Monday, October 09, 2006

The flight to my new hangar

Flying from Fort Deposit yesterday was really a great trip. I was all ready to go on Saturday morning but made the decision to abort the attempt just before getting on the interstate for the airport. The wind was already gusting to well over 10 and it was only going to get worse. I chose to go on Sunday afternoon, after church.

The flight was basically uneventful with a few exceptions. I was flying through the Terminal Service Area west of Dannely Field (the Montgomery commercial airport) right at 2000 feet, which was the maximum altitude at the top of the first layer of the upside-down wedding cake that represents the TSA. Straight in front of me appeared a single-engine GA plane, low-wing, turbine-powered. I have no idea how fast he was flying, but he was flyin' (no pun intended). I didn't see him until about ten degrees to the right, and he flew right past at a heading 90 degrees to mine! I've been trying to estimate how far in front of me he was...I guess about 1/4 mile. I don't even know if he saw me at all. It wasn't close enough that I could see the pilot. If he saw me, I'm sure he was on the radio to the tower reporting my position and probably cussing me out! Where I was flying was legal, but I intended to stay below 1800 feet. There were many active thermals yesterday and I was constantly pushing the nose over to keep the altitude down.

As I crossed the Alabama river, still under the umbrella of the second layer of the TSA, I started to head to the Prattville airport as a weighpoint. I originally intended to stop for fuel at Prattville, but made the decision not to. I was carrying two gallons of fuel with me and after I was a few miles from Prattville, looking towards the Wetumpka airport in the distance, I didn't see any fields that would be acceptable to land in, but I would shortly be flying over a large field where my son and I fly radio controlled airplanes. I didn't want to chance running out of fuel (see previous post titled "Uhhh...How long can I fly on a tank of gas?) and decided to land and transfer the 2 gallons I had with me.

The landing and subsequent takeoff were uneventful. I gained altitude and continued on over areas where I continually drive, but have only flown over one time before. At one point during the flight, I was flying perpendicular to the runway at Maxwell Air Force Base, right at the end, about four miles out. I was thinking that it's a good thing that it's Sunday when the C-130s had the day off. I routinely see them flying at 500 feet AGL in the same area that I was now flying! I fly within eyesight of my house, a friend's house where we practice music weekly, and the local

As I get nearer to Wetumpka, houses get more dense and suitable landing fields get more sparse. I am able to follow small fields until about 2 miles from the airport, and then I have to follow a path that takes me over many trees with no place to land until closer to the airport. As I look around the airport, I don't see many open fields at all! I'm wondering if I've made a poor decision coming to this airport that's only 5 miles from my house. High school where I've seen many football games and fantasized about landing on the football field! Right now it didn't seem like a very good idea at all, and there was a slightly larger field a short distance away with less obstacles, should it be needed!

As I near the airport, I descend to 800 feet AGL, about 200 feet lower than the GA pattern altitude. I make an abbreviated pattern, flying just the base and final to the grass runway (0/36) and make a normal landing in the slightly cross-wind conditions. As I taxi off the runway to my hangar, an old, restored Cessna is taxiing for takeoff. There's already more action at this airport than I've seen in months at Fort Deposit! I taxi to my hangar, kill the engine and put the plane away. I call my wife for her to come and pick me up and I sit and wait, observing my new surroundings. Soon, I'll be able to see what it's like around here from the air! I'll break out my camera and post some pictures soon!


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