Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Musings of a "perfect" day

The rain hitting the windshield at 220 KIAS was making an amazing amount of noise. A rogue early winter front had stirred up thunderstorms and tornado watch boxes that slashed across every place we were supposed to go this day. One storm had settled over the Memphis airport closing it to inbound traffic. This was a bit of a concern since Memphis was our stated alternate should the clouds at Tunica be closer to the ground than we were allowed to get on the GPS approach. Normally we would carry enough gas to have an alternate to the alternate but the first stop of the day had been in Caruthersville. That airport is only 4000 feet long. Hauling a bunch of extra Jet A in and out of there, along with 6 passengers, was really not an option.

Our little jet's RADAR was painting a solid bit of red just ahead so I turned to ensure that the passengers all had their seat belts tight and had stowed the normal stuff corporate people have out in the back of an airplane, charts, books, computers, etc. It looked like the rest of the ride into Tunica was going to be a bit bumpy.

By day's end we would do two GPS approaches in rain and thick clouds, dodge a couple of thunderstorms, shed a little ice, and finish a night ILS approach with a landing on a rain soaked runway in a 15 knot direct cross-wind. It was a perfect day of flying.

I suspect the folks in the back of the airplane had a different opinion of how good a day it was. For them it was a bouncy, loud, somewhat uncomfortable day spent going from place to place in a narrow little tube; a part of their job they simply had to endure. Like most of the people I have worked for, (even one who fired me) they were really glad to have me up front on days when the sun wasn't shining, the wind wasn't calm and the runways weren't very long. They would rather have stayed home but there were people to meet and places to go...

Had we taken Nomad instead (and if the route was over water instead of land) it would have taken about 3 days and 16 hours to cover the 491 nautical miles flown that day. (Which is slightly longer than it took the Apollo astronauts to get to the moon. Weird.) A journey that long in Nomad would seem like a major adventure to me. Add in the same kind of rain and wind and I'll bet I would be wondering just what the heck I thought I was doing, going out in such stuff. And yet I know there are sailors in our little marina who would consider such a trip nearly perfect. Some day I hope to be one of them.

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