Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Little Stress, a Lot of Fun.

I called Rich a few minutes ago. Last time I called, it was to tell him about the crash. This time, just to say I had a good flight. Now I'm hanging out with a couple friends that I hadn't seen in a while. They live in Melrose, FL, about 15 minutes from where I chose to end the day.

It started out a little hectic this morning. I had to be up at 5:30 in order to make sure we could get airborne by about 8. Then Scott, one of his other employees and I piled in the equipment they were carrying, and we took off. The destination was about a 4 hour flight, so instead of cutting it too close on the fuel, we would have to make a stop. We chose Augusta, GA. I used to go down there a lot for the Master's golf tournament. Haven't been in a few years. Never had flown there though. That was an easy first leg, and came out very relaxing. After taking off in 2 miles visibility and climbing above, we had clear skies the whole way. The instrument clearance was about the best you could get: direct route. I love GPS. Saves a lot of hassle over having to mess with airways.

As soon as I glanced at the weather during the break, I knew the second leg would get interesting. Destination was Perry, FL, which is not really near anything. It is an old abandoned military base. Our plan for an alternate airport was Tallahassee, but the storms were not looking good. Current weather there was 300 overcast, and we needed at least 600 feet to legally use it for an alternate. So Gainesville was the new choice.

We really didn't know how likely we would be to even get a chance at shooting the approach, and it seemed likely that we would end up diverting. we had the flight filed for a direct route again, and were cleared that way at first, but luck was against us. Only a couple minutes into the flight, we were sent all the way out to Macon, GA before getting to turn south. Then we spent the rest of the flight popping in and out of turbulent cumulus clouds, and dodging thunderstorms.

But with 40 miles to go, we made it out in the clear, above a broken layer with no thunderstorms on the horizon. Approach mimimums for Perry were 660 feet, but the most recent report put the clouds at 500. We are allowed to attempt the approach, but we had no idea if we would make it in. Thankfully, we broke out early, and had no trouble.

Perry is in the middle of nowhere. I had contemplated just staying around there, rather than deal with storms. But there was no rental car to be had, and no sights to see, so I flew on to see Neil in Melrose. That required a quick 45 minute hop to Keystone Heights. Dodged a little bit of rain near the destination, but otherwise it was just a smooth, relaxing flight at 1,000 feet above the ground.

Now, Scott wants to get out late tomorrow, instead of early Thursday, so I suspect Key West is too much to shoot for. I don't want to spend 7 hours flying around, then have to fly another 4 back home all in the same day. So I may just find a few airports in this area and see what looks interesting. For now though, it is time to just relax.

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