25 December 2008

Trip 19 Wrap-up

Get into your car and drive to the grocery. Sometimes you can do that and, arriving at the grocery, not even remember passing through certain intersections or stopping at a certain traffic light.
Flying locally can be a little like that. Dealing with familiar things... airport, landmarks, flying an aircraft you are accustomed to... you can relax and enjoy the sensory part of flying. There is almost no planning involved, and little worry about flying into "restricted" or "prohibited" airspace... you know where that is and know exactly how to avoid it.

Flying cross-country, particularly in a brand-new aircraft, is a little like renting a car in a big, unfamiliar city and trying to efficiently make it across town in a short amount of time. It comes with all sorts of stresses:
-You're flying a brand new aircraft.

Moving parts sometimes take a while to realize they all need to work as a team in order for the machine to do its job. Knowing this, you know you have to keep an eye (or ear) out for trouble.

-There truly is airspace out there you have to avoid or you'll be in big trouble. As an example, Disneyland is now a "no-fly" area. Accidentally overfly Disneyland and a commercial pilot may find himself without a certificate to earn a living.

-In your local area you know the signs dangerous weather is approaching. You know what to watch for and you know which indicators need immediate action and which can be put on a "watch" list. Flying far from home takes you out of this comfort zone. Unfamiliar terrain and unfamiliar weather patterns rightfully cause a little stress in a transient pilot. Smart cross-country pilots will seek the advice of a local pilot the moment she/he begins to feel uncomfortable with anything out of the ordinary.

-Ferrying an aircraft normally means you're on some sort of schedule. Someone wants the machine in a certain place at a certain time, and $$$$ are being spent to insure that happens. Just keeping everyone informed of your progress and happy with the situation can also be stressful.

We had some of all of that this trip. As I've indicated, the R44 gave us NO trouble at all... it ran like a sewing machine both days. We did however encounter some threatening weather, and anxiously watched the weather channel and took a look at weather radar whenever it was available at our fuel stops. We truly thought our last day would be delayed or postponed due to ice... we simply cannot fly in freezing rain, freezing drizzle, or a mix of snow/sleet/anything with "freezing" preceding the type of precipitation. Thankfully the forecast 24 hours prior to our flight Wednesday was wrong, wrong, wrong! We flew a little over 8 hours Wednesday without a cloud in the sky.

Little airports are like little towns... they roll up the sidewalk and shut down the lights at dusk. I don't like flying a new machine at night, but made an exception this time because we had several hours under our belts in this helicopter and it seemed to be working just fine, and we wanted to be home with family for Christmas. Still, we stayed VERY CLOSE to Interstate highways after dark, just in case something went "bump" in the night. Thank God, nothing went bump.
But flying after dark requires special planning for fuel and services. Little airports normally have signs in the terminal window saying "After hours call ....." with a telephone number for someone supposedly on call to come ASAP and fuel you if you need it, and they charge a call-out fee that makes this painful. If they're doing something they don't want to leave, like sleeping at 4 A.M., they sometimes won't answer the phone or will tell you "I'll be there in 3 hours." NOT GOOD.
So it's better to plan your stops around bigger airports with airline or commuter service after dark... there is almost always someone already there to pump your fuel.
And that's what we did last night. Fuel at bigger airports is normally more expensive, but it's not as expensive as fuel+ call out fee.

I love ferrying helicopters home from California. We get to see about 2/3rds of the country up close and very personal, and we're traveling at a speed that is fast enough not to be boring. We can fly low enough to see flora and fauna... we saw deer and wild pigs on this trip. Just North of Tucson we could see a fenced-in area full of critters we knew were different, and upon checking found several hundred ostriches slightly uncomfortable with our low pass. We're low enough that my (still pretty great) eyes can read the road signs and tell how far it is to EL Paso, for instance.

This particular trip went normally. For that I am grateful.
I don't recommend doing it with the remnants of a cold.
I do think most of you would enjoy the experience though.
Buy a helicopter and I'll give you an experience you'll remember the rest of your life!

And again, thanks to all for following along, and thanks especially for those with advice and comments.

1 comment:

Steve Skinner said...

I enjoyed the updates - I'm looking forward to the next trip!