that's what officially started Season Two...the flying part anyway.  I was asked to train a new guy, and so we did just a couple of training flights in Florida.  After a couple of hours, we landed, and then we were told to get out of there!  It was already 6:30 P.M.!  Ah, I love this company.

So the new guy and I headed for Texas where we had a project waiting for us.  A quick stop in Jacksonville for charts, then to Destin, FL, for a hotel.  The season had begun.  Of course, that was all at night.  We woke up the next day, flew over the Gulf of Mexico a little bit, then started our northwest flight towards Dallas.  One fuel stop was all it took...somewhere in the middle of Alabama.

All in all, it's been great.  I've been "on the job" for 15 days now...but only 11 of those days have been "on the road," and I've already racked up 40 hours.  That's hard to beat.  Plus I flew along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean...and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico...and now I find myself just south of Fort Worth.

The new guy is pretty easy to get along with.  He's a real smart guy...and very methodical...which can be good (and safe) in aviation.  I'm takin' off, and he's still makin' sure his plane is in order...charts and all.  That's not a bad thing.  I think we've flown 6 out of the 11 days...a pretty good ratio if you ask me.  I'd be happy to keep that throughout the season.

And Texas is the place to start.  We fly a lot when we get the Texas projects, and so I'm thrilled to start out this way.  We've already finished Palo Pinto County, and we only have an hour and a half's worth of work on Parker County.  We just found out yesterday we'll be stayin' in the area...mapping two more counties south of Dallas.  So we'll stay here in Cleburne, Texas.

Two weeks.  Flown halfway across the United States.  40 hours.  Numerous new friends.  And even a free ride in a Cessna 120...I'll have to share more on that later.

This job sure is hard to beat.