Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hour After Hour--February 25, 2010


Woke up at a painful 7:22 A.M.  I hopped right out of bed.  If I didn't, I would instantly fall back asleep.  Bleh!

Ate some breakfast, then headed for the airport...we had a beautiful day!!!  Ok, so it was freezing cold, but the clouds were way up at 25,000 feet.  And after a 20-minute delay for not having the planes pulled out, I headed on my 50-mile trek to my flight plan.

And that's where I camped out the rest of the day.  I only had 1.5 hours of fuel remaining, as the line guys didn't top me off, so I actually had to land around 11:00.  And I chose the ONLY airport in the area with fuel!  Mountain Grove!  And what a beautiful day it was!  I was able to dive down at 1500 feet/minute...without having to worry about bumps!  I dove straight for the fun!  I lined myself up on the VERY narrow runway (I thought it was a road!) and went on in.  JUST before the runway I saw THREE TURKEYS scatter underneath a tree!  It was beautiful!  There were other turkeys underneath that tree, but I didn't have enough time to count!  I was making sure I didn't hit the trees!

I landed on Runway 8 and had FOUR DEER on the left side of the runway!  It was perfect.  I taxied up to the fuel stop, and an older gentleman with a long flowing white beard was there to greet me.  I just love these airports!!!  He fueled me up, and while doing so, a little tail-wheel pulled up.  The two guys just went back and forth about how I wasn't a real pilot!  They joked about how it didn't matter if I had 10,000 hours in a 172!  I still didn't know how to fly!  I knew it was in jest, but they sure didn't stop!!!  Crazy country tailwheel pilots!

We talked for about 20 minutes, and the owner of the airport tried to get me some tailwheel instruction in the plane that landed (he knew the guy).  The guy took my number, so I'm eager to see how that develops!  I LOVE general aviation!!!  Seriously, this guy was so kind.  He gave me magazines to read, he gave a plastic oil funnel, and he just gave me some enjoyable conversation!  It was pretty sweet.  I learned that he himself is a pilot and used to fly aerial survey.  But two years ago he was in a crop-dusting accident...and he's never been the same since.  I guess the accident was fairly bad, as he said the only thing salvageable was the tailwheel, and that his depth perception just hasn't been the same.  I hope that day never comes when I have to hang up my hat in aviation, but I guess it comes to all of us.  I sure did enjoy Lloyd, though.  What a nice gentleman.

I headed back for the skies and spent the next few hours up there.  East, west, east, west.  We have six guys on the project, so we had some conversation every now and again.  Well, sort of.  Matt was still down with a bad fuse.  And the other guys went in at 1:00 P.M. for heavy turbulence.  But Matt came up at 1:00, and we stayed out until the window closed at 3:36 P.M.  And boy, was I ready!  The "dog days" of flying are here.  We wake up early, fly long, go home, rest, and do it all over again.  Today looked to the first in what will probably be a long sequence of days over the next month.  The last hour and a half were a bit painful.  My head hurt, I was ready to be away from noise, and I was hungry!  Not a good combination!  I was ready to be done.  But all in all, it wasn't too bad.

The birds were crazy today, though.  For whatever reason, the geese are all heading back up north.  By the thousands.  It's unbelievable to watch them.  So graceful.  Some move with purpose, others just dance around.  But I love watching them.  Well, that is until you see them at your altitude.  I saw flocks less than 1/2 mile away at 6000 feet.  And I saw an even bigger flock above that.  Gotta keep the eyes peeled out here.  They are certainly on the move.

Matt and I landed back at Mountain Grove again.  We talked to Lloyd again...and met Henrietta.  Henrietta is a pilot herself, and she flies around taking pictures for people, too.  She showed us her set-up in her personal Piper Cherokee, and I was nothing short of impressed.  This woman had pretty much done what has been done by engineers in our aircraft.  She had a couple of screens, one to show her what is directly below her (from the video camera pointing down), and one to show her what picture she just took (with two lenses pointing down).  It was seriously an impressive set-up.  She said it cost $15,000, and she was all oogly-googly over our cameras and equipment.  We couldn't let her get inside, but that didn't stop her from window watching.  We can't stop that!

Matt and I left there, and I never climbed over 2500 feet.  Actually, that's where I started.  Then I dropped down to 2300...then to 1700.  I checked the map to make sure I wasn't going to hit anything, and we were fine.  We located the towers and just cruised at 500 feet above the earth.  I was just about as giddy as you can get.  THIS IS FLYING.  We had 55 miles to go, and I just loved every minute of it.  Easily, my favorite thing to do in flying is to fly low.  I just love it.  Plenty of birds, cows, houses all around.  So beautiful.

I landed back at Branson.

Some big news today, though.  I learned that a contract was accepted for the Aztec!!!  Basically, that means I will soon be flying the Aztec!  CRAZY!!!  I'm so excited.  I learned later tonight that it looks like I'll be transitioning in the middle of March.  That is going to be here so soon!  Another pilot is being hired to take my spot.  Agh, I can't believe it!

It's just such a huge blessing.  People can fly for years, and never get an opportunity like this.  No, people DO fly for years and never get an opportunity like this.  So I am very thankful.  It's caused a little bit of animosity amongst some of the more senior pilots, which I totally understand.  I really do.  I am simply doing my job.  The offer presented itself, and I certainly jumped on it.  I'm hopin' to keep the peace amongst us all.  We'll see how that goes.

Went out to eat at Applebee's and ate way too much.  I am getting mad at doing that.  I need to stop.

Rested tonight in the hotel.  I flew 6.9 hours today.  It looks like more of the same tomorrow.  The "spring routine" is about here.  Fly, eat, sleep, repeat.

Went to bed at 10:45 P.M.  Alarm is set for 7:20 A.M.

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