Monday, January 10, 2005

Flying to Prattville

My friend Don and I went flying on a short cross-country yesterday. I started the flight with a big oops! Don taxied out first and I followed. He stopped short on the line and I couldn't stop because I don't have brakes. I went for the mowed grass on the side of the entrance to the runway, but I wasn't stopping. I took a path far enough to the side that my wing would miss his, but it took me through some mud. I figured I could get out of the mud and turn back with my wings parallel to the taxiway, but I didn't notice the small tree right where the mowed area stopped. My wing hit the tree and swung me to the left. I really thought that the mud was the reason I moved to the left, so I hit the throttle a bit. Bad move. This put me even deeper in the water. I looked to my left and then saw the tree. After shutting the engine down, I pushed myself backwards to get out of the grass, water and mud. The water wasn't quite high enough to get over my shoes, but it seeped through the tongue opening. I also couldn't move the airplane back. I looked back at Don and I'm sure he was getting a kick out of all this. He was smiling and shaking his head. He probably let out a big belly laugh when he saw the whole thing unfold! I unstrapped, took my GPS off my leg and took off my headset and tiptoed through the water to the back of the plane and pushed like hell to the the plane out of the mud. I turned it around and looked at the wing where the tree hit it. No rips or bends, so I started back up and strapped in.

We were headed to Autauga County (Prattville) airport and the flight included a first for me. We had to fly under the outer layer of the class C airspace of the Montgomery Regional Airport. I was really watching for traffic as I was terribly paranoid about seeing and not being seen. Turns out that I really didn't see too much. I think on the way there I saw one plane. On the way back I saw one plane and one helicopter. I'll certainly continue to search when I fly. Never can be too careful.

The pictures below show some of the highlights of the flight. About 5 miles from Fort Deposit, Don suddenly starts descending. I start to believe he's had an engine failure, and the setup to land seems to be pretty poor. Then he starts circling at about 500 feet from what I can tell from my vantage point at 1200 feet. I keep circling to keep him in sight. Then he starts to climb and in a short time he's back with me. I find out when we get back on the ground that there was a train derailment the day before and he was taking shots of the aftermath. I don't know how I missed it! In my defense, the shadows were long and I was altitude!

The other picture is of the General Electric plastics plant at Burkeville, just off of US-80. We are looking to the east. If it were less hazy, you would be able to see Montgomery.

I'll add more pictures and descriptions of this flight as I download the images.


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