Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Half Day...--April 12, 2010


Woke up at 8:00 A.M.

Typical morning routine. I checked the weather, and it was a bit iffy for today. This afternoon, we’re supposed to have showers in the vicinity with winds gusting to 40 knots at 5:00 o’clock. But before that, it didn’t look too bad. The winds were still blowing, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

I faxed over a couple of maps to Denver TRACON and met another aerial imaging guy at the front desk. I had seen him and a few other guys at the FBO before, and I had heard them talking about imaging, but I never said anything. I just stuck to myself. But he asked if I was going up today, obviously in full knowledge of what I was doing. I told him “yep,” and he couldn’t believe it! I told him the winds appeared to be fine until this afternoon, and I had no qualms about goin’.

And with that, I headed over to the airport.

I was given 8,500 as an initial altitude, and I began second-guessing my decision!!! The turbulence was NASTY, even early in the morning!!! However, I had a 174-knot groundspeed, the highest I’ve seen in this twin yet! I had to find out what it was like up higher, so I just waited for the clearance to climb. Finally, I was given 13,500, and I was on station around 9:30 A.M. And much to my pleasure, the turbulence wasn’t too bad. I could certainly manage.

I had only one flight plan left in this project, and I certainly wanted to get it done. I was down to VERY little oxygen in the tank, and I guessed I had around two hours left in it. I certainly kept an eye on it the entire time!!! But I was havin’ a terrible day in the skies today! I was missing sooooo many of my north-bound lines. The winds were actually pretty brisk out of the south (around 30 knots), and I would consistently miss the first several pictures in my north-bound lines…so many that I often had to REFLY the line over again!!! I wasn’t too happy about that! I wanted to get in, get done, and get down! But I was just messin’ up left and right! I probably had to refly the first parts of four or five lines (out of 15!).

The turbulence was definitely starting, too…especially closer to the mountains. I was trying to get those out of the way as soon as possible. I knew if I waited then I may not be able to finish them. For some reason, too, the southern 1/4 of the 10-mile lines were pretty bumpy, too. Obviously, the winds were rampin’ up some mountain somewhere and burblin’ in my path. But I wanted to finish!!! So I kept on.

But I had another problem. The winds were getting more aggressive from the south. I was having a very difficult time maintaining 139 knots or less going north. I would have 16” MP going south and manage around 130 knots. But going north, I would instantly be cruising at over 160 knots! I would throttle back to around 12” MP and trim the airplane way up. The airspeed would slowly bleed off, and then once I was at 139 knots, I would put the throttles back in just a bit…around 13 or 14” MP. But even then, it was nearly impossible to stay under 139 knots. I was consistently at 139-144. I glanced over at the airspeed indicator, and MUCH to my surprise, I was flying under blue-line at just 105 knots indicated!!! What’s more, I only did this because I swear I felt the airplane buffet, and I was so confused as to why!!! It sure caught my attention, though! Frankly, I was well within the green arc, but I watched that airspeed more closely than I had been. 105 indicated and 140 knots across the ground! Agh, this was frustrating! I just wanted to finish!

4 lines. 3 lines. 3 lines. GRR!!! I missed too many! Then 2 lines. Then one. Then one. Agh, missed too many pictures again due to speed!!! FINALLY, I was able to grab the last line. I was DONE with this project! Woo hoo!

I descended down to 11,000 to work on some other plans in a neighboring county. And I quickly pulled off the ever-so-painful oxygen cannula. It was soooooo painful just taking it off, too. My nose and behind the ears is just raw. I hate that thing!

Well, at 11,000, it wasn’t too bad, but my flight plan was taking me directly to the base of the mountains. Hmm. 35 miles ahead. Hmm. It only looked like maybe 20 miles before the foothills, too. NOT GOOD! That’s an instant recipe for turbulence. And sure enough, as I came right over the foothills, I just started getting rocked…and I still had several miles to go. SCREW THAT. So I asked for a descent back into Centennial.

I grabbed the weather, and the ATIS was already reporting windshear from an Astra jet. Perfect. It was only 10 knots, but it was definitely there. The ride down was pretty bumpy, and I never really got out of it. I stayed as high as I could for as long as I could, but that was only around 8000 feet!!! They kept asking me to descend further! I prepared for landing, and I just watched the airspeed indicator. Sure enough, it was just goin’ up and down. I kept some speed up on final, and I encountered a huge gust, pegging me around 125 knots! And it stayed there! I was supposed to be 112, but I just let it ride. My groundspeed was around 96 coming in.

Basically, the landing wasn’t that bad at all. I certainly have had worse, but I also didn’t want to play around with it later in the day. I was glad to have only had a half a day. I had logged 3.4 hours. As I taxied in, I passed the other aerial imaging crew from the other company by their plane. I found that somewhat comical. They had never even gone up. And they missed a perfectly good half day! Oh well.

I spent most of the day in the hotel, much to my liking. I was thrilled to have some time to myself! I even went for a swim. I tell you, though, my heart is sooooooo much out of shape. I did a few end-to-ends, and I was just dying. I wish I could blame it on the altitude, but I just feel like crap anymore. I am not even close to in shape with my heart. And I feel it more and more! Time to start working out rigorously again. I just need it.

I grabbed the courtesy car and headed to a restaurant for supper. I chose Spicy Pickle, a chain that I had almost bought stock in years ago. Frankly, I didn’t like it. At all! But I forced myself to eat it. I came back and ended up in the bar around 8:15-ish. I talked to Jenn, and that ended rather abruptly.  We talked about a little...and the relationship thing came up. I told her how I couldn't see how she liked me knowing that I am gone for 7 months (a recurring conversation).  But she said she saw it differently, and I just said I couldn't commit to her, to her son, to that life right now (another recurring conversation).  She said she just wanted me happy, and I told her I wasn't, but that "it is what it is."  I have to put my time in, I have to build up the hours.  It's not the lifestyle or career I want, but it's just so unbelievably nasty out there in this industry.  I HAVE to keep doin' what I'm doin'.  She said I was too defensive and pretty much said she was going to go.  It wasn't too pretty.

<sigh>  I'm not really happy with my life.  This is NOT what I want to be doing.  But dang it, I'm putting in my time for the future.  I just hope it works out.  It's a rough spot to be.  It's not that I hate my job.  I like a lot about it.  But I certainly don't love my job, either!  Here's to hoping I get my dream of being an airline or corporate pilot.  WITHOUT being furloughed.  WITHOUT hating it.  Here's to hoping.  <sigh>

I had a few drinks and played several games of pool, first with myself and then with the bartender. It was nice to just relax. I talked with another gentleman who was just thrilled with my job. It’s a nice reminder. I asked him about owning properties, as he did the contract job thing for awhile (like me) and then bought some properties (like soon to be me, hopefully). I also talked to one of the imaging guys. He came in, and we just shared our lifestyles. Basically, it’s a different guy with the same life. Not too happy about what he does, but he has a job, and he’s thankful for it. He is a camera operator, and he fixes things when they go bad. We just shared the in’s and out’s of our lives, and I was surprised to see a similarity in almost everything. ALMOST. These guys work 15 days on, then get 5 off. Ha! I told him about my 8 months on, and he couldn’t believe it. He also couldn’t believe I was single-pilot/crew. Obviously, his job is a camera operator. He couldn’t even work for our company, as we don’t even have a position like that. So that was interesting to talk about.

I headed for the room around 10:30. And I stayed up until just after midnight.

I was simply banking on the fact that the winds are supposed to be out of control tomorrow. We have a low-pressure system moving in, and the winds are supposed to be gusting to 40 knots tomorrow. NO THANKS. That would just be painful over the mountains.

Here’s to hoping it’s really that bad. But if the current winds tell me anything, it’s that it should be pretty rough. My hotel window is just getting beaten right now, with the winds gusting to 40 knots on the GROUND at the airport across the street. It’s sooooo loud! Please. I just want an entire day off. That’s all I ask.

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